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Get rid of the ratty comforter and dress up your bed

You know how to dress yourself, but how do you dress your bed?

'The one design element that really grabs your attention in a bedroom is how the bed is dressed,' says designer Chris Madden, author of 16 books and former HGTV show host.

'Bed linens speak as clearly about a room as clothes speak about the people who wear them. A simple change of linens - in the way they are layered or in their texture, color or design - can alter the mood of the room from formal to funky, from rustic to romantic, or from sleek and modern to frilly and old-fashioned,' Madden says.

Madden, who also designs a line of home goods for the JCPenney Home Collection, offers this advice:

n Believe in pillow power: Whether you stack for a clean, crisp look or prop, pillows are important. Madden says she prefers pillows standing up, and depending on the size of the bed, two to three Euro-size shams, two standard or king shams per person and one or two decorative pillows.

A bed isn't well made unless it employs a number of pillows, she says. 'The more the merrier - square, oblong, boudoir, neckroll, baffled or round decorative pillows, and preferably some of each.'

n Don't be a slave to matchy-matchy: 'Your shams could match the comforter if you are going for an elegant, traditional look in your bedding,' Madden says. But play with what's in the middle.

'Let other interesting things happen in-between - like lots of decorative pillows, a solid-colored coverlet,or a fabric with a different design element that complements the comforter and shams, like embroidery or textured fabric,' she says.

n Color is important: If you want to create a romantic mood, 'use a related or an analogous color scheme - colors that are close together on the color wheel.' For a more exotic, adventurous bedroom, contrast different colors and complement them with a punch of primary colors for emphasis. In a sleek, hotel-inspired bedroom, you might try a monochromatic color scheme - the shades, tints and tones of one color.

n Think about texture: 'You want the textures to speak about softness, but you can do this by adding texture in the form of trims (on comforters and pillows), in the fabrication style and dress-maker details-pleats, pintucking, ruffles, smocking, etc.,' she says.

n Don't be afraid of a dust ruffle: On the right bed frame, a dust ruffle can act as a visual frame to the linens on top, Madden says. Her favorite dust ruffles are long enough to graze the floor.

'I love gauzy, soft cotton batiste, slightly gathered, on an all-white bed. But different textures of coarse linen, different weights of cotton and lace also are great bed skirting material and provide great contrast to the type of bed,' Madden says.

n Don't just buy off the shelf: Your own personality can shine in your bedding, Madden says, by adding items you've inherited, found at flea markets or bought new. For instance, she said she collects pillows from her travels around the world.