Over the past couple of years, Strategist editors and readers alike have developed a fixation on linen sheets. New and must-try brands keep coming to our attention, especially in the direct-to-consumer and artisanal space, like the Australia-based Bed Threads, which offers mix-and-match bedding in tonal nonwhite options. While linen, on the whole, tends to be a bigger, longer-term investment than, say, your typical percale cotton, its universal draw is its inherent temperature regulation, keeping you sweat-free in the summer and cocooned when it’s cooler. But beyond this general quality, we also gained an appreciation for how nuanced the material, which is traditionally derived from the flax plant, can be. Some iterations stand out for their softness, others for their heirloom-quality heft, others for simply coming in a unique range of colors rather than just the traditional shabby-chic neutrals. We’ve now had the chance to collectively test more than 20 versions of this old-world bedding, and we’ve narrowed down some of our favorites to help you decide which set might be right for you.
Best overall | Best (less expensive) overall | Best starter | Best for buying piece by piece | Best lightweight | Softest | Best (less expensive) soft | Smoothest | Best blended | Best cooling | Best (less expensive) cooling | Most durable | Best colorful | Best (less expensive) colorful | Best colorful for mixing and matching | Best hand-dyed to order | Best (less expensive) hand-dyed to order | Best hemp | Best organic | Best heirloomlike | Best luxury
What we’re looking for
Feel: As mentioned above, linen sheets are traditionally made from flax and are more textured and rougher to the touch than cotton is. And unlike cotton and other common sheets, the standards of thread count don’t apply, so you’re really judging based on handfeel. The flax lends linen sheets that signature rumpled, lived-in look, though some can be crisper or coarser, depending on their weave and where the raw material originated. (The highest-quality linen comes from Europe, with Belgian linen being the gold standard.) They’re also much sturdier than your typical cotton sheets and can withstand more weathering, and they typically get softer over time. And while they’re known to be temperature regulating and fast-drying, some linen sheets can feel more cozy than crisp, as some of our reviewers have noted, making them a great option for yearlong use.
Weight: Depending on how they’re manufactured, some linen sheets can feel airy and crisp, while others feel more hefty and substantial.
Color: Part of the allure of linen sheets is the fact that many of them come in a gorgeous array of colors, from subtle neutrals to jewel tones that make them stand out from the rest of the bedding market. While you can never go wrong with white sheets, linen lets you experiment with unusual colors in a way that most cotton sheets don’t. And even if you prefer to stay within the grays and ivories, there’s plenty of choice therein.
Price: As far as cost goes, you’ll see that most prices listed are for a queen-size set that includes a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, and two pillowcases, with most bundles falling in the $250 to $300 range. A few brands only sell by the piece, while others will give you the option to add a top sheet (or not) to a basic starter set. But if buying à la carte seems strange when it comes to sheets, I think it has its own merits. Not only does it allow you to mix and match different colors by component, it lets you experiment with one piece — a fitted sheet, for example — before committing to swathing your entire bed in the stuff, because sometimes just a single layer of linen atop or below your body is all you need to transform your night.
Best overall linen sheets
Medium soft | Hefty | 12 colors | $$
Parachute makes our all-around favorite linen sheets, which several Strategist staffers tested. According to former senior writer Lauren Levy, “Parachute, in my opinion, is the best all-around option, factoring in the middle-of-the-road price, the substantial feel of the linen, and the cool-placid-hazy bed environment you can create with the color options,” of which there are 12. (She bought the sheets in coal and the duvet in fog.) As Levy puts it, “There is a tactility to good linen,” and that’s part of the reason she loves these sheets, which are made of European flax in Portugal. Plus, she says, the price is right. The queen set comes with a fitted sheet and two pillowcases with the option to add a top sheet, which is reflected in the price above. (Without the top sheet, the set costs $184.)
Best (less expensive) overall linen sheets
Textured | Lightweight | 8 colors | $$
Quince, a direct-to-consumer brand that is arguably best known for its $50 cashmere sweater, recently expanded into home goods with a new line of bedding, including linen sheets. As its cashmere suggests, the brand tries to set itself apart as a far more affordable option for fancier items than its more established competitors. Its queen-size linen-sheet set — which includes a fitted and a flat sheet along with two pillowcases — costs $160, which is less than the price of Parachute’s set without the top sheet. Strategist writer Dominique Pariso has slept on both Quince’s and Parachute’s linen sheets, and while she says the latter are definitely more substantial, “if you’re a toe-dipper who is looking for superlight linen sheets with a slightly textured weave,” these are for you. “The best way I can describe the sheets’ feel is this: Imagine a worn-in, gauzy linen button-down that you’d throw on in the height of July heat.” She sleeps hot — “like window-open-in-the-middle-of-January hot” — but they’ve kept her cool and cozy even when the heat (in winter) is cranked up to what she considers “a balmy” 72 degrees. And you can’t beat the value of a four-piece queen set (also made of European flax) for under $200.
Best starter linen sheets
Soft | Lightweight | 11 colors | $$
If you’re looking for linen sheets that are soft and airy (and slightly more affordable), consider Brooklinen’s linen sheets; Levy says they “made me fall in love with linen sheets.” As she describes them, “They’re so light, it’s almost like you don’t feel them. They just brush against you when you sleep. If you’ve only used cotton or whatever, you can’t even compare it to the feel of these linen sheets; it’s like an angel’s kiss.” Like Parachute’s sheets, these are made in Portugal of European flax and come in a range of neutrals and earth tones including a petal pink and navy chambray. “As long as you’re not looking for a bright color, buy these,” says Levy.
Best linen sheets for buying piece by piece
Soft | Hefty | 9 colors | Sold separately
As mentioned above, some companies, like the Company Store, known for its long-lasting bedding basics, sell their linen sheets by the piece. That means you can start with a fitted sheet, as Pariso did, and go from there. She discovered that they were heftier than any of the other brands she tried, including Quince and Parachute. “The Company Store’s sheets feel significantly more substantial (and are more cozy than crisp),” she writes. And after the first wash, she says, they felt “even more lived-in, and I have yet to notice any pilling or loose threads.” While they’re soft (they’re made of European linen), “they’re not baggy, as some other brands tend to be, which was another plus for my own personal taste — I ordered a queen size and they fit snug on my 16-inch mattress.” If you like jewel tones, you’ll want to check out the eight other colors the brand offers in addition to white, including deep blue and marigold yellow, which you can mix and match because, again, these sheets are sold by the piece rather than in sets.
Best lightweight linen sheets
Crisp | Lightweight | 19 colors | $$
For former Strategist senior editor Margaret Rhodes, these European flax sheets from West Elm “felt a little crisper than the other linen sheets I tried — just enough that they had a bit more of that just-washed-sheets effect.” She says that they were even softer than the regular cotton-percale Casper sheets she’d been sleeping on “but definitely had a cleaner feeling as far as linen goes.” In other words, “this is dip-your-toe-in linen,” especially if you’re looking for something closer to cotton. She also notes that the elastic on the fitted sheet was a lot tighter than other linen sheets she tried, “so it snapped under my mattress in this very satisfying, at-attention way.”
Softest linen sheets
Soft | Medium weight | 3 colors | $$$
Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens calls these Italian linen sheets (made from Belgian flax) “the softest I’ve ever slept on.” And they hold up: “Even after being put through a harsh industrial laundromat dryer, they roll out of there just as ripply, breezy, and structurally sound as the day I first unfurled them. They appear built to last.” Plus, she says, they have “all the virtues that everyone praises in linen: substantial enough to use on their own, a breathable solution for sweaty summer nights, a warming cocoon for when it gets cold.” (Snowe is one of those start-ups that work with European factories to source the same materials as high-end names and sell them for less, even if these sheets still fall on the higher end of the spectrum.) As for sizing, Kitchens notes that it’s generous. “If you have one of those super-tall mattresses, it won’t be an issue — but I do find myself cinching up excess fabric underneath the mattress so they feel more taut.” Its color palette is also limited to just three shades: white, gray, and pale blue. Still, the final verdict, as Kitchens puts it, “considering they’re only a smidge pricier than your West Elms and Brooklinens — is that if you’re into linen feeling soft, buy these.” I own these too and use them in the guest bedroom, and one friend who recently stayed a few nights was dying to know where I got them.
[Editor’s note: Snowe’s linen sheet set is sold out in all colors, but they’ll be back soon, according to the retailer. Sign up on the product page to get emailed when they’re back in stock.]
Best (less expensive) soft linen sheets
Soft | Medium weight | 12 colors | $$
Morrow’s sheets are made in Portugal from Oeko-Tex-certified French Linen, and as Rhode puts it, “These are phenomenal, soft in a downy way.” As Goop beauty director Jean Godfrey-June told us, “I’ve never felt anything so comfortable in my life.” The sheets also come in 12 subdued but beautiful colors; the brand even sells them in curated color pairings and bundles that give you an instant tonal look without any effort on your part. Rhodes got them in greige, which she says “was so much nicer than other regular cream-colored sheets I’ve slept on in the past. I like that flaxen, undyed look.” Morrow also sells pillowcases (and duvet covers) separately, so if you wanted to try the linen without investing in an entire set, you could. I bought a set of pillowcases in fawn, a lovely peach tone, to go with a more affordable sheet set from Bed Threads (see below). But if you’re ready to go all-in, Rhodes gives “props to Morrow for selling one sack of linens — exquisite linens — one and done.”
Smoothest linen sheets
Soft | Lightweight | 5 colors | $$
If you’re someone who doesn’t like the look or concept of linen sheets but is still curious about trying them, consider these. As former Strategist senior writer Karen Adelson puts it, “You’re getting a prewashed, non-scratchy, non-wrinkly take on the fabric.” While she admits they might put off true linen aficionados, they were an ideal compromise for her: “In the past, I’ve been disappointed by the look of other linen sets — more sloppy than tastefully lived-in. These drape smoothly as percale cotton over the bed.” Made of European flax, “they had the crispness of hotel bedding,” according to Karen. And they didn’t look wrinkled, either, even after several nights.