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Design 101: What’s The Difference Between Bed Blankets, Bedspreads, and Coverlets??

Question: why are there SO many terms for the bed blanket? Is it a called a bed blanket? Oversized throw? Why is it sometimes called a coverlet or bedspread? And nowadays, I feel like even the term “quilt” which historically is a very specific type of blanket, has a “loose” meaning…

All these questions have been floating in my mind for a while now, so it was time to do some investigative research and really break down WHY all these things have different names and what their purposes really are. So if you’re wanting answers, you’ve come to the right place and we’re gonna learn this together.


DEFINITION: /bed·blang·kuht/ A large blanket designed to go at the end of your bed and on top of the duvet. Size-wise, your bed blanket should be as wide as your duvet, if not a few inches smaller.

photo by veronica crawford | from: a bedroom update + how i feel about a tv in the bedroom

Bed blankets or oversized throws are probably the most common of the bunch, and they’re also usually the coziest. So if you’re looking for something to snuggle up with when you’re gettin cozy with some cocoa while watching The Bachelorette, a bed blanket is most definitely your best bet.

PSA: standard throws are not the same as bed blankets. EXTRA LARGE or OVERSIZED throws typically are. A standard throw is too small to cover the end of your bed and it looks awkward if you try to use it like a bed blanket (which I most definitely didn’t know until I started working here). There are, however, ways to use a throw on the end of a bed that’s not awkward. Here’s an example from Birdie’s nursery, styled to sell:

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: eliot’s room styled to sell

In this example, since there is already a “bed blanket” draped over the duvet at the bottom of the bed, throwing a standard throw on top of it just adds extra texture and in this case, color.


DEFINITION: /bed·spred/ A bedspread is a thin blanket designed to go on top of a duvet or comforter, and generally spreads the entire length and width of your duvet –– which makes sense considering its name.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house reveal: our calm scandinavian master bedroom

So basically a bedspread is the biggest of the bunch. It’s usually as big as your duvet in size, but is MUCH thinner. This is a great option if you want colorful bedding but with little commitment. Also since this can cover the whole bed, I think this is a PERFECT option for people that want white bedding but have dogs, pets, or children that will somehow find a way to dirty it up. It’s also a great option if you want a blanket at the end of your bed but are a hot sleeper (like me) and don’t want something too thick.


DEFINITION: /kəv·ər·lət/ A coverlet is generally the same thickness as a bedspread (so it’s pretty thin) but it’s designed to either go in between your top sheet and duvet, or on top of your duvet. Sizing wise, it’s not as big as a bedspread, and is closer in size to a blanket, quilt, or oversized throw. Its purpose is to double up if you need a little extra warmth, but not too much warmth.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: a refresh of the kids room in the mountain house


DEFINITION: /kwilt/ A quilt is the same as a coverlet or blanket in size, but generally has an extra layer inside, making it thicker and thus serves the purpose of providing A LOT of extra warmth (not just a little). Quilts are also designed to go either in between your top sheet and duvet, or on top of your duvet. Quilts also typically have a stitched, well, quilted, pattern whereas a coverlet can be any texture or pattern.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: target’s new threshold collection 2019
Hot Tip

Layer, layer, layer! Mix and match quilts, blankets, coverlets, bedspreads, and even standard sized throws. Double the blanket = double the fun.

So in conclusion, a lot of it is about sizing…so a standard throw is small (too small for the end of a bed), so opt for a bed blanket, quilt, coverlet or beadspread instead. They’re all generally around the same size, except the bedspread, which is large enough to cover your whole bed. They can vary in thickness but bedspreads and coverlets are generally thinner than quilts or blankets. Quilts are (obviously) quilted and blankets can typically have the most texture out of the bunch (think pom poms, embroidery, fuzzy sherpa goodness, they can really have the works).

Then coverlets and quilts are the two that can be placed in between your top sheet and duvet OR on top of your duvet, so they’re typically a little stiffer than a bed blanket or bedspread, which are strictly intended to go on top of your duvet.

If you want more info on how to make your bed, let me direct you toward this post: Our Five Best Bed Making Formulas. Because hey, I didn’t know how to make my bed “the right way” until about a year ago.

And of course, we wouldn’t leave you without some shoppable options so you can implement this in your own home. ENJOY!

1. Channel Stitch Velvet Quilt | 2. Winter + Summer Cotton Coverlet | 3. Baywood Quilt | 4. Striped Linen Quilt | 5. Hydrus Black and White Blanket | 6. Chunky Knit Bed Blanket  |7. Handwoven Dorado Blanket | 8. Rahim Navy Tasseled Bed Blanket | 9. Linen Quilt | 10. Candlewick Blanket | 11. Houndstooth Bed Blanket Black/White | 12. Miramar Organic Waffle Blanket

1. Bubble Blue Coverlet | 2. Popcorn Grid Coverlet | 3. Bati Coverlet Natural | 4. Linoto Linen Coverlet | 5. Lush Velvet Linear Coverlet | 6. Vista Bedspread | 7. Amber Yellow Linen Bedspread | 8. Vintage Matelasse Coverlet | 9. Ruffle Skirt Bedspread Set | 10. Afar Coverlet | 11. Waffle Linen Bedspread | 12. Mitchell Coverlet Set

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: “Mountain House Reveal (Yes, Another One!): The Coziest Upstairs Guest “Bunk” Bedroom” | Styled by Emily Edith Bowser and Julie Rose

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3 years ago

Thanks, this is really useful! I have maybe weird question:

What do you DO with all this extra stuff on top of the bed once you’re actually ready to sleep? For example, I have a bunch of decorative pillows that sort of just… wind up on the floor. Or pushed off to the side of the bed if I’m sleeping alone. Where do they go?? Same for all these extra blankets on top on nights that you don’t need them. Do you keep a basket nearby for them or something?
Throwing All My Pretty Bed Stuff On The Floor

3 years ago

My question is: is all this bed styling for yourself? all those tiny pillows that you have to put on the floor, or somewhere, every night, and then put back on the bed in the morning. how many people are seeing your bed each day? how much time do you spend in your bedroom daily that makes it worth all of this? serious question! i love picking out quilts and duvets that i like, but i don’t think i’d ever bother buying a bunch of tiny pillows or a separate blanket that’s sole purpose is to be folded at the bottom of my bed. i get up, make my bed, and once i’m dressed i don’t return until bedtime.

3 years ago

Agreed. If I had a bigger living space I might not care as much, but when the apartment is small every little thing adds up and you want it all looking tidy!

3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

I just have the ones for sleeping propped up behind the ones with the pillow covers that match the doona/duvet cover. When I go to bed, I swap the ones at the back to the front, put my head on it and that’s it.

3 years ago

And to make things even more confusing where I live (Australia) you would call a duvet a quilt and quilt maybe a quilted blanket or maybe a bedspread….anyway good round up. What’s the view on how to style a bed for summer (and I mean when it’s hot at night and you aren’t running the AC 24/7)!

3 years ago
Reply to  Rachel


3 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

I fold the doona down into thirds and just sleep under the top sheet. Still looks good during the day.

3 years ago

I more often see “bed blanket” referring to the regular blanket that goes between your top sheet and duvet/bedspread/whatever and is labeled by mattress size (twin, full/queen, or king), rather than referring to an oversized throw. How do you refer to that type of blanket? There’s a little flexibility with throw size, depending on bed size. A twin (38″W) and full/double (54″W) will be ok with a standard throw (typically 60″x50″). You can also find 70″x50″ throws that aren’t labeled “oversize” that would be ok on a queen (60″W). For a king (76″W) you’d want an oversize throw at least 80″L. So while oversize throws would look great on all bed sizes, if you can’t find one in your budget or desired color/texture then you can often make a standard throw work. I just finished presenting a bunch of “bedscape”options to a client so this is fresh on my mind 🙂 The throw brings an accent but it’s also nice for lounging/reading on top of a made bed. People I’ve worked with tend to like top sheet + regular blanket + duvet or bedspread or quilt + throw. For pillows, most go with 2 pillowcases + 2 shams + 1… Read more »

Stephanie Wolson
3 years ago

Could you discuss how to make a bed if you don’t have a headboard?

3 years ago

I used to use two big pillows (European pillows?) at the back in lieu of a headboard then work toward from there with 2-4 normal pillows….but that’s a lot of pillows!

3 years ago

I’ve been strictly into a fitted sheet, duvet, and duvet cover combo for ages, and I love it!

3 years ago

I know this will make designers cringe, but I use a bedspread as a substitute for a duvet or comforter. They are so much easier to clean, and if I’m cold I just add another blanket to the bed. It helps that I live in the South, and it doesn’t get too cold. I’m just tired of dealing with duvets and impossible-to-clean comforters.

3 years ago

Bowser!!! You’ve gone all formal in the credits… “Emily Edith Bowser”? 🧐 Cute.

I’m sittin’ on my bed reading this, reviewing what’s on my bed and in my linen cupboard. I don’t do too badly with all this bah-lahnk-ety stuff! Ha!

Nice work sorting all the fluffy bits out, Mallory. FYI: in Australia, we often call a duvet a DOONA. There’s also a saying “Doona Dancing.” Hhhhmmmm… now what could that mean?!? Hahaha 🤣

3 years ago

I have, at times, used a twin blanket as the bed blanket at the end of a bed.

3 years ago

Very interesting.
Where I live (Austria, also in Germany) we have totally different bedding.
Not only has each sleeper their own duvet (so there are two duvets side by side on a queek or king with two sleepers), each is enveloped in a duvet cover that’s buttoned or zipped. Each week we change and wash covers. The duvet never touches our body, nor does any other blanket.
When we make our beds we just fold duvets (in their covers) once and put a bedspread all over the bed, over duvets and pillows. We put cushions on top (but never sleep on those decorative ones).

3 years ago

What we really need….trundle beds. Now, we want have to take all the shams, pillows, quilts, spreads, etc. off at night to stack on the bench at the foot of the bed.

3 years ago

OMG. I’m getting sweaty reading this! I love the extra-layered look on a bed, but whew! The idea of actually sleeping with another layer on top of (or under or between) a duvet is inconceivable. All very practical before central heating I’m sure.

3 years ago

I like the designs you post the blankets and the pillows.
It will be very nice in my room and the other rooms that I will make.
Thank you for posting it. God bless you more.

Suzanne Bonser
3 years ago

As a professional bedding designer, a “bedspread” in the industry is a cover that goes to the floor on 3 sides of the bed. Many of them are seamed around the 3 edges to create a fitted look, or may have a ruffle. In a hotel, the bedspread is turned back, and not slept under. A “quilt” is always 2 layers of fabric with a poly or cotton batting sewn in between, a QUEEN size usually 86 x 86″ or 90 x 90″. The more stitching you have, the denser the quilt and the less stitching, the loftier the quilt. A ” coverlet can be 2 layers of fabric woven together- it may look like a quilt, but is actually a woven fabric, and is the same size as a quilt. The weave is most often a matelasse. A Blanket is one layer of fabric, usually woven like a cotton waffle or dobby and is the same size as a coverlet. It often has a binding on the edge. A “throw”is 50 x 60 or 70”. In our NYC showroom, our display beds are made with the coverlet or blanket over the sheets, then a duvet cover filled with a… Read more »

3 years ago

I’ve shopped high (ABC) and low (Target), on line and in person, and I’ve never before heard the term “bed blanket.” Is this a made-up term, like “gifted”, which just means “gave”? The default has been that blankets are for beds, and other blankets are modified by an adjective (e.g., picnic blanket). It .seems to add unnecessary confusion