What Is a Coverlet for a Bed?

Beds and pillow in hotel room
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A coverlet is designed to cover the top portion of the bed, while still exposing the skirt.

From bedspreads to comforters, duvets and coverlets, the differences between bed coverings can get a bit confusing, especially when the items are sold in sealed packages. You can think of a coverlet as a little sibling of the bedspread—it is designed to a made a bed look more tidy while showing still showing off the bed skirt.

Coverlets and Bedspreads

Bedroom with lamp.
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A bedspread is designed to hang all the way to the floor.

When it comes to bed coverings selected for their looks rather than comfort or warmth, the coverlet and bedspread take center stage. Both of these are large enough to completely cover the sheets and blankets beneath them on the bed. They're often thin and not always made of blanket-soft material, since they're not designed for comfort. The main difference between the bedspread and coverlet is their size. A bedspread is long and wide enough to cover all the bedding and even the pillows, hanging down to floor level. To some eyes, a bedspread sometimes looks old-fashioned. The coverlet, on the other hand, is narrower and shorter, with its edges resting at the bottom of the box spring. In many cases, coverlets are sold as part of a decorative set including pillow shams and a dust ruffle, also known as a bed skirt. Coverlets are sometimes tucked under the mattress for a neat look. Coverlets are also used in some modern bedroom decor styles.

The Quilt Connection

Some coverlets are designed to look like quilts and are even used in similar fashion. The main difference is the layers of fill inside. Quilts have more batting between the inner and outer layers, while quilted coverlets have just one layer of fill. Either one may be used in place of a blanket during warmer months.

Of Comforters and Duvets

Clean bed.
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Comforters and duvets are coverings offering warmth.

Comforters and duvets also are bed coverings, but these also add some level of warmth to the bed. Some companies use the terms interchangeably, while others refer to comforters as the washable all-in-one item, while duvets require a separate, washable cover. Duvets are often filled with wool, down or a synthetic alternative, making them light and fluffy. The down is why many duvets aren't designed for machine washing. They're rather bag-like in appearance since they're meant to be used with a cover. Using a duvet with a cover eliminates the need for blankets, in many cases. A comforter, on the other hand, is an added touch that goes atop the sheets and blankets on the bed. The quilt layers within the comforter make it warmer than a bedspread, but not as warm as a down-filled duvet.

Bed Cover Size Comparisons

True down duvets, like coverlets, are often shorter than bedspreads, reaching down to the bottom of a box spring. Some companies offering washable duvets and comforters sell them in sizes long enough to nearly reach the floor. Sizes for any of these bed coverings can vary from one brand to the next, but for the sake of comparison, a typical queen coverlet, quilt or duvet is about 90 inches square, while a queen bedspread measures 102 inches wide, 120 inches long.


Kathy Adams

Kathy Adams

Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.