Pillow Talk with Peacock Alley

A cheat sheet to choosing luxury linens
written by COLLEEN ANN MCNALLY | photos courtesy of PEACOCK ALLEY

PNA_SP16-04-ModernHeirloomThere are people that see making the bed as a chore.

Then there’s Mary Ella Gabler, who not only takes joy in feathering the nest, so to speak, her family has built a business around it. Dallas-based Peacock Alley has been synonymous with luxury linens and timeless pieces for more than 30 years, but her success didn’t happen overnight.

ME_headshot In 1973, Gabler saw a void in the market and set out to develop a fashionable bedding collection. She aimed to appeal to stylish consumers looking to dress their bedroom the same way they dressed themselves: in natural fibers, classic silhouettes and pleasing colors. It’s a comforting story of one woman’s vision and daring endeavor. One that makes it hard not to curl up on one of the beautiful display beds throughout Peacock Alley’s design studio at Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC) –the second one in the country before successfully launching their third in Nashville, Tenn. last fall.

Learning the story behind the brand, I also discovered that while Peacock Alley strives to make bedrooms a place of peace with a no-fuss approach to style, there are still a few key decisions to make first. When we spend a third of our lives sleeping, why not make it count?

Luckily, Gabler and Director of Retail Brad Cleveland shared knowledge they’ve gained through decades as industry leaders. With these simplified tips, you could almost choose with your eyes closed.

When someone comes into the store looking for sheets, temperature is always the center of Cleveland’s first question. “That tells immediately which direction to steer them to give them the best product. There’s nothing worse than being too hot or too cold when you’re sleeping.” From there, he moves toward percale for hot bodies or sumptuous sateen for those wanting to keep it cool. The latter is known for its silky smooth surface with luminous sheen and is usually a little thicker, making it perfect for snuggling in chillier climates or winter months.

ARE YOU HAPPY IN HOTEL BEDS? Inevitably, husbands and wives might have different preferences so another guiding question Cleveland asks is if the couple slept well on their last trip. Generally speaking, hotel beds are made with percale sheets –plain in weave and characterized by a matte finish like your favorite crisp white shirt.

Peacock Alley’s 100-percent Egyptian or Long Staple Cotton percale linens are lighter in weight and more breathable, yet incredibly soft, making it perfect for summertime or warmer climates. Although Cleveland has noticed a trend in people asking for all-white hotel beds in their homes, this has been a Peacock Alley staple from the onset.

“If Mary Ella had her truest wishes, then all of our beds would be all white.”


It’s true —Gabler’s personal style is minimalistic yet warm, transcending time and trend. Popular patterns like Vienna and Duet are more than a quarter-century old. Couples can sleep soundly knowing their sheets will endure kids piling into bed, lazy days of watching movies or reading the paper. That’s how we live now, and that was Gabler’s vision from the beginning:a multipurpose space for living, working, relaxing and sleeping.

“I like to keep the top of the bed very simple and easy to get in and out of,” Gabler said, particularly when it comes to pillows. “I think it just needs to be inviting and comfortable, and not as much fl u as we’ve been used to in years past.”

She is enthusiastic about the Modern Heirloom collection, which debuted Feb. 1 and is now available for retail sale at their ADAC design studio. “It takes me back to my roots. Whether it’s antique linens or quilts, I just have a passion for that,” she said.

For those that like more confectioning, Peacock Alley has plenty, too. Cleveland’s personal favorite isthe Lyric sheet. “It’s a 500–thread-count sheet made in Italy, and if I ever got stranded on a desert island, I’d want a set of these with me,” he said. “What I really like about them is they have a beautiful double hem stitch detail, making it different than any other line out there.”

Cleveland often sleeps on the same Lyric set since he started with the company. “With proper care and maintenance, these are heirloom quality goods. If I had children, I could pass those linens down.”

For starters, Cleveland said he would never read a paper in bed. Newsprint smudges or not, how you wash sheets makes a difference in longevity.

He advises staying away from bleach and harsh detergents. Use an enzyme cleaner instead, so the fibers won’t break down, or baby detergent because they have lower phosphate levels. For the ultimate luxury, take sheets to the dry cleaner to have them cold-water washed and pressed. “That is living large, and well worth $18,” he said.

Cleveland also suggested having more than one set to use on a rotating basis.

Next up: myth busting. “Thread count, in actuality, represents a square inch of fabric,” Cleveland said. “If you have a 500-thread-count sheet, that represents 250 running vertically and 250 running horizontally.”

Somewhere along the way, it has become a common misunderstanding that higher thread counts equate to better sheets. Cleveland corrects this simply: “Cheap threads make cheap sheets.”

Peacock Alley’s linens generally do not go above 650 thread counts. “It’s just not necessary,” Cleveland said. He explained that when sheets are marketed as 1,000 thread count, what likely happened in production was the DNA-like thread is untwisted to make two out of one. In other words, the customer is really buying 500-thread-count sheets with spilt yarns. Very tricky.

“If they do, in fact, weave something that is 1,000 thread count and don’t split the threads, it’s like canvas (really heavy sheets) because that’s a lot of thread per square inch,” Cleveland said.

Rather than focusing on the number, he said the bigger conversation is about quality of threads and fi nding a reputable company that sells Egyptian cotton. Peacock Alley imports their world-class material from Portugal and a special family business located north of Milan.

Uncommon Thread and Throws

From visiting the studio and in conversation with Gabler, her emphasis on a familial approach is evident. Cleveland started as a salesman on the floor, and speaks of Gabler more as a friend than a boss. He has been “brought up” in the company, as were Gabler’s sons Jason and Josh Needleman who now serve as President/CEO and Vice President. Cleveland added he is most proud of Peacock Alley’s philanthropic projects, including Dwell with Dignity in Atlanta, a nonprofit agency dedicated to creating soothing, inspiring homes for families struggling with homelessness and poverty. When it comes to getting cozy with a brand, their values are something we would be proud to pass on to our own children.


  • To read more about Gabler’s personal story and style, pick up a copy of “Uncommon Thread: A Woman, A Brand, A Legacy”
  • To register for Peacock Alley’s Modern Heirloom Event at Design ADAC April 25 –29, visit adacatlanta.com