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Creating the Perfect Bedroom

Designing the bedroom may not always be the top priority when decorating your home. The tiny bedrooms of old Chicago-style architecture point to an era when storage was minimal and the room barely large enough to hold the bed. Even the four-poster bed was designed in the Middle Ages because of a dearth in window curtains, not for style. Times have certainly changed. Luxury, comfort and style have long replaced the utilitarian sleeping box of yesteryear. Bedrooms may include a desk, seating arrangements, stereo equipment, bookshelves, exercise equipment, elaborate walk-in closets, storage units and ensuite bathrooms. Today, the master bathroom is as much a part of the bedroom as the bed. Creating a seamless transition from bedroom to bath makes for a sensible and relaxing sanctuary.
    “Creating a boudoir for the soul” is how interior designer Andrew Bannister states it in his new book, Creating Your Dream Bedroom, with architectural photographer Douglas Hill. No matter what your style or fantasy, the book offers a step-by-step practical guide with stunning examples of how to set up your own personal sanctuary.
    One of the first decisions to be made is determining how the bedroom will be used. Do you want it to be mainly for sleeping, or do you want to work, read and exercise, too? If you want to use it as a getaway from the rest of the household, a more elaborate plan should be considered.
    Next decide what kind of bed you want and where you want it to be. The scale should be proportionate to the room, and comfort and cost are primary considerations. Also think about beds with built-in storage if this is an issue for you. Then comes the hard part: How much money can you spend on bed linens, flooring, window treatments, lighting, art, furniture, wardrobes and decor? Can you incorporate some your existing bedroom items?
Style is not always cost-driven. Carefully consider the costs of labor. Bannister warns that depending on the type of bedroom, the following trades people might be needed to complete the job: “decorator, painter, carpenter, electrician, soft furnishing supplier and installers, and craft specialists such as an artist, fine plasterer, or a gilder.” Don’t automatically take the cheapest quote, and add 10 or 15 percent on to the total estimate for unexpected developments. Add another five percent for changing your mind as you go along regarding wall and window treatments.


    Bannister says that one of the hottest trends is to replicate hotel bedrooms, where designers have had to work with restrictive space to make an impression. If you want to be more creative, study magazines, catalogs, books, movies and wherever else you can find ideas to implement your personal creativity.
    He stresses the importance of first determining a general design criterion to guide your quest.
Choose from the following:
  •         Light and airy
  •         Dark and moody
  •         Soft and subtle
  •         Cool and calm
  •         Bright and colorful
  •         Monochromatic
  •         Minimal
  •         Elegant
  •         Modern
  •         Traditional
  •         Cultured
  •         Themed
  •         Distinctive

There is plenty of room for individual creativity within these parameters. Be sure to carefully research a period theme with its colors, furniture and fabric before heading in that direction.
A word of caution before you begin—safety first. The book offers up some tips on universal design: “The purpose   .of universal design, a term used by architects and interior designers, is to ensure that every member of the family can safely use the facilities in an environment.” Some of this is common sense. Don’t have trailing cables that people can trip over. Loose rugs can present problems, as well as slippery wood floors. Wall to wall carpet may be the safest choice. Be conscious of some of the possible chemicals and toxins in the materials you use.
    Think simple ergonomics. Make things reachable and accessible without too much twisting or bending. If your bed is too low, you might have to put too much pressure on your knees to get up in the morning.Color is an integral part of bedroom design because it sets the tone for what kind of experience you want to have—whether you’d like to wake up in a bedroom that appears to be soothing and calming or invigorating with color. If money is no object, you can decorate with every passing trend, but you might want to keep a simple background and just adjust items like drapes, cushions and linens over time. Classic colors that can be used in any home that never go out of style are black, brown, blue, red and all shades of white, but “avoid pink at all costs for adults,” advises Bannister.
    Another caution Bannister expresses is to “avoid seeking too many opinions. You have no doubt experienced those moments when you are happy with something but make the mistake of asking a friend what they think! Their comment can shatter your vision!”
    Also, steer clear of over-decorating. At some point you have enough accessories, lighting and furniture. Less is often more.
    Paint remains the most popular finish for bedroom walls, both in a matte or silky sheen finish. High gloss is best for window frames and doors. There are all kinds of creative opportunities here. A light wash can give a soft hue to the room. You can use techniques like marbling, bagging, ragging, stippling, dragging and stenciling. Bannister says the two new trends are eco-friendly paints with few chemicals and metallic finishes with copper, gold and soft silver.
    Wallpaper is back with a vengeance due to new technologies in materials and pastes and adhesives. Even silk wallpaper, which has been used for centuries, is now vastly improved. Use it to feature a wall or paper the whole room. Fabric panels are luxurious and deaden sounds from the outside. More unusual wall finishes on the market today include smooth concrete, suede, leather, bamboo, colored glass and back-lit glass.
    Window treatments need careful consideration, whether using draperies, curtains, blinds or shutters. Don’t forget the practical aspects of these items, like light and street exposure. The simplest window treatment is achieved with blinds that come in a wide variety of styles, including Venetian, roller, combined roller/Venetian, bamboo, grass, metallic, vertical and Roman. “A successful window treatment is one that is hardly noticed yet without it, the room appears naked,” says Bannister.
     Don’t forget the ceiling, often called the fifth wall. Bannister comments that mirrored ceilings are acceptable again. Leather
and suede-like materials are popular, along with soft, metallic paints. Wallpaper, plaster effects and fabric are other popular treatments. Lighting is crucial. “A ceiling treatment needs light thrown up at it, rather than lightfalling down from it,” writes Bannister. “Avoid filling the ceiling space with down lighters. Use up lighting or side lighting instead of down lighters.”Even if you have created the perfect room for yourself, it can be severely altered by the wrong lighting. “Decorating creates a theme for the room, and lighting sets the mood,” according to Bannister. “Imagine going to the theater and seeing a ballet performed under strip lights. It would not be the same as when performed under a range of different light sources that create illusions, such as a frozen lake, or a sun setting across a make-believe horizon.” Bedrooms require both daylight and artificial light, and each area deserves the appropriate kind of light, whether its for reading, a closet, dressing or mood.
    Match your flooring to your design. Today’s options run the gamut from new wood, old planks, bamboo, carpet, glass, sandstone, limestone, concrete, slate, granite, marble and composites. Rugs need to match your theme. Contract the different areas used for sleeping, relaxing and dressing with different materials.
    Declutter your life with storage systems that work for you. A sense of order is even more important in the bedroom to get sound sleep. Get rid of anything you don’t use anymore. Donate it or give it away. We all have more things than we need. There are countless storage options out there. Make sure these are ergonomically designed for your comfort and health.
     Creating your dream bedroom can feed your soul in countless ways, from providing a sanctuary from the world to nurturing your creativity to simply getting the sound sleep vital for both physical and mental health.


    Bedroom design can be both soothing and creative. Meegan McMillan, owner of Alcara Design in Winnetka, shares some tips on creating a dream bedroom of your own.
    “I prefer a private, cozy space in the bedroom,” McMillan says. “In a large room, I like to use a lot of fabric, including a drapery treatment over the bed to create a more intimate space. When using fabric in the bedroom, I use fabric that is light in color and
texture, perhaps sticking to plain fabric in different shades of the same hue. Another method is to use one fabric for the entire room, but form it into texture, like quilting the same fabric for chairs or layering panels of the fabric for bed curtains. A gathered
drape along a wall will add more soft texture.
    “You can also use lots of pattern if it is used all over, such as a toile bedroom,” McMillan continues. “In this case (as pictured), I upholstered the walls in the same fabric as the chaise lounge and the bed curtains. Because there is so much pattern, but the same throughout, the eye reads it more as a texture, and it becomes more of a soothing rhythm. The upholstered walls muffle sound and create a feeling of softness, as do the bed drapes, which contributes to the warmth of the room.”
    There are many things that can impact the design of a bedroom. Here are some things McMillan says to watch out for:

    • Very intense colors, especially red, can be emotionally stimulating, but also impart a warm feeling to the room, making it more intimate. Many find intense color too stimulating, but a deep, dark blue or brown, for example, can also make a room feel small
and cozy.
    • Artwork should not dominate a bedroom. One rarely pauses to admire paintings, prints or photographs when preparing for sleep or a new day.
    • Auctions are a wonderful way to collect art or antiques. Bargains can be found, along with unusual pieces. “I also try to buy something on every trip I make to add to my collection,” McMillan says. “It makes for an eclectic mix as well as a souvenir of a
great travel experience.”
    • Lighting should be soft. Use mostly lamps. “I try to include bedside swing-arm lamps with dimmers for bedtime reading, as well as lamps by seating areas,” McMillan
says. Overhead lights, if desired, should be limited to chandeliers.
• Closets are best kept to a dressing room if possible. Clothing storage can be supplied through antique chests or armoires. If necessary, one should try to integrate closets to
make them discreet. Avoid folding doors.
    •  Never put a wood-burning fireplace in a bedroom. If you really want a fireplace, be sure to get a remote control.
   •  Televisions don’t need to be hidden. We are a TV society, so why hide it? It is always important to have a clear view of the screen. The further from the bed, the larger the screen should be. If you want to hide your TV, there are pop-up mechanisms that are good for the foot of the bed. The TV can also be stored in an armoire. A pricey alternative is to hire a professional audio/visual company to install a system that lowers from the ceiling.

Published: October 14, 2007
Issue: November 2007