How to create a restful sanctuary
Designers weigh in on decor choices for the bedroom
You’ve had a tough day. What you want most is to retreat to a restful sanctuary, where you can chill out and renew yourself.
Ideally, your bedroom should provide you with that refuge. But if it doesn’t, there are many things you can do to transform it into a soothing haven.
A good place to start is with colour, say designers.
“Any colour in the right shade will work,” said Tara Hamel, who specializes in residential and commercial design with Space2 Design Inc. “Opt for muted colours on the walls.”
She suggests choosing “the second or third value” on those colour selector strips that paint stores stock.
“If you want some strong colour, you can have it in such items as cushions, area rugs, bedding or the woodgrain in your furniture,” she added. “Not too many people can stomach strong colours on bedrooms walls.”
While red walls may seem like a sensual choice for a bedroom, they’re far too stimulating, said Nora Hanessian, a Montreal architect who also practices interior design.
“I’m more in favour of tone on tone. I like earthy tones. And blues and greens do calm us,” she said.
You can create a unified effect by painting the ceilings in a half-tone of the wall colour, Hanessian added. “A chair rail around the walls or a crown moulding near the ceiling will create a cocooning effect.”
One place to start the search for the perfect wall colour is in your bedding, said Margot Kilroy, design consultant and colourist at The Hub, a paint and hardware store in Beaconsfield.
“People often come into the store with their bedding – a quilt, for instance,” she said. “We start with the colours in the bedding and take a softer version of the colour for the walls.”
Sometimes, there’s a need for compromise when couples decorate their bedrooms. “Often, I notice the battle lines are drawn when couples come into the store to choose colours,” Kilroy said. A little negotiation before you head out to the paint store can save that public tussle over the choice of vieux rose (her) and hunter green (him).
As for design trends, one that’s current- ly popular is a monochromatic look for walls and ceilings.
“I often suggest the ceiling be painted the same colour as the walls to make the room welcoming,” Kilroy said. “I also suggest people add cornices in their bedrooms and paint them a softer colour than the ceiling.”
One thing that kills a restful ambience in a bedroom is clutter, the designers say.
“Having too many things, including too many pieces of furniture or art, can be overly stimulating,” Hamel said.
“You might have an armchair in your bedroom that you love but if you just use it to put clothes on, then it’s contributing to clutter. You might as well remove it to create a more open and airy feel.”
Tracey MacKenzie agrees that less is more in bedroom design. As a feng shui specialist, she consults on the ancient Chinese art of positioning objects to facilitate a beneficial flow of “chi,” or energy.
“In my work, I often see two types of bedroom,” MacKenzie explained. “There’s the pristine type of room that looks as if a nun sleeps in it, or as if no one at all sleeps in it. And then there’s the other kind that I call the ‘housewife’ bedroom. It’s got every- thing in it: an ironing board, a laundry basket filled with laundry, a treadmill and many photographs of the kids, the parents, the grandparents. It’s not a relaxing place.”
That’s because the laundry is a reminder of work that is yet to be done and the treadmill represents activity. And all those photographs? On a symbolic level, said MacKenzie, they’re keeping you from feeling that the bedroom is your own private sanctuary.
She suggests her clients move the family photos to a hallway or den and post pictures in their bedrooms that make them happy.
“These can be pictures of places you’ve visited where you’ve had a great vacation,” she said. “They serve as wonderful reminders and they send a message to your brain that makes you feel good when you fall asleep.”
If the bedroom needs such a total makeover that you wonder where to begin, start with the place you love best, said Montreal designer Mitchell Davey.
“Find the spot in the bedroom where you feel good and most comfortable: the bed, a chaise longue, an ottoman, and focus there,” he said. Assess whether you really need everything you have in your bedroom.
“One of my clients had a regency chair in the bedroom that no one used. So what’s the point of it?” he said.
And consider that less is more when it comes to pillows. The trend of layering pillows on a bed to make it inviting can be overdone, Davey said.
“A couple of sleeping pillows and a couple of shams are great. But if you have to struggle to take a dozen pillows off your bed to get into it, where are you going to put them all? It’s better to put your money into the quality of the few pillows you use.”
Pay attention to the lines and scale of the furnishings, added Nora Hanessian.
“If an armoire or dresser are overwhelmingly large, they’ll seem even bigger when you’re lying down.”
You can mitigate the large scale of an armoire, for instance, by having an armchair and reading lamp beside it.
Plants can improve the air quality in a bedroom by absorbing carbon dioxide and exuding oxygen, but use them sparingly to prevent an accumulation of moulds or spores from the soil, Hanessian said.
And avoid harsh lighting, said Davey. “Choose lamp shades that cast a warm glow. And make sure there are many points of light, not just one lamp.”
If your home is in a location that affords an aesthetic view, do position your bed to take advantage of that panorama, he said.
Invest in high-quality linens, which will draw you to your bed, the designers suggested. And if you need to sleep in darkness, be careful about the drapes you select, Margot Kilroy said.
“If you need black-out drapes, choose a lining that’s not heavy and rubberized because it will draw the fabric down,” she said.
And finally, said Tracey MacKenzie, surround yourself in your bedroom only with things that you love and find beautiful. “When you go to bed, surround yourself with happy things. You’ll want to create a favourable energy in your bedroom.”
Designer Tracey MacKenzie, in redoing a client’s bedroom, opted for a more streamlined look than what was there before (see photo below). A new bed with contemporary headboard and sides of black leather prompted her to go for orange and white “to...