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Nine essential features to get right when designing a bedroom

This article was originally printed in the Your Home & Garden magazine. You can view it here.

Sleep easy in a room that’s designed with rest and relaxation in mind.

Apparently, we spend a third of our lives in bed. This alone makes the bedroom a contender for ‘the most used room in the house’ title. But we don’t just use the bedroom to sleep. It’s also where we get ready in the morning and it’s a sanctuary when we need to chill out. For some, it might also be an office space. “People have the attitude of ‘I only sleep there’, and therefore, don’t put as much effort into the space as they should,” says interior designer Laura Heynike of Pocketspace Interiors.

As the one room in the house that truly reflects you, it should be a playground for decorating – regardless of whether it’s on show or not. This space is yours to enjoy.

So, whether you’re renovating, building or simply re-orientating your room, we’ve pulled together a bedroom 101 to help you create a space that will not only be a pleasure to sink into after a long day, but also difficult to leave in the morning.

The bed

The piece de resistance in the bedroom – it’s in the name, after all. Designing and decorating your bedroom to restful sublimity is of course the end goal, but if your bed isn’t comfortable, then we’ve ultimately failed in our mission before we’ve even begun.

Thus, we start with the item that is rarely seen; the mattress. Most mattresses will last seven to 10 years. If your current one is ‘dipping’ where you lie most often, take this as an indication that it’s time for a new one. When you visit the mattress store, don’t just sit on the end, stretch out and lie on the mattress for a couple of minutes so you can fully gauge the comfort factor. And, when your new mattress arrives, give it a couple of weeks to get used to it.

The bed frame is the next building block to tackle. One with integrated storage is a great option for small rooms. Residential project manager and interior designer Jen Jones from Nine Yards Consulting says, “Ironically, bed frames with built-in storage will make a small space feel even smaller, whereas a bed frame with negative space underneath will make a room feel more open.”

When it comes to positioning your bed in the room, Jen says, “Ideally, you’ll have at least 50cm to 60cm on either side of the bed and at the foot, more if you need to access a wardrobe.” Obviously, the more space you have around your bed, the better. If your room allows it, position the bed away from the door, for privacy, and preferably not under a window.


What is it about hotel beds that make you want to take a running jump onto them as soon as you enter the room?

‘Layers’ is the buzzword here. One lone pillow on a flat duvet doesn’t cry comfort, but a couple of plump euros stacked behind two soft standard pillows on a bed with a fluffy duvet and cosy throw does. Much like the mattress, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your bedding, so think quality. Indulge in layers, invest in an electric blanket for winter, add weight with a comforter and choose colours that will help the space to feel like a cocoon.

“The bedroom should be a cosy sanctuary to fold into after a tough workday,” says Laura. Achieve this vibe with warming, earthy tones. Darker colours for the bedding will add depth to the room without closing in the space too much.

Bedside tables

To help you decide what type of furnishings you require, reflect on your bedtime habits. Do you like to store items beside your bed? Do you need a place for a lamp to sit? Do you want them to be the same, or mismatching? Whatever you decide, Jen says, “You don’t want the bedside tables to be taller than the top of your bed, or uncomfortably low. Ideally, they should be about the same height as your mattress.”


“It can be cost saving to go without a headboard,” says Jen. “But who likes leaning against a hard wall with a book and cuppa in bed?”

In addition to making your Sunday morning routine more comfortable, a headboard also helps to frame the bed within the room and adds unmistakable visual appeal.

Jen says, “Shape and material should be the main considerations.”

For those wishing for a headboard that sits in the room without becoming the main feature, look for a straight wooden or linen option. If you’ve got your heart set on one with flair, look for an upholstered headboard made with a velvet or patterned material in an interesting shape. And, if you are a bit of a Goldilocks and want something in between, a curved or shapely headboard upholstered in a neutral fabric should do the trick.

Laura says, “As a general rule of thumb, the headboard should be proportionate to the ceiling height.” For a standard ceiling, this means it should roughly be around a third of the height of the room; for higher ceilings, a quarter of the height.

Curtains or blinds

Blinds, with the exception of Roman blinds, says Jen, will never quite block all the light out. Therefore, for both privacy, warmth and light reasons,
full length thermally-backed floor-to- ceiling curtains are the best option for the bedroom.

“That is if budget allows,” she says. “Blinds are cheaper. Much cheaper. If budget is an issue, start with blinds, then add curtains later.”

Consider how you want your bedroom to feel before picking the fabric for your curtains. “If you want minimal light to get through, then a dense polyester blended cotton weave is the way to go,” suggests Laura. “If you want a soft, romantic fall, then linens are your go-to.”

Curtains are a big investment, she says. “I would advise to keep it neutral in the spectrum of your wall colour. When you go for a dark colour, your eye is immediately drawn to it, rather than an extension of the wall colour it sits upon.”


A colourful print can have a marked effect on the mood of a room, something that is felt even more intimately in a bedroom. You’ll go to bed looking at this piece and wake up and see it straight away, so for this reason, choose something that you love and probably wouldn’t put anywhere else in the house. Jen says, “On the four walls of your bedroom you might have a window, a wardrobe, a set of drawers and a headboard. So really there are only two places to hang art; over the drawers or over the bed.” Therefore ask yourself, would you rather enjoy the artwork from bed, or see it hanging over your bed when you enter the room?


The bedroom requires a combination of ambient and task lighting. For ambient lighting, Jen says, “A couple of recessed downlights should do the trick. Two is enough for most bedrooms as you don’t want to flood the space with light.” Task lighting comes in the form of table lamps, wall sconces or low-hanging pendants.

Table lamps are ideal for reading or softly illuminating the room while watching a movie. “The big plus with lamps is that if you’re investing in something swanky, you can take it with you if or when you move house,” says Jen. “The pitfall is the space they take up on your bedside table.” Wall scones and pendants are a fantastic option when space is tight. “Wall sconces are great, but better if they can be moved, for instance on an arm, for practicality reasons,” says Jen. Pendants look striking beside the bed but are also quite inflexible in terms of directional light.


Jen says, “Don’t underestimate the benefit of a good quality rug.” She suggests it should be large enough to overhang three sides of the bed by 50cm and stop short of the bedside tables by 20cm. Basically, far enough up and out from the bed that you can step out onto it in the morning.


A built-in wardrobe is a bedroom staple – a walk-in one, a luxury. Regardless of what is at your disposal, a bedroom without clutter is a calming one.

Jen says something people often forget when designing their wardrobe space is the accumulated cost of doors, pulls and shelving. Bi-fold doors are the more expensive option, so if you’re looking to cut down on costs, opt for sliding doors.

Thinking about how best to utilise your storage space will allow it to go further too. Shelves up high should store items used less frequently and shoe racks at the base will keep footwear out of the way.

A wardrobe needn’t be the only storage option in the bedroom either. A tallboy or lowboy can add a lot of additional storage space.


Do you have plans to renovate the bedrooms in your home?

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In this guide to bedrooms, you’ll learn everything you need to build a dreamy space for yourself, family, and guests.

You’ll learn bedroom design and build guidelines, including wardrobes, along with tons of inspiration for nursery themes and kids room decoration.