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Making a sanctuary out of the place where you sleep

by Cheryl Cook

As each day draws to a close, we finish our tasks, tuck in the kids, let the dogs out for a last break, and then head to our bedroom for the night. But what greets you when you open that door? Do you let out a relieved sigh, and sink into your favourite place in the house? Or do you stare at the wrinkled duvet and mismatched end tables that you’ve been meaning to replace forever and which look rather dusty under the glare from the overhead light you’ve been thinking of upgrading?

If your bedroom isn’t your sanctuary, then I am here to help, because the least you deserve after spending the rest of your day juggling the octopus we call modern life is to have one space where you know you can simply relax.

Sadly, these magical spaces do not just appear; we must create them. But don’t despair, I’m going to outline a few simple steps that will help you transform your bedroom from blah to ahhhh. (Note: as not everyone has an ensuite bathroom and walk-in closet, we’re leaving them out of this round of decorating discussions.)

Step one: Declutter and clear out

In later steps, we’ll go through assessing the style and mood you want to achieve, but not before you strip the space back a little and have a good look at it. Do you feel a calm, soothing sensation when walking into the room, or does the clutter and lack of cohesion make your eye twitch a bit? It’s a rare bird who doesn’t have a few shiny things in the nest that are unnecessary. So get tough and pare it back to something you can then begin to redesign and add to.

Step two: Assess

In this step, you will not only be assessing your space, but your needs for the space as well. First, have a look around and think about the size of your room. If it’s small, you’re unlikely to have space for a seating area, for example, and you’ll need to think about the size of your furnishings. If they are crowding the space, consider removing one or two small pieces, or even downsizing to furniture that is more suited to the room’s dimensions. There’s no hard and fast rule for this, but if you are constantly bumping into furniture or cursing the corner of your bed frame, that may be a sign. Even furniture can create a cluttered feel that makes it hard to relax.

If your room is larger, you should consider if you have enough space to create a small zone for seating. Is there a natural space by the window or in a cozy corner where you can place a chair or two, an ottoman, a side table, and a lamp? Giving yourself the option to retreat to this space for reading can be a real joy for book lovers. Or exhausted parents. Or someone whose spouse likes to watch NASCAR marathons with the volume up so maybe you need a place to go and just sip a cocktail, quietly—by yourself.

If books aren’t your thing, consider using that extra space for a dressing area, complete with a standing mirror, jewelry armoire, or valet stand. In doing this, you’re assessing your needs and wants for the space, as well as what it can do for you.

Step three: Style and mood

Now it’s time to figure out what you want this space to look and feel like. Is your idea of a master retreat a place that is cozy and warm, with overstuffed pillows and sheepskin throws, or are you someone who think simple minimalism is the way to relaxation? If you are not sure, I encourage you to turn once again to the internet and the rabbit hole that is Pinterest. Spend a bit of time looking at various master bedroom styles, and see which ones you are drawn to. Create a board and pin a few inspiring images that will help guide you while decorating your space. Once you have settled on an overall style and mood, it’s time to fill in the gaps in your bedroom with the elements that will bring your vision to life.

Step four: Colour

Soft, neutral tones are the workhorse of interior colours. They can function well in everything from glamour to minimal looks. Consider creating a whole-room palette and do this before you add decor elements like linens, rugs, or window dressings. Having a single, consolidated palette throughout the space will help give you the cohesion that you see in professionally decorated spaces.

Again, have a look online for suggested palettes, find the one you love, then follow a simple 60-30-10 rule. Your first colour (often the lightest one) should be sixty percent of what you see in the room. Your walls and possibly linens and rugs will feature this. Choose a mid-range colour for thirty percent of the space—and this can be a few shades of the same colour. For example, if you like blues, choose one you love and then pick a paler shade of the same colour.

Finally, if you want a pop of bright or bold colour, choose this and make it only ten percent of what you see in the room. This can be accents in small items or a touch of colour in the rug or curtains. The 60-30-10 rule is a great starting point for a colour palette, but it’s not hard and fast. Play with it a bit and find what’s comfortable for you.

Remember that if you stick to your palette of colour, you can easily mix prints and patterns. If you’re struggling with these, choose one solid, one pattern, and one print. Just stay within your colour palette and you’ll be fine.

“Maybe you need a place to go and sip a cocktail, quietly­—by yourself”

Photo Credit: bigstock/ BCFC

Step five: Lighting

It’s hard to relax and unwind under the harsh glare of a bright overhead light. Your overhead light is essential when you need to find that earring your dropped, but it shouldn’t be left to light your space on its own. Bedside lamps, wall sconces, and floor lamps will
give you the layered lighting effect that your retreat needs. Use soft white or warm white bulbs to create a comforting coziness.

Lighting is often overlooked in design, but it is an element that can add some real style to your room. Your overhead, floor, and table lamps do not need to be a matching set. I encourage clients to match only their bedside lights, and then simply stay within the same style when choosing other lights. In this way, you’re free to bring in a little more personality to the space.

Step six: Texture

Texture is an element that adds a professional, finished touch to a space and is typically brought in through textiles and soft furnishings, but also through other elements such as wood and metal. To find the right elements of texture in your space, you rely on the choice you made for overall style and then consider the balance. Will the textures you want suit your room’s style? If you have a hankering for heavy, velvet drapes that look lush and rich, it may not be the best match for a coastal-inspired bedroom, where duck cotton might be a better choice. A cozy, cottage style bedroom will likely incorporate more soft cozy throws and cushions than a room done with a mid-century vibe, which may focus more on smooth woods and greenery.

With the type of textures decided on, think of quantity. A space without texture can seem cold or uninviting, but an abundance of it may bring you back to a cluttered feel. Consider the different textures you want (fuzzy, soft, smooth, hard) and different items that can offer these (rugs, cushions, vases, plants, chairs, small tables, drapes) and decide on a few to start, adding carefully after that.

Step seven: Finishing touches

Now that you have your overall look and style, don’t forget a few small accessories around the room that can create that finished feel. Plants and greenery are naturally relaxing. Talk to your local plant nursery about what is best suited for your room’s light levels, and your abilities. If you’re not ready to take on orchids, there are still many lush houseplants that require little expertise to maintain.

Smell is another great way to finish your space. When you visit a spa, they use our olfactory sense to their advantage in creating a soothing atmosphere, and this is a great lesson to draw from. Using a naturally-based diffuser or room spray can add a touch of luxury and contentment to time spent in
your retreat.

And speaking of sense, since we have covered smell, touch and sight, don’t forget hearing. Small, portable speakers that are wireless or Bluetooth-enabled can bring a final level of relaxation to your master retreat, be it through music or soothing background sounds of a bubbling stream or a walk in the woods.

No matter what style and mood you desire, your master retreat should be just that: yours. Designed with you in mind. Following a few simple steps will let you find the right mix to create a space where you can go to escape the everyday.

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