bedroom design basics

This year, I was lucky enough to visit the gorgeous Southern Highlands area where open fireplaces invited conversation and cups of tea, layering up during the day and snuggling down into a warm bed at night was the daily routine. I was reminded of that time recently when I began working on a project for a parents retreat, that was going to turn out a nightmare, rather than a retreat.

Does design really matter when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep? Or, can a change in habits be the key to improving sleep quality? As a designer, it’s my job to design spaces so that the space itself acts as a support system for the people who use them. I can’t force you to keep the bedroom neat and tidy because I know that clutter increases anxiety and anxiety is a sleep inhibitor. However, I can provide the right types of storage in the right place in order for you to naturally and easily maintain a neat and tidy space.

What makes a great bedroom? I worked on a project recently that included the design of the parents retreat that included a walk-in-robe and ensuite. This was a new addition to an existing home with the bedroom located on the second story boasting views out to a mountain so the scenery from this vantage point should be pretty darned spectacular.

I imagined the space should be serene, calm and unencumbered by clutter and yet the plans I was given to work from, if built according to the plan, would create the exact opposite feel. Without hesitation, I set about redesigning the space to ensure the owners would get everything they wanted, plus have a space that encouraged good sleep. Let’s take a look at some of the design ideas you should be thinking about when designing your own bedroom.

A recent study, commissioned by Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG; AEX: PHIA) released in conjunction with World Sleep Day (13 March), revealed that only 45% of Australian adults are satisfied with their sleep. Most Australians understand that sleep is an important contributor to their physical (88%) and mental (89%) well-being and report being less productive after sleeping poorly (almost 80%).

The study goes on to state “Factors putting quality sleep at risk stem from both social and technology distractions”. By now we’ve all heard that blue light emitted from devices such as televisions, smartphones and digital clocks can inhibit good sleep and the Sleep Health Foundation has some good tips on how to create both a healthy lifestyle to support good sleep as well as tips on preparing for better sleep.

So, does design really matter when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep? Or, can a change in habits be the key to improving sleep quality? As a designer, it’s my job to design spaces so that the space itself acts as a support system for the people who use them. I can’t force you to keep the bedroom neat and tidy because I know that clutter increases anxiety and anxiety is a sleep inhibitor. Nope, I’m not going to be your mother and yell at you to clean your room. Mum was onto something there, although I’m pretty certain that wasn’t her motivation! No, I’m not going to yell at you, but what I can do, is provide the right types of storage in the right place in order for you to naturally and easily maintain a neat and tidy space.

First, if we understand that the bedroom should be used for two things – sleep and sex – then we can design for its purpose of rest and relaxation. Adding in good habits will then build on the design created for the spaces primary purposes. This is not to say that bedrooms can’t also incorporate secondary uses, but it does say that design preferences should be given to the primary purpose and additional functions will be built around that.

What colour you choose to use within the bedroom is probably the most important factor when it comes to designing the space. There is so much advice online about the perfect colour to paint the walls in order to achieve the most restful sleep as possible. The current consensus amongst the research boffins is that soft blue achieves the most restful sleep consistently. This makes sense from a colour psychology perspective in that lighter tints and shades of the colour blue give a feeling of calm and tranquility and that’s what we’re after in a bedroom. However, that doesn’t mean if you paint your bedroom any colour other than a soft blue then you’re in for a bad night’s sleep. If the main idea behind colour is to choose one that is conducive to sleep then neutrals can also play a part in creating the right environment. Neutral colours, as you’re probably aware from your own research, covers such a large spectrum given they’re either tints where white is added to the colour to make it lighter, shades where black is added to the colour to make it darker, or tones where grey is added to the colour.

I’ve written before about the impact that clutter can have on contributing to an increase in anxiety. Anxiety is pervasive, at times it can be a persistent low level that we’re completely unaware of, or that we grow used to. At other times, it’s extremely evident and impacts everything we do in our lives. This last bushfire season we experienced here in Australia was particularly brutal and the impact is evident according to the Sleep Health Foundation as it has left many with troubling sleep problems as they struggle to deal with unresolved stress and anxiety. Getting good sleep is critical to support emotional stability and future planning during the recovery phase of the nation’s deadly bush fire season.

Whilst anxiety and stress may not be to the extreme experienced during a bushfire, we can learn lessons from these experiences when it comes to designing the bedroom. How do we design a space in order to reduce stress and anxiety, or at the very least not contribute to increasing it. The first job to tackle is to remove clutter. Having a disorganised or cluttered home can lead to heightened anxiety, according to Libby Sander, assistant professor of Organisational Behaviour at Bond University. She told Hack clutter can “make us more anxious, lead to poor sleep and deplete our cognitive resources“.

Clutter can be defined as a collection of things lying about in an untidy mess. It’s the first part of the definition, the collection of things that is subjective and means different things to different people. It’s important to be able to define this for yourself so that you then have a clear understanding of when things become cluttered for you. If we take Marie Kondo’s advice, we should only be keeping those items that spark joy. Another way of looking at this is to be more considered and conscious of what it is you are bringing into your home environment. Purchase only those things that are necessary, purchase them once and purchase them well. In other words, fast design doesn’t play a role here. A further extension of this is a move towards the minimalist lifestyle. Can you see now how the term clutter can be difficult to define? What isn’t difficult to understand is the lying about in an untidy mess part of the definition. This is where good design comes into its own and is able to provide a solution. If we consider the necessary items of furniture for a comfortable sleeping area then we can say that a bed, bedsides and lighting are three key elements. We obviously then improve functionality within the space for an area to store clothing and footwear. If we limit the amount of surface areas or capacity within which clutter can accumulate, coupled with proper storage solutions that are targeted to the users specific needs, the bedroom will be easier to maintain and less likely to attract clutter. In other words, approach the furnishing of the bedroom with a minimalist attitude, take your time planning how you’ll use the wardrobe, and fit it out to suit your own needs and you’ll notice that clutter is less likely to accumulate.

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