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4 basic elements for creating a sanctuary bedroom

Soothing artwork above the bed in a bedroom
via Laura Hammett

When I first started in interior design, I worked for a designer who started his clients’ home designs with the primary bedroom. His philosophy was that you have to ‘put the oxygen mask on yourself first’ - that by taking care of yourself first with a beautiful, sanctuary bedroom, you’ll be healthier and more restored, meaning you’ll have more to give in all areas of your life.

Whereas many clients are inclined to treat such a private room as an afterthought and invest in the more public rooms in their home first, he insisted on flipping this on its head. He wanted them to postpone the gratification of the kitchen remodel until after their bedroom was finished so they’d have a beautiful space to retreat to during the chaos of the kitchen remodel. While I don’t force this approach on my clients, the wisdom behind it has always stuck with me. It’s absolutely true that having a peaceful, inviting, sanctuary bedroom can drastically lower our stress levels and leave us feeling rested and grounded. Ideally, our entire homes would allow us to feel our best, as well. But in that one space where rest is the primary function, I think a restorative environment is imperative.

That being the case, do you know the four things you need to make a primary bedroom a calming, sanctuary space? Here are the basics we rely on to give our clients beautiful, cozy bedrooms they never want to leave.

Cozy bed & bedding

Luxurious bedding ideas example
via Pintrest

It goes without saying that the basis of an inviting bedroom is a comfortable bed. But too often, we prefer to focus our investment of time and money on the ‘fun,’ decorative pieces in the space. Really and truly, the bed and the bedding are everything when it comes to making your bedroom a restorative retreat.

Start with the very best mattress you can afford. Then layer it with soft, luxurious bedding. Amazing sheets are a fraction of the cost of a mattress, yet they do just as much heavy lifting in terms of elevating your bed’s comfort level. In my professional (and personal) opinion, the ingredients of a well-made bed are…

  • A high-quality mattress pad

  • A luxe sheet set and pillowcases (high thread counts are usually indicative of softness)

  • A light blanket

  • A heavier duvet

  • A pair of standard pillows

  • A pair of Euro pillows

  • A decorative duvet cover and pillow shams (I love custom made so I can choose the perfect fabrics for my client’s space)

  • A decorative lumbar pillow

  • A beautiful coverlet or cashmere throw folded at the the end of the bed

I recommend skipping lots of small decorative pillows, as they tend to make the bed look cluttered - plus, they’re a pain in the neck to deal with when it’s time to turn down the bed at night!

Lighting control

Calming bedroom interior design
via Jessica Hatcher

No matter the space, I always recommend layered lighting because having multiple light sources throughout the room provides more balanced lighting overall. For bedrooms, layering your light sources is even more important since it gives you greater control over light levels. You want the flexibility you get from pairing an overhead light with wall sconces and lamps so you’re able to accommodate reading as well as relaxing. If at all possible, install dimmers for maximum lighting control.

I also recommend avoiding harsh, white lightbulbs in favor of soft, warm bulbs for all lamps and fixtures instead. This will help infuse the space with a restful, calming mood. Window treatments are also important when it comes to lighting control in your bedroom. Installing several layers of window coverings will allow to control the amount of daylight (and moonlight) coming in to accommodate your needs. I typically use blackout-lined curtains together with a Roman shade in my clients’ bedrooms. The shade can be rolled up as much or as little as they prefer and the curtains can be opened fully or partway when they want to allow more light in. When it’s time for sleep, both can be closed completely to block out all light.

Be sure to choose a curtain rod that allows the curtains to wrap all the way around the side if you don’t want any light whatsoever entering your space while you sleep.

Calming artwork

Bedroom seating ideas example
via Sophie Patterson on Instagram

As I’ve said before in this post, art can have a profound effect on our mood. A painting in bright, bold colors with lots of dynamic lines or active themes can set our hearts racing with energy. On the other hand, a painting of a serene vista in a soothing color palette can cause us to take in a big, deep breath and allow the stresses of the day to melt away. If you’re looking to create a sanctuary bedroom, calming artwork is, of course, as must.

I love abstract pieces with soothing colors and relaxed rhythms, but I also love using art with water themes for bedrooms. There’s something so deeply calming about a painting that captures the soft ripples in a pond or the gentle lapping of the ocean. That said, just about any art that depicts a peaceful scene in nature will work. In fact, even just the subtle suggestion of the colors, textures, and patterns found in the natural world has a calming effect on our nervous systems.

Regardless of what kind of art you choose for your bedroom, however, I always say, the number one rule of design is that you have to love it. If you do, you’ll love retreating to your bedroom to enjoy it.

Additional seating

If your goal is to create a bedroom that’s so soothing you never want to leave, you’re going to need a place to sit other than the bed. A common go-to for designers is to place an upholstered bench at the end of the bed. If space allows, however, I love a pair of comfy armchairs here instead. It’s much more relaxing to sink into an actual chair where you’ll be comfortable reading or carrying on a conversation with someone as opposed to perching on a bench.

Example of calming bedroom decor ideas
via Pinterest

If you don’t have room at the end of the bed, try to work at least one armchair into your bedroom somewhere. Make sure to also include a small table for drinks and a reading light nearby, and drape the softest throw blanket you can find on the back of the chair for maximum coziness.

Including a high-quality bed and bedding, layered lighting and window treatments, calming artwork, and additional seating in your primary bedroom’s design will lay a great foundation for that soothing vibe you’re going for. If, however, you want to take the design of your sanctuary bedroom even further, take a look at this post for guidance on additional design ideas like choosing calming color palettes and introducing organic elements for their soothing properties.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area and would like help designing your dream sanctuary bedroom, or any other space in your home for that matter, reach out and tell us about your project.


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