Homes Photo Credit: The Cross Design

Expert Advice: How to Design Your Dream Bedroom

We chat with The Cross Design’s Megan Baker to find out everything you need to know about designing your dream bedroom.

The Cross Design's Megan Baker shares her top tips for designing a beautiful bedroom you'll love.
The Cross Design’s Megan Baker shares her top tips for designing a beautiful bedroom you’ll love.

We know what you’re thinking. This is the one space in the home where your eyes are closed the majority of the time. However, a well-designed bedroom should be a top priority, says Vancouver interior designer Megan Baker. “Even if it’s only for sleeping, the bedroom is the place you see last every day, and first every morning.”

Whether it’s your favourite place to get ready, escape for an undisturbed nap, or curl up with a good book, Baker shows us the key to a dream bedroom is to design it specifically to suit your needs.

Megan Baker’s Guide to Designing Your Dream Bedroom:

the cross bed
(Photo by Janis Nicolay.)

The Bed

A good place to start. A lot of people either have a bed already that they want to build a look around, or, if you don’t have a bed, The Cross designer says you should consider what you need in terms of storage, or what has to go in this space. This will help you decided if you need a bed with extra drawers or hydraulic storage compartments etc., and same goes for bedside tables and other pieces of furniture.

How do you use your bed? Obviously, this is a place where you’ll sleep, says Baker, but for some, that’s not all. “Do you go in there and read on the weekend? Do you have a bunch of kids and a dog huddled in there or is it really a place you don’t use until you are going to sleep?” For a bed that’s also used for reading or hanging out, the designer recommends something upholstered. Also consider a headboard that has wings, like a wingback chair, for extra support sitting up. Tip: Position your bed three to four inches from the wall. Especially if you have a dark bed frame, this will make sure the headboard doesn’t mark up the wall. This is also space for art to drop should it fall off the wall above your head.

Choosing the colour. If plush isn’t a necessity, Baker says you can go any material or colour, or skip a headboard entirely if you don’t need anything to lean on. A safe bet is to go for neutral colours on something large that takes up a lot of space, like an upholstered bed in a soft grey. But if the frame is smaller, more detailed, it could be fun to experiment with pops of colour.

Big vs. small bed frames. “I would go a lot heavier and make a huge statement with a bed if you have a bigger space,” says Baker. But if you don’t have tons of room, she says you’ll want to keep sight lines clear, and chunky upholstered headboards are to be avoided because they often take up too much room, leaving less for your other furniture. If your bed is big, and it’s for one, Baker says go ahead and push it in the corner.

Bedside Tables

Why bedside tables shouldn’t match. If you’ve got two different people sharing a bed, Baker says each will have his or her own bedside needs. Mismatched bedside tables offer more options to accommodate different preferences (size, number of shelves, storage), they are also more flexible design-wise, and more fun! To make a mismatched duo look cohesive, take your cues from the other materials in the bedroom. If you have a wooden bed for example, choose one wooden side table that’s painted or in a different finish and the other side table in a different material altogether, like mirrored glass or metal.

Be choosy with bedside decor. Carefully consider what you’re putting on your bedside tables for function vs. beauty. This is a great spot to put one thing you really love, but with limits, says Baker. “For example, I have one of those cheap tourist attraction Eiffel towers.” But don’t pile stuff on here—”it’s not a desk.”

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Megan Baker recommends picture rails as a space-saving alternative for decoration or storage in the bedroom. (Photo by West Elm.)

Small space solutions: If you’re looking to save space, instead of two bedside tables, swap in one with a cool floor lamp. Or, if you’ve got the budget, you could maximize every inch with custom cabinetry up the sides of the bed and across the top. “That would look great, and it creates a cool, cozy niche for the bed,” says the Cross designer. Between 10 and 12 inches deep is the sweet spot to keep it from being too cave-like. Install recessed puck lights to take this option to the next level. Picture rails are another great tip, says Baker, which can hold other items too like fine-covered selects from your book collection. “You could also use it to clip small lights to it, or have an industrial cord and bulb resting on top,” suggests the designer.

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The side chair and bench in this Janie Hungerford-designed home offer multiple places for short-term storage and extra seating. (Photo by Janis Nicolay.)

The Accoutrements

Benches, sofas and accent chairs. “A great idea is to have a bench, (or sofa, if the space is big enough to fit it),” says Baker, as this doubles as short-term storage for the next day’s outfit or a place to drop the purse. “Also, it’s a good little seating area if someone wants to read a magazine in the space.” A storage bench is another convenient spot for storing bedding as well. If you’re short on space, an accent chair is a nice alternative to an ugly pile of clothes that won’t take up too much room, suggests the designer.

How to add personality. Wallpaper is a great option for this, says Baker, even just on one wall behind the headboard. It can soften the walls a lot and isn’t a huge investment. To recreate the signature Cross bedroom, it’s all about the neutral palette: white on whites with some warm grey added in.

Artwork.  If the rest of your home is bold, you can add an element of this without compromising the relaxing bedroom environment. “You could go really huge with one piece of artwork behind the bed, (plexiglass instead of glass because of the location).” A big, beautiful piece of art could even replace a headboard, as it feels like a different texture, explains the designer.

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In “pretty much every case” a chandelier in place of an overhead light is going to look great explains Baker. (Photo by Janis Nicolay.)

Lighting (So Important!)

Light in layers. Another aspect where it’s important you consider how you use the space. Pinpoint your needs and layer in all types of different lighting to suit them (from bedside, to candles to a floor lamp). “No one wants to go to bed and flick off an overhead light, but if you need to fold laundry etc., then you do need an overhead.” Designer Trick: Instead of an overhead light, you can use a sculptural floor lamp (linked up to the bedside switch) or swap it out for a chandelier—something with sculptural interest. “In pretty much every case that’s going to look great.”

Bedside Lamp Pro Tip: Use 30 watt lighting instead of 60 watt lighting for bedside lamps, as the latter is too jarring for bedside reading. “You want a light that’s lower than daylight and soft so your body can get ready for sleeping.”

Candles. “I would always make sure that there is at least one candle somewhere in the room—but we don’t need to have 10.”

Window coverage. Consider the room’s natural light and your preferences. Does it need to be pitch black at night? Opt for blackout blinds layered with a curtain overtop—this way you’ve got options. A sheer curtain is a nice choice for day because it offers a bit of privacy, but lets in the light.

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(The Cross Design Photo by Janis Nicolay.)

Textiles (a.k.a. “Where we get to do all the fun stuff”)

The basics. Even though there are a lot of beautiful pieces out there, she still recommends everyone starts with a great set of white sheets: a fitted sheet, flat sheet, two pillow cases and two pillow shams. “You’ll have it forever, with the proper laundry and care.” Another bonus is that you can easily use bleach or vinegar to keep them looking fresh, says Baker. And with your base set of whites, it’s very easy to layer. “If you want to try a different style, it’s as easy as adding a throw blanket on the end—it would change the flavour altogether.” Or, she says you could swap in coloured shams, or add an accent pillow.

But Megan, how many accent cushions are too many accent cushions? “Women always want 10 and men always want zero,” she laughs. “It’s about finding the balance in between. Two to three added pillows are enough, and a more modern way to go.”(This is in addition to your four sleeping pillows and two shams.) Don’t forget: If you have a beautiful dream headboard, go light on the pillows to let that headboard shine, she says. Don’t forget: You’ve got to think about where these pillows will go at night. Baker’s solution: “A great basket beside the bed!”

Up the opulence factor. Want to make a statement? Opt for 10 pillows including large Euro shams. “I would reserve this for a king size upholstered bed because it’s big and it needs a lot to hold it together.”

Rugs to finish the room. “I think most bedrooms don’t have them, and if you’re in a space that has a hardwood floor, I strongly recommend it,” asserts the designer. “That’s what you’re stepping on first thing in the morning, it’s inviting and it can also help people create a room that looks like a space instead of a room with a bunch of furniture in it—it automatically ties everything in further.” Make sure to orient it equally on both sides and the end, and play with texture in braided wool or faux fur, or even layering the rugs. Pro Tip: “People should spend money on an area rug for their bedroom versus throw pillows,” says Baker. Once you have one, there’s no going back! Always go with a patterned rug: Unless the bed’s upholstery is patterned.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out “The Ultimate Beautiful Bedroom Gallery” or watch our video:

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