Mad About . . .

Nine ways to improve your bedroom so you can improve your sleep

27th April 2021
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It’s not news that we are suffering from a sleep crisis at the moment. Insomnia was an issue for many of us before the pandemic and Covid-somnia is now a recognised syndrome. Here in the UK, a study from the University of Southampton last August found that the number of people suffering from insomnia rose from one in six to one four, with more sleep problems found among mothers, key worker and those in Black, Asian and other Ethnic Minority groups. In Greece nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed last May claimed to be suffering and in the peak lockdown in China reported cases of insomnia rose from 14.6 per cent to 20 per cent.

skye mcalpine bedroom by madaboutthehouse.com

skye mcalpine’s fabulous bedroom image by madaboutthehouse.com

And the loosening of restrictions isn’t necessarily solving the problem either as many of us are anxious about returning back into “normal” life. Routines have been shattered, work/life boundaries blurred and the uncertainty continues.

So today I thought I would bring you an extract from my latest book – the planner, with a few tips on planning your bedroom space so that it works for you and your needs and then you can implement all the standard recommendations about less screen, less caffeine, more fresh air. After all, there’s no point in starting all the good habits if the room is wrong to start with.

bedroom at rita konig house

bedroom at rita konig’s house

As well as graph paper for floor plans, spaces to make your own lists and answer key questions, each chapter also includes design tips and checklists to help you get a room right from the planning stages or – if it needs a redo – to make the most of a refurbishment.

If the last year has taught us anything it is to recognise the link between our mental health and well-being and the décor we surround ourselves with. And it may sound simplistic but if you like your bedroom, the decor makes you feel relaxed and you have somewhere to store your clothes (it’s up to you if you actually choose to use it or not!) as well as a place to hide any work stuff if this is your WFH situation, then it makes sense that you have already started to set the scene for a better night’s sleep.

Storage and clutter is key for me being able to relax. And no I don’t hang my clothes up every night (far from it) but because we are lucky enough to have a big room we have created a wardrobe behind a false wall which means I can chuck everything behind there but the bed and area around looks tidy. Now, of course not everyone will have room for that but it’s worth knowing that built-in wardrobes will give you 30 per cent more storage  than freestanding so if you are staying in a property for a length of time it’s worth considering. That way you can build into awkward angles and really maximise the amount shelving you can create. Where possible build up to the ceiling and paint them to match the walls so they disappear and are as seamless as possible.

grey walls and fitted wardrobes via savills

grey walls and fitted wardrobes via savills

Consider your pendant light. Usually they are wired into the middle of the room but when you put the bed in this can leave them pointlessly lighting a bit of carpet at the end of it. Also many of us don’t really use the pendant light for anything more than lighting the way to the bedside lamp. Which means i) you need to choose a light that gives you joy as its job will be mainly to look good and ii) you can think about moving it to a more useful spot. This might be hanging low in a corner where it will look pretty and provide some ambient light, or perhaps adding a second flex to the ceiling rose and lengthening the flex so you can drape it from the middle and hang a bedside light by either side of the bed which will free up space. Remember you might want to add switches over here too (which is a bigger job) so you can turn the lights off without getting out of bed.

looped pendant light via the modern house

If this seems too much like hard work, and you still want to save space on the bedside table – or if you don’t have room for a bedside table, there are lots of plug-in wall lights available these days which means you can just fix one to the wall and the job is done. If you promise the landlord you will make good any damage then this can work in a rented house too.

Sticking to tight spaces, if there’s no room for tables either side then you can add a long shelf above the bedhead. Experiment with the height so you don’t bang your head every time you sit up and make it wide enough for books, lamps and anything else you might want on there.

built-storage in bed at the home of orla keily image by KW-S

built-storage in bed at the home of orla keily image by KW-S

Divan beds can be very useful as they have often have storage underneath but they don’t bring much to the décor. You can paint the wall behind to create the illusion of height and width; if you are going for grandeur paint a strip the width of the bed up to the ceiling and even across it like a giant canopy. Or do the same with wallpaper. Remember you will see this when you come into the room but not when you are trying to sleep or relax so you can go bold if it will lift your heart when you enter but won’t be energising when you need to sleep. Building a headboard that goes all the way across the room (with tables in front) can make the space feel bigger and more luxurious – it’s a sort of hotel feel. This is probably a bespoke job though so factor that into your costs.

Kate Watson-Smyth shows an upholstered headboard with a difference by Bianca Hall combined with a calming colour palette and accessories. #madaboutthehouse #upholsteredheadboard #bedroom #katewatsonsmyth

bedroom headboard makeover by bianca hall

When it comes to rugs either buy one that will comfortably sit under the whole bed with space all round for cosy feet or two smaller ones. If anyone can explain to me the point of a pretty rug at the bottom of the bed I’m all ears.

Blackout blinds are practical and these days come in a variety of colours. You can add curtains for decorative purposes or make Roman, or London (more curved) blinds from fabulous material that will add décor but cost less than full length curtains.

no 3 upper riverside greenwich peninsula designed by studio ashby

no 3 upper riverside greenwich peninsula designed by studio ashby

Colour-wise you need to really analyse how colours make you feel. An energising cobalt blue isn’t going to send you off to sleep if it sets your brain raising with ideas. Likewise a soft grey might be draining rather than relaxing. Have a rummage round Pinterest looking at rooms you like and take a few moments to ask yourself how the paint shade makes you feel. Night owls might prefer dark cocooning shades, while larks will need something brighter to get them up in the morning. If you are one and sleep with another the compromise may be either in the middle or on the wall behind the pillows.

Finally – buy the biggest bed you can fit into the room. You will only ever be glad of this. And buy the best mattress you can afford. Likewise.

Mad About The House Planner, your home your story is available here and here (the second link supports independent local bookshops.


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  • Paul 3rd May 2021 at 11:15 pm

    As a Night Owl, it has only just dawned on me why I haven’t slept properly for the past five years – ever since leaving my rum-tinged truffle grey bedroom. While I am not the greatest fan of all white rooms, I had no idea they were ‘keeping me up’! Having a darker coloured room is so important when you need to make up your sleep hours during the day. I find it impossible to sleep during the day anymore, and have only just realised how much that has to do with the brightness of the room – even with the blinds down. Fortunately I have a roof over my head. Unfortunately, with it being a ‘rental roof’ I cannot paint the room. Keeping the blinds down (as I do) is not a healthy remedy. I live and work in a darkened house when what I really need to both concentrate and sleep is a less brightly coloured home, where I can work or sleep without being disturbed by the glare of the daylight… said the vampire 🧛🏾‍♂️.. love your blog though Kate. 😘

  • Elaine Fraser 28th April 2021 at 9:29 am

    Considering hopping on a train today but feeling anxious which is strange. Need a new rug for spare room/ my dressing room but find looking online hopeless as colours might not be same and need to feel and see the pile on rugs. Recommend the whole country has the book Why We Sleep by Matthew ? Sorry forgotten surname…on their bedside tables . Our bedtime routine has been completely changed with restful results – we all know sleep is important but turns out it is really, really important for our long term health.

  • Pam 27th April 2021 at 8:42 pm

    I a here to enlighten you LOL!

    In our case a pretty rug placed only at the bottom of the bed is solely for the purposse of acting as a landing pad for our dogs. We only adopt senior dogs so it is very important to allow for a soft place to land 🙂

    Aside from that, later on I found out that I rather enjoy seeomg the mid size splash of color as I walk by the room…but I am with you, it does make more sense, particularly in colder climate to have a warm soft rug on each side or a very large one!

  • Anna 27th April 2021 at 4:17 pm

    This rings so true….
    When everything else in the world is spiralling out of control, what we want, if not need from our homes, takes on ever more resonance. In this case the master bedroom is our safe place, personal sanctuary and reprieve from all the madness.  

  • Karin 27th April 2021 at 11:44 am

    Lovely post, really agree about the clutter, it does affect my sleep… And I’m hoping you would be able to help me with unrelated matter: that diamond patterned jute rug that shows up in almost all UK (in particular) interior design blogs and accounts – where is it from? Can’t seem to find it based on my google research, yet it seems omnipresent!

    • Victoria Williams 30th April 2021 at 9:37 pm

      I think it’s probably the rug from La Redoute!

  • Longdenlife 27th April 2021 at 11:13 am

    A timely post. After living in our house for three years we finally had our bedroom plastered recently . When asking my husband for his input on colours and decor he helpfully replied “its just somewhere to sleep and as long as there are blackout curtains”. I have found that during lockdown my inspiration for decor has lacked a bit – when looking for ideas I am an IRL person, needing to touch, see and feel things myself rather than online.

    So in the absence of being able to visit any shops before the room was painted, I have painted the walls white for the time being, with a view to repainting in a colour the next 6 months when my mojo returns (veering towards F&B Oval Room Blue at the moment)! I have ordered curtains which will go with both the white and also the darker tone I am toying with. I will also put up artwork which will go with either colour as I really want to get accessorising after sleeping in a plain magnolia box for three years!

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