If you haven't updated your bedroom in a while, you may find that some key elements have changed while you've been sleeping.
You may have bedroom furniture that's so old -- because high quality furniture lasts a long time, and that's a good thing -- that it's not being sold in sets anymore, at least not at Ethan Allen. The look is more eclectic, says Katie Small, design center manager at the Wichita, Kan. store.
And no longer do people sleep under heavy down comforters, even as we head into the coldest days of winter. Most people kick the duvet off the bed, says Brenda Cody of Ferguson-Phillips.
Winter is the ideal time to assess your bedroom and take steps to refresh it, which in turn should refresh you. Redoing the bedroom according to current sensibilities will take into consideration not only decor, but health and perhaps even some elements of feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of harmonizing the elements of the environment. Here are four key ways to re-feather your nest.
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If your furniture is still serving you well but you want to "feel fresh and new, the best way you can do that is to change the headboard," Small says. "You don't have to match."
The vast majority of headboards sold these days are upholstered rather than made in plain wood, Cody says. Either way, a headboard adds the first layer of color or texture to what you're creating visually on the bed. Small says it also adds much-needed height.
Free-standing headboards with a bed skirt are no longer in fashion, Cody says. Instead, beds either have head and footboards, or a headboard with a platform rather than a footboard.
Beyond design, if you're one of those people who don't have a headboard, you might consider one for another reason.
"As Americans, we're focused on the mattress and getting a good night's sleep," Cody says. "If you don't have the structure, you don't have as much support. I think it makes a big difference."
Having a sturdy headboard is considered good support for your body during sleep, just as a chairback supports you when you're seated, according to the principles of feng shui.
"The bed is the No. 1 piece of furniture that makes the most impact on your life in terms of where it's placed, and the headboard for sure," says Robyn Stevens of Robyn Stevens Feng Shui in Kansas City, Mo. "You want it to be solid wood" -- or an upholstered headboard that's solid -- "and when you're laying down, the headboard needs to be above your head. You know, some of the modern ones are shorter."
"Our subconscious needs to feel safe when we're sleeping, and the best way is to make sure the head is protected," Stevens adds. That also includes putting the bed in the proper place.
"Ideally you want your headboard against a wall. You want it facing the door. You don't want it in the door, but you want to be able to see the door. ... Think about Tony Soprano: Nobody is ever going to sneak up on that guy," she says.
Storage under the bed is considered bad feng shui, because it hinders the movement of energy around the body. But it doesn't take feng shui to know that too much stuff around us does not make for a restful feeling.
Cool, easy-care fabric
Many people are discovering that sleeping cool is one of the ingredients for sleeping better. And even while the dictates of design call for dressing the bed in layers -- sheets, a light blanket or coverlet, then a duvet or other throw at the bottom of the bed -- Cody says that most people sleep under only the sheet and coverlet.
"What we find the majority of the time is even when people have this many layers, they never pull up the duvet. Nobody likes to be hot."
Ferguson-Phillips no longer sells heavy down comforters. "A lot of our companies are doing much lighter-weight duvets," Cody says. People also like the lighter down blankets, which also can be placed into duvet covers.
No matter what the weight of the coverings, Cody says, look for lots of texture in them, and in shams and throw pillows that add more icing on the cake. In addition to natural fibers, look for new fabrics that are easier to care for.
"I think most companies now are taking into consideration the feel and the care of the fabric. ... We're even getting synthetic silks and polyester silks that are washable," she says.
Because of allergy concerns, some people like to regularly wash bedding in hot water and dry it on a hot setting. Such people should stick with cotton, Cody says. As far as fabrics for sheets, high-end cottons are still the choice; microfiber is too hot.
Warming it up
People may like to sleep cool, but they also like to turn down the thermostat to save on energy. That can leave the bedroom too cold for comfort.
One way to warm it up is with an electric fireplace. You can find them in modern lines or traditional looks, in free-standing hearths, hanging on walls and even recessed behind a wall of rock, tile or stone.
"You're not locked into just having the cabinet appearance," says Jeannie Herpolsheimer of Warming Trends in Wichita.
Electric fireplaces are like a space heater but with ambiance, she says. Or, in one option that a real fire doesn't have, if the air is warm enough, you can have the ambiance of the flames without the heat.
The fireplaces come with remotes and some with timers. You can adjust not only the level of heat, but also the height of the flames and the intensity of the embers. A free-standing fireplace takes no installation.
"It's plug and play. You take it home and plug it in," Herpolsheimer says. "One thing I like for a bedroom application is a downlight feature that you can use as a nightlight without the flame."
For a unit that hangs on the wall, like a long vertical cabinet, it's best to have an electrician put a plug behind the unit to avoid a hanging electrical cord, Herpolsheimer says.
Most units will heat a 14-by-14-foot room. Recessed models can provide more heat. Smaller electric stoves also can be found at some home stores.
Another heating element is an electric blanket or mattress pad. If you wake up stiff in the morning from arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation recommends cranking up the blanket or mattress pad before you get up. The warmth will help you roll out of bed more limber. And you don't have to sleep warm the whole night for the benefits.
To improve allergies, and therefore sleep, try dusting the bedroom more often and washing your bedding in hot water, which kills dust mites. Dust mites love humidity, and according to WebMD, an electric blanket can reduce humidity on bed surfaces.
But be sure you don't have a health condition that precludes an electric blanket. Also keep the blanket from bunching up, as it produces a safety hazard.
Additionally, when you use any type of electrical heater, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid a fire, and be aware of any overload it puts on your electrical system, says Stuart Bevis, battalion chief of fire prevention for the Wichita Fire Department.
Overheated electrical wires from too many space heaters caused a fire in Wichita on Dec. 21. Space heaters should not be placed any closer than 3 feet to any combustibles, and they should be plugged into a power strip or electrical outlet, not an extension cord.
Putting color to it
Bedroom looks this year are romantic but also streamlined, Small says. A French provincial look at Ethan Allen, for example, has a Scandinavian sensibility that gives it cleaner, more modern lines. "It's very light and fresh," Small says. And while monochromatic looks have been big for a while, new ones are more elevated and gilded.
Caramel is a big bedroom color, Small says, although the more traditional blue and white never goes out of style. Gray is still big, a neutral that accentuates a pop of color such as a soft celadon.
And if you want a calming feel as well? Add some pink to your bedroom, one of Pantone's colors of the year (along with blue). Coral and salmon are considered pinks.
"Pink and tones of coral are the most soothing," Small says. "It's amazing how a little bit here and there elevates the calmness of a room."
Mix patterns and pay attention to scale while building your layers. "The most crucial decor element is layers. It's like dressing ourselves," Small says.
And lest you feel like you can't afford to always keep up with trends, they do transition cleanly from year to year so that you can build in new things, like a rug or bedding, without having to redo everything, Small says.