Nightstands with drawers, such as the Marcelle three-drawer nightstand ($619,, will help you keep a clean, uncluttered bedroom. (RH Baby & Child)

Nightstands with drawers, such as the Marcelle three-drawer nightstand ($619,, will help you keep a clean, uncluttered bedroom. (RH Baby & Child)

You spend a third of your life in your bedroom, so a little effort is worth it

  • By Lindsey M. Roberts Special to The Washington Post
  • Thursday, November 17, 2016 8:18am
  • Life

We might think we spend most of our time in the kitchen cooking or in the family room. We may think we spend most of our time in the kitchen cooking or in the family room watching TV. But the truth is, we spend one-third of our lives sleeping — so the bedroom wins. And yet this is not where our decorating dollars go.

“A lot of people want their bedroom to have personality,” says Rebecca Atwood, a Brooklyn textile designer, “but they’re not sure what to do.” If your bedroom is basic but you want beautiful, Atwood and Annie Elliott, a paint-color pro and owner of Bossy Color in Washington, have some ideas to revive it.

The first might be the hardest: Clear out the clutter. Organize clothes and find somewhere else to store the gift wrap. “The surface clutter is a huge problem for all of us,” Elliott says.

Think through color after that, and throw convention out the door. After all, this is the room that you start and end the day with. If a room is large, go with a light color, Elliott says, and if it is small, embrace it with a dark, cozy selection.

Then look to subtle, relaxing patterns — think watercolors, dots, embroidery. “An injection of pattern can enliven any space,” Atwood writes in her new book, “Living With Pattern: Color, Texture and Print at Home.”

Hit the refresh button on your bedroom with less clutter, new paint and interesting textiles, and enjoy a private space made for rest.

“If you really love pattern, you should have a patterned duvet,” Atwood says. But pattern doesn’t always mean big and loud: The bedroom is a good place to try soft designs such as marble- and water-inspired fabrics. Roar + Rabbit’s Organic Landscape duvet cover and shams ($29-$109, hit the mark with deep colors done in a painterly way.

Offer the bedroom a rustic touch with the mango-wood Treago table lamp ($169, It’s petite enough for a nightstand and matches — yet updates — any current scheme.

A nightstand such as the Baby Relax Miles Campaign nightstand ($150, doesn’t have to have its twin on the other side of the bed, Elliott says. She has used everything from an antique demilune to a bachelor’s chest in her projects. The trick is to make sure the heights are the same and the lamps match.

“Sheets are one of the most natural places to add pattern,” Atwood says. “There’s a lot of options out there for small-scale prints, such as stripes and dots. Those are the ones that are going to go with everything.” The Pebble Slate sheet set ($180-$220, gives polka dots an organic feel.

Atwood’s woven throw blanket in navy features one of her new patterns and is great for the end of a bed or, for a twist, to hang over a headboard and give it a different, layered look for a season ($349,

One of Atwood’s favorite bedding brands is Parachute. Its products are basic and unfussy and feature lots of linen options, such as the Linen Stripe duvet cover set ($349,, which Atwood says “is great year-round.” If you want more-seasonal fabrics, she notes that percale is light and airy for summer; sateen feels a bit warmer at night for spring and fall; and flannel, of course, is classic winter bed wear.

Elliott, a former art historian, likes to make bedrooms feel like real rooms, not just caves for sleeping. For that, lighting is key, she says. Even if you have tiny bedside lights, she advocates for table and floor lamps as well. The Uteki printed lamp ensemble adds a nice spot of pattern, too ($148-$298,

Elliott chooses nightstands with drawers for many of her clients because she likes clean, uncluttered bedrooms. (“You have to have a place for a tissue or a pen,” she says.) The Marcelle three-drawer nightstand ($619, has three. Whichever nightstand you choose, measure its height and make sure it works with the height at which you sleep, because contemporary furniture is often low to the ground.

When updating a standard bedroom to something more interesting, think about texture, too. “Look at crochet, linen, things that are knit,” Atwood says. A puckered seersucker-like stripe is also nice, as on the Tidal White duvet cover ($223-$308,

It’s an age-old design question: How many pillows should go on the bed? If you share a bed and the other person is anti-pillow, shams or one accent pillow might be your only chance for fun — so make it count. Check two boxes and add texture with World Market’s Black, White and Gray Kilim lumbar pillow ($50,

If you’re iffy on pattern in the bedroom, Atwood says to start with pillowcases. “You can test and see if you like it,” she says. Then, if you want to add the matching sheets, you can. Atwood also says she loves seeing bold shams. Try the Thandie Watercolor printed shams ($39-$49,

Atwood likes big pillows to prop yourself up in bed for reading, or tickling kids on the floor. Pottery Barn’s Solid Velvet lumbar pillowcover comes in six saturated colors and can be monogrammed ($29.50,

Small-scale patterns, such as the cross-stitch, running stitch and diamonds in the Milou embroidered linen sheet set ($309-$359,, read as texture from a distance, Atwood notes. These types of patterns are easy to layer and match.

Elliott favors a clean, white bedding cover “because your bed has a lot of visual real estate in a room,” she says. “There’s so much ‘look-at-me’ bedding, but if you make white a main part of your room, you make your life so much easier.” In particular, she likes a nice, classic matelassé, such as the Boyfriend White Matelassé cover ($243-$359,

Light or dark?

Arguments can be made for choosing light or dark paint color in a bedroom. How should you decide? Elliott says to go with the room’s DNA. If a bedroom is large and airy, then it’s natural to pick a soft gray or pale blue. If a bedroom is small, embrace its size and pick a rich claret or deep navy. Her top two light and dark paint colors:

Light: Benjamin Moore’s Whispering Spring or Farrow & Ball’s Clunch

Dark: Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal or Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue

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