Optimize Your Small Bedroom Design

Your bedroom is a haven. Plan for space and style to make it work both by day and night.
Coastal Master Bedroom

Coastal Master Bedroom

Photography by Maria Alexandra Vettese; styling by Hilary Horvath

By: Barbara Ballinger

Your master bedroom should be a place to close the door at the end of a day, shut out the world and unwind in private. But it’s also a place where you want to wake up energized and refreshed with everything you need at hand.

How you decorate this room, even when small, can make a huge difference in your mood. Every bedroom isn’t just about being beautiful and inspiring relaxation. It should provide good storage, though that can prove tough once you carve out space for a bed, nightstands, a chest of drawers and a comfortable reading chair.

There's another challenge. Many homeowners spend most of their money outfitting the living room, dining room and kitchen. "I think it’s practically impossible to waste money on creating the perfect bedroom because it affects you more than any other room in your house," says Karen Carter, author of Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui to Get Love, Money, Respect and Happiness.

Many design experts suggest starting with this room, maximizing the layout and dressing it up to suit your mood.

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Begin with your bed. For comfort, purchase a queen- or king-sized bed, and be sure you have at least 2” on three sides to make it up. Unless it's a platform style, consider raising it up 7” or so to gain room for storage bins or baskets underneath as college kids do, says New York designer Libby Langdon.

Instead of positioning your bed against the wall closest to the door when you enter the room, Langdon suggests arranging your headboard against the opposite wall, so you view the entire bed right away, which will make your room look larger.

If there's an undesirable view, you might want to use your bed and a high enough headboard to block the sight.

Optimize storage. Rather than squeezing a chair and matching ottoman into your limited space, Langdon recommends a bench or ottomans for sitting, which often open up to include storage.

Because a small bedroom may not have room for a chest, many designers recommend hiring a professional closet organizer to maximize this space, no matter how small. Designer and author Marianne Cusato suggests getting as much “stuff” out of your bedroom and into the closet as possible to make the space look bigger.

Choose practical tables. When looking for bedside tables, go for a matching pair that fit the scale of your bed and room. Choose a flat surface on top for books, a water glass and lamp.

Black and White Studio Bedroom

Black and White Studio Bedroom

"Because your space is limited, you want the minimum amount of furniture with the maximum function," says Marcia Harris of Itsy Bitsy Ritzy. She outfitted this 12’ x 18’ studio with an ottoman that opens for storage, a nightstand/file cabinet combo and pullout drawers under the bed. Photography by Leonard Lampel

Find comfortable flooring. Lay wall-to-wall carpet for a warmer effect. If you have nice wood floors and want to show them off, consider placing an area rug on top, but one that covers the majority of the floor space, so you have 6” of surrounding bare floor.

Add colors and patterns. Whether you use paint or wallpaper, a soft palette is best on walls for a tranquil mood that inspires good sleep. Los Angeles designer Erica Islas of EMI Interior Design likes to use wallpaper to keep the eye moving all around the space.

You might paint one wall a rich color or use a darker tone near the ceiling to make the room seem a bit bigger, says designer Barbara Elliot of Decorating Den Interiors.

Light the right areas. Good lighting should come from multiple sources. If you like to read in bed, Langdon suggests installing swing-arm lamps on either side of the bed for better task lighting. Islas always includes one overhead source that provides illumination in all directions, and makes it dimmable for different light levels.

Accessorize. Mirrors do wonders in small rooms to magnify dimensions, particularly in bedrooms where they offer a way to check clothing and makeup in private.

Including a TV remains a matter of debate. Although you may find nothing more comfy than getting under the covers to catch an episode of of your favorite show, many designers suggest leaving a TV out of the bedroom for the same reason they suggest keeping your computer from this space. They’re better suited for a home office or other living space, says Sally Morse, director of creative services for Hunter Douglas. But if you insist, at least place it behind an armoire’s doors to conceal it.

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