Creating a Serene Classic Style Bedroom

The traditional bedroom of an historic Southern home is equal parts serene and stylish thanks to the use of muted colors.
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November 25, 2014


To create a calm sleeping space, this modestly sized bedroom was painted a muted shade of lavender that borders on mauve. The room is layered with different shades of plum to play up the purple undertones of the wall color. Although considered one of the hardest colors to decorate with, purple can be understated and elegant when used sparingly.

Mixing Old and New

The entire bedroom is made up of a mix of old and new pieces. A tufted armchair, previously covered with a muddy-toned, dated fabric, is a family heirloom. To update it for its spot in the reading corner, a faint shade of lavender – very close to the wall color -- was used. The armchair is paired with a transitional style side table featuring a gold-leafed steel base and travertine top to keep the space feeling up to date.

Traditional-Modern Mix

Although the armchair is traditional in style, the upholstery fabric pattern is modern. Many designers suggest updating traditional pieces with modern fabrics to create a style referred to as updated traditional; conversely, some modern furniture pieces can be made more traditional with strong graphic patterns such as plaid, tartan and stripe.

Tone-on-Tone Layering

One of the most successful ways to keep a muted space from falling flat is to layer in several shades of the same color using pillows and throws. The large-scale butterfly pillow in the armchair has slightly more purple in it than the upholstery fabric, resulting in a subtle, sophisticated layering effect. When layering shades of mauve and lavender, it’s important to stay away from those with beige undertones: they’ll end up reading more in the pink or flesh tone family.

Organic Materials

While bold-colored or high-contrast spaces rely on high-energy color or pattern to create a more-is-more look, subtle spaces rely on a mix of interesting materials. To disrupt the monotony of this room’s color scheme, travertine and gold leaf were introduced through a transitional side table.

High-Contrast Black and White

Artwork can play a huge role in the design of a muted space. Since the overall intended effect is tranquility and subtlety, it’s wise to stick with black and white photography or paintings because they provide high contrast without straying from the overall tone-on-tone palette.

Drapery Wall

The less-is-more approach to decorating works well with muted style, especially when there are architectural elements to play off of. While the furniture and decoration are kept minimal in the bedroom, the charming pair of windows becomes the focal point, also dictating the overall space plan.

Framing With Draperies

By framing each window with grape-toned linen draperies, the windows instantly become the focal point of the room.

Ready-Made Hardware

When it comes to mixing high and low for window coverings, keep in mind that ready-made hardware is instantly elevated to custom, high-end status when paired with custom-sewn panels. To keep the budget in check, two pairs of single-width drapery panels with top-pinch pleats were sewn from $11-per-yard linen, then attached to basic pewter rods and rings purchased for less than $30 per window.

Single-Width Panels

Custom draperies are priced with three elements in mind: panel width, pleat style and lining. For rooms geared toward subtle, serene aesthetics, one pair of single-width panels per window often does the trick. Solids work best in achieving a less-is-more look; if you do choose a pattern, limit your selections to patterns with small or medium repeats.

Bed Wall

In subtly decorated sleeping spaces, bed ensembles offer a great opportunity to play with texture, pattern, sheen and tailoring. To create a layered effect, several shades of lavender and plum were added to the bed using sheets, throw pillows, shams and a duvet cover. Sheen from the mercury glass table lamps, antique mirror nightstands and gilded starburst mirror also plays a big part in the decor.

Fabric Mix

Visual tension and faint contrast were added to the bed ensemble with custom-sewn pillows made from organic woven fabrics. When having custom pillows made, keep in mind that the proper insert has a huge impact on the overall look. Although more costly than polyester inserts, down-filled inserts are worth the money for their fuller effect.

Texture Play

The addition of texture and pattern to a tone-on-tone space adds needed depth, and while the contrast of pattern and texture is visible from the bed itself, it remains subtle when viewed from a distance.


Sophisticated palettes often call for sophisticated details. Tailoring is an excellent way to add a polished touch to any space. When choosing pillow shams, for instance, consider those with embroidered borders.

Desk Wall

To add storage for clothes as well as important documents and papers, a small antique heirloom desk was used in the room rather than a standard dresser. A wood refinishing shop updated the old wood finish with a pecan finish appropriate for the style of the desk. Now the historical value remains intact, but with a fresh look.

Framed Art Grouping

Muted spaces are all about a well-balanced, calm aesthetic. Rather than hanging high-energy artwork above the desk, a clean, classic grouping was made with framed photographs and women’s apparel. When grouping art and objects together in a saloon wall style, be sure to take scale and proportion as well as textural values into consideration. All the textures found in the framing, mat and woven hat play well together since they’re all from similar color families. Scale and proportion are kept in check by keeping spacing similar between objects.

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