Decorating is about two things: style and comfort. Nowhere in your house are these two considerations more important than in the bedroom.
Comfort in the bedroom means getting a good night’s sleep, which is why having the right pillow is essential.
The style of the bedroom, and of the bed in particular, is equally important not only because you probably spend more time in your bed than anywhere else in your home but also because you will be happier if the bed is a reflection of your own style. Achieving success in style and comfort is challenging for most; all of the decisions — color, pattern, design, shape and feel — can leave you overwhelmed.
One such overwhelmed friend of mine called me the other day to help her style her daughter’s new bed. Everything else in the room — the paint, lighting and furniture — had been completed. All that was left was buying the bed linens, which, given that all other decisions had been made, should have been the easiest part finishing the room.
Not surprisingly, however, her 18-year-old had a strong opinion of what she wanted: a cool mix of textures, colors, and patterns, a bed that matched her breezy “I don’t really care very much, but I look good anyway” style.
Although companies such as Anthropologie have perfected this one-stop-shopping bohemian look, my friend did not want to take the easy route. She wanted the bed to be truly eclectic, as though she and her daughter had traveled the world collecting blankets from bazaars and pillows from exotic peddlers — a layered look that is harder to achieve than the haphazard way it appears.
In any given space you want a mix of patterns, textures and colors that complement each other but that don’t look too matchy.
I gave my friend the same advice that I give people when they are assembling fabrics for their rooms: In any given space you want a mix of patterns, textures and colors that complement each other but that don’t look too matchy.
I always suggest you begin by choosing the boldest, most decorative pattern first. A large-scale floral, damask, tribal textile or embroidery — any of these would work. Whether this item features big or small on the bed — throw pillow, quilt, or sheet — it will be your primary print, from which all other selections are made.
Next, layer in a solid or semi-solid fabric. Choose one of the colors from your primary print and find a solid fabric with texture, such as alpaca, velvet, leather, Mongolian lamb, linen or a beaded textile in that hue. This will act as a helpful grounding fabric.
Then pick one or two more complementary patterns in different scales. Again, using your primary pattern as a guide, add a woven ditsy (small-scale print) or any fabric that has a prominent ground (the solid background) and a small, quiet detail. Stripes in a similar palette also work well. Stripes are some of the easiest prints to layer into a print scheme because they are unfussy and easy to read. Just make sure that the stripe isn’t so wide that it fights with your primary pattern.
Last, add in one element with an unexpected color or pattern for interest. This item will keep the arrangement looking fresh, authentic and not too coordinated.
Once you have all of the pieces assembled, making a bohemian-style bed is easy (which is probably why it is so appealing to teenagers). Layer sheets, blankets and quilts on the bed and then toss the pillows randomly at the head and voilà, the bed is arranged.
Focus on a pillow’s density and shape rather than on its stuffing. The pillow’s density far more critical in keeping your neck straight and supported in bed.
Shopping for the right sleeping pillow requires just as much (if not more!) thought and attention. You should focus on a pillow’s density and shape rather than on its stuffing (i.e., down, synthetic, wool, or cotton). The pillow’s density — soft, medium or firm — is far more critical in keeping your neck straight and supported in bed.
To get the right pillow, you need to first consider how you sleep: on your stomach, back or side. The goal is to keep your head and spine in line, so stomach sleepers need the least support, back sleepers need medium support, and side sleepers need the firmest support.
Stomach sleepers do best with a thin, soft pillow that lightly cushions the head at a natural angle. Back sleepers need to bolster their neck, so they should use either a medium-density pillow or a neck/cylinder shaped pillow. Side sleepers need a firm pillow that fills the gap between the head and bed, thereby easing the stress on the neck and shoulders.
Companies such as the Pillow Bar have made it even easier for customers to navigate the pillow-buying process. Aside from asking how you sleep, they also take into account your size and age to determine the firmness of the pillow. Once you have chosen your sleep style, each pillow is custom-made by hand (and they even monogram your pillow for you!). This doesn’t come cheap: A standard feather pillow costs $229.
Also keep in mind that pillows have a shelf life. You can expect a top-quality goose-down pillow to last the longest time (5-8 years) and synthetic pillows the briefest (1-3 years), but covering them with removable and washable pillow protectors will help preserve them by keeping out dust mites, dirt and sweat. To test whether you need to replace a down pillow, fluff the pillow, fold it in half and squeeze out all of the air. If it doesn’t spring back, then it’s time to replace it.
Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of “Flip! for Decorating.”