Choosing Bedroom Furnishing

The basic requirements of a bedroom for adults are a bed, somewhere to store clothes, a dressing table of some kind, something to sit on and a mirror.

For a single occupant even a room no bigger than, say, 10 ft by 10ft (3 by 3m) can be made to work as a bedroom, provided the bed has sufficient clearance, maximum use is made of wall space for storage and the storage unit is versatile (e.g. the clothes cupboard door incorporates a mirror or there is at least a short shelf let into the length of the unit, with a mirror above it, to serve as a dressing table). In the case of a male occupant, a dressing table device is dispensable. But a female occupant will feel bereft without it, unless she has more or less exclusive use of a Vanitory unit elsewhere (e.g. in the bathroom).

A small room with a recess is that much enhanced as a bedroom. The recess might take a floor-to-ceiling clothes cupboard, one end of the bed with a cupboard above, a retractable bed or possibly a washbasin.

The bed

Making a bed frame or platform with hinged or sliding doors to give it storage capacity for bed linen, spare blankets or quilts is a project that a home craftsman could well undertake.

If you are buying a bed, try it out not merely by prodding the mattress but by lying stretched out on it full length.

Bed sizes. Both the length and width of the bed vitally affect your comfort. A bed should be 6 in.-8 in (15-20 cm) longer than one’s height when standing up. Where a couple share a double bed, each needs for comfortable sleep a width of at east 2 ft 6 in. (76 cm); one school of opinion puts the comfort span higher at 3 ft (or a metre). For a single person a bed about 3ft wide is recommended, although 2 ft 6 in. may be tolerable.

Beds are manufactured in small, standard and “king” sizes. Make sure that the size you select matches your height, girth and sleep pattern: restless sleepers need more space than tidy sleepers.

Types of bed.

Choosing a double bed or twin beds for a shared bedroom is a matter of joint preference A double bed is a large item. To be moveable so that the area around and underneath it can be cleaned it should be on castors. Alternatively, it can have a built-in base for storage. But in that case make sure that its position in the room is absolutely right for it will be a permanent fixture.

Twin beds on castors make it easier to re-arrange the bedroom at a later date. If the room is used as a secondary sitting room during the day. :t may oe possible to free space by pushing them against facing walls and bringing them back in line at night. There are types of twin oed where each bed can be zipped to its twin to make in effect a double bed There are also beds consisting of two separate mattresses on the one base, useful if one partner prefers a harder mattress than the other or one is considerably heavier than the other Divans and convertible beds giving day-time seating space can be bought or assembled in various designs and are invaluable adjuncts in dual-purpose rooms. They enable even the living room to be turned into a bedroom when occasion demands.

For bedrooms that are very short of space, double or matched single beds can be obtained that fold away into wall cupboards during the day but, since a weighting mechanism is involved, their installation can be tricky.

Positioning the bed. The scale and shape of the room allowing, the best place for the bed to go is against a side wall. If it is placed against the wall facing the windows, early morning light in the summer, some of which will probably filter through the curtains or blinds, may disturb the sleeper. Lf, on the other hand, it is placed against the window wall there is the likelihood of draughts.

Placing of the bed to ensure maximum comfort for the sleeper or sleepers, easy access to and from it, giving adequate clearance between it and the clothes cupboard and dressing table, are important considerations. One point about access and clearance is frequently overlooked in arranging the bedroom. Beds have to be made up every day and, even if duvets (continental quilts are used to ease the process, there should be space to move around the bed on at least two sides. At the foot of the bed allow clear space of at least 1 ft 8 in. (say 51 cm) if there is adjoining furniture. On either side of a double bed allow minimum circulation space of 2 ft 4in. (say 71 cm). So that they can be separately and easily made up, allow for a passage between parallel twin beds. Mattresses. The two main types of mattress are spring-interior mattresses and foam rubber or polyether mattresses. Spring mattresses have either a sprung-edge base, in which the springs around the edges remain resilient, or a firm edge with a wooden frame. The latter may be the better choice if you tend to sit frequently on the edge of the bed. A good quality spring mattress contains a large number of small springs, perhaps 1,000 or more in a double mattress, linked so that they adjust without sagging to the weight and movement of your body. A lesser quality mattress will have fewer and larger springs and thus be less resilient. Under the springs comes the basic upholstery padding (horsehair is the best; sisal and coconut fibres the cheapest).

Over the springs the matress has a layer of surface upholstery to give warmth and insulation; this may be of wool in top quality mattresses, or cotton.

Foam mattresses are available in various densities. The higher the density, the firmer the mattress. They are less bulky than spring mattresses.

Mattresses should, of course, be matched to bases. It may prove a false economy to buy a new mattress for an old sagging base, since the sagging base is likely to deform the mattress.


When buying sheets allow about 8 in. (say 20 cm) for tucking in around the bed and about 4 in. (say 10 cm) each way for possible shrinkage. Pillow slips should be 2 in.-3 in. (5-7.5 cm)

longer and wider than the pillows they enclose. Warmth combined with lightness is the criterion for blankets. Easy-to-clean synthetics may be said to be on a par with wool in this respect. An increasingly popular alternative to traditional blankets are duvets (continental quilts) which reduce bed-making to a minimum. The duvet is a single billowy cover, normally filled with duck down and feathers or a man-made filling, that gives warmth equivalent to perhaps three blankets and an eiderdown but at much less weight. Some people find duvets too hot in summer. Electric blankets are of two types: under-blankets, which you should switch off before getting into bed, and over-blankets, to which you need add little extra covering for warmth and which can be left on all night. Whichever type you choose, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter and have the blanket serviced regularly.

Headboards. You can buy a bed complete with headboard or buy a headboard alone to match an old bed. Basically the purpose of the headboard is to provide a back rest. But it can fill a far more ambitious role with built-in reading lights and extended on either side of the bed to provide, in a single unit, bedside tables with shelves below for magazines, books, spectacle case, glass of water. Headboards are manufactured in a variety of styles and materials, including wood, cane, metalwork and fabric padding. You could construct your own, tailor-made to your bed and bed-side comforts or to serve as a simple back rest without embellishments — depending on your level of skill and the time you have available.

Clothes storage

The traditional bedroom suite, comprising the bed, a bulky free-standing wardrobe and a dressing table and stool, has been largely superseded by wall-to-wall storage fitments. Modular systems enable you to phase the furnishing of the bedroom, adding units as your budget allows. There are various modular permutations of tall cupboards for hanging clothes, smaller cupboards, drawers, open shelves and an integral dressing table. Headboard, dressing table and clothes storage units are available in matching designs. Many component units are made to the same depth so that their fronts line up. While some ready-toassemble units are rather impersonal in general design, you can paint them in the colours of your choice or face them with laminates, fabrics or other materials to give the bedroom a distinctive appearance.


Whether you buy storage units or construct them yourself stage by stage, plan their disposition carefully, particularly in a shared bedroom.

1 If possible, keep the window wall free. Storage projecting into the room from either side of central windows may hinder natural light and make the room seem claustrophobic.

2 While floor-to-ceiling wall storage makes the most of space, this too may cause a hemmed-in feeling, even if there are one or two breaks in the sequence for slotting in a dressing table or low shelf. Alternate high and low storage gives counterpoint.

3 In a shared bedroom make sure traffic lines do not cross (e.g. one partner does not continually have to cross the other’s path to select clothes from the cupboard or to look in the mirror). Aim for ‘a degree of separation. Ideally the wife’s clothes and personal effects should be stored along one wall and those of the husband along the opposite wall. If a unit along a single wall has to be shared, try to allocate opposite ends to each partner with perhaps a compartment for least used articles (e.g. evening dress or suitcases) dividing them

4 Clearance space can be critical in a small bedroom. Nothing should obstruct the full swing of the bedroom door. The bed needs enough space around it to facilitate making the bed. The dressing table should have enough leeway to enable the user to push the stool or chair back as she leaves the table. For comfortable use washbasins need some 27 in. (or 68 cm) depth clearance. Storage units should have fronting space deep enough not only for hinged doors or small cupboards to swing out (tall cupboards are best fitted with sliding doors) and drawers to be fully opened but for a person to stand at ease in front of the opened cupboard or drawer. A cupboard door needs a depth in front of it equal to the width of the door plus about 6 in. (say 15 cm). A chest of drawers needs a minimum of 3 ft 3 in. (say 1 m). Remember that two people may be opening or closing two or three storage units simultaneously; in a small bedroom the likelihood of this may mar an otherwise tidy L-shaped corner unit against adjacent walls.

5 When constructing clothes storage units, have regard to the necessary internal dimensions. For long clothes, the height from the cupboard base to the hanger rail should be about 6 ft 6 in. (2 m); this should give space for a shoe rack over the base. Shorter garments on hangers (e.g. jackets or cardigans) need a drop of about 3ft 3m. (1 m). To accommodate clothes on a hanger, the depth of the cupboard should be about 24 in. (say 61 cm).

A drawer under the dressing table may make it difficult to get really close to the mirror for make-up. For this reason a simple worktop supported at either end by a drawer pedestal and giving ample kneehole space is favoured by many people.

Since cosmetic bottles and jars are in various heights, deep drawers are best for storing those not in everyday demand. Cosmetics and make-up aids in regular demand are handy to use if placed on shelves let into an adjacent storage unit and on the same level as the dressing table top. Lighting for make-up, the brighter the better, should be fitted so that the light shines in front of the face, not at the side. Lights ringed round the mirror are ideal. Effective, too, is a strip light set above the mirror with small lamps on each side to counteract shadow.


The decoration schemes you create in the bedrooms will vary according to the occupants. A teenager may be inclined towards bright colours and posters on the walls. A subtly feminine room that is not unduly frilly may suit husband and wife. In general, a bedroom for adults should have a relaxing atmosphere. Receding colours (e.g. cool blue, green, lemon yellow, lavender) make for relaxation, as opposed to advancing colours (e.g. red, orange, sun yellow).

Since in a bedroom most of the space is taken up by the bed and storage units, their colour (e.g. a soft pink bedcover and pine storage frames and facings) may largely influence the overall scheme of the room with other colours in large volume — these of the carpet and curtains probably — either complementary or in contrast.

Monochromatic schemes — those using tones and shades of a single colour—are suitable for bedrooms but some textural variety is needed to avoid an excessively bland effect.


Wall-to-wall carpeting is probably best for providing softness underfoot in the bedroom and to deaden noise. Since bedroom traffic is inconsiderable, the carpet need not be of top quality and a light colour is practical. If the bedroom has a polished wood floor and a fitted carpet would hide its good looks, you might make do with large soft rugs on either side of the bed.

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