3 Interior Designers Offer Their Quickest Tips for Transforming Your Bedroom Into a Personal Sanctuary

Photo: Getty Images/AleksandarNakic
We shuffled the whole house around in adjusting to the new normal last spring: We split the garret attic into two study nooks for the kids. My husband carved out an office area for himself behind the pantry—just enough space for floor-to-ceiling Ikea bookshelves and a small desk to Zoom from. I, meanwhile, have taken to Zooming for work from the living room, with my former tiny office now functioning as a miniature workout room, with TRX straps bolted to the wall and stocked with a flotilla of meditation cushions, balance boards, and body rollers. There’s one space we hadn’t changed at all, though: our bedroom. And, I recently realized, there’s literal room for improvement when it comes to the lack of intentional interior design of our bedroom .

Experts In This Article
  • Alicia Lawhon, Alicia Lawhon is a Los Angeles-based artist, realtor, and interiors consultant.
  • Sarah Shetter, Sarah Shetter is an interior designer based in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles.

Our bedroom, an off-camera zone, has been a decidedly unloved space since we moved in last year. It’s strewn with clothes, stacks of magazines, and books. Clutter aside, we also never really bothered to decorate, besides a lone painting. So when I suddenly felt myself grow annoyed by our mismatched sheets and blackout curtains that often go days without letting the light back in, I sought to make some changes. I resolved that my bedroom—a space where I’ve grown to spend so much time in the past year, especially—would no longer function as a mere space to dump my stuff and sleep between chapters of a busy life.

I began considering what our room could and should be. What if it were more like a sanctuary? A peaceful space to delight the senses? More cocoon than burrow? Could buying fresh new sheets be considered self care?

“I would like it to be super empty,” my husband weighed in. “Just a temple for sleeping. And very clean,” which is, of course, depends entirely on his will to pick up his own socks, but that’s neither here nor there.

To bring beauty back to the bedroom, interior designer Kara Mann, who has a great clean-lined style, offers a wealth of practical wisdom. Nice sheets, she says, provide for a sensational feeling of getting into bed feeling totally clean and crisp. “Very soft sheets and bedding are signals to your skin and muscles to relax,” interior designer Sarah Shetter adds. And, says Mann, people rest easier when the phone charger is moved away from the bed to somewhere out of reach. She also suggests bringing in live plants with soothing aromatic qualities, like jasmine or lavender, specifying that “nothing beats the real thing.”

“Put everything on dimmers so you can have low light as you start your bedtime routine, and use warm [hued] light bulbs.” —Sarah Shetter, interior designer

In addition to those interior designer tips for the bedroom, Shetter says lighting choices alone hold the power to subtly transform. “Lighting is really key,” she says. “Put everything on dimmers so you can have low light as you start your bedtime routine, and use warm [hued] light bulbs.” Specifically, she suggests using light bulbs in the range of 2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin. To keep things design forward, add sconces, like these (Anthropologie, $198) or these (Etsy, $122).

Even after incorporating their tips to add crisp sheets, plant-sourced fragrances, and optimized light, though, I felt something was missing. What I really longed for my bedroom to give me was inspiration—an environment that would touch the imagination, and maybe even transport me to a whole different place. We live on the East Coast, but what I was after was that Earthy Ojai, California vibe. The coastal West Coast is truly a state of mind for me.

To help me achieve this vibe, I caught up with Alicia Lawhon, a Los Angeles-based artist, realtor, and interiors consultant known for her bohemian taste and being a pioneer of the hand-hewn, California style that I find myself chasing. “It’s born out of love of our hot springs, deserts and ocean,” she says, a mix of “Mother Earth and elegance.”

These days, her own bedroom, to which she recently added a peg-board accent wall, is a showcase for that rich, naturalistic blend, and includes a light flat-woven Kilim rug and an intricate vintage macrame hanging. Her duvet cover, created from inexpensive canvas, which she then sent out to be dyed in persimmon, is layered with a hand-woven blanket found on her last trip to Mexico, where she was born. “The styling is all in the combining,” she says.

To re-create the California feel, Lawhon suggests bringing in succulents ($10) and a rubber tree, trading a bedside table for a tree stump (Wayfair, $152), and using a palette of Earth tones that echo the natural environment. “Earth tones are very grounding for me,” she says. “My goal is always to invite the outdoors inside.”

Curious about the best indoor plants for bright-light spaces? Check out the episode of Green Thumb below:

Her’s is a space for both dreaming and daydreaming, a place where she and her husband snuggle with their new puppy. “Make the bedroom a place to cuddle,” Alicia says. “It’s a sacred space. It’s a place for nurturing and love.”

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