the place where dreams are made

In winter, you deserve a bedroom that's a soft and cuddly haven from the cold.

January 14, 2001|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

What we need to get us through this frigid winter is a warm, cozy bedroom full of little luxuries, where we can curl up and dream away the next few months.

The busier and more stressed out our lives become, the more we crave these intimate spaces. Today's bedrooms have become much more than a place to sleep. They are our private retreats -- refuges, sometimes, even from other members of the family.

"They've become escape rooms," says Baltimore interior designer Jay Dillinger. "People want them to be warm, very comfortable, really cushy, with lots of pillows, lots of places to sit. Most people don't want to pare down in the bedroom."

Think of it as your sanctuary. Even if you can't afford to redecorate your bedroom, you could put fresh flowers in a vase on the dresser, replace the light bulb in a lamp to create softer lighting, and unpack your grandmother's down quilt. If you're feeling a little more ambitious, paint the walls with a soft, warm color and add some ultra-soft Egyptian cotton sheets to the bed.

Since the mid-'80s, bedrooms have been changing. In new home construction, the master bedroom is often large, with skylights, fireplaces, sitting areas and room for entertainment centers and computers. It may be a suite that includes his and her dressing rooms and a luxurious bath.

"Master suite is the buzzword more than bedroom," says interior designer Joe Ruggiero of Home & Garden TV. "Bathrooms are spilling into it with tumbled marble and distressed limestone. French doors may lead to a vest pocket garden or terrace. Romance is coming into the bedroom."

Local interior designer Kim Coale has been working on one client's bedroom for a year and a half. When it's finished, the room will have exquisite highboys, a Persian rug, a custom-made canopy bed with a carved mahogany headboard, silk lining on silk lining, and draperies on draperies.

But Coale is also having a matching throw made so the owner can lie on the bed with her dog to watch TV.

"The bedroom has become an escape, but a pretty escape," the designer says. "Everyone wants luxury, and they're willing to pay for it."

Those who can't pay tens of thousands of dollars to redo their bedrooms still have plenty of options. Coale recently designed an inexpensive but charming bedroom for a model home.

"I went to Kmart and got Martha Stewart bedding," she says. "All the furniture was from Pier 1, rattan with a creamy almond faux finish. It looked great. There's so much out there now."

If you don't have the money to redo the whole room, designers suggest that you concentrate on the bed itself. After all, it's the one piece of furniture essential to every bedroom. Mail order catalogs and discount places are good sources if cost is a consideration.

People are decorating their beds with elaborate sets that go far beyond the traditional sheet, blanket and bedspread. In a range of prices, you can purchase draped canopies, duvet covers, pillow shams and boudoir pillows, pretty throws, silk-filled comforters and bed skirts, among many other decorative items.

"It can be very luxurious looking," says Dillinger, "Even if the rest of the room is ordinary."

A decade ago, few people thought about thread count when they bought their bed linens. Now they want the luxury of sheets that feel wonderful. (Higher thread counts -- the number of threads woven into an inch of fabric -- usually mean a more luxurious feel, although the quality of the cotton used is just as important.)

"Even men seem to notice the difference," says Blair Franke, manager of Linens & Lingerie, who says some of her customers first experience luxury sheets at hotels and then come to her Ruxton store looking for them.

"People are spending more on bed linens. Their lives are so hectic, they have so many irons in the fire. People love the idea of a soft, inviting bedroom."

If you have the money, this might be the time to invest in one of the new thicker mattresses, perhaps even the ultra-comfortable "pillow top" mattress. (Of course, you'll have to buy sheets to fit it.)

"There's a trend toward very good mattresses," says Susan Leaderman, decorating editor of Good Housekeeping. She loves her Avery Boardman mattress. It has a pillow top that detaches so she can flip it easily, and quilted coils to eliminate any squeaking.

As for the look of the bedroom itself, Leaderman recommends creating warmth with color and fabric. "Studies show that women prefer red in a bedroom," she says. "Men don't." (She's considering using red toile in her own.)

A wonderful quilt or beautiful throw can add to the romantic feeling of a bedroom, and she likes the idea of a bench or ottoman at the foot of the bed where folded covers can lie. Draperies eliminate drafts and create more texture in the room. Leaderman isn't fond of wall-to-wall carpeting, so she suggests wool area rugs over hardwood floors in the bedroom. It's the only room most people walk barefoot in, she points out, and wool creates warmth and insulation.

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