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The Shades of Sleep

Martha Stewart Living, May 2008

We all like to dream in Technicolor, yet many of us are reluctant to decorate a bedroom in anything but hushed neutrals and restful pastels. We worry about imbuing the bedroom with stimulating colors, so we create cocoons that make us yawn -- and put us to sleep. But why climb into bed with someone else's style?

It's easier than you think to conjure a refreshingly imaginative bedroom. By selecting hues that not only make you smile but also enhance the mood and setting of the rest of your house, you can design a bedroom that is tranquil yet still has plenty of panache. Start with one strong color, add a complementary one, and then tie them together with neutrals to maintain an easygoing equilibrium. Add accessories such as pillows, artwork, and picture frames that expand your palette. You'll sleep better, of course, but you'll also savor your bedroom when the sun is shining.

Quick-Change Artistry
The easiest way to vary the colors in a bedroom is to change the sheets. Contemporary Swedish-style chairs hold a variety of bedding suitable for a sage and blue bedroom, including coverlets, sheets in coordinating solids, and decorative pillowcases and pillows. Patterns can be mixed when a palette is this restrained.

Further Details
Even a color combination as unusual as raspberry pink and gray can be reiterated in ways that go beyond just sheets and throws (though there's plenty of them, as well). Fabrics for upholstery and accent pillows include a linen-blend herringbone, a polished-silk stripe, and a linen print. A chalk-stripe wallpaper or a woolen flannel makes an ideal neutral background. Tie everything together with exuberant ribbons and fringes.

Bold and Energizing
Too often a guest room devolves into a bland, one-size-fits-all space that really pleases no one. Why not make it an enclave where you and your family will feel like honored guests, too? Vivid-pink walls and an upholstered daybed transform the room into a retreat where everyone feels they belong (because the room "belongs" to no one). As a comforting counterbalance to the saturated color, the furniture and fabrics are cream and pale gray.

Cozy and Bright
A warm scheme of burnished golds, burnt oranges, and deep browns makes a bedroom feel sunny, even on a cloudy day, and warm and enveloping at night. The wooden furniture evokes tree trunks and branches; the fabrics, October leaves. This timeless color combination is grounded and enlivened by the patterned rug, which, counterintuitively, functions as a neutral. The room becomes the ideal spot for snuggling under the covers (with or without man's best friend).

Burnished Tones
When working with colors as intense as burnt orange and marigold yellow, it's best to keep accents dark and strong and patterns elegant and subdued. Create a harmonious range of coordinating accessories such as these, which can be added or subtracted according to the season or simply for visual variety. Geometric designs, updated damask patterns, and a range of textures add subtle richness.

Striking Gold
Pairing yellow with spring green as well as traditional blue modernizes the classic color combination without sacrificing prettiness. Here, the colors in a pictorial wallpaper are repeated in an array of bedding and unexpected upholstery fabrics, including plaids, a puckered cotton, and a textured woven multicolored stripe.

Serene and Natural
Color inspiration can come from many sources. In this bedroom, a screen covered with patterned wallpaper functions as a headboard and as a springboard for the room's color scheme. But rather than the more predictable pale blue of the paper's background, the wall color picks up the green-yellow shades of the vines and hummingbirds to provide a powerful contrast. A yellow lamp with a black shade adds further bold elements, while ecru and cream bedding, a blond-wood side table, and a jute rug temper the intensity of the walls, creating a balance of elements that's romantic but not predictable and feminine without being overly sweet.

Comments (6)

  • 17 Jun, 2009

    I bet it's painted and it sorta looks striated.

  • 25 May, 2009

    hi! where can i find the wallpaper on the first picture? the green one

  • 12 Aug, 2008

    Birdy 782,
    Its your lucky day I saw the bird wallpaper shown above on the website for the store 'Anthropologie'. http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/catalog/productdetail.jsp?_dyncharse...

  • 5 Aug, 2008

    where can i find the wallpaper in the last photo, with the little birds and branches? I love it!!! i'd cover two old closet doors with it, then set them behind my bed as a headboard :o)

  • 8 May, 2008

    Kariponce, your bedroom sounds gorgeous! I'd love to see a photo of it.

  • 23 Apr, 2008

    Mixing a buttery yellow and a muted sage green with a bold gold and cobalt blue has created a pleasing palette in my bedroom. It fares well with a large print of VanGogh's Starry Night in a gold frame and many of my favorite photos in gold frames as well. The walls have to stay white, but there is enough color going around with the cobalt curtains, sage green bedspread and buttery yellow turned back sheets, it's a cool, crisp feel just right for hot summer nights.