A calm bedroom helps you sleep

October 03, 2009|By ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Creators Syndicate

Q: We have been country dwellers all our married life. Recently, we decided to move into a senior community in the middle of a downtown area that has been beautifully reclaimed. We love the change of scene and pace, but both of us are having a hard time sleeping. I think I made a mistake painting the bedroom a bright color (chartreuse! What was I thinking?).

A: You obviously weren't thinking about the surprising effects colors can have on our emotions and our bodies.

That's not your fault. Most of us only see color as surface-deep, but lab studies show that it can actually do some pretty amazing things to a human. For example, raise and lower your body temperature and heart rate, and put you in a good mood or make you uneasy.

One high-school football coach famously used color's ability to enervate or energize: He had the opposing team's locker room painted bubble-gum pink, not a color calculated to elevate testosterone levels.


You've chosen a color that's inherently too exciting for a bedroom, which is all about winding down, hunkering in, drifting gently off into sleep. Chartreuse is a clarion call to action! "Wake up!" it shouts. "Get busy! Do things!"

Repaint your walls something dark and soothing, say midnight blue or forest green, and watch things change at bedtime. Clodagh -- the award-winning Irish-born, holistic interior designer who uses only one name -- once painted a show-house bedroom in two tones of dark blue. It was warm navy all over except for the bed niche, which was deepest midnight... the better to crawl in like a cave and sleep, she explained.

More tips on soporific decorating: banish all light, even the LEDs on your clock radio. Keep it cool. Everyone sleeps better at low temperatures. Ensure quiet. Carpeting, thick curtains and even fabric-upholstered walls will help put the quietus on your night times.

On the other hand, good sleepers can enjoy a bit more flexibility in bedroom design. Designed by Deck House, LLC, the pictured calm, elegant bedroom exudes Zen-like calm, from its quiet neutral color scheme to the shoji screens that filter the light. A favorite Japanese import, the shojis work beautifully in the West, too, according to designer Nancee Brown, author of "Can't Fail Window Treatments" (Creative Homeowner Publishing).

As she points out, by leaving the window tops bare in this bedroom, there's a year-round view of the penultimate source of emotional peace and calm, Mother Nature herself.

Q: What's warm and brown, yet totally cool and green, too?

A: Recycled wood floors. Reclaiming and retooling old barns, bridges and fallow buildings has become a growing business in the past few decades as more homeowners rediscover the pleasure of living with antiques underfoot.

Companies like 10-year-old Restoration Timber ( are repurposing solid woods for wall paneling and furniture, too. Chemical-free and untreated, the old wood is already mellowed and patinated by decades of use and exposure -- it instantly adds a vintage legacy in any room.

The variety of available species runs from oak to walnut and hickory, plus some you'd have a hard time even finding new, such as heart pine and chestnut. Most chestnut trees died off in 1920 or so, explains Jeff Stafford, partner with his brother at Restoration Timber. Visit the showroom in New York, and Jeff will point to the old chestnut floor on display. It is textured with tiny holes left by the worms that killed the tree; beauty born from death yesterday for lucky homes today.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.

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