Smart Decorating Tricks for Any Space, Part III

Four designers share their expertise on interior decorating in this three-part series. These tips will help any new homeowner achieve the look and feel they want in any room.

Rules for the Bedroom

Opinionated-in-a-good-way designer Elaine Griffin ( is a walking encyclopedia of decorating proportions. Here’s her advice for keeping this space dreamy but defined.


“After the bed itself, the wall above the bed is the most visible real estate in the room, so don’t leave it empty,” says Griffin. “Fill it with something that makes you smile.” The art should occupy no less than two-thirds of the area above the headboard but not extend beyond its edges. Steer clear of minuscule dimensions “unless you have a four-poster bed, which is already busy. In that case, a small, simple piece hung low works well.”


“I like a headboard to be four feet tall, so you can see it when the pillows are standing up but it doesn’t overwhelm the other furniture,” says Griffin. Anything much larger makes low ceilings feel even more cave-like. Higher ceilings can handle a grand headboard, but scale up other pieces to keep the room balanced.

Bedside Tables

These look best when they’re a couple of inches lower than the top of the dressed bed—24 to 27 inches high. “Pillow top fanatics may have to go taller,” says Griffin. Tables don’t have to be identical, but their heights should hit within two inches of each other.


The sweet spot for bedside lamps is 24 to 27 inches tall. “You don’t want a tiny lamp on a big table or a small table with a towering lamp,” says Griffin. “And while lamps don’t have to match, the look is more pulled-together if they do.” The tops of the lamps should be the same height; if your lamps are slightly off, cheat by putting pretty books under the shorter one’s base. And if you don’t have a lot of table depth to play with, use an oval or rectangular shade rather than a round one.


Start with at least four pillows, arranging them in descending order, with the largest in back, Griffin says. (Yes, that means the big, fancy shams actually go behind the sleeping pillows.) Then you can put small, decorative pillows in front if you’d like. “No matter how many pillows you have, the secret is to vary the sizes but stick to this order,” says Griffin.


“I think every bed needs a folded textile on the end—it’s a finishing touch,” says Griffin. When folded, she adds, it should drop at least 6 to 12 inches on either side: “If you have a queen-size bed, most standard throws will be too small. Instead, use a twin-size blanket. It’s perfect.”


A dinky bench at the foot of the bed can look like Little Miss Muffet’s tuffet, says Griffin. Pick a style whose length is two-thirds the width of the bed frame. The height range is more forgiving—anything from an inch to a foot below the top of the bed will work. “But don’t bring in a bench unless you have at least three feet of free space opposite the bed—the room will feel crowded,” says Griffin.

An area rug should be significantly larger than the bed itself—at least a foot larger on each side—but you don’t have to position the bed wholly atop it. “It’s okay to turn the rug sideways if that suits the room,” says Griffin. If you prefer a pair of small rugs flanking the bed, seek out ones that cover 75 percent of the space from the end of the nightstand to the foot of the bed.

The Bedroom Chair

Typically 24 inches deep and 24 inches wide, the slipper chair echoes the overall shape of a bed, so it’s a compatible choice for filling a gaping corner or turning the space between two windows into a focal point (but only if it fits without blocking either window). Griffin advises keeping yours bare (no pillows), “because whether you think so or not, it will be a landing spot for clothes and bags.”

Rules for the Whole-Room Palette

A rule of thumb for coming up with a cohesive scheme (in any room): Choose one color for 60 percent of the room, use two accent hues (15 percent each), and spice things up with a “pop” color that’s brighter than all the others (10 percent).


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