Remember when you were little and for punishment you got sent to your room? If that was still true for grownups, I would be stirring up trouble all day long because one of my favorite places on earth to be is my bedroom. I absolutely love my bedroom. I like the way it looks. And I like the way I feel when I start and end my day there. It’s my oasis.
Far too often, when we decorate our homes, our bedrooms are last on the list. We invest our creative energy and budget on the more public spaces in our home, rationalizing that since we are the only ones who see our bedrooms, they are not as important. But I would argue that your bedroom is every bit as important as your living room or your kitchen. It’s the place you wind down, reflect and refill every single day. So when we bought our little lake home and plunged in on our whole-house renovation, I made sure the bedroom didn’t get short-changed.
The only thing that’s original to our little lake home is our two stone fireplaces. We knocked out walls, lifted the ceilings, changed out windows, inserted doors, all with the goal of maximizing every square inch of the home’s small footprint. Since we moved from a very old home – over 140 years old – I wanted to add touches that made our new construction look like it had been there generations. In my bedroom, that meant accentuating the crest of the vaulted ceiling with a wooden beam and installing a window seat by the big window that faces the front yard.
Originally, our plan was to only use the lake cottage as a place to crash when we were working at our Nell Hill’s Briarcliff location in Kansas City, so we didn’t have to drive back and forth to Atchison every day. We told ourselves that we couldn’t imagine selling our Greek Revival in Atchison, our home of 25 years. I laugh when I look back, because we were in complete and utter denial. The minute we signed the papers for our new little nugget of a house, we were gonners. We had fallen out of love with our grand old home without knowing it, and were completely smitten by this snug cottage and its promise of a simpler lifestyle.
As soon as the drywall dust settled and the floor varnish dried, I began to move a few pieces of furniture from our home in Atchison. First, it was just a bed and dresser. Then, I started shopping in every room of the house for furniture I could use in the bedroom. I snatched a table that had been in my entry and used it as a night stand. A marble-topped chest of drawers that stood under the windows in my dining room was requisitioned to be the other night stand. Then I pilfered chairs. The fact is, I am a girl who likes to have her things around her, and once I moved, it all had to come too.
Finally, after furniture kept disappearing from our Atchison home and ending up in our lake cottage, Dan and I faced the facts: The only thing keeping us from selling our home in Atchison was a deep and profound dread of cleaning out our garage and basement, which had acquired 25 years’ worth of stuff.
Since the bedroom was going to be filled with the antiques we’d had for years, I knew I had to be deliberate about keeping my palette light, so the space didn’t feel dreary and dated. I love traditional furnishings, but I want my home to be fresh and fun, not staid and stale. So I washed the walls and woodwork in Garrity Cream, one of my very favorite colors from my Mary Carol Artisan Paint line. On this rich creamy backdrop, I could add in fabrics and furnishings that would make the space special.
You would think that since I own home furnishings stores, I would be changing up my furniture all the time. In some rooms, I do. But not in my bedroom. Here is where my favorites come, and stay. My bed frame grabbed my heart the first time I saw it, and hasn’t let go since. It’s a truly unique piece, an iron bed fashioned to look like bamboo. I’ve never seen one like it since.
At Nell Hill’s I’m surrounded by lots and lots of color and pattern all day long. I love it! But when I come home, I need to let my retinas rest. So I’ve selected a palette that is very neutral, especially in my bedroom. My bedding tells its story through subtle textures and muted patterns, with tone-on-tone accents like the monogram on my duvet and pillow shams.
When you downsize as much as Dan and I did, you have to do some soul searching. Which pieces do you love so much that you have to have them in your house, no matter what? And which are you willing to let go of because you absolutely cannot cram them in? For me, a non-negotiable was my artwork.
Even the gigantic religious paintings that dominated the spacious living room in our Atchison home had to come. Dan was convinced these dark, dramatic paintings would not work in the cottage – too big, too serious, too formal and grand. But I was determined and squeezed them into the bedroom. I love how the moody art looks on the crisp cream walls, and the idea of mixing formal and informal pieces together in my home, which is the heart of the Nell Hill’s look.
I adored the wall-to-wall hardwood flooring in our old home. So at the cottage, we covered all our floors in wood. In the winter, I unroll an odd assortment of vintage area rugs to warm up the bedroom. In the summer, I like the floors bare.
Since the room is so soothing and neutral, I decided to add a bit of pattern in my window coverings. Buffalo check is another one of my lifelong passions, so I made simple panels from a 4-inch black and cream check. The windows are covered in simple matchstick blinds.
I prefer small desks, tables and short chests of drawers as bedside tables because they give you lots of surface area to work with. Then I fill them up with necessary stuff, like a lamp, and treasures that are precious to me. For example, on the desk to the left of my bed I have a 1902 King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra royal coronation cup I pinched off my grandma Nell (for whom Nell Hill’s is named). When I was in my 20s and living in Wichita, I was only a few hours’ drive from Grandma Nell’s, so I would go visit her often. I always managed to sweet talk her out of a little treasure. None of it’s worth much, but it’s priceless to me.
Thanks for joining me at Innisfree for a tour of my snugly bedroom! I hope it inspires you to also turn your room into an oasis.
Next Week … What will be 2016’s hottest looks in interior design? Come find out!