The 6 essential steps to take before decorating a bedroom

Follow our expert-led interior design guide to creating the perfect sleep sanctuary.

Drowning in duvet designs? Lost in light fittings? Decorating a bedroom can feel daunting when you know it could affect the way you sleep. We’re here to take the worry away.

We spoke to two leading interior designers and asked them to share their top tips for creating the perfect bedroom. Here’s what they had to say.

bedroom with blue walls white bedding and peach accent coloured accessoriesCredit: Emilie Fournet Interiors
Creating the perfect bedroom space requires some time

1. Identify your why

Knowing why you want to change your bedroom is key

When a client comes to me for a bedroom design, the first thing I would find out is the reason why they’re coming to me,” says interior designer, Karina Fisun.

“I’d be looking to establish what is working for them in their bedroom, what isn’t and why they’ve decided to decorate now  she adds. “Have they seen a particular image or item that’s inspired the need for change, or is it just that it’s time for an update.”

images of bedroom on electronic tablet deviceCredit: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images
Has something you’ve seen triggered the desire to redecorate?

Fisun adds: “Knowing why is the number one priority and starting point of any design.”

So what could be your reason for change? Maybe your bedroom storage is so poor that a change of layout is required? Perhaps you’re turning a teen’s room into a flexible guest-cum-hobby room. Or are you struggling to sleep and need a new look that encourages relaxation? Really think about the goal of the makeover.

2. Pick one item as your starting point

It can be anything from a piece of fabric to furniture

“Starting with one element is a good way of getting a bedroom scheme going,” says interior designer Emilie Fournet. “It doesn’t really matter what it is – it could be a bed, a piece of art, a light, a specific fabric for the curtains or a colour.”

Why does one item help? “Having an element set in stone allows you to build around it and have a sense of cohesion for the whole room,” she says.

paint and fabric swatches in grey and pink and pink flower headsCredit: Shutterstock/Severija
Choose one item and start building your design from this

Struggling to pick a starting point? Fisun suggests looking around the rest of your home for inspiration.

“Once I’ve established why a client wants a new bedroom, I’d then look at their home and get a feel for their style,” she says. “I’d also ask how happy they are with the rest of their home.”

It’s an important question, says Fisun, as your interior design style should flow throughout the home. Therefore, if the bedroom is the first room to be redesigned then you also need to think about the rest of your home at the same time.

This may sound strange when a bedroom door is often closed, but according to Fisun, “creating a flow makes the house feel bigger.”

If you’re struggling to pick a style, Fournet suggests the following:

  • Ask yourself how you want to feel in the room?
  • Use adjectives to describe the mood and atmosphere you are trying to achieve.

3. Establish your layout

Think about what you need from a practical point of view

Even if you don’t know which bedroom furniture you want yet, knowing what space you have available is integral to your final decorating choices. Without knowing how much room you have for the essentials, it’s impossible to properly pick the items.

If you’ve already got furniture and simply want to replace it with pieces the same size, the job’s a little easier. If you’re starting from scratch, you can still get a general feel by using standardised sizes for beds, wardrobes and items such as bedside tables.

pencil drawings of bedroom showing furnitureCredit: Shutterstock/Mr Twister
Fitting your furniture into the space available is essential

Layout is very important in terms of the room feeling right,” says Fisun. “Even though you may only be sleeping in a bedroom, you can influence how the room feels by the way you position your furniture.”

She recommends asking yourself exactly what you want to do in the room and to think about your needs.

  • Is the bedroom just for sleeping or do you like to read or relax there? If so, you may need to allocate space for a chair or small sofa.
  • Do you like to get undressed next to the bed? In which case how close do your wardrobes and laundry baskets need to be, or are you happy popping clothes on a stool or chair until the next day?
  • How many wardrobes do you need and what do you hang in them?
  • Is there room to create a separate dressing area?

Not sure how to plan your bedroom’s layout? If you’re comfortable with a computer, there are some online room layout tools such as Room Styler that could help you define your space. You’ll need to measure your room’s width, depth and height, know where any architectural features are positioned, such as windows or fireplaces, and then you can start to plan your layout by popping in items of furniture.

Alternatively, if wardrobes are your primary concern, Ikea has a range of online planning tools for its various ranges. Sharps offers free visits, or you can call upon the services of an interior designer through a service such as HiiGuru, where an inital video call to discuss some ideas starts from just £35.

4. Build a mood board

It will help you make your final choices and create a cohesive look

Once you’ve established your starting point (even if it’s just a colour swatch), worked out how much furniture you can fit in and have a clear idea of the functional requirements of your bedroom, it’s a good idea to create a mood board.

It’s a tried and tested interior designers’ tool that will help you define your final designs. It’s also a fail-safe way of ensuring you’re happy with your choices before you part with your hard-earned cash.

a collage moodboard with images of fabrics, furniture and accessoriesCredit: Shutterstock/Ivastasya
Building a mood board gives you a design and shopping list in one

We asked Fournet if a bedroom mood board is different to any other room.

“You can approach it in the same way as you would any mood board,” she assures us.

“Your furniture and lighting are important elements, then you should consider layering with fabrics for curtains, or a headboard, rugs, bedsheets, and bedspreads etc.

“The colours you choose should bring all these elements together and unify the scheme,” she says. “The mood board is a way of checking that all your elements work together.”

While a home-created mood board may not contain every last detail, Fisun explains why she includes as much detail as possible at the start of any scheme she presents to a client. She will present various plans, including the layout, architectural details (Fisun defines these as “something you will not take away with you when you move”), as well as the more decorative items such as curtains, rugs, accessories, lighting.

Why? “Because it all needs to work together,” she explains. “If the client wants paint, then I propose the paint option. If it is wallpaper, then I propose that, and it all gets presented in one go so they have all the materials and different elements in front of them and can make an informed choice.”

Once these items are approved, Fisun will then move to sourcing them – having established a budget prior to purchasing.

While we also need to consider costs, it’s likely that experience has taught us which brands are within budget and which ones we aspire to.

5. Test your colours

Don’t make any big purchases until you’ve tested your colour scheme

When it comes to taking the plunge, Fisun recommends investing in tester pots and wallpaper samples to try out on your wall , before hitting the shops.

“Once a client has chosen a colour,” she tell us, “I then take two shades either side of that, and test them in the space to see how they are affected by the light, how the colours act in the space and how they look at different times of the day.”

woman testing paint shades on white wallCredit: Shutterstock/Hadrian
Test a few different paint shades to see how they look throughout the day

It’s also important to think about how you use the room and see if the colours work for that, says Fisun, pointing out that if you are using it for tasks such as reading and putting on makeup, lighter colours may be better – even if you feel darker colours are cosier.

Fournet also reminds us that as “a bedroom is your most personal space; the colour should reflect your personality”. But if she had to choose, blues, greens and pinks generally work well for bedrooms, and her personal favourite is Desert Rose by Paint & Paper Library. “It’s the perfect balance of pink and brown,” she says. “It changes beautifully throughout the day and depending on the light but always looks so inviting and relaxing.”

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I also love Pinterest as a starting point for room inspiration. Simply searching for a bedroom in the colour of your choice can be a good way to get ideas. You can then drill down into specifics with the shopping tags to find items you’d like to add to your own mood board.

6. Don’t leave lighting to last

It’s just as important in a bedroom

I think people forget sometimes quite how important lighting is in a bedroom,” says Fisun.

“You should always have several layers of lighting,” she tells us. “You can have functional lighting, for things like reading or putting on makeup, then you can have ambient lighting, which is your nightstand lights, or maybe a pendant.”

Fournet stresses functional lighting’s importance in the bedroom, telling us how you can “create little pockets of lights with wall and table lamps, so it softens the space and creates a cocooning effect”.

Both designers are united in their one essential item when it comes to bedroom lighting – dimmable lights, classing them as a “must-have”.

Final tips for decorating a bedroom

For small spaces and lasting schemes

Feeling more confident about decorating your bedroom and creating a space where style and snoozing are perfect sleeping partners? Our designers share their final tips.

Want to make a small room look larger?

Fournet suggests the following:  “Simplifying is the key for smaller spaces. Go with one colour throughout, or two at the most,” she says. “Make sure they are close together on the scale rather than contrasting too much.

“From that specific colour, try to keep the same hue through the scheme and add layers of texture with soft furnishings, lighting and all the other decorative elements you want to include.”

Using similar shades can help create a sense of spaceCredit: Emilie Fournet Interiors
Using similar shades can help create a sense of space

Keen to design a bedroom that lasts?

Invest in good furniture, says Fisun.

According to Fisun, there are certain things she would always recommend investing in. This includes a good quality mattress and good quality architectural finishes. Why? “Because good finishes increase the value of the property, and a good quality mattress ensures that you have a good sleep,” she says.”

“The better the construction of the furniture piece, the better it travels,” she adds. “You can disassemble it and reassemble it, whereas with less expensive flat pack furniture, it’s just not possible,” says Fisun.

bedroom decorated in shades of cream and brown with luxurious fabricsCredit: Karina Fisun
Fisun says investing in quality will give longevity

“It’s less sturdy and if you take it apart and you try to put it together again, it just won’t work.”

“You need to design for longevity,” adds Fisun, “with the idea that you never want to change it and then the space grows with you. You travel, you pick things up, you put them into your space and it evolves.

Seven quick steps to bedroom decorating success

  1. Decide why you are redecorating and use that as inspiration.
  2. Find one item you love as your starting point and anchor your scheme to this.
  3. Decide what you need on a practical level in terms of furniture and storage.
  4. Design your space layout – use standardised measurements even if you aren’t sure of the exact items.
  5. Once you know what you can fit in the space, create a mood board including everything you want to buy including furniture, window dressings, flooring, lighting, soft furnishings and decorative items.
  6. Test your colours before you start shopping.
  7. Once you’re happy with everything, set to and create.
Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her


Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

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