From November to March, hibernating is a national pastime, and cozy bedrooms are the object of our obsession. Instagram feeds fill with images of soft beds overflowing with blankets and throw pillows, bordered by rugs that are soft to walk across and nightstands piled high with books. Aesthetically, we crave photos of comfortable spaces; physically, we crave more sleep.
Experienced designers are well-equipped to craft intimate bedrooms that continue to inspire us throughout the darkest months of the year, and that we continue to love to curl up in, as we evenings at home with our favorite shows and favorite authors before going to bed early, until the sun starts setting later again in the spring. Here, we ask several interior designers for their tips on how to create a cozy winter bedroom loaded with texture, warmth, and detail.
Go Big with Bedding
The central focus of any bedroom is, of course, the bed itself. Designers agree that it's worth spending money on bedding whenever possible. “My best advice for creating a cozy bed is to have the most luxurious bedding that you can afford, along with layers and pillows,” says Janie Hirsch, owner of J. Hirsch Interior Design in Atlanta. Adds John Willey, a New York City-based designer, “Since we spend on average a third of our lives sleeping, splurge as much as you can on your bedding.”
Hirsch starts with high-thread count sheets of Egyptian cotton for their softness. Alan Weiner, COO of high-end bedding company Elegant Strand, agrees that cotton is a luxurious material for the bedroom. “Studies show that cotton is a great option for keeping warm — it actually provides great temperature control," he says. For the top sheet, Hirsch chooses an embroidered design, along with intricate pillow cases, and then she layers a variety of blankets and pillows. “For the top of the bed, I love to layer a coverlet, a duvet cover with a fluffy down filler, and different pillows to make the bed look cozy and inviting,” she says. “The more plush it appears, the more you want to jump into it and surround yourself in comfort.”
Other designers, like Willey, love a “light sateen finish” for sheets: “silky but not shiny,” he says. “For the coverlet, that’s where texture really matters. I often design custom duvets with a bouclé or nubby finish.” Then, decorative pillows finish off the design.
No bedroom can achieve coziness without immersive textures. Designers recommend everything from velvet and jute fishnet to alpaca and faux fur to outfit rugs, blankets, and pillows; the best interiors, however, manage to effortlessly pair a variety of texture, without ever seeming random or excessive. “A mix of unique textiles that are soft to the hand always feel at home in a bedroom,” says Kenna Stout, owner of Brio Interior Design in Seattle. “For instance, a silk velvet accent pillow paired with a textural headboard and sateen sheets.” Stout also recommends building texture into lighting elements, through linen and burlap shades or a textured fixture in paper or metal, to enhance the coziness of a space. “All of these create a more uneven or dappled lighting, giving the space a soft, more naturally lit feel, similar to what could be experienced in a forest at dawn or dusk,” she says.
Some designers also emphasize that fabrics are not the only elements that add texture to a room. Melinda Mandell, a designer in Palo Alto, notes that certain materials like ceramics bring character to a bedroom, along with personality-rich fabrics. “A soft wool boucle, or a plush cotton velvet are a must for a bedroom,” Mandell says. “But I never forget beautiful wood grain, warm metals, and my favorite, ceramics.”
Play with Patterns
When working with patterns in a bedroom, Mandell recommends mixing patterns of different scales in a natural fiber to emphasize coziness. “Cozy spaces are all about the tactile and visual experience,” she says. “So for those, we are sure to use lots of small to medium-scale, soft, woven patterns in natural fibers and inviting, soothing patterns to make people feel comfortable.” In the above space, she selected a medium-sized organic pattern and a large-scale stripe, and complemented them with other small-scaled, textured patterns.
New York-based designer Katie Leede agrees that the best bedrooms integrate patterns of different scales. “If you go large on the rug, reduce the scale of the pattern in the wallpaper or pillows,” Leede says. “And then ground the room with strong solids as a counter balance to the pattern play so the eye can rest.” She suggests choosing three colors to work with as a base, and then improvising. “After you settle on the overall scheme, throw in one more one more tiny accent as a surprise — and that might be a metallic element or an animal print,” she says.”
Patterns in dark hues can impart a restful quality to a bedroom, and give it a sense of being a world apart from everything else. Of course, a bedroom that’s too cozy and beautifully decorated runs the risk of convincing you to stay in bed all day. “There is nothing like dark colors in a bedroom to make you feel like staying in bed and under the covers all day long,” says Kellie Menendez, founder of Half Full, an artisan wallpaper company based in San Francisco. “Patterns with a nod to nature also bring the outdoors in so you don’t have to go outside.”
Experiment with Colors in the Bedroom, But Stick to White Bedding
Often, when we think of cozy bedrooms, we think of white, but cozy bedrooms come in all colors. "Almost any color can work in a cozy room as long as it is balanced with a saturated neutral and has crisp white bedding,” says Phyllis Taylor, principal at Taylor and Taylor in Miami.
Different colors create different moods; for example, Taylor suggests celedon greens and lavenders for tranquility, and acid yellow with deep grays and white bedding for cheerfulness. “Sexy rooms can be any color with the exception of blue,” she says. According to the principles of feng shui, Taylor explains, "blue is the color of tranquility and calmness, as well as the color that symbolizes water and sky. [It’s for] very open spaces, not cozy ones.” Sexier colors in a bedroom are earthy and reflect skin tones, like pinks and browns, she says. Although the connection between sensuality and coziness isn't immediately apparent, cozy bedrooms have a certain carnality, since the focus of a cozy bedroom is to relax and refresh the body. Sexy or sensual bedrooms can enhance the feeling of embodiment in a space — reinforcing the connection between body and mind.
White bedding, Taylor seems to suggest, offers a counterpoint to the vibrance of color. The team at M. Elle Design in Santa Monica likewise recommends white bedding — their preferred brand is Frette, with a hemstitch — before covering the bed in throw pillows.
Incorporate Simple, Layered Drapery
Through detailed drapery, a bedroom can close itself off to the outside world. Emily Turner Barker, business director at M. Elle Design, a studio co-founded by her mother and sister, Marie Turner Carson, suggests matching sheer drapery and over drapery in a bedroom to give it that extra sense of warmth and intimacy, and help with the flow of light. “We feel it adds a sense of softness and romance and truly dresses the window,” says Barker. “The sheer draperies are nice when you want some privacy that still filters the light through the space.”
Mandell adds that when possible, it’s always better to splurge for custom drapery. “Custom drapery makes a space feel finished, tailored, and intentional,” she says. “It is always worth the money.”
Find Unexpected, Functional Details
As in all aspects of interior design, function comes first. “Making sure the creature comforts are taken care of — delicious bedding, great reading light, etc. — is a top priority, but for that unexpected moment, beautiful coasters to avoid water rings on bedside tables make a nightly luxe surprise," says Leede.
Blankets add warmth, and a unique blanket can bring unexpected joy to a design. “I have been known to throw in a faux fur coverlet,” says Willey, whose style leans toward refined contemporary. “I use them at home for the winter season, and it’s this immediately primal and tactile joy.”
Pay Attention to Scale & Rituals
One of the most important characteristics of a cozy bedroom is its intimate size. “Nothing feels less cozy than an over-scaled, cavernous bedroom, no matter how you decorate it,” says Willey. “But regardless of the scale, the materials are key. Everything must be soft and inviting to the touch to draw you in and relax from the outside world.”
As he notes above, although decoration can't change the architecture, blankets, textured wallcoverings, and drapery all serve to soften the structure of a space. “Window treatments soften the architecture and are vital in creating a bedroom’s cocoon-like space,” he says. “It should only take a moment to close the shades every night. I love the ritual of it, and it helps set the environment in anticipation of warmth, protectiveness, and comfort.” Kelly Proxmire, a designer known for updating traditional interiors with unexpected finds, calls this drawing of the drapes a “cocoon effect,” that encloses the client into a safe, comfortable space, despite the potential scale of the room.
Explore Upholstered Furnishings
Fabric is one of the keys to a cozy bedroom. When fabric is incorporated in unexpected ways, it adds a layer of richness to the room. “An upholstered bed would contribute to the room's cozy feel,” says Kelly Proxmire. “Additionally, upholstered storage benches may be used in a bedroom, family room, and other spaces.”
In terms of furniture, Stout adds that “creating a place of restoration beyond the bed itself enhances the coziness of a bedroom.” The bed isn’t the only space, then, that should be cozy. Hirsch suggests upholstered furnishings like benches, chaise longues, and armchairs, depending on the size of the space. “If the room is a little smaller, then an upholstered bench at the foot of the bed gives a feeling that you aren’t walking right into the bed,” she says. “A bench also gives you somewhere to place the pillows when you turn the bed down for the evening. In a larger bedroom, a sitting area with plush, comfortable chairs or a chaise lounge gives you a place to relax after a long day with a glass of wine to read or watch your favorite show."