After revamping many homes on HGTV's "Takeover My Makeover" and other shows, designer Valerie Bickford (www.valeriebhome.com) has noticed a near-universal trend: The bedroom is neglected. "Wonder why you don't have the romance? Or why you can't sleep?" the designer asks. "It's because we put ourselves last." Public rooms, such as the living room and kitchen, usually receive the most attention because they are what guests see most. The bedroom, Bickford says, should be a sanctuary. Her pointers on how to create one:
Furniture: One of the most common mistakes, Bickford says, is to line the space with furniture. "People have way too much furniture in their bedrooms," she says. Her mantra: "Declutter!" Edit furnishings down to a bed, an end table or two, an armoire or dresser, and a nice reading chair.
Kid stuff: Create a zone solely for yourself, or for you and your mate. "Your relationship with your partner is primary," she says. Keep the kids' toys out. "You don't have to forgo style if you're a parent," says Bickford, mother of a teenage son. The bedroom should have the ambience of a vacation retreat, not a kid zone.
Electronics: Gadgetry affects our psyche, Bickford says. Her solution: Keep work space separate from the bedroom. If space is an issue, Bickford recommends armoire offices, which are available at varied price points, from IKEA to Ethan Allen. "When you're done working, you can close the door," she says. The one electronic gadget she'll allow: a music player for soothing melodies.
Novel decor: "Books are our friends," Bickford says, and not just in a study. White book jackets look elegant on a chocolate brown bookshelf. You also can place books with covers in warm, brown hues on a white bookcase. The color combination creates a peaceful environment. Bickford loves chartreuse as an accent color. One last option: Take the jackets off.
Lighting: Every room needs task lighting for reading. "Make the room feel like your favorite intimate restaurant where the lights are low," says Bickford. Sconces, a chandelier on a dimmer, candles - all will set the mood. One unconventional suggestion: pink lights, which deliver relaxed, soft illumination. You can read with it, too.
Color: Think serene. Bickford recommends looking to nature for inspiration. "If you're a beach person, look at the sand, look at the sky," she says. "If you can't decide if the color is right, put it up against sand or a fern or the sky." Go natural. You don't want vivid colors in your bedroom, she says. She prefers deep earth tones - chocolate brown, classic green - that make the room feel more intimate. "The color of the walls are what is embracing you," she says. Color accents can come via the bedding and artwork. Cafe au lait, hot pink and white are one of Bickford's favorite combinations.
Extras: Flowers, such as hydrangeas, lilacs or pink tulips, can make you feel as if you're in a fine hotel. Linen spray can make your room smell heavenly. "Spray it on your towels, sheets, pillows, your reading seat," says Bickford, a fan of aromatherapy. A silver pitcher with a matching tray might come from Ross, TJ Maxx or thrift stores.
Indulgences: For her mother, Bickford placed a bistro table and two chairs in her bedroom so she could have tea. Others may like a mini fridge in the walk-in closet, credenza or the bottom of an armoire, much like some hotels do. "Fill it with your delights," Bickford says. "Champagne, water, fruit. Pamper yourself."
Pictures: Bickford likes to keep things simple. Keep the frames in the same family: Go with all black, or arrange photos in thematic collections or groupings. Try all black and white. "People will take one photo of their kid, and they'll plop it in the middle of the wall," she says with dismay. If you can't afford good artwork, frame your kids' renderings or stretch fabric you love over a canvas, she says. It's all about doing something interesting that makes you feel good.