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In this post: You can create an inviting, stylish bedroom on a small budget. Here’s how to decorate your bedroom – even if you have a small bedroom and money is tight.
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As much as our entire home is our retreat and safe space, our bedrooms are even more so. Our bedroom is where we spend a large number of hours each day, and where we should be able to go to rest and recharge. But oftentimes, it’s one of the very last places we decorate and make our own. Here’s how to decorate your bedroom retreat, even if it’s small and you’re on a budget!
Finally decorate your own home – with confidence!
You’re so much closer to a beautifully-decorated home than you think. You just need a little help to get there!
Table of Contents
How to decorate a bedroom
Decorating a bedroom is actually really simple when you break it down into a step-by-step process like I’m going to do here.
Don’t Start in the Furniture Store
A lot of people make the mistake of starting their bedroom decorating at the big box furniture store. (Dean and I have done that more than once in our 25+ years of marriage.) But that’s where matchy-matchy decorating takes hold – and you don’t want that. Instead, you want a collected over time, layered and lovely feel to your bedroom retreat.
If you’re going to the furniture store to get inspiration for your bedroom decor, that’s totally fine. But focus on a single piece that speaks to you, maybe two – like a great headboard or a statement dresser – versus buying an entire matching bedroom set. And try to do this furniture store inspiration-gathering AFTER you’ve chosen a style and a color scheme for your bedroom. More on that below.
In what order should you decorate a bedroom?
Much like decorating any other room in your home, you follow the same steps for decorating a bedroom:
- Decide on your style.
- Choose a color scheme or palette.
- Plan the room’s furniture layout.
- Add area rugs, window treatments, and other fabrics.
- Incorporate layered lighting.
- Add art and finishing touches.
Below I’ll go into each step in more detail so that you can feel confident in your bedroom decorating choices!
Choose a style for your bedroom
Choosing your decorating style is the FIRST STEP in creating a beautiful bedroom because every decorating choice you make is based on the decorating style that makes your heart go pitter-patter.
All of these are informed by your style:
- Paint colors
If you’re a student of our how-to-decorate course, Decorating Uncomplicated, you already know what decorating styles you love, and you already know your style formula and your go-to list of elements. This means, you already know the style you want to use in your bedroom.
Pick an overall color scheme
After you know what style you will decorate your bedroom in, you need to choose a color palette that goes with that style.
As always, with color, I recommend that you choose a general color scheme, and then pull specific colors from an inspiration piece. In a bedroom, this inspiration piece could be an area rug, a piece of art, or bedding that you adore.
Personally, in our bedroom as with all rooms in our home, I prefer to decorate using mainly neutral colors. That way as the seasons change or holidays come and go, I can swap out the accents.
Pieces like downloadable art, sheets, throw blankets and throw pillows are easily changed as the mood strikes when the base is made up of neutrals.
Change colors if needed
We’ve actually repainted our bedroom already a couple of times. Well, the upper part, not the wainscoting and trim. That we’d not painted until this mini-makeover.
The first color I chose a couple of days after moving in, without fully considering the north-facing light or the blue reflection from the pool half the year. The second color was lovely and worked much better. But given such cool natural lighting, it was time to go even warmer with our color choice…and to finally paint all that trim too.
Since we’d used Valspar paints before in our guest room, basement pantry makeover, and guest bathroom makeover– and we’re happy with the quality of the application, loved the color choice and the durability, washability, and scuff resistance – we decided to pick up a few gallons at our local Lowe’s (where Valspar paint is sold exclusively) to use in the master bedroom too.
Originally, we were going to paint the trim (wainscoting, chair rail, baseboard, door trim, and crown molding) a lovely creamy mushroom or latte color and the upper walls a beautiful warm white. But once we started (and after finishing the floor to ceiling green in the guest bath), we decided to paint the entire master bedroom in a warm neutral color – Valspar Soft Stones 6008-1C.
Plan the layout
Once you’ve nailed your style and colors, and before you actually do anything with the space, you need to plan where the bigger pieces will go. To do this:
Consider How the Room Functions
Think about the traffic flow.
- What areas of the room do you need to access easily?
- Is there a clear path to the bathroom, say in the middle of the night?
- Can you access your closet easily?
What do you use the room for aside from sleeping? Maybe you need a reading corner with a chair and a light to do your daily devotions. Or perhaps you want to work out in your room too.
Consider all the activities that will occur in your bedroom, and make a list of the pieces you need to fit in, as well as any that you’d like to make room for, but that are more wishlist items than must-haves.
In our bedroom, we needed:
- a bed and bed frame (king-size at this point in our lives!)
- bedside tables
- a dresser
- a chair for daily reading
And we like to have:
- a tv (this really only gets used for when someone is sick in bed, but I hope to use it to do more yoga, etc. in the New Year)
- the electric fireplace (our room gets quite chilly in winter)
- a pretty bench at the foot of our bed
Choose a Focal Point
All rooms need a focal point to keep from feeling scattered or overwhelmed with no clear focus.
Once you know all that needs to happen in your bedroom, choose where your focal point will be. In a bedroom, this is most likely the wall the bed is against. But it may also be a fireplace or something else.
Just remember you want to keep your space to one focal point whenever possible.
Know Your Measurements
Of course, you need to know your room’s measurements before choosing any new pieces or moving in any pieces you already have in other spaces.
Measure out your room. Then gather measurements of the furniture pieces you plan to put into the bedroom. Sketch a floor plan if that helps, noting electrical outlets and heating vents too.
Tape It Out
If drawing the room’s layout isn’t helpful or your brain just doesn’t work well with that sort of tool, try using painter’s tape on the floor to illustrate where things will go.
We did this when we were putting up a new wall in our bungalow to separate our master bedroom from the hallway (long story). It was incredibly helpful for visualizing and getting a feel for the space.
Carefully choose your bedroom furniture
Because it’s so costly, bedroom furniture is generally with us for the long haul. So choose carefully and don’t buy anything on a whim.
Keep Scale in Mind
Keep the scale of the bedroom furniture you want in mind. If you want a king-size bed, but the room won’t hold it, obviously you need to scale down to a queen. If you can fit in the king-size bed, keep in mind walking space around the bed, and perhaps choose smaller scale nightstands or a smaller dresser.
Keeping storage in mind is especially important if you have a small bedroom. You’ll need room to store out-of-season clothes and bedding.
Choose furniture pieces that have ample space for your things so that you can avoid the clutter that plagues so many bedrooms.
Of course, you can declutter too and minimize your belongings if you’re tight on space.
Bed and Mattress
You spend a lot of time in bed and your bed and mattress should last you a long time. Especially since they usually cost a good chunk of change.
One of our best purchases was the queen-size mattress and box spring set that we bought when I finished college. It served us well for almost 20 years and now that we have a king-size bed, that queen-size set is in our guest bedroom and is as comfy as ever.
If at all possible, this is where you splurge in a bedroom makeover and get the best, comfiest mattress you can afford.
Wardrobes and dressers
Depending upon your closet space, you will likely need to include wardrobes and/or dressers in your bedroom makeover plans.
Do you have room for a tallboy style dresser or wardrobe (tall and narrow) or would your room better work with a classic dresser (wide and shorter)?
In our room, we have one large dresser that I use for much of my clothes. While Dean keeps all of his clothes in the closet organizer in our walk-in closet.
Nightstands and bedside tables
Bedside tables are a must. Or something – even a wall-mounted shelf or bookshelf – that functions as a bedside table to hold necessary nighttime things like a glass of water, books, and a lamp. Choose a nightstand that will hold the things that YOU need. Drawers are often very helpful.
Keep the height of your nightstands in mind too. I’ve mentioned that we have a king-sized bed, which is quite large, and despite getting low-profile box springs, is quite tall. And yet, the cabinets we used for the last few years were actually too tall in reality – we couldn’t reach our lamps to turn them off from in bed!
So for our recent master bedroom makeover, we bought a couple of second-hand nightstands on Facebook Marketplace. Dean sanded off the white paint (someone had painted them in the flattest, whitest paint ever!) and then just waxed them with a dark beeswax that we’ve had here forever.
If you want a place to sit and read or do devotions each morning, or just a quiet corner to escape from the kids (shhh, I won’t tell!), you may want to consider adding a chair to your bedroom.
And a bedroom looks super complete with a bench at the end of the bed – if you have room for one.
Most bedrooms will also need mirrors – for trying on clothes or checking your hair. Decide whether you’ll hang one over your dresser, or just put a full-length mirror in the closet.
Layer your bedroom lighting
There are three types of lighting for use in your home: General Lighting, Task Lighting, and Accent Lighting. Bedrooms are no different than other spaces when it comes to lighting.
You will want to have an overhead ceiling light fixture, chandelier, or table lamp that is easily turned on and off when entering and exiting your room.
You will also want to have specific lighting for reading or other tasks that you perform in your bedroom, like applying makeup for example. At the very least you will want to have some sort of lighting or bedside lamp on your nightstand.
Accent Lighting provides extra “oomph” and extra dimension to a room by accenting special features such as art, architectural features, plants, etc.
Accent lighting can be achieved with track lighting, wall-mounted lights, or recessed lights.
Dimmers also help to add to the mood lighting effect.
Add softness and comfort underfoot with a rug
Whether you have wall-to-wall broadloom, hardwood, or another type of flooring, adding an area rug in the bedroom is a good idea.
Area rugs can be used to tie your bedroom’s color palette together, add softness and texture to your room.
I’m currently waiting on a new rug for this space and I’m hoping it arrives soon. Here’s what I’ve ordered.
It’s the nuLOOM Geraldine Persian Area Rug in Olive. It’s nice and warm for our north-facing room and will pull together the green from our accent pillows and the taupe from the newly painted walls.
Related: Area Rug Size Guide
Invest in the best bedding and throw pillows
Along with your mattress, bedding tends to stick with us for a long time.
When you’re on a budget it can be tempting to buy cheap sheets. But I encourage you to buy at least decent quality bedding that will hold up well and be comfortable. You can always add more sets later.
My favorite types of bedding for each season is:
- Linen in Spring and Fall (my favorite linen bedding is from MagicLinen)
- Cotton in Summer
- Flannel in Winter
Layering your bedding and mixing and matching is also a lovely way to make your bedroom feel cozy and collected. Include duvets, quilts, and throw blankets. Mix stripes with florals and solids. Include linen, velvet, wool (if you like that), and cotton.
Add Throw Pillows
While some hubbies may complain about too many throw pillows on the bed, it’s still perfectly acceptable to add a few.
On our bed, we keep a collection of throw pillows and sleeping pillows in different sizes and shapes. Here’s How to Style Pillows on a Bed 3 Different Ways:
Don’t forget to dress your windows
Windows are another spot you can add both functionality and beauty to a bedroom.
I’m a bit of a princess (like The Princess and the Pea) and so I like to include room darkening blinds and blackout curtains. Simple roller shades work in our space, but you can get custom blinds and curtains.
But also pretty
But I also like to have a pretty space too, so I also include curtains on a lovely black metal rod. Of course, you could choose to use whatever sort of draperies and rod you like!
Pick out artwork for your bedroom decor
Artwork is another one of those things that adds personality to a space. Whether you decide to display nostalgic family photos as wall art or downloadable printable art in vintage frames, be sure to add some sort of artwork to your bedroom.
Style your nightstand
Of course, nightstands need to be functional, with plenty of storage and some surface space to set down your book, reading glasses, and a cup of water. But they can also be pretty.
Make it functional, but pretty
If you use a plethora of items each night like I do (chapstick, melatonin, eye drops, etc.) either corral them in a tray or bowl atop your bedside table or place them within easy reach in the top drawer.
Add flowers or plants/life
Regardless of what else you have on your nightstands, adding some flowers or greenery (faux or real) adds life and organic shape to your room. Put them in a pretty vase, pitcher, or pot and you’ve got additional texture too.
Bonus Tip: Cozy Up by a Fire…or Pretend to
There is something so very cozy about a fireplace in a bedroom.
This house didn’t have a fireplace up here like it does in the living room directly below it. But we did have the electric fireplace from our last house and our master bedroom is the perfect spot for it.
It’s a lovely spot to style the mantel and the electric heater comes in handy in the middle of winter, since this is the coldest room in the house then. Even just the glow of the electric fire insert is beautiful.
Small bedroom ideas
While our current master bedroom is definitely not small, we have had some tiny bedrooms in the past. One bedroom we had for example back when I was in college, was only large enough for a DOUBLE bed shoved against the wall and ONE nightstand. Another barely fit our queen bed with no dressers. So we understand the dilemma of small bedrooms!
Here are a few ideas to make a small bedroom feel larger and maximize your bedroom space.
Use multifunctional furniture
Try storage benches or ottomans, and nightstands with drawers (you can always tuck clothes into those bedside drawers if you’re tight on space) to make the most of your bedroom storage.
If you can swing it with the type of bed frame you have, try to make use of the space under your bed with underbed storage baskets or bins.
Utilize all awkward corners for storage
If you’ve got awkward corners in your bedroom that don’t fit a dresser or bed, use those spaces for storing things like books, out-of-season clothing, or exercise equipment.
In small bedrooms, floor space is at a premium, so try to think up for your storage needs. Use wall-mounted lighting like sconces with adjustable arms. Affix a shelf to the wall instead of using a full-sized nightstand if you’ve got little space. Hang your mirror instead of using a floor mirror.
Try to think outside the box for ways to use your walls versus your floor space.
You can also use the old trick of strategically placing mirrors to make your small bedroom feel larger. Mirrors bounce the light around and add the visual illusion that the space goes on and on in the reflections.
Which color is best for a small bedroom?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to color in small spaces:
- One says to paint a light and bright color to make the room feel larger (light spaces bounce the light around more, making a space appear larger).
- The other says to paint the space whatever you like – even a dark color.
In the case of a small bedroom, I’m in the paint it whatever you like to camp.
Unless your bedroom is also your home office and you need it to feel bigger during the daytime hours, it will be much cozier if you paint it a color that you love – even if that’s a dark color.