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Neale Whitaker on creating the perfect bedroom sanctuary

05 Jul 2021 |  by Neale Whitaker

Neale photographed by Richard Sawyer

Even as a kid, I understood that bedrooms have a special purpose. As I entered my teens, my parents allowed me to design my own bedroom – even down to the wallpaper and carpet – which gave full rein to adolescent creativity. Purple rein, as it turns out, my favourite colour at the time. Seen through today’s lens, that bedroom would be a perfect 70s time capsule, but to me it was a place to sleep, read, listen to music, study, think and dream.

Almost half a century on, tastes and styles may have changed (ensuites were only for rock stars and royalty in the 70s) but our need for a bedroom to be a place of sanctuary, a private and personal world, has never been so important or relevant. And what my teenage self would have given for the bedroom desks and reading nooks I now judge on The Block - although I would never have filled a walk-in wardrobe with my flared jeans and cheesecloth shirts.


Serenade Soft Bed in Positano Silver.

Bring luxury to the bedroom

The popularity of home renovation shows – especially here in Australia – has undoubtedly raised our personal design bars, but I believe there’s another important reason why bedrooms are so important to us. Travel. An unfamiliar word perhaps in these current COVID times, but travel – and our easy familiarity with hotel accommodation – has encouraged us in recent years to replicate levels of luxury we experience on vacation. And why not? Given that few of us are travelling anywhere for the foreseeable future, what better time than now to create our own personal hotel suites on our doorstep.

Uno Ottoman in Mokum Mackenzie Green.

The master bedroom at our home on the NSW south coast has – in no particular order of priority - white timber floors, rugs, sheer curtains that allow daytime views across the paddock and star-studded night skies, sage green walls, VJ panelling, built-in wardrobes and an ensuite. Add some heirloom furniture pieces, artworks, a King Uno Ottoman and generous bedside lamps, and we have a master that is our idea of perfection. Not to mention the best night’s sleep we have ever enjoyed thanks to our King Serenade Soft Storage Bed and Sleep+ Mattress, possibly the most luxurious bedroom combo you will experience outside of a five-star hotel. When four dogs jostle to sleep on the bedcovers each night, you know you’re doing something right. Having said that, we’re also admiring from afar the sleek lines of the Bellaire Bed and the irresistibly curvaceous Fleur Ottoman.


Bellaire Bed in Positano Sago Fabric and Prestige Silk Leather.

Balancing comfort and style

Above all, the bedroom is a place for sleeping. These days, we’re all familiar with the fact that we spend one-third of our lives asleep. That’s a lot of bedroom time. For me, the perfect bedroom is less about size and more about the ratio of comfort to function and style. I’m the last person to suggest that all bedrooms should be created equal but, in Australia, the average master bedroom is around 4 x 4m, with additional bedrooms at around 3 x 3m. There are - of course - infinite variations, but it’s important to choose a bed that fits the space comfortably, allowing for wardrobe doors to open and bedside tables and lamps to be accommodated. Nothing will make a bedroom feel less like a sanctuary than a tight squeeze.


Bring the light

Light and soundproofing are important considerations too. I’ve seen bedrooms lacking in natural light transformed by the addition of skylights, but I’ve also seen beautiful bedrooms rendered unusable by their proximity to the street or other external sources of noise.

And don’t forget bedside lighting – it’s one of those sweet spots where task and mood lighting overlap. Whether you opt for pendants, wall sconces or (my favourite) lamps, make sure what you’ve chosen does the job you need them to do. That’s usually reading.


Pallino Table Lamp in Enamel White.


Once you’ve established the basics, think about the functionality – if a walk-in wardrobe isn’t an option, do you at least have space for drawers, cupboards or fitted wardrobes? The King storage beds like Jasper, Promenade and our Serenade are great solutions.


Jasper Bed in Whiteley Riverstone.


Rugs underfoot

There’s no doubt pure wool carpet is a lovely luxury in the bedroom but if – like me – carpet’s not your style, then think about layering rugs on hard floors for comfort and aesthetics. I’m a firm believer in neutral rugs (Marquina and Casablanca from the King Rug Collection are my current favourites) as they allow you to play with colour, texture and detail elsewhere in the bedroom. Whether you’re positioning the rugs at the foot of the bed or to the side, always go for the most generous size possible. Small rugs will make your bedroom look small, regardless of its dimensions.


Casablanca Rug in Slate.


Finishing details

Bed throws are deeply personal. I like mine folded and neatly draped at the foot of the bed. Not so much thrown as placed.

And finally, that hoary old chestnut – how many cushions? That’s personal too, but if removing them to get into bed at the end of the day is a chore, then that’s too many. It’s as simple as that. I like to see larger Euro cushions with square, rectangular and circular cushions in a mix of sizes, shades, textures and patterns. But no purple. I grew out of that.


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