From bedroom to sanctuary

Turn your bedroom into the haven of your dreams with this easy eco makeover

Glass bottles and wire baskets from Father Rabbit; necklaces from Victorian Gilt, jugs, stylist’s own

The bedroom is where we spend the majority of our at-home hours. Granted, we’re probably sleeping for much of that time, but it’s still important that your bedroom environment is healthy and welcoming. Renovate in a smart way, and you can make the most of what you already have while improving any shortcomings.

Maximise privacy and security

Privacy is paramount for a bedroom. Consider the view into your bedroom from the hall – particularly if you have family or flatmates. Experiment with different configurations, suggests stylist Sarah James. “Try orienting your bed so it’s shielded from those passing by the door or incorporate a freestanding dressing screen into the layout to add a bit of drama and provide additional privacy.”

Window treatments can shield you from those looking in at night, while also blocking light and reducing noise. But during the day you need privacy and light, so install a sheer second layer of curtaining. Choose natural fibres such as organic cotton, hemp, linen and jute for your drapes – try local suppliers Bolt of Cloth or Hemptech for eco-friendly fabrics. Stay away from any plastic thermal or blackout lining that might emit VOCs, particularly when heated by the sun. A woven blackout lining is a better option to block natural light, but you’ll also need to include an insulating layer of ‘bumf’ (polyester or wool batting) between the curtain and the lining if you choose a lightweight curtain fabric. Find bumf at stores such as Martha’s Furnishing Fabrics. Take your drapes right down to the floor to maximise heat retention.

Ensure warmth and good ventilation

A damp, draughty bedroom is neither inviting nor healthy, so make insulation and ventilation priorities. Insulating your ceiling, floor and walls will significantly reduce energy loss – go for the highest R rating you can afford. But heat will still escape through your windows so drapes are a must. Bedrooms, particularly south-facing ones, are ideal candidates for double glazing, which cuts both heat loss and external noise. Choose low-emissivity glass with argon gas between the panes or magnetic acrylic sheets from companies such as Magic Seal on your windows as a cheaper option. Draught seal tape is another cost effective way to improve draughty windows.

Mould and mildew are all too common in Kiwi homes, and they exacerbate respiratory problems. Keeping your living environment warm, dry and well ventilated makes it harder for mould to survive. Throw open your windows on fine days and let the air circulate through your bedroom. A built-in ventilation system will remove moisture and dust, or place a dehumidifier in your room as a temporary option if you’re renting. Other simple ways to improve airflow, reduce dust and make cleaning easier are to minimise the furniture in your room and close in open shelving. 

Frida Kahlo canvas from Bolt of Cloth; birdcage from Father Rabbit; sacred heart wall hanging from Romantique; Ecoya candles

Up the comfort factor

If you’re considering changing your bedside tables, tallboys or free-standing wardrobes, look for eco-bamboo or sustainably sourced solid wood options. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on any wooden products you buy – this assures the wood was harvested from sustainably managed forests. Brand new, mass produced furniture might look great but if it’s made with MDF, laminates or other synthetic materials it may be off-gassing harmful fumes. (One clue something’s giving off VOCs is that ‘new car smell’).

On the floor, go for low-VOC varnishes or choose pure wool carpets, which provide warmth and trap less dust, making them better for asthmatics.

If you’re upgrading a lumpy old mattress, consider a healthier option made with natural latex or wool – try Kiwi companies such as Futon Ya San Organics, Design Mobel or Innature. While you’re at it, you might also invest in some dustmite barrier covers for your mattress and pillows. Woollen blankets and high thread-count sheets in natural, breathable fibres such as organic cotton are best. Vintage woollen blankets can be found inexpensively on TradeMe in a whole rainbow of retro colours. While you’re at it, ditch your polyester-filled pillow and upgrade to an eco-friendly option such as natural latex, hemp, or Ingeo (a biodegradable and hypoallergenic fibre made from corn) – also available from the mattress companies listed above.

Create a calming space

Eliminate anything in your bedroom that causes you stress and/or reminds you of work (this includes your computer, filing, bills, general clutter and unfolded washing). Reading a book last thing at night can help to calm the nerves by eliminating excessive sound and vision stimulus. But not so the telly – which many sleep experts recommend should be banned from the bedroom. Not only does it kill romance, but watching a flickering screen before you nod off isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep. Gazing at the glare of a laptop screen is also less than ideal. One alternative is to switch to an e-book reader in the evening as they’re not backlit.

Concerned about the tangle of plugs and electrical wires under or around your bed and their possible negative effect on the quality of your sleep? Studies into the effects of electromagnetic fields are inconclusive, but since EMFs only exist when appliances are switched on, you can eliminate any potential risks by switching off any appliances at the wall before hitting the hay. It’s certainly worth doing with gadgets such as mobile phone chargers and electric blankets.

While you’re removing extraneous items, don’t forget to clear out the space beneath your bed. Having objects piled up on the floor is considered bad feng shui, plus it makes vacuuming difficult and that accumulated dust isn’t good for general air-quality – not to mention allergy- or asthma-sufferers.

When it comes to mood (and your power bill), your choice of lighting is also important. Recessed downlights are inefficient and make insulating your ceiling difficult to achieve. Instead, go for wall-mounted lights for a soft glow to help you prepare for sleep or romance; or pendant light fittings with a dimmer to minimise energy use. New energy-saving halogens and compact fluorescents are compatible with dimmers.

Glass bottles from Father Rabbit; Italian light fitting salvaged from local inorganic collection

Personalise your haven

A fresh coat of paint is a simple and cost-effective way to inject greater serenity into a dull bedroom scheme. If you do repaint, choose low-VOC paints with the Environmental Choice tick. The best wall covering materials are textiles, plant fibres and recycled polyester, which don’t give off VOCs.

Don’t go for a colour scheme that’s too distracting, suggests stylist Sarah James. “A base palette of calming neutral tones allows you to introduce bolder hues through your accessories and bed linen and even create seasonal décor for summer and winter.”

While decluttering is desirable, don’t go too minimal or your bedroom will start to resemble a hotel room. Add personal touches with framed photos, favourite artworks and a few beautifully displayed mementos.

Vintage necklaces and lace shawl from Victorian Gilt

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