San Luis Obispo interior designer reveals the art of bedroom design

Lisa Marlow offers options for your boudoir — a space she defines as one of the most important in the house

Special to The TribuneJune 20, 2012 


    LOOK UP: You spend a lot of time looking at the bedroom ceiling, so pay attention to ceiling treatments. Try painting it a different color — a darker hue to cozy up a high ceiling, or a lighter one to make the room feel larger. Ceiling beams, wood paneling and wallpaper also add interest. Crown moldings add another dimension to the room and create a distinct border between the wall and ceiling treatments.

    LUXE LINENS: Good quality bedding isn’t a luxury — it can help you get a better night’s sleep. Go for 100 percent cotton and at least a 280-thread count. To make your sheets last longer, don’t over-dry them, which can cause filaments to break down and pill. Remove sheets from the dryer when slightly damp and either iron them or hang them up to dry.

    KNOW YOUR FABRICS: Fabrics, such as bedding, pillows, window coverings and upholstery, help set the mood in a room. Fabrics that are solid colored, toneon-tone, or have simple patterns offer a cleaner, contemporary feel. Traditional rooms generally have fabrics with more colors as well as a mix of patterns. Patterns in fabrics and wallpaper can also make a room feel cozier and more enveloping

  • Editor's note: This monthly feature focuses on local interior designers and their ideas for choosing color schemes, furniture, art and an overall design style or scheme. Today we focus on Lisa Marlow, who has over 33 years of experience in design and fine art. Marlow Interiors, which she founded in 1991, is a full-service design firm specializing in commercial, hospitality and residential projects.

Bedrooms tend to be neglected spaces, passed over in favor of higher-profile areas like living rooms and kitchens. But local interior designer Lisa Marlow believes they deserve more attention.

“Really, it’s one of the most important spaces of the house,” she said. “It’s a place where we can rejuvenate and pull energy back into our bodies.”

She suggests thinking of the master bedroom as a personal spa retreat. This might mean different things to different people; some might want a restful space, while others crave stimulation.

If you’re not sure what direction to take, Marlow suggests beginning with a “special emotional piece” such as an heirloom quilt, an especially cozy bed or a favorite piece of art.

You can build around that piece and use it for color inspiration. Soft, neutral colors in a monochromatic scheme can be a welcome break from visual stimuli. Spa-like hues, such as watery blues and greens, are soothing. Pure, vibrant colors like sundrop yellow, tiffany blue and pure red are energizing and may spark creativity.

When selecting furniture, Marlow believes that the bed should be the first consideration. Find a bed frame that is a comfortable height to get in and out of. Choose a high quality, comfortable mattress in a size that fits both the sleeper and the room.

“People think they have to get a Cal King for the master bedroom, but if you’re one person, or two small people who like to cuddle, a queen might be a better option and won’t take over the room,” she said.

Marlow’s rule of thumb is to ensure there are at least three feet around each side of the bed to make it easy to walk around and make the bed.

A nightstand is the second piece to consider. It should be easy to reach from the bed. Marlow usually selects one that is level with the mattress or slightly higher.

The type of nightstand depends on your needs. For instance, if you read a lot, drawers allow you to stash books and magazines out of sight. If you have a small bedroom, a low dresser can double as a nightstand. And if you have two nightstands, they don’t necessarily have to match.

“I do recommend that they are the same height, so that the visual line is the same — especially if you have lamps on them,” she said.

Marlow is a big proponent of good seating in the bedroom. She usually likes to have something at the foot of the bed such as a trunk or bench that doubles as a place to store extra blankets. If you have the space, a comfortable chair and small table, or a small desk, can be a private spot to enjoy your morning coffee and newspaper, or escape with your laptop to catch up on emails.

The rest is all about setting a mood. If you are going for serene, try to stash as much clutter as possible out of sight. This might mean keeping clothes and accessories in the closet, rather than in dressers that can be clutter magnets. It might also involve concealing the television in an armoire or cabinet, or banishing it from the bedroom altogether.

If it’s romance you’re after, lighting is key. She suggests installing a dimmer switch for the primary light source, and including some form of mood-enhancing light. This could be a fireplace, a chandelier, or a cluster of candles reflected in a mirror.

Outfitting a stunning bedroom retreat doesn’t have to be costly. Marlow, who isn't big on matching bedroom sets, likes to source furniture from many places. She has purchased old night stands at yard sales and painted them so that they coordinate. She has created headboards from salvaged architectural pieces such as old doors mounted sideways. She has made cozy throws from old clothing, and lamps from many improbable items, including her old junior high school flute.

Art doesn’t have to be pricey either. Marlow likes to put family portraits or photos of favorite places in vintage frames. She also likes to dress up walls with three-dimensional accents such as old architectural elements, pressed flowers between glass or framed pieces of old lace.

“It brings a very nostalgic and romantic feel to a very personal space,” she said. “The best accessories are ones that are close to the heart.”

Marlow Interiors has a store and gallery at 1043 Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo. It is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays and Tuesdays by appointment. Call 594-1877 for the store or 237-9195 for the office.

Reach Rebecca Juretic at

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