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Lea’s Calm Midwest Cali-Inspired Bedroom Makeover (DIY Dressing Area Included)

We did a thing. We redecorated our primary bedroom and I’m not at all mad about it. But to be fair, I can’t deny I loved our prior bedroom design. In fact, WE loved it. It was vintage and collected and so warm. So perhaps I should warn all of my vintage lovers that you may just cringe a bit at this post and TRUST me I processed the new vision for over two years before officially making up the decision to move forward. Granted the two years were during the pandemic and a lot of things changed during that time…

So what sparked the change or desire to change? I think it was everything my husband and I were feeling and processing during and around the pandemic timeframe and our near-relocation to LA (we have tabled the latter for now). I think we were both feeling heavy, the world was feeling heavy after countless attacks on people of color, everything in the news, the pandemic, social distancing, the mask-wearing, vaccine debates, adjusting to 4 people at home constantly, etc., etc. It was a LOT. I’m sure we all came out on the other side differently. I know we did.

A long time ago, someone once told me to make sure to make our primary bedroom our priority before our children’s rooms or any other space in our home. I thought to myself, are you nuts? I would absolutely move mountains to ensure my children’s rooms were “perfect” before my own. As a 40-something-year-old, I now get it. It’s like when flight attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before your child or anyone else. Basically, if you’re no good, you’re no good to the person next to you. And our bedrooms are where we seek refuge at the end of a long day, a place we dream, pray, share intimacy, recharge, a place we spend a lot of our lives in (even if we’re not awake), and a place where most of us can quietly lay our heads down at the end of the day and let out a sigh of relief. And it’s where we rise the next day ready to take on the world all over again. “I love to go to sleep and wake up in a chaotic, not-so-feel-good space every day”, said no one ever. So as I grew, I learned from that advice passed down to me many, many years prior to make our bedroom a priority. And then the world changed and what we needed also changed. 

After basically semi-living in LA for almost two years, when we came back home to the midwest, our bedroom felt less and less like a sanctuary. Maybe I should also preface this need for change due to my seasonal depression (that I self-diagnosed myself with) which seems to get worse as I get older. I mean 7 months of winter is a bit much for anyone. 

We needed change, we craved CALM, we missed the west coast and we needed a space that felt lighter and sort of like a retreat especially once the winter months start to roll around.

I tackled this concept by first taking inspiration from our then home-away-from-home:

Then I started pulling our product board together:

At first glance, our original bedroom was pretty and functional but change is good and since we (my husband and I) evolved, so did our bedroom. This desire for a change happened to align with a brand that wanted to partner with me for our bedroom.


Remember the multi-generational living room makeover project? Well, I partnered with Slumberland Furniture again but this time, for my own project, and this time we needed a mattress. I fell in love with this one by Stearns and Foster.

Additionally,  Slumberland asked if we were interested in a bed frame too, and I really wanted a more clean-lined upholstered bed because dusting between the spindles on our old bedframe every week for the past 15 years was not enjoyable. However, not just any ol’ upholstered bed frame would do, so I sat on the fence for a moment until I found this one that also had hidden storage in the frame. While this isn’t new, I hadn’t seen versions where the hidden storage drawer is pulled out from the foot of the bed (typically, it’s from the side of the bed or the bed itself lifts to reveal storage underneath) which for us, was exactly where I needed it to be placed. And who doesn’t love added storage, especially when it’s hidden in plain sight? This has now become a functional place where we store all of our bed linens (which simultaneously freed up a lot of closet space). 

Upholstered Bed frame     

I’m really into scalable design and design that is easily or readily attainable. Most designers would probably cringe or give me the side-eye but I’m not a designer. I’m a stylist and as a stylist, my brain works differently and for me, that’s ok because tossing out “rules” is a favorite pastime of mine.

Ceiling Fixture | Hat (right) | Area Rug (similar) | Upholstered Bed

I’ll also be the first to admit I hate making the bed, but having this type of bed frame makes it so much easier because everything just tucks into the sides. No more lifting the mattress to tuck linens underneath and so on. Listen, I had to get up and make my bed every day while growing up in my parent’s house and it left me with this type of PTSD from bed making. So if a frame makes it that much easier then I’m all for it. Now, do I make our bed every day? Nope. But at least after the linens are washed it’s made again. Also, it’s a peeve of my husband’s when the bed isn’t made, and he’ll even one-up me on the pettiness meter and only makes his side of the bed. We may have had a lot of arguments over that. That’s 27 years of living together folks. 

Ok, I digress, back to the bedroom makeover – With the bed being used as our jump-off point, the rest of the room started to unfold and our vintage dressers no longer gave the same energy we needed them to and so we searched for a more clean-lined, white oak piece like this.

Dresser | Lamp (similar) | Art (similar) | Vessel (vintage) | Surfboard (vintage)

Side Table | Dresser | Vase

I then DIY-ed a little storage situation for myself as I am the one who gravitates more towards capsule wardrobes than my husband does and who also has now taken over the entire walk-in closet for himself. See, you give them an inch and they take a mile.

Using very simple closet system pieces from the Home Depot, I carved out a small dressing space for me, utilizing that odd and previously wasted space under the ceiling eave (good thing I’m only 5’3”).

Sneakers | Trench Coat (vintage) | Shelf | Wall Brackets | Dowel | Hangers

Ouai Perfume | LeLabo Perfume | Gucci Guilty Perfume | Vase     

Adding this gorgeous table to act as my dressing table helped also finish this little corner.

Now that I have been kicked out of what was OUR walk-in closet, I needed a bit more storage than this nook provides. Now that we had our hidden drawer at the end of our bed, having something like a trunk at the foot for added storage wasn’t going to work. So instead, I looked for a sideboard that was low enough not to block our windows and long enough to fit proportionally in front of said windows.

Storage Cabinet | Dresser | Rug | Table Lamp

The cabinet doesn’t block the window and it is narrow enough to be pulled away from the wall far enough so that we can easily open and close the window drapery.

It also acts as another surface I can display a few of my favorite things like candles and incense because falling asleep after lighting incense while playing my favorite Lo-Fi music playlist on Google Home is a vibe.

Felt Tray Set | Wavy Wood Tray

HOT TIP: Displaying a few favorite accessories or go-to articles of clothing makes getting dressed feel more like you’re in a boutique than throwing clothes on from your closet (unless your closet looks like Carrie Bradshaw’s). 

Side note: The real “particular” side of me comes out here as I sanitize my shoes and soles before I place them back into their boxes so that when I take them back out, they feel fresh to me again and they don’t have street residue from the last time they were worn. This also comes from the same person who refuses to make the bed. Virgo on that if you will.

Alright, I’ve talked about storage solutions here so let’s move on to something that there may be a hot debate going on about. Do nightstands need to have storage?

Side Table | Lamp | Stash Pot | Sonora Hat

We went from nightstands with storage to nightstands that have NO storage. That didn’t go over well with my husband but I snuck them in any way and asked that he try to embrace that change by dedicating one of his dresser drawers to his bedtime necessities instead. I mean, especially since he took over the entire walk-in closet, he really shouldn’t need so many dresser drawers anymore, am I right? Also, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Remember that. Ha.

Clearly, Remi doesn’t mind the lack of bedside storage. And for those wondering, we did not hard wire these vintage Moroccan sconces yet (because future project Lea plans to plaster/paint these walls – in photography editing, they appear bright white but in real life they’re a warmer white than a cool one). Instead, they have puck lights (the kind from Amazon) inside that I use with a remote to turn on and off.

Awww…only a face a mother could love.

Macrame Wall Hanging | Blanket Ladder | Blanket | Dresser

Alright another shocker, and the reason I have never shared my husband’s side of the room on Instagram before is because there was a massive TV on his dresser that absolutely bothered me for the past 26 years of living together. But if I’m being kicked out of the walk-in closet then I need a little give and take here. Boom. No more TV.

Don’t worry folks, he got me back by utilizing this blanket ladder to hold all of his clothes from the end of the day – insert my not impressed face. Also, I really want to introduce you to The Nopo, if you don’t already know about it. Please do yourselves and our planet a service and check out their curated collections of handmade, fair-trade works from artisans and makers all over the world who geographically may not otherwise have the opportunity to sell their goods to the rest of the world. I mean, this wall hanging seriously took my breath away.

Dresser | Wall Hanging | Chair | Leather Vase

If you have a partner like mine, who refuses to put their clothes away and instead likes to pile them up on every surface until said pile topples over, you get them a chair. That way, when said pile of clothing topples over to the floor they can sit down comfortably and refold all of their clothes. 

While all of the big furniture pieces here are new, and coming from a previously all vintage space, I mixed in vintage pieces, found pieces, or pieces that I felt were visually stimulating in a restful way to keep the makeover from feeling like a showroom floor display. Like that vintage horse head watercolor that I don’t think I will ever part with. It reminds my daughter of the training pony we “leased” for her to learn how to ride English for years while she grew up and who sadly passed away after over 30+ years of life. Horses will always hold a special place in my heart.

The vintage brass wall sconces may be one of the things I go back running into a burning building to save.

Why the hats on the wall over the bed? Why not? One, I love their texture, and two, I seem to have amassed quite the hat collection going back and forth to CA.

We are loving this room and the new vibe it’s giving us. I do wish we would’ve taken this shot with the storage ottoman that has now arrived, but this room will likely continue to evolve or at least grow new layers like our future plans to texture the walls. It was hard to let go of our vintage-style bedroom but none of us are static and so why should our homes be? As a stylist, I truly gravitate towards scalable design because my eye is always evolving and being drawn in all directions, while the creative side of my brain continues to need to create. We just won’t tear the house up overdoing it.


*Design by Lea Johnson
***Photos by Sage E Imagery


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42 thoughts on “Lea’s Calm Midwest Cali-Inspired Bedroom Makeover (DIY Dressing Area Included)

  1. Wonderful! I would love getting ready with a dressing table that has all that beauty on it. Well done & I love your writing.

  2. Could you explain what you mean by scalable design? As a non native speaker I didn’t understand what you meant by it.

      1. I think she means that it could be replicated or easily done by someone who wanted to do a similar look. One of the challenges is that with design we get a bit obsessed with everything being unique.

    1. I should have defined that, I am sorry – I mean that it’s design that is typically ready-made, easily attainable while being buildable so that you can build upon and layer the pieces easily. Still pretty and functional but not made to be exclusive.

  3. I really like all the different textures, so interesting.
    My personal preference is the before, however, I get the need for change and boy, you’ve done it well.
    Love the chunky side table!

    This has been ‘chewed over’ before here at EHD, “PTSD from bed making”?? 🥴
    Please, be mindful that some people ACTUALLY suffer ftom REAL PTSD and it’s insensitive to casually use it for effect, based on disliking having to make your bed as you grew up, or other annoyances.

    You’ve created such a calm, restful and rejuvenating space for you and your husband to rest and recharge!
    Bummer you got squeezed out of the closet, but yaaay that you booted the TV out of the bedroom! 😊
    Nice work, Lea.

    1. Rusty, I am so sorry for using the term PTSD in a careless way. Thank you SO very much for educating me and how insensitive that can be. Thank you.

  4. I love this bedroom – it’s both calming and personalized which is sometimes hard to do! I see several ideas I’d like to implement. What type of hooks or hangers did you use to arrange the hats on the wall?

    1. Thank you Emily! I haven’t found hooks yet so they’re just on nails. Ha! I was reluctant to hang too many things until we plaster/paint.

  5. Beautiful space! I want those nightstands but also could not go without storage.
    Next please give us a post about the capsule wordrobe 🙂

    1. Thank you Jade! I don’t know that I am a REAL capsule wardrobe person but I am learning to lean more into it for sure! It also makes selecting an outfit very easy.

  6. It looks great, Lea! Loving all the textures and variations in materials. It looks like such a calming retreat.
    Would you mind sharing the product information on the “Product Moodboard” for the paper shade and wood base floor lamp? It’s so cool and sculptural! I want one! 😆

  7. Beautiful space! I’m wondering if you could describe the color of the bed frame better, it looks somewhere between grey and earthy brown in the photos so I can’t tell what the true color is. We are also looking for a storage bed with foot storage. 🙂

    1. Totally with you, Andrea! I took a peek at it on the store’s website and there it is called “dolphin,” which is…not whatsoever helpful and I can’t imagine is particularly accurate, either? Ha! Really wish retailers would name their colours with the precision of, say, a beauty item (although goodness knows those can be equally ridiculous).
      I can’t say the room is quite my taste, but I always love reading your voice, Lea!

    2. Hi Andrea and Terra! Thank you very, very much! It is a dark gray, not charcoal dark but more like a medium gray with some warm tones underneath. Like Dim Gray. Totally not the color of a dolphin. The storage is one of my most favorite parts! I love having a dedicated space for all the bed linens.

  8. Okay, I checked and then DOUBLE-Checked but didn’t see…. where are the coverlet and sheets from? Beautiful texture and such an autumnal mood!

    1. Ha! I knew that would be a hot topic! Can you believe my previous bed tables with storage were empty? (On my side anyway).

    1. Hi KT and Susanne, they are all from Parachute except the throw at the end of the bed I picked up in L.A. during my last visit.

  9. wow. it’s a lot of styling. those hats are great but it doesn’t seem like a minimal – calming aspect to me, at least.

    1. I should have hyphened the title to be a semi-reveal – or work in progress – this is the first pass but we have a LOT of work in here to still do such as the plaster/paint walls. Some of the photos didn’t make me feel like it was calm either. Ha.

  10. I wish you could have found a spot for that wonderful vintage horse picture. He looks very calming and full of character!

  11. Whoops I just spotted him in the dressing room but do think a little more vintage would add to the room vibe.

    1. We”ll hang more after we plaster/paint but for now he’s resting until I can find the right spot for him which is likely propping him back on top of the dresser instead of that line art that is there. He is a very special piece for sure.

    1. Thank you VERY much Kate! This space still needs some work but with the wall texture and color change I think that will be my next jump-off point of how this space evolves next.

  12. I live for these posts! It’s why I suffer through the frequent disappointment of checking this blog to find all too many shopping posts and articles on what Emily is wearing/selling sitting waiting. Worth it!
    Your room is really, really beautiful!
    I’m not sure why the apologetic tone at the beginning. No one should live like Miss Haversham and never change a thing and sometimes a change and a refresh is the main thing we need.
    And, ahem, this is an interior design blog (primarily) after all, so we’re all here because we like playing with our houses!!
    Love, love the new room! Awesome 😎

    1. Sally, thank you. I think I struggled a lot with this refresh because I LOVED how our room sat before (which we likely will recreate it in the guest room if I can ever get that space cleared out of storage). I don’t like to change a whole space upside down which is what it felt like I was doing and disregarding our once beloved pieces for all new. It felt very conflicting personally. BUT as mentioned we needed change and things that were in here started really setting the tone in a way I didn’t want to feel, they made me feel heavy. And what I didn’t go into there were reminders of my dad in here previously (he passed last year) and I needed to put those reminders aside for now. Thank you for understanding that, I almost didn’t write this post because I was VERY afraid of the backlash for seemingly wastefulness. This room will no doubt evolve more through layering and I’ll do a follow-up post to share where we landed. Thank you.

  13. Hi. I was wondering where your window treatments are from. I am having such difficultly finding some. The ones you have are just what I am looking for.

  14. I love how this all comes together, it looks so great! Lea can you share where the tiny little stone cairn on one of the nightstands is from, I love it! Thank you!

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