It definitely goes without saying at this point… but 2020. Phew. The last year has been tough for just about all of us. And for me personally–a Black and gay man living with challenging anxiety in today’s America–things have been difficult in particularly nuanced ways. But! It’s a new year! And while we’re still feeling a lot of lingering DRAMA, the new year presents a great opportunity to reflect and shift focus (while remaining socially responsible as long as it’s appropriate).
Throughout my life, design has both mitigated and underscored my anxiety. On one hand, there is something wildly therapeutic about the design process. Problem-solving, backward thinking, hands-on production, and satisfying results all lend themselves well to positive and productive trains of thought. On the other hand (and very ironically, in my case), being a design thinker tends to cultivate seemingly endless possibilities, which happens to be one of the overarching features of my anxiety. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been drawn to design…? At any rate, during quarantine, I’ve made it a priority to give greater voice to the former. Renovating my home–currently my main bedroom–has become a source of calm through the process of designing/crafting it, the intent of creating a space that helps me establish a routine, and as a reflection of some of the anxiety that I’ve confronted and largely overcome over the last year.
Process and Production
Over time and through a lot of introspection (particularly during this crazy era of more-than-usual alone time), I’ve learned that my anxiety grows exponentially if not directed into some positive action. Idle hands are the devil’s playground! Consequently, I paint a lot of doors. I shine a lot of hardware. I stare blankly into rooms and let my overactive mind run wild in productive directions instead of letting it ruminate over negative thoughts (for both myself and clients), and now I’m setting my sights on my primary bedroom.
Here’s what I am starting with:
This, by far, is the biggest bedroom I’ve ever had the privilege of having to myself. It’s the perfect space to establish distinct zones in, and if you read my deck series, you’ll know how much I appreciate good zonage. I love the little alcove where you see the bed frame above (fun fact: I haven’t owned a headboard my entire adult life, mostly because I’m all about interesting DIY headboard solutions…I’m also all about foreshadowing ;)). The room gets the BEST natural light in the afternoons/evenings, and I have some great window treatment ideas for the window wall!
I have a graphic design background, and I’ve always drawn inspiration from the intersection of graphic design and interior design (continually learning about environmental graphic design has always been a passion of mine). Along that vein, I’ve looked to hospitality design as a main source of inspiration for this project. My goal is to create a space that is soothing, handsome, and genuinely feels like a staycation every day and night. A space that is on-trend, but not trendy. Classic, but not stuffy. Traditional, but unique. Will this be a study in oxymorons? Probably. But I’m up for the challenge. Let’s dive into some inspiration:
The idea of a “no-headboard” headboard has sent me on a WILD DIY journey that I am veeerrryyyy excited to share with you. Interested in a dedicated article about it? Let me know!
I’ve found that establishing a consistent routine has been a crucial way for me to keep my anxiety at bay–the biggest of which is my nightly “pre-bed” routine. One could argue that I spend…entirely too much time…getting ready for bed, but it’s my favorite part of the day! I’m unashamed! I pick out my clothes for the next day, iron them, and gingerly put them on display so that they’re ready for me in the morning (that’s all step one. Step two involves a lot of grooming products that I recommended in my holiday gift guide, which I recommend checking out. It’s good year-round!). As such, redesigning this closet to be conducive to my lifestyle has become my NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IN LIFE.
The previous homeowners built this contraption inside the existing closet. Hey, if it worked for them, it worked for them. No judgment, as One Direction’s Niall Horan famously sings. For me, though, there is a TON of wasted space on either side of the closet, and there is a real opportunity to create a showstopper that’ll make my nights end better, and my days start better.
Here is the general concept for the exterior of the closet, which I conceptualized back in March 2020 before I even moved into this house:
And here is the inspiration that sparked this journey. I mean. What more could you ask for?
I’m being VERY mindful about balance in this bedroom. A balanced design will help to underscore and reinforce a balanced daily mindset. I asked Emily for some advice about the balance of the space, and she had some SUPER helpful feedback that helped me refine my plans:
From Emily: “I would make sure to choose a black that has an undertone that is interesting to give it some movement. I.e. blue or green (still black, but not stark black. It seems the one you are inspired by has some blue in it as well). Could you do window treatments in a tone? Even a grey? I think the wood will help but yeah, I understand your concern about the balance and I totally agree. I think one of the reasons it works in your inspo picture is because the whole room is dark, not just the closets so it feels seamless. I think finding some inspiration photos of a closet that is really dark when the rest of the room is light will help you make that decision. I just fear that if the closet is black and the rest of the room is light that the closet is all you’ll see visually.”
As expected, she had great feedback! The closet doors will be very saturated, so I’ll make sure to mirror their blackness with dark window treatments on the opposite side of the room, while introducing lighter elements (natural wood tones and metallic accents) throughout the space to create a nicely balanced symphony of saturations (I won’t lie…I’m very proud of the alliteration there. “Symphony of Saturations” might be the name of my eventual memoir).
While this closet system isn’t black, this space is great study in how color consistency makes the oversized closet feel seamlessly incorporated with the rest of the room.
Here, black lighting accents and black-and-white photography help to make the dark built-ins feel fully intentional. I’ll be writing a dedicated article about this closet remodel that will include some fun, easy, and inexpensive DIY solutions for a reach-in closet! Stay tuned! I’m excited!
Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, it’ll be important for me to establish zones in this space to underscore and emphasize routine-building behaviors. The closet in and of itself will be a dedicated zone in which I start and end my days, but I’m also planning to establish a little seating area (for journaling! I’ve only recently gotten into journaling and it is quite possibly the most therapeutic way that I’ve found to mitigate my anxiety), and a sumptuous space for my bed (duh). Here is the general layout that I’m planning…but I do have one question for you. Should the bed be centered on the overall width of the room, or be centered within the bed alcove? See below for a look at an overhead view of both options.
I’m leaning toward centering the bed on the overall wall (and not the alcove) because it feels more symmetrical overall, and allows for plenty of space to navigate the closet area, but I do see the appeal in centering it within its nook. What do you think?
Focusing on Small (But Impactful) Details
“They” say that one of the most powerful ways to feel emotionally and mentally strong is by practicing gratitude, but I don’t think that I realized the true power of gratitude until this last year. I’m grateful for this home. I’m grateful for my amazing family and friends. I’m grateful for my health, and for having a reliable job in the midst of a global pandemic. And not least of all, I’m grateful for this platform that allows me to share, inspire, and communicate with such an amazing community.
As such, I shared more ideas with Emily for this bedroom makeover, and she had some CLUTCH input. For example, if you look at the design plan below, you’ll see a vintage sewing desk on the right side of the bed. It belonged to my aunt, then my grandmother, then my mother, and now it’s mine and I love it with my entire existence and feel very compelled to use it as a nightstand. However, I’ve had difficulty matching it with an appropriately-sized nightstand for the other side of the bed and lighting that feels balanced with both “nightstands” in tandem.
Emily had some great suggestions, including incorporating lighting that makes the smaller nightstand feel less tenuous:
From Emily: “While I love that smaller accent table, I fear that it doesn’t balance out the sewing desk enough, but it might if you have a different lamp on that table than on the desk (something lower and more chunky?). The lamp feels too big for that table and because of its shape might feel a little vulnerable and tenuous if that makes ANY sense. Regarding bed linens. If you want some interest/contrast go with a pinstripe or a subtle windowpane, and a bed blanket that has some color, pattern, or texture.”
Again, great advice, but I expected nothing less! I revised the plan (below) to reflect some of her awesome feedback:
Also… I generally can’t believe that I’m getting feedback from EMILY HENDERSON ABOUT DESIGN IDEAS. What is life? Gratitude. Gratitude is life.
The past year has forced me to grow up more than ever before, so it feels poetic that this bedroom is shaping up to be the most “grown-up” space I’ve ever created for myself. If you’ve made it this far (writing in brevity has never been my strong suit), I hope you don’t mind taking this strangely introspective and emotional journey with me. I’m certainly no expert on anxiety (and would never claim to be), but I’ve definitely learned a lot about how it affects me–and productive ways to mitigate it through design–during this unexpectedly wild time that we’re living in.
Comments? Questions? What have you learned about yourself in the last year? Sound off below! I’m excited for the dialogue.
Opener Image Credit: via Life House Hotels