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Why Bedrooms Aren’t Just for Sleeping Anymore

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Why Bedrooms Aren’t Just for Sleeping Anymore

Making the most of whatever space you have is just good sense — whether you’ve recently bought your dream home or, like many people, are staying put until the housing market calms down.

The obvious place to start? Your bedroom.

Sure, it’s used for sleeping at night, but what about the rest of the time? With a little planning, it could double as a home office — or maybe a library or a playroom. It could even be a place to make cappuccino.

“It’s something we’re being asked to do more and more,” said Sean Anderson, an interior designer based in Memphis. “A lot of it has stemmed from the shift in the past couple of years to remote work. The bedroom needs to be this place of solitude, but it also needs to be multifunctional. People want a spot to lounge, a spot to work and, obviously, a place to sleep.”

William Hefner, an interior designer in Los Angeles, said he gets similar requests from frazzled parents who want their bedrooms to serve as a retreat. “They can close that door to do some work or some exercise,” he said. “Or make some coffee or open a bottle of champagne.”

So what’s the best way to turn your bedroom into a multifunctional space? He and other designers shared their secrets.

The most obvious addition to a bedroom is a place to work.

When Nicole Hirsch, a designer in Wellesley, Mass., was tasked with designing a new primary suite for a couple, a desk where they could catch up on email and write letters was at the top of their wish list.

Ms. Hirsch obliged by opening up an alcove in the bedroom with windows overlooking the yard and adding a custom-made desk with built-in cabinetry — “a space for light work.”

To maintain a calm feeling in the bedroom, she made sure there were no filing cabinets, printers, whiteboards or computer monitors left out in the open. “It’s more of a casual desk space,” she said.

Mr. Anderson, the Memphis designer, often uses small-scale desks in the bedrooms he designs to create similar spaces for occasional work. “So many people are now working with laptops, iPads and phones that having a space for all those devices to land is something they’re asking for,” he said.

In compact bedrooms, he might place a small desk beside the bed so that it doubles as a night stand. “When we don’t have the real estate for a separate area, it becomes this multifunctional piece,” he said.

If you need more work space — or the room in question is used for overnight guests — consider installing a Murphy bed that can be tucked away during the day.

Once seen as impractical, Murphy beds have been growing in popularity in recent years, as new mechanisms make them easier to operate, said Mike Cassidy, a director at California Closets.

“Multiuse seems to be a bigger consideration that it was before Covid,” Mr. Cassidy said. “As we’re settling into whatever this new normal is, the need for multifunctional spaces hasn’t slowed down.”

The designer Annie Selke, for example, had California Closets install a Murphy bed in a home office at her vacation house in Palm Springs, Calif., which allowed the space to double as a guest room. Ariel Gordon, a jewelry designer, outfitted a backyard work-from-home studio with a Murphy bed from California Closets for the same reason.

How about retreating to your bedroom to cozy up by a fireplace?

For one lucky couple, Ms. Hirsch designed a primary bedroom with a pair of chairs and footstools next to a wood-burning fireplace, as well as a seating area with a sofa and coffee table that makes the room feel like a private refuge.

In smaller bedrooms, even a generous armchair paired with a small end table and floor lamp can offer a comforting place to read.

A bedroom can easily double as a media room as well, but most designers like to hide the TV when it isn’t being watched. Ms. Hirsch once concealed a TV behind wooden wall panels above a fireplace. Other designers have used solutions both simple and elaborate — putting a TV inside an armoire, for instance, or installing a retractable under-bed lift.

If you’re thinking about putting a reading chair in your bedroom, where will you keep all the books?

With the addition of a few bookcases, a bedroom can double as a library. In his own bedroom, in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Mr. Hefner lined a sunny nook with built-in shelving and cabinets to create a mini library.

His best-looking books go on the shelves, to add to the ambience of the room. The ones that aren’t so nice to look at, like dog-eared paperbacks, are stored in the cabinets.

“It’s just nice to have everything right there,” he said. “You don’t have to go downstairs to get a book.”

Mr. Hefner often designs multifunctional bedrooms for children, too.

For his son, Koji, he furnished a room with a sofa-like bed. The seat cushion is a twin-size mattress, so it offers a place to sleep and to hang out. Across the room, he mounted a shelving unit with a fold-down top, creating a small space for doing homework.

In a client’s home, he went further, placing the bed at the center of the room. Then he covered the back of the headboard with Lego baseplates, adding a desk behind it for Lego building. On a wall beside the bed, he installed climbing grips and a climbing rope leading up to a tiny loft.

“This particular kid loved climbing,” Mr. Hefner said. “So we thought, ‘OK, we can have this climbing apparatus right in the room, without taking up much floor space.’”

An emerging trend in bedroom design is including a built-in coffee station or minibar, similar to what you might see in a hotel room.

“It’s becoming very common,” said Katie Fugate, a designer at Maeve Design Collective in Scottsdale, Ariz., noting that the detailing of these refreshment nooks is often as upscale as a high-end kitchen.

Recently, when her firm was doing the interiors of a home in Phoenix, the designers added a coffee station to the primary bedroom — complete with olive-painted cabinets, marble counters, a Wolf coffee maker, a concealed under-counter refrigerator and a bar-size sink. Now the owners can enjoy that first cup of coffee without venturing far from bed.

“The kitchen was pretty far away from the primary bedroom,” Ms. Fugate said, “so we wanted to make sure our clients had easy accessibility to a good little coffee bar.”

Another idea borrowed from hotels: installing a bathtub in your bedroom.

“It’s really a cool thing to have a stand-alone pedestal tub in a beautiful room,” said Jason Halter, a principal of the Toronto-based design firm Wonder Incorporated.

Since seeing the bathtub-in-bedroom concept at a hotel in Venice, Mr. Halter has designed a few bedrooms with tubs, including one with a tub directly beneath a skylight, a few steps from the bed. The flat roof above is planted with greenery, so bathers see vegetation around the edges of the skylight during the day.

But nighttime soaks are even better, Mr. Halter said: “We thought it would be awesome to be able to have a bath while staring up at the stars.”

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