Today’s bedroom trends are eclectic—filled with references from the past, innovative technology of the present, and an emphasis on a future where the top priority is comfort over everything. Looking back to the bedrooms of previous periods sheds light on the interesting ways that sleep patterns—and the products we choose to surround ourselves with when snoozing—have evolved over time, and where they might lead us in the future.
Personally speaking, I’ve always found the old adage about spending one-third of your life in bed unrealistic. Do people really spend only a third of their lives embraced by pillows, underneath a warm comforter, their minds escaping the banality of real life? I’m half-kidding, but my sentiment stands. Sometimes, I think we forget that rest and relaxation should always be a priority as an inner sanctum–at the end of the day, they’re essential to your well-being.
While I may seem like an expert on sleeping, I’m more of a laywoman when it comes to design, so I also consulted with several interior designers who were eager to share their expertise on the boudoirs of the past and present.
1920s and 1930s: A Lushly Geometric Fantasy
I’ve written before about how Art Deco is experiencing a big revival right now, and I can totally understand why—it seems so much of what it represented one hundred years ago can be reflected in our current day-to-day life. “I’ve always been a huge fan of the Art Deco era—its glamour, geometric curves, and expression of color has always been a huge inspiration and love of mine,” says interior designer Shaolin Low of Honolulu-based Studio Shaolin. “In the bedroom, we saw textured wallpaper, velvet bed frames, gold hardware and the infamous Art Deco pink. When I think of Art Deco, I think of its signature dusty pink color, and black and white decor.”
Tiffany-style lamps, architectural sconces, and milk-glass pendant lights added to a warm, stylish ambiance. However soft the undulations of Art Deco were, they were matched with a striking, assertive glossiness. From beds, to dressers, to vanities, “waterfall-style” furniture was popular, with its sweeping curves fashioned out of dark wood or laminate.
Though beds were smaller, they were still fit for a good night’s sleep, made of a sturdy solid frame or classic turned wood headboards. However sleek the 1920s and 1930s design may have been, beds were inviting, and bedrooms were often decorated with bric-a-brac and cheerful paintings.
1940s: A Demure Moment
The bedrooms of the 1940s came at a time marked by modesty. While many of the furniture designs from that period were holdovers from previous decades, the ’40s took cues from even earlier on. The bedroom sets—many with separate twin beds for each spouse—took a more utilitarian approach, made of subdued dark wood in an Early American–inspired style. The artful swashes that had fallen out of style before were back, though much more restrained than they were in the early 20th century.
Metal ball-and-stick-style beds were still a mainstay in the bedroom; now painted white, many a mattress sat upon this iconic frame. Flower prints were also slowly easing their way back into interiors through wallpaper, linens, and curtains. Calico quilts were thrown haphazardly atop ditsy-print comforters, a gentle mix-and-match of patterns and colors that added a sense of softness and warmth.
1950s: Midcentury Is the Mood
Another perennial favorite, midcentury modern is a style so enduring that it’s one of the most highly sought-after aesthetics out there today. In the 1950s, bedrooms once again dove head-first into the world of color. Deep greens, gentle blues, cardinal reds, and mustard yellows sung against the gleaming wood of bed frames, dressers, and vanities.
“Our favorite design movements are California-casual and midcentury,” says Ashley Grech of Bay Area interior design studio Thirteen Oak. “We love blending these styles by incorporating California-casual furniture—clean lines, simplistic design—in more earthy, dark, neutral tones, which lends itself to a midcentury vibe.” The proliferation of television sets in American homes also informed a technologically-capable movement in furniture design.
The 1950s signified an important period for bedrooms, departing from the demure 1940s. Adventures in texture and hue accentuated the modern lines of the furniture. “Midcentury has been known for metal accents,” explains Lisa Davey from Thirteen Oak. “We see that in leg details as well as a drawer or cabinet outline.” Popular today is the iconic dresser, spacious and handsome, playing beautifully against any style of bedroom. Chalkware, a type of ceramic, was seen in everything from lamps to wall decorations. The boomerang motif was a tonal reminder of the forward-facing mentality that so perfectly represents the optimism of the era.
1960s and 1970s: Getting Groovy With It
Mod and psychedelic overtones dominated in the late ’60s and ’70s. “One trend we’re seeing re-emerge is flower power,” Grech and Davey say. “Lots of ’60s styles with low-profile designs and upholstery that you can almost disappear in because it’s so overly plush in scale. Lots of texture and shearling and the color rust.”
My personal “holy grail” of this genre would be the Drexel Plus One bedroom set. It’s an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland–style confection that includes a flower petal side table that reads “Good Nite” and a headboard that reads, well, “Bed.” That’s all to say that the full-bodied dosage of swirls and loops came to a true crescendo in this era.
The citrusy yellow-and-green color combo so frequently seen in groovy bedrooms evokes even more of that sense of fun and irreverence. “The ’70s aesthetic did have some fun takeaways, and we’re seeing a resurgence of this era again in design,” explains Stephanie Brown, a Vancouver-based interior designer. “The quirky and creepy elements are removed, and what’s making a ’70s-like statement now are the warm, neutral palettes featuring rust, beige and brown, wood accents, and lots of texture. Think grasscloth wallpaper, shaggy carpets, nubbly textiles, rattan, and plants.”
From wallpaper to bedspreads, it’s surprisingly easy to give your bedroom that cozy, cheerful feel. In fact, the duvet cover truly came into its own specifically during this era. “It was re-introduced by the genius Sir Terence Conran in the 1960s as a no fuss, easy to make bed,” says Holly Falcone, founder of the bed accessories brand Beditorial. “Duvets stuck around and are still essential to almost all homes today.”
Even just deciding on color schemes that add some brightness is enough to give your bedroom a delightfully mod vibe. Kubrick-inspired plastic and chrome pieces bring slickness in case you’re more into statement lines than psychedelia.
1980s and 1990s: Postmodern Blitz
Like so many bedrooms of the past, the ’80s and ’90s variety contains multitudes. There are peaceful fortresses that pay homage to Japanese interiors, with rice-paper screens and lanterns and an array of plants. There are the over-the-top bachelor pads in the Financial District screaming with black laminate. And lastly, perhaps, are the mauve-and-teal Golden Girls energy that’s big right now. Ceramic shell lamps in muted pastels adorn bedrooms, illuminating the beige of the walls and the watercolor print of the comforter.
The architecture and design of the postmodern era revisited the formal lines of classical Greek buildings and subverted them: lamp bases referenced ancient pillars and brand-new walls featured aged textures, all accompanied by a chic, neutral light that would eliminate any potential comparisons to an excavation site. As technology continued to advance and take on a more significant role in society, it was juxtaposed by a profound reassessment and reappropriation of ancient design.
“7,500 B.C. lime mixed with unheated crushed limestone to create texture on the walls to 15th-century Venetian plaster: [it’s all] now making its grand comeback in modern-day forms,” says New York-based interior designer Elisa Baran. “I love that it can be used as a piece of art if the client isn’t looking to have any art in the room or is just indecisive on what to buy.”
The ’80s were a delicious feast for the eyes, fully embracing colors in stunning coordination. Windows were sparsely decorated, perhaps with billowy curtains or sleek blinds, but bedrooms were bathed in as much light as possible. Desks seemed to replace the vanity, perhaps indicating that people were more likely to work where they slept. Or maybe, they just wanted to marvel at their computers… I can’t say I blame them.
Today: Cute and Curated
Our current state of bedrooms are a total pastiche of different eras—finding a great piece of vintage furniture is the most stylish thing to do, after all. In recent years, the concept of “self-care” has really taken off, and if I can use it as a reason to sleep even better, I’m happy to. Diffusers and humidifiers are pleasant alternatives to candles, so you can fall asleep without worrying about fires. Direct-to-consumer brands sell mattresses, bedding, and linens. In some ways, it feels like you really can just buy a bedroom from a box.
At the same time, personality reigns. Checkerboard patterns, bright colors, and squiggly lines have come to represent this era’s bedroom trends. Mirrors, either midcentury or Italian postmodern, are every girl’s dream—and Murano mushrooms? They’ve popped up all over the place, like a gorgeous fungus. Despite the loud pinks, greens, and blues that have dominated recently, the squishy and jovial forms of today’s furniture invite us all to sit back and relax.
As for what we’ve borrowed from the past? Art Deco has serious staying power, its relevance just as strong from day one. “I see its inspiration and style creeping up everywhere,” explains Shaolin. “You see that dusty pink being incorporated in paint colors, bedding, and artwork. Curvy lines and textures coming back in wallpaper and black and white is having a moment right now in kitchens and hardware.”
Even if you lack a green thumb, you can fully partake in the flower power revival with fun prints. “The way it’s being brought back excites me,” says Elisa. “I’m loving the hand-painted murals done by James Mobley Design at the moment but if you’re looking for something quicker, TheGoodiesWallpapers, an online Etsy seller, has gorgeous wallpaper murals I’m super into.”
And with the ’80s and ’90s came a new appreciation for the historic materials of porcelain and plaster, as well modern, polished interpretations of ancient relics and ruins. Softly spiraling postmodern floor lamps, reminiscent of old Tuscan columns, have been popping up all over social media feeds. It seems the more modern design gets, the more it tends to draw from the past.
Even medieval design is making a comeback. “Steel doors and windows opening up to bedroom balconies, weathered wooden exposed beams, and forged iron candlestick holders on nightstands instead of lamps [are examples],” adds Elisa. “I’m seeing moody and textured walls and even medieval tapestry used as art above a bed frame.”
While the furniture and design trends of the 2020s have yet to fully emerge, what we can say for certain is that they emphasize sustainability in terms of repurposing or buying vintage. Not only is it better on the environment, but older pieces come with charm and a story that adds to the ambiance of any room. “What I love about design today is that we can have a little bit of Art Deco, a little bit midcentury, with an overall contemporary interior and it works,” concludes Shaolin. “Design has become more about the humans inhabiting the home and who they are, rather than one specific era or style.”
It’s a holistic perspective that has come to define our current state of being: the 2020s place a lot of importance on comfort, so we might as well make the most of that one-third of our lives we spend sleeping.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest