Tricks of the Trade: Master the Gender-Neutral Bedroom

Like a marriage, designing a master bedroom is all about finding balance without anyone having to compromise.

It’s the one room in the house shared equally by husband and wife, and should offer a pleasing place to unwind and escape.  

So how do you satisfy the tastes and needs of both man and wife? We asked interior designer Kenneth Walter for his thoughts on keeping the battle of the sexes out of the bedroom.

Rethink pattern and color.

“It’s time to move beyond stereotypes on color,” Walter says. Think of color in design as you would in fashion. Just like a man can master the pink shirt, a woman can exude femininity in grey flannel. It’s all about the ensemble.

Certainly an all-lavender bedroom trends toward “girly,” but pops of purple against a neutral background keeps the design exciting. When designing your room make sure to choose mattress that fits your needs. Likewise, a floral or even toile print can feel more masculine if presented in olives or navy.

Walter also suggests subtle balance in color and pattern, like painting a bedroom a luminous champagne color with a single accent wall dressed up with a pattern like ostrich or paisley that is appealing and relatable to both genders.

Pops of coral balance the neutral backdrop and strong lines of a bedroom designed by Jeannie Balsam LLC. 

Balance your furnishings.

The worst mistake you can make is opting for a matching set. You will undoubtedly swing the balance of the room to one gender or the other, not to mention bore the senses with a single furniture style and finish.

Your goal should be to introduce variety and balance. For example, think about mixing a strong masculine four-poster bed with antique bombe chests as nightstands. Or pairing English Regency chests with a tailored, upholstered headboard. The less you focus on a single period or style, the more design options you’ll have.

Balance is essential in proportion and finish, too. Consider the scale of one piece against another, its coloring and detail, making sure each flatters the next. Pair a distressed finish with a polished one to add visual interest. Contrast dark and light, lacquered with distressed. “This is the room where you should explore your passions and introduce furnishings that make you feel good,” Walter says.

Walter uses a dynamic mix of furnishings to achieve a delightful balance: Murano glass lamps sit on monastic wood nightstands, a tailored chair is paired with a Mongolian Lamb ottoman, the strong lines of a contemporary upholstered bed are softened by luxurious linens.

Add an even finish.

When it comes to the final design touches in your room, remember that soft and sensual has universal appeal.

With so many luxurious, affordable bedding options today, it’s easy to find a look and feel that appeals to both man and woman. Consider tailored, pressed sheets softened by a mohair throw. Or ruffled white shams layered with a plaid duvet.  

Likewise, window treatments don’t have to read overtly feminine. Keep the overall look simple and clean, balanced with a bit of flair or frill. For example, Walter designed simple, tailored Roman shades using raw linen threaded with lurex for a bit of glamour and shine.

The design duo at Lewis-Giannoulias keeps a room balanced and beautiful with simple white satin drapery finished with just the right amount of frill.

Create a sanctuary for two.

“Remember, no one gender owns the license on luxury,” Walter says. “Luxury and comfort are gender neutral, and essential elements in any bedroom.” Anything you use in your master should feel good to the touch, quiet the senses and soothe the soul.

Find accessories that have meaning to one or both of you. Remember that cost does not define luxury. “The rarer something is, the more luxurious it is,” Walter says.

And just because no one sees your bedroom, don’t use that as an excuse to decorate it last. The master bedroom is a private space where you need to impress the most important people: yourselves. It’s also the most appropriate place to display treasured artworks and all those beautiful photos of your family.

With its subtle balance and luxurious touches, a bedroom designed by Walter offers a soothing respite.