A Designer’s Guide to Decorating the Post-Grad Bedroom

All the elements of a good bedroom, explained. 

Girl moving into a new bedroom after graduating college
AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

Congrats! While the ink barely feels dry on your diploma, it’s official, you’re now an adult. No more questionably-sized mattresses on the floor for you — which means it’s time to start thinking about outfitting the bedroom to suit your new life, in your new apartment.

Having a place that not only feels comfortable and relaxing, but helps you stick to your adult bedtime (yes, it’s a thing) is so important. It regulates your schedule so you can achieve the elusive work-life balance. It sets you up for good impressions at that new job. It might even keep sickness at bay.

So before you opt for mom’s recommendations or a Goodwill run for house items, here are some must-have and décor secrets that should come brand new when delivered to your home. We promise you can build the bedroom of your dreams without breaking the bank.

A New Mattress to Usher in Adulthood

Sleepys Doze 10" Medium Memory Foam Mattress

How old is your childhood mattress? If it’s over 10 years old or was converted to a guest room bed once you left for college, it might be time to replace your mattress. Plus, investing in a new mattress can help prevent future back, neck, and shoulder pain, or help with lingering ones.

And let us save you from learning a painful life lesson: do not buy a used mattress from strangers. You can buy one off a close friend or family member, if the situation presents itself but a second-hand mattress is risky for hygiene and potential pest factors. Bed bug infestation is real and can ruin all your furniture and clothes, so it’s better to invest a little money in a new one.

Choosing a mattress is different for everyone, so getting an idea for features and comfort level may be worth an in-store trip. And pro-tip: if you are shopping for a new mattress, make sure there’s a trial period for free returns. You really don’t know if you like something until you’ve slept on it for a little bit.

Don’t forget! Protect your new mattress. It might seem silly but there are some really quality mattress covers out there that can not only keep it clean and free of water-damage, but also protect it from pests like bedbugs.

Shop Our Picks:

The Sleepys’ Doze 10” Medium Memory Foam Mattress and Curve 12” Plush Memory Foam Mattress are winners for their price point and ease of use. Both are eco-friendly and come in a box and support your sleep through pressure-relief technology and breathable materials.

Pillows to Support Your Sleep

Most people tend to overestimate the life of their pillows, and your favorite one most likely won’t do anymore. Since everyone’s taste is different, here are some questions to think about:

  • Which side of my body do I sleep on?  
  • Do I need more neck support? 
  • Do I need something hypoallergenic?  
  • Do I need cooling technology or any other bonus features? 

Shop Our Picks:

We love the Sleepys Powered by Reactx pillow, a down-alternative pillow with cooling technology and is hypoallergenic. If you want an option that’s supportive for all sleep positions, there’s also Sleepys Comfy Pillow. This memory foam head rest is also good for allergy-free sleep.

Your Sheets: Focus on the Feel

Soft sheets from Sleepys for a post grad bedroom

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on new sheets, but it’s time to upgrade from those bed-in-a-bag jersey style sheets you rocked in college. If you’re confused about what thread count actually means, don’t worry about it. Instead focus on the four f’s:

  • Fiber: What a sheet is made out is also important, certain fibers like bamboo and cotton breathe and help wick away moisture. 
  • Fit: You want to make sure the sheets are generously sized and will fit on your bed without slipping or pulling, which can be so annoying. 
  • Feel: From there, it’s important to enjoy the feel of the sheets. Do you like them a little silkier? Maybe you prefer a sateen. 
  • Finish: Different sheet types have different finishes; a sateen is going to look more pearlescent while a jersey cotton sheet will be a flat color. There are ranges in between but pay attention to what you like.  

Shop Our Picks:

Woven Rayon Bamboo Sheet Set by Malouf works to wick away moisture and doesn’t slip or slide around thanks to generous sizing and deep pockets in the fitted sheet.

For an extra luxe feel, try PureCare’s Luxury Microfiber Wrinkle Resistant Sheet Set, which is breathable and super easy to wash without additional worry. There’s also the Sleepys Basic Soft Sheet Set — a stain-resistant option that has an extra-soft finish for those who want ultimate comfort.

Add Extra Personality to the Bed

While the rest of your bed is up for interpretation, our big tip is to add a few layers. You know how inviting a bed at a really nice hotel is? It’s the layers, which build up the uniformity of the linens and the bed that sink-into-it texture and volume appearance.

Layers also offers the option to take off what you don’t need, but if you get cold in the middle of the night, you’re covered. Designers typically recommend this layering technique: a fitted sheet, a flat sheet, a thin quilt or coverlet, a duvet, and then a throw blanket.

A few other pointers:

  • If you’re sticking with one color scheme, create visual interest by varying the texture. So, a nubby woven throw will look even better on top of the linen duvet.  
  • For extra pillows, a nice recipe to stick with is: 4 standard pillows+ 2 European sized shams+ a throw pillow or lumbar pillow.  

Where to Put the Bed

Image of a bed with two nightstands by the side
A general view of a white double bedroom with mirrored bedroom furniture
John Keeble/Getty Images

It might sound silly, but you want to consider bed placement. While many apartments won’t offer much of a choice, here are some things to consider before putting together your bedframe:

  • Does the position feel good to you? Most people feel uncomfortable with their backs to the door. You want to be in a clear and open path between the bed and the door.  
  • Keep both sides of the bed away from a wall, if you can, so there’s room for more than one person to easily get in and out of bed.  
  • Don’t block windows by placing a bed in front of them, if you can help it. You want all the natural light you can get, but sometimes it’s the only way that fits and you just need to make it work.  
  • Think about if the wall you want your headboard against has enough outlets (or any outlets, thanks old buildings) to support a charging station and a light for your nightstand.  
  • Avoid placing your bed in the middle of the room. It breaks up the space awkwardly and only works if the bed is a statement piece, or the only thing in the room.  

Don’t Forget to Jazz Up Your Curtains and Blinds

Beyond decorative elements, you also want to think about light blocking and privacy. If new address is in the city, some light blocking shades or curtains might be great to block out the glare. There are even heavy curtains that will help muffle louder noises. The real winning combination is a fitted shade that goes into or over the window frame, paired with a curtain for an added decorative touch.

However, there are some things to keep in mind, especially when it comes to your preferences:

  • If you’re really light sensitive and need some natural light to help wake you in the morning, consider skipping the blackout shades in favor or something more sheer. It helps your circadian rhythm.  
  • Hang a curtain rod as high as you can over the window without getting it too close to the ceiling. It elongates the look of the window and draws your eye upward, making the ceiling look taller too — magic! 
  • Curtains should at least kiss the ground or slightly puddle. If you’re living in an apartment with really high ceilings, look for extended lengths. Standard sizing won’t work for you.  

Shop Our Picks:

Getting a dual curtain rod so you can have the combination of sheer and blackout curtains is the way to go if you want to feel like you have privacy while letting the light in.

These Classic Vinyl Blackout Roller Shades come in a variety of deep colors to help keep your bedroom dark and cool, and for your bedroom/home office, the IKEA Matilda curtains will help block glare in the mornings.

The Adult Must-Have: A Nightstand

A wooden nightstand with a journal inside the drawer
Grace Cary/Getty Images

Getting out of your bed to your desk or adding to that stack of books won’t cut it anymore! Make sure you have a nightstand with a drawer so you can tuck away your essentials. A nightstand is a way of preparing for future you, whether it’s a glass of water, tissue, or your supplements — it’s the perfect component for winding down at night. . Some even come with an outlet or opening for wires so you can hide away your phone and charger.

Shop Our Picks:

How can you say no to the Marte Nightstand, which will bring a natural, relaxed vibe to any bedroom. For a more classic look, the Derren End Table Storage is a glossy mid-century table that also has a drawer for keeping things tidy.

Say Goodbye to Fluorescent Overhead Lighting

Relying on a single light switch for the entire room is so college dorm. Plus, those overhead lights are usually overkill and way too bright. Instead, rely on ambient light in your room to create zones to hang out in.

Think about where you find yourself needing a little extra light: your desk, your nightstand, maybe your favorite reading corner. Consider a mix of both table and floor lamps to really create a cozy vibe.

Top Design Tip for Choosing Sophisticated Color Palettes

Designing your own room can feel overwhelming. If you’re feeling stumped on what colors will go well together, find an item you have that has a color (or neutrals) palette that you love the look of. A piece of art, a textile, a piece of clothing — pull out those same colors and figure out how to use them in your room. when you use an item as a guide for colors that play nicely together, it’ll also lower your risk of getting your furniture delivered... only to find out things don’t match.

Is your bedroom where you work? We have design tips for your bedroom office so it feels like two different spaces. And remember to keep a schedule for washing sheets and other bedding. It’s one of the keys to an organized, clean bedroom for clutter-free sleep.

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