Facing the door? Away from the window? Is there an ideal position for the bed on which all experts can agree? Read on…
30 November 2016
The simplest questions sometimes can be the hardest ones to answer. “Where should I position my bed?” is a case in point. The answers can be many and contradictory, and the deeper you dig, the more you discover. Read on to explore the common solutions and find out the thinking behind them from architects, designers, psychologists and feng shui practitioners.
1. Conventional wisdom says you have to position the head of the bed up against the main wall.
But actually this is not always the best solution, as it depends on the layout of the bedroom and the adjoining rooms.
Feng shui – which considers room layouts in relation to the flow of life energy, or chi – would usually come out strongly in favour of pushing the bed up against the main wall of a bedroom. However, it warns against doing so if there are bathroom drainage pipes or gas pipes running through the wall.
Even those who don’t believe in chi may chime in here to agree, because, while a bed next to the plumbing might not flush your success away, you don’t want gurgling pipes interfering with your sleep.
Interior designers will tell you that the positioning of the bed depends on the size and proportions of the bedroom. “If the floor plan is square, then it’s best to place the bed on the central axis,” says Russian designer Julia Golavskaya. “But what if the bedroom is a rectangle? Then it’s best to divide the room into zones, with the bed located in one zone, and a chair and table in the other, for example.”
If you’ve lucked out and have a large and harmoniously proportioned bedroom to work with, then designers advise placing the bed so it’s freestanding. This kind of ‘island’ layout can help to combat a feeling of emptiness and shortage of furniture in huge spaces. However, this design isn’t always the best – it would look odd to locate a bed 8m from the window in a gigantic room, for instance.
An informal poll that put the question of bed location to Houzz users worldwide found that positioning the bedhead against the main wall was the most popular solution.
About three-quarters of poll takers favoured this bed location in the UK, Russia, the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. About two-thirds preferred this bed position in Spain, Italy, Germany and Japan. About half of French voters supported this bedroom layout.
2. Conventional wisdom says you should have a good view of the door from your bed.
But actually it would also be nice if the entire bed weren’t visible from outside the open door.
Humans have the same primal needs as other mammals in wanting to sleep in a secure location. This subconsciously drives us towards practical choices, such as wanting a safe distance from ‘unsafe’ objects, including doors and windows, and having a good view of any possible intruder without allowing an intruder to see us first, according to a 2010 study by Matthias Spörrle and Jennifer Stich of the University of Munich in Germany.
“From a psychological viewpoint, it’s important to keep the bed as far as possible from the door while still making sure the door can be seen from the sleeping position. However, if there’s a window in the room, then you should be able to see both the door and the window at once from your bed,” says Russian psychologist Natalya Mikhailova of the study results.
See 9 inventive ways to arrange a tricky-shaped bedroom
“I find it interesting that most of the respondents in the study expressed a preference for locating the bed against the same wall in which the door is located, as it makes sleepers less visible to potential intruders,” Mikhailova adds.
“Another benefit of that layout is that light shining through an open door won’t wake up anyone sleeping,” says Stepan Bugaev, artistic director of Pobeda Dizaina (Victory of Design).
Among Houzz users, a bed located against a wall with a door in it was the second most popular choice: 14% to 15% of users voted for it in the informal Houzz polls, with French users (17%) favouring it the most.
3. Conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t sleep with your legs facing the door.
But actually this may not be true for all doors, such as the door to a dressing room.
There are many cultural reasons why, in some regions, it’s considered bad to sleep with your feet towards a door. One example is from Islamic tradition: “When you’re in the sleeping position, you don’t have your legs facing directly towards the door into the bedroom. [This is out of] politeness, because facing the soles of your feet towards someone, especially an elder, is considered rude,” says Amilia Gani, an interior designer from Singapore.
In Russia – another country with strongly held domestic superstitions – nobody would sleep with their legs facing the door, not even if it’s the only logical place for the bed. Say you have a narrow bedroom in which the window is opposite the door – Russians would place the bed crosswise. They do this because of the custom of carrying a coffin out of an apartment with the feet first through the door. Nobody wants this kind of association in their bedroom.
Not sleeping with your feet towards the door is a fundamental in feng shui, too – alongside other ‘don’ts’, such as putting a mirror opposite the bed, or sleeping under a chandelier or ceiling beams, or between two doors.
But not everyone worries about sleeping with their legs towards the doorway. US user JudyG Designs commented on a Houzz poll: “I like to enter the room and see the foot of the bed first.” Dozens of users gave her comment a thumbs-up.
Sometimes positioning is simply a case of pragmatism. In this studio space, for instance, the sleep zone is open to the main living space. And the only place the bed can go is with the head against the window and the foot towards the door.
Regina Chen, the Singaporean designer of this project, says: “The existing apartment had two rooms. The owner preferred to have an en suite design where they can enjoy a larger space, like an executive hotel suite. That was the main reason for us to propose this layout. We tried various designs, such as changing the ways the bed and wardrobe face, but none of the layouts allowed maximum space as the selected scheme does.”
Check out 12 brilliant ways to use wasted space in the bedroom
4. Conventional wisdom says you need to position the bed along a certain compass bearing.
But actually there’s no compass bearing people can agree on – not even feng shui practitioners or geomagnetic consultants.
Japanese tradition says you can sleep pointing in any direction – except with your head facing northwards. “In Japan, kitamakura, which means to sleep with the head toward the north, is thought of as being a bad omen,” says Yuki Shimada, a feng shui consultant and interior designer. “Traditionally, we lay a deceased [person] with their head toward the north, so it reminds [us of] death.
“This is derived from the figure of Buddha [when he] died more than 2,500 years ago. However, in India, where Buddhism originated, and any other countries, there is no custom like this. More than that, recently, it is said to be scientifically good for health, because of geomagnetic influences,” Shimada says.
However, feng shui doesn’t generalise about the right direction of a bed. As Olesya Runova, director of the St Petersburg Feng Shui Centre says, “Each of us has our own Gua number, calculated from our birth year. With a person’s Gua number [also known as Kua number, Lo-shu number or Ming Gua] we can work out which compass bearings would work best for them – and which should be avoided. Knowing their Gua number enables people to use the Earth’s magnetic power to achieve their objectives, including financial success.” According to this, the right compass bearing of the bed would be individual.
What happens, though, when couples have different Gua numbers? The answer in the past was to arrange the bed to suit the husband, but also so that the wife didn’t suffer as a result. These days, however, when many women are the main breadwinner in the family, consultants suggest locating the bed’s direction so it suits whoever is bringing home the most income.
Nearly half of voters in the Houzz poll in Russia said they place the bed with its head facing northwards. The second most popular choice among Houzz voters in Russia – at 25% – faced it eastwards, along the Earth’s magnetic lines.
Meanwhile, interior designer Elina Shepeleva chipped in with the results of a Russian physicians’ study, conducted in Ekaterinburg. The medics there studied the directions in which people most easily enjoy sound sleep. “We offered the test participants a huge bed to sleep in, so they could face any direction they liked. It turned out that when people are severely tired, they fall asleep facing eastwards. But those who go to bed in an over-excited state place their heads facing north.”
5. Conventional wisdom says that if you have a panoramic view from your window, you need to make use of this and place the bed so it looks towards the window.
But actually this may be great if the window looks out onto woodland, but it’s not ideal if the window faces the morning sun.
If the bedroom window faces east, placing the bed close to it might cause discomfort. Either that, or the window will remain permanently curtained, and the whole idea of gazing out at beautiful sunrises will be lost.
“Region is the deciding factor here. If you’re located nearer to the equator, the angle of the setting sun is around 90°. The bedhead of the bed, especially if it’s low, won’t shelter your sleeping head from the sunlight, and you’ll get too hot,” says Russian architect Mikhail Altotskiy. “But let’s look at homes in northern climes, where temperatures are low but winds can be high. This can all play hell with the durable operational life of your windows. Synthetic window seals don’t last forever and will eventually let in draughts.
“Another point is that, compared to walls, windows are a major source of heat loss in your home. The bedroom air near the window is colder and more prone to air movement, and this can cause dehydration of your mucous tract. The optimal solution in those conditions is to either install heated glass, or consider changing the layout,” Altotskiy says.
Are you plagued by sleeplessness? Then facing towards a window or TV is a real no-no. “Our bedroom needs to be a sanctuary for sleep, so only those things related to sleep should be in there. That means no computers, TVs or other gadgets. Your bedroom is the sleep room, not a cinema,” says Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert from the UK.
Sleep consultant Dr Mikhail Poluektov, dean of the Department of Sleep Medicine at University Clinical Hospital № 3 in Moscow, is absolutely firm about this. “There shouldn’t be any mental or intellectual activity at all once you go to bed. We don’t recommend reading or watching television in bed. This means that if your small bedroom has a window on one wall and a door on another, and you’re thinking of mounting a television on the only wall that doesn’t have cupboards arranged along it – then it’s time to think again.”
6. Conventional wisdom says the right location for your bed is the one in which you feel most comfortable.
And actually this is probably the right answer.
A designer’s intuition may win out over feng shui theory or the rules of architecture. “Whenever I visit anywhere new, I always aim to find the most attractive spot with the highest energy levels. I simply sense what’s going to be the best location for the bed – and that’s it!” says interior designer Irina Kovylina.
Designer Elena Savchenko shares a personal experience: “I recently had an unwanted situation in my life and wanted to make a few minor changes that would improve things,” she says. “As a result, we moved the location of the bed. I turned it around 90 degrees, and moved the head off the wall, so as to keep it out of an area where a bundle of problems had been forecast.
“But the electric sockets, switches, fitted lighting, and a beautiful large decorative panel were all left stranded on a different wall, where they’d originally been planned in the layout. But y’know what? I don’t regret it at all, because as a result, there was a huge change in my bedroom, and it became a charming place where I love spending time on the bed. So it’s true – magic really can happen. And I tell you this as an interior designer.”
What do you think is the best location for a bed? In which position do you find it easiest to doze off? Share your thoughts in the Comments below.