By Design by Elaine Markoutsas

Set the Right Tone for a Sound Night's Sleep

A good night's sleep is essential for body and mind. These days, some folks have been collecting more Z's than usual -- up to 12 hours. But it's not all sweet dreams. In fact, there have been many reports about vivid nightmares. Blame it on the pandemic.

Because it's an invisible enemy, the virus is transforming into scary things. So says Harvard professor of psychology Deirdre Barrett, who has been studying sleep behavior for three decades. The expert has analyzed dreams for survivors of traumatic events, including 9-11.

Grasshoppers with vampire fangs, fantastical figures, including mega-images of the coronavirus itself, zombie apocalypse and even "Twilight Zone"-esque scenarios, like "Hollywood Squares" images of endless Zoom meetings, multiplying to infinity and beyond.

Researchers from multiple countries, including the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France, are studying the pandemic dream phenomenon, attributed to coping mechanisms reflecting anxieties caused by sheltering at home, being cut off from usual routines, work, friends. Plus, sleep patterns are changing because many have stopped setting alarms. There's even a website, that asks people from around the world to share their dreams.

At UCLA Sleep Disorders Clinic, there's another issue under study: "COVID-somnia." Sleeplessness apparently is triggered by the diminished light exposure people are getting because they're staying indoors more.

Spending a lot of time at home has caused many to take a candid look at all their living spaces and imagine how aesthetics and ambience can be improved.

What better place to start than the bed? Each spring and summer, fresh new palettes and patterns blossom just like the landscape, and many are inspired by nature. There are plenty of how-tos online about dressing the bed.

"Keep it simple!" advises Leanne Ford. The Pittsburgh interior designer, known for her "modern yet lived-in aesthetic," hosts "Restored by the Fords" on HGTV with her contractor brother, Steve.

Ford recently created a furnishings collection for Crate and Barrel and described her new bedding on her Instagram account: "There's nothing better than a beautiful, simple bed. I went rogue and didn't put any pattern or design on any of the bedding we created. Simple colors can mix and match and make for an always-pretty bed."

Ford's palette is quiet: charcoal gray, blush, natural and white in linen and cotton percale.

"The bedding is meant to be relaxed," says Ford. "Neutrals to make you feel calm. Soft, breezy fabrics that look even better a little rumpled. There's no pressure to make your bed perfectly -- or at all.

"Plus, for me, it's all about how bedding feels, so we concentrated on the fabric. I wanted to make simple plush and crispy sheets (know what I mean?) and linen and cotton duvets that will all live easily together."

You may have noticed a lot of linen as you've surfed retail websites for bedding. It's been as integral a part of European bedding as cotton for some time -- and not just white and ivory. It's cool to sleep on in the summer, and the inherent wrinkling makes it more forgiving. There are beautiful, rich palettes that parallel those in home decor, from Scandinavian pastels to a more vivid rose, a range of blues and ochre that we've seen in Parisian stores such as Merci. We're finally welcoming linens into American bedrooms, along with velvet -- another strong trend. Velvet has been super popular in upholstery (and draperies) in recent years.

Bella Notte, a luxury brand based in the San Francisco Bay area, produces a selection of pre-dyed artisan washable luxury bed linens in luscious colors. Its statement: "Inspiring the expression of your elegant and bohemian soul, we celebrate modern romanticism and the inherent creativity in all of us. By preserving a passion for color and craftsmanship, each couture piece we offer is designed for the curation of your home sanctuary."

Besides linen and velvet, here are some of the trends crossing the pond:

-- Peacocks. Animals, insects and butterflies all have captured the imagination of print-makers. This year, the distinctive iridescent blue and green plumage has fanned out into home decor. Peacocks were featured on fabrics, bedding and wallcoverings from several makers. At Grandin Road, a quilt printed with peacocks and cherry blossoms graced the cover of its spring look book.

-- Floral motifs. You can be sure to find some every spring and summer, because who doesn't like feeling like you're in a garden? Mega blooms have been popular for a few years, usually on solid backgrounds, like the Haana overblown floral, a very linear graphic of blue on white at Crate and Barrel. Smaller scale is starting to make a big impression. The Italian brand Fazzini Home introduced several patterns inspired by the 19th and early 20th centuries.

-- Mini prints. Along with a shift in floral scale, smaller patterns also are gaining traction, especially those with seasonal appeal. At Garnet Hill, there's a white collection with different beachy themes, like Adirondack chairs, turtles, sea shells, buoys, sand dollars and whales.

-- Handcrafted looks. Quilts, appliques, hand stitching -- all continue to be in demand. At Anthropologie, artisan quilts often show globally influenced designs.

-- Trim, fringe, tassels and other embellishments. Borders, ruffles and embroidery are lending character to a lot of bedding. Even if you prefer all-white, mixing in shams that are punctuated with color is an excellent way to instantly change personality. A single accent pillow, like the hand-painted and embroidered pillows from Charlie Sprout, available at Anthropologie, pop like a piece of art.

-- Expressionist abstracts, watercolor-y floral or geometrics add artistic dimension to the bed. Watercolor Dots at West Elm take on very different vibes on a light or dark ground.

-- Organic. There's a lot more emphasis on sustainability, and descriptions often underscore natural fibers -- better for the environment and you. Hemp, Tencel or Lyocell (a sustainable fabric regenerated from wood cellulose), and bamboo are among the eco-friendly fabrics now available in bedding.

Some websites, like Serena and Lily, offer stylish tips on dressing the bed. Stack a pair of pillowcases behind each sham, for example, and finish off with embroidered throw pillow. Play with scale. This could be with the scale of a print, or as Serena and Lily suggests, with pieces: a pair of Euro shams, pillowcases and oversized lumbar. Layer to the max. S and L's idea is with a series of different-sized pillows, but this concept can extend to sheets, comforters and throws as well.

At Anthropologie, there's a whole page on "Arranging the Perfect Bedroom." The retailer asked home-styling expert Anne White for tips on mastering the delicate balancing act between form and function. "It there's a space that deserves a little extra thoughtfulness and attention, it's this one," says White.

It's all about "curating calmness." White says there's nothing like a peaceful bedroom, whether you're unwinding from a busy day or prepping for another. In our current pandemic-dominated world, the emphasis on de-stressing has never been more acute.

White says your bedding should make you feel relaxed and ready for sleep. "The same goes for decor," she says. "If clutter tends to make you anxious, consider minimalist accents in your bedroom. Feel most inspired when surrounded by beautiful objects? Curate a handful of meaningful vignettes."

Vern Yip, from HGTV's "Trading Spaces" and author of "Vacation at Home" (Hachette, $27.50), recently talked about turning your bedroom into a stress-free zone on "LIVE with Kelly and Ryan" on ABC-TV. "Get your bedroom ready, Yip advises. "Start before actually going to bed."

The most important part, Yip says, is to make a bed feel incredibly welcoming -- "come on in, relax." He advises only soft lighting, like bedside lamps, and using dimmers. And, the best tip: Do a light spritz with sheet spray to keep sheets smelling fresh in between changes. Also, put a nice fluffy robe on the bed and a pair of slippers just meant for the bedroom suite, so they're clean and sanitary. The goal: "It's my safe space. Just chill and relax."

Three years ago, Arianna Huffington spoke in Chicago at NEOCON, a global design show for the contract industry (office, hotel, health care, retail, etc.). Her remarks included her own sleep rituals. Huffington's experience with exhaustion and sleep deprivation led the founder of Huffington Post to create a new platform: Thrive Global, dedicated to raising awareness about well-being.

While she recommends taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (yes, add candles!), slipping into PJs or whatever is dedicated to sleeping, one recommendation stood out: Get rid of any blue light. Meaning your mobile phone. Huffington doesn't even keep hers in her bedroom.

Some sleep experts suggest meditating before bedtime. Others advise maintaining a cool temperature in the bedroom. And some swear by melatonin.

Whatever works. We could all use some good shut-eye


-- Anthropologie, 800-309-2500,

-- Bella Notte, check website for store locations,

-- Crate and Barrel, 800-967-6696,

-- Fazzini Home,

-- Garnet Hill, 800-870-3513,

-- Grandin Road, 866-668-5962,

-- Neiman Marcus, 888-888-4757,

-- Serena and Lily, 866-597-2742,

-- West Elm, 888-922-4119,