How to make a sleeping space showcase-worthy, courtesy of lifestyle architect Jay Michael.
Jay Michael knows a thing or two about overcoming design challenges. As a lifestyle architect and co-founder of FLATS Chicago, he’s a pro at transforming less-than-desirable spaces into dream pads. When he recently moved into a new apartment in a high-rise building downtown with a rather small bedroom (approximately 12’ x 14’), Michael knew just what to do. “You can’t have a lot of furniture in these spaces, so you have to get creative with the walls,” he says. And creative he got, transforming the space with a casual mix of antiques and new, modern finds. The star of the show: our supra king bed, which he surrounded with a gallery wall of photos and art that honor his family. “People come over and say that everything feels comfortable and warm,” he says. Sounds like the perfect bedroom if you ask us. To create the same effect in your own home, follow these style lessons we picked up from Michael.
1. Assess your natural surroundings first. “I typically use wallpaper and lots of color, but I didn’t do that here because the view really is the focus,” he says. “This apartment has the best views of Lake Michigan so I didn’t want the décor to interrupt that.” Instead, Michael adopted a neutral color palette of white, wood, tan, and black to set a calming, relaxed vibe.
2. Go to bed with good design—literally. Michael found our supra bed while browsing our site on vacation. “My ceilings aren’t high and the bed is lower to the ground, so I knew immediately that it would work and allow me to use more of the wall,” he says. Plus he loved its warm, white finish. “And it’s so much less expensive than what’s out there, which allowed me to splurge on a really awesome mattress. I seriously think it’s $4,000-$5000 underpriced.”
3. Incorporate items that matter. Everything Michael selected for the wall tells a personal story. “My grandpa was famous for his radio show, and there’s a picture of he and Duke Ellington from the ’30s or 40s up there,” he says. You’ll also see photos of his great grandparents, as well as pictures of his dad and his cohorts in the Israeli army.
Photo: Joe Tighe
4. Consider placement, but don’t take it too seriously. “I don’t like perfect-looking gallery walls,” he admits. “And I think the reality is that people are tired of looking at unrealistic spaces.” So Michael, who admittedly isn’t that great at placement, relies on his friend Heather Fritz for help. Fritz follows her gut about what to hang where, mixing things up as she goes.
5. Throw in some offbeat shapes and texture. In this case, Michael hung a felt pennant that he picked up in Ojai, California as a tribute to an Ojai camp he attended as a kid. Other items that add visual contrast: circular black and ornate gold frames, as well as an antique knife and a bag that once held his father’s prayer scarf (known as a Tallis). “There are no rules,” he says about what he hangs on the wall. “Knifes, flags, bags, sketches…just pieces of my life and things that I enjoy looking at often.”
6. A fresh dose of color goes a long way. It’s amazing what a pair of kelly green lamps from Lamps Plus did to this room, offering sophistication and a sense of humor to the aesthetic. “I’m not super planned out,” Michael says. “I think if you are, your place will feel like that.”
Photo: Joe Tighe