Interiors: Where the magic happens - how to spice up your bedroom
Under-mattress storage and levitating beds spice it up in the bedroom
What about the extravagant locations used for bed brochures? The photographs show magnificent rooms with ceilings several metres high and a bigger footprint than most people's gardens.
Within these expansive interiors, a majestic bed takes pride of place, while floor-to-ceiling windows show a glimpse of mature trees or urban skyscrapers. These promo photographs give the impression of a glamorous lifestyle, no end of empty space and a nice long walk to the ensuite. I'm not against a bit of fantasy in the bedroom, but this isn't how most people roll.
Harvey Norman's spring/summer collection was photographed in Kilruddery House, a vast space with bare brick walls, huge windows and a few stray sheets of corrugated iron.
The images look amazing, but they're a far cry from the average Irish lifestyle. People who buy a bed for the master bedroom from Harvey Norman generally spend between €600 and €900. I'm going to hazard a guess that most of them don't live in stately homes.
You have to take this kind of styling with a pinch of salt. Enjoy the spectacle, select the style that you like, then switch on your practical brain and go and measure your real-world bedroom. The problem is that the bed that looks so beautiful in an empty rustic barn may look quite different in the cramped bedroom of a semi-d. "People tend go for beds that are much too big for the space," says Lorraine Stevens of Lomi Design. "They don't think about leaving room for the bedside table - which they're definitely going to need at some stage - or that they need to factor in circulation space around the bed."
There's no point in choosing a super king-sized bed if you're going to have to clamber across it to go to the loo.
"The second most common mistake is buying a low height contemporary bed frame and then spoiling the look of it with a big thick block of a mattress," Stevens explains. "A high quality mattress doesn't need to be thick to be comfortable. You're much better going for a slimmer mattress that suits the design of the bed."
Irish people follow The Princess And The Pea logic - the thicker the mattress, the more comfortable we believe it will be. Many of us also think that the divan is the best type of bed in terms of storage. Stevens disagrees.
"The drawers in a divan bed promise more storage than they deliver, you have to allow space to pull them out, and they never seem to run properly."
Most of the beds from Lomi Design have the option of storage under the mattress, which lifts up to allow access on a spring mechanism. This technology doesn't come cheap, but the beds at Lomi Design are at the higher end of the spectrum, with most customers paying between €3,000 and €4,000 for their bed.
Feng shui experts will tell you it's not a good idea to store things under your sleeping body, but storage beneath the mattress is becoming a standard option for high-end bed frames. Beds by the Italian company Presotto, supplied by Bushell Interiors, also come with the option of a mechanism that lifts the mattress, either straight or at an angle, revealing storage below. The storage option costs an extra 20pc on prices starting around €2,500 for a king size.
Other options from Presotto include a bed that is cantilevered from a supporting wall so that it seems to float above the floor (it's actually supported on an almost-invisible Perspex leg). "You can add an LED strip that gives a nice warm light under the bed and that can be sensor activated so it turns on when you walk into the room," says Aoife Bushell.
From luxury to economy class, all retailers report a revival in the popularity of upholstered beds. "We've seen a lot of faux leather in the last few years," says Myles Campion of Harvey Norman. "But now it's much more about soft fabrics like chenille, with deep buttoned headboards or stitched detailing."
Since cleaning can be an issue, it's worth asking if the fabric covers can be removed. Some of the higher end brands also offer replacement covers. While this can give your bed a whole new look, check the price before you get excited. New covers can cost half as much as replacing the whole bed.
While the dominant trend is for pared-down contemporary beds, some designers go to the opposite extreme with a French-style bed, complete with velvet headboard and Rococo gilt carving. "You don't have to go the whole hog with a Liberace-style bedroom," says Georgia Metcalfe of the French Bedroom Company, who describes her style as "classic French with a touch of quirky".
Most of her beds are deeply feminine but, as she points out, bedroom furniture is usually chosen by women. Men, who can be so particular about the choice of sofa, are inclined to leer helplessly and say "so long as she's happy in the bedroom".
The beds from the French Bedroom Company are designed in Europe and made in Indonesia, where high quality hand carving is still affordable. A king-sized bed costs between €1,000 and €3,000, on average, with an extra €150 to €250 for delivery to Ireland.
Features such as the deep button back headboards in silk or velvet can't be cleaned with water. "You can clean them with a feather duster," Metcalfe says. Should this be done wearing a French maid's outfit? "A lot of men would like that idea," she says, "but I use the Hoover. It's quicker and more efficient."
See bushellinteriors.com; frenchbedroomcompany.co.uk; harveynorman.ie; lomi.ie.