You don’t need to see ghosts or hear voices to live with a scary room. Scary rooms don’t just  appear at night or at the onset of a serious thunder storm – and they go well beyond creaky  floorboards. In a scary room, something just isn’t right.. objects may be misplaced or simply out of sync with each other. 

See if one of these types of scary rooms are haunting your home… and find out how to avoid them!

The Decomposed Room
Scary rooms often have a dismembered or disjointed quality. Items that are similar in look or function, are spread evenly around a room rather than grouped together. Pictures are hung anywhere rather than closely aligned with furniture. Sofas and chairs are lined up along walls rather than grouped together to create an inviting conversation area.

Decomposition is common in large rooms where there’s pressure to ’fill space’. But it’s just as likely to occur in small rooms where furnishings are scattered too randomly around a room. But the fix is easy. Simply bring furniture closer together and anchor it with rugs, accents and pictures. You can then leave the rest of the room empty and it’ll look just fine!

The Faceless Room
You don’t need to be a headless horseman to suffer an identity crisis. A room without a style, or point of view can be as faceless as a phantom at the Opera or a horse rider from Sleepy Hollow who lost his head.

A faceless room occurs when furnishing styles, colors or patterns are combined without enough regard to compatibility.

Without a definable style or attitude to furnishing selections, a room can feel a bit like a skeleton—all bones with no flesh to fill in the physical features that create differentiation or personality.

The fix? Find a style you like and stick with it! Choose items that share a similar style type, color palette or texture.

The Scaly Room
Rough, dry textures can be irritating enough. But a scaly room has more to do with proportion problems, or too much contrast in size between items. A    coffee table that’s too small for the sofa, a picture that’s too large for the cabinet under it, a window that’s too small for the room… all add up to a sizable issue.

Fixing a scaly room means balancing the objects on either side of it – the same way you’d balance weight on a boat or plane. That doesn’t mean everything has to be the same size… large items can be balanced with a collection of smaller items.

The perceived size of an item can also be adjusted with simple tricks. Long or wide curtains make a too-small window look bigger. A rug makes a too-small table look more substantial. A too-big piece of furniture looks smaller when the wall behind it is painted a similar color.

For examples of scary rooms, and ideas on how to fix them, click on the RoomPlanners issue (left). To receive our free online magazine, subscribe here.


Determining if you have a bed bug infestation can be a challenge. Bed bugs are very small (about the size of an apple seed), they’re awfully good at hiding and only make an appearance for a brief period. Here are the top ways to tell if your room is infested:

* look for dark blood marks, usually small streaks on sheets

* look for the bugs or their shells where they like to hide… between mattress crevices, seams and handles, inside bed linens, curtains, furniture, behind headboards, picture frames, outlets or screw heads.

 * lay double-sided carpet tape in strips around the perimeter of your room. If you have bed bugs, you’ll likely see one or more of them stuck to the tape after a few days.

 * inspect your arms and legs for close-together bites; often in a row.

For more information about bed bugs, check out our special Sleep issue. Click on the cover to the left, or download it on our web site at

Getting an infestation of bed bugs into your home is stressful and expensive to treat (not to mention itchy!). Here are 7 ways to avoid inviting these stealthy critters into your home in the first place…

 1. Wash new sheets or new clothes in very hot water before placing in closets or drawers. Or put them through a hot dryer cycle.  The heat will kill any bed bugs that were in the retail store or factory packaging.

 2. Wash clothes in very hot water after being in public places (theaters, hotels) or in other people’s homes. If you work in other people’s homes for a living, leave clothing or uniforms in a sealed bag.

3. Avoid buying used furniture. If you do, inspect it carefully with a flashlight before bringing it into your house.

4. Shake out suitcases over the bathtub when you get home from hotels, or leave empty suitcases in a hot car for a day or two to kill bugs and eggs.

5. Wrap your mattress in a mattress protector that resists and kills bed bugs.

6. Avoid a cluttered home; it gives bed bugs more places to hide and makes them hard to find.

7. Watch regularly for bed bugs  (and their signs) in your home. Early detection saves money.

Finally, if you do get an infestation, avoid visiting other people’s homes until your house is clear of them.

It’s near epidemic. Bed bugs are infesting hotels, offices, stores and theaters. 

 The ultimate hitchhikers, bed bugs can cross your threshold many ways… along with overnight guests who’ve spent a night in a hotel, inside your luggage after you’ve spent a night in a hotel or a few hours on an airplane, on your clothes after a few hours shopping or at the movie theater… or even through the walls of a neighboring suite.

Books and articles on these stealthy critters reads like a vampire novel. Their eggs are invisible… they can live up to a year without eating…  their bites can look different on different people (making a bed bug problem hard to diagnose)… they can live anywhere we do and especially like burrowing deep into our mattress… a single bug can lay 4 or 5 eggs a day; 300-500 eggs in a lifetime… they’re good at hiding and their flat shape lets them squeeze in and out of tight hiding places… they don’t need a nest, just a place to hide… they head for the bed when you do, but they may hang out somewhere else entirely… and a safe pesticide to eradicate these thirsty predators isn’t available yet…

 The widespread use of DDT all but eradicated the common bed bug in the 1940s and ’50s. But DDT was banned in 1972 as too toxic to wildlife. By the late 1990s, bed bugs had developed resistance to the chemicals that replaced DDT.

 In addition, a 1996 law that required older pesticides to be re-evaluated based on more stringent health standards left exterminators with fewer pesticides available to fight these strong, stealthy pests.

 More of a nuisance than a health hazard, bed bugs are  nonetheless stressful and their bites remarkably itchy. An exterminator can rid your home of them (never spray your mattress with insecticides yourself!). But that can get expensive fast. Keeping bed bugs out of your house is always your first course of action. And if you do get them? Address the problem quickly.


According to recent research, teens are averaging 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night. That’s well below the 9-10 hours recommended by sleep experts for their age.

You may argue that you stayed up late too, back in the day, and you turned out just fine. But that was before the age of back-lit cell phones and computers that keep minds alert and bodies fooled into thinking it’s still daytime. Techno gadgets, it seems, are cutting into much-needed rest. Apart from keeping kids up at night, they cause too much stimulation at a time when kids should be clearing their minds. Research is showing that they also cut production of melatonin, that helpful sleep dust our brains scatter throughout our bodies in the absence of light.

A recent Pediatrics research survey of high school students reported only 21% of them got anywhere near the needed 8-10 hours of sleep. After 9:00 pm, 82% of them were still watching TV, 55% were using a computer online, 44% were talking on the phone and 34% were texting!

Here are a few ideas to get your kids to bed earlier… and ensure they’re sleeping like a baby, whatever their age!

1. Get kids tuckered out with plenty of physical exercise during the day. We all sleep better after some physical exertion! But with so much time spent indoors with electronics, kids are getting less exercise than ever before. Exercise is most beneficial to sleep if it’s a few hours before bedtime.  

2. Invest in a good mattress. A supportive, comfortable mattress is important at any age, but growing bodies need the right support as much as older bodies.

3. Cut caffeine at least 5 hours before bedtime. (Some experts recommend cutting caffeine intake by 2:30 pm). Soft drinks, some energy drinks and chocolate can all contain high levels of caffeine.

4. Shut down and power off computers an hour before bedtime. Use that time for reading, relaxing, praying, listening to music, quiet conversation, going for a walk, family time in front of the fireplace, drawing or just getting ready for bed!

5. Take drastic measures, if necessary! Ban computer use on weeknights, except for homework. Limit video games to weekends. Create a central recharging station: insist that kids bring cell phones and other portable electronics to a kitchen or home office location before bedtime– it’ll keep these gadgets out of their rooms and hands during sleeping hours.

6. Enforce a strict and regularly scheduled bedtime. To determine what time that should be, work backwards from the time your child needs to get up to ensure the right number of sleep hours for the child’s age. (Experts recommend 10-12 hours of sleep for kids up to age 5; 9-10 hours of sleep for kids aged 6-19).

 7. Talk to kids about the importance of sleep. If they understand that adequate sleep leads to better grades, looks and health, they may be more likely to at least think about a little more sleep! Lobby your school to add a class about the physical effects of too little or poor quality sleep, including its effects on health, weight control and mental concentration.

8. Create a bedroom conducive to sleep. Keep it as dark as possible with light-blocking blinds or curtains (a dark room stimulates a higher production of melatonin). Turn the thermostat down and layer blankets so kids can adjust them for their temperature.

 9. Model the behavior you want your kids to have. Shut off all TVs and computers by 10 pm, or enforce a quiet hour for everyone before your kid’s bedtime.

 10. Shift into new sleep routine prior to the start of a new school year or semester. Used to staying up late and sleeping in, the first week back to school can be excruciating…  for kids and parents! Make changes to bedtimes a week or two prior. Adjust their getting-up and going-to-bed times by 30 minutes every few days to help them ease into the new schedule.

We’re getting less sleep than ever before.

But before we blame the counting sheep for poor leadership from #1… #8 being out of sequence… or #86 too depressed to even think about jumping fences tonight, it behooves us to at least consider what the flock is facing.

They know we’re sleeping fewer hours.. and so tired we don’t always need them. But they’re also up against a growing trend toward insomnia, with more of us lying awake with plenty on our mind besides them. The ups and downs of the economy alone are enough to keep us wide awake. That’s not to mention fears of losing our job or house, or other personal issues competing with our time to dream.

Those late nights trysts with our computers aren’t helping either. Stimulating our minds and illuminating our brains isn’t exactly a good thing to do at night. Studies are suggesting that being up close and personal with a highly lit computer screen may decrease our production of melatonin – the hormone that goes into high gear when the sun goes down, sprinkling sleep dust on us in the dark.

The bottom line? Recent stats say 70% of us have sleep issues (up from 60% just 10 years ago!). Still others just have really bad nocturnal habits.

The good news is that 50% of us with sleep disorders (and 100% of us with really bad nocturnal habits) don’t need medication. We can cure ourselves. But it will mean getting 7.5-9 hours of sleep every night.

In exchange, we’ll feel  better, be healthier, smarter, thinner and even better looking (more sleep can make us look 3 years younger!). We may even let the sheep take the credit.

Sleeping on a comfortable mattress is the best way to  fall asleep faster. But we’ve got plenty more good ideas! Check out our special ‘sleep issue’ to find out what to do… and not to do – to sleep better.Just click on the photo to the left, or visit to subscribe to our free monthly magazine.

If you need to place the alarm clock across the room to wake you, you may be one of a growing number of us who aren’t getting sleep and chronically over-tired. See for yourself how your sleep habits stack up!

Answer 1-5 for each question, with 1 = always / 5 = never.

1. I need an alarm clock to wake me at the right time.

2. I hit the snooze button at least once or twice.

 3. I need more than one cup of coffee to get me going in the morning.

 4. I easily forget things, including names of people or places.

 5. I eat sugar to feel more energetic.

 6. I feel irritable or impatient.

 7. I have a hard time being creative.

 8. I fantasize about sleeping in.

 9. When I wake up, I’m already looking forward to going to bed that evening.

 10. I take medication to help me sleep.

 11. I fall asleep right after dinner.

 12. I feel drowsy when driving.

 13. On weekends, I sleep 2 hours or more later than my weekday wake-up time.

 14. People tell me that I look tired or have dark circles under my eyes.

 15. I have nightmares or wake up suddenly.

 16. I wake up 2 or more times during the night.

 17. I drool when I sleep.

 18. I get twitches in one eye.

 19. I fall asleep reading a book or studying.

 20. I doze off during quiet movies, lectures, classes or concerts, even ones I enjoy.


85 points of higher. You’ve got above average sleep habits! You may occasionally crave more sleep than you get, but you’re doing more right than wrong.

65-70 points. Some simple adjustments in your sleep habits will increase your focus, energy, memory and overall well-being.

50-65 points. You may be suffering from a sleep disorder… or just poor nocturnal habits. Try simple changes to your routine or consult a sleep expert.

Under 50 points. You may be dozing off as you read this! If you can’t get more sleep using the tips in this sleep issue, consult a sleep expert or a medical doctor.

Annual Sleep IssueGet more information about sleep, including tips on how to fall asleep faster, how to create a hotel-inspired bedroom, and much more. Click on the magazine to open.

Click here to receive our free online magazine each month.

Ever wish you could take your favorite 5-star hotel room home with you? You’re not alone!

Luxurious hotel suites are designed to help us sleep and relax well. So it’s worth knowing the room design tricks of professional hotel designers! Here are 10 tricks that really work!

 1. Use a monochromatic color scheme, or the same (or similar) color on the wall, ceiling and floor for a ‘cocoon’ effect.

 2. Use neutral colors for large areas and for smaller accents. It creates a quieting effect, with no jarring contrasts. Choose chic (cool) or organic (warm) neutral colors.

 3. Choose contemporary furniture; it takes less effort to clean, or look at.

 4. Eliminate clutter and put away knickknacks. Use large accents.

 5. Add a comfortable place to sit (… that’s not the bed)!

 6. Lean an oversized floor mirror on a wall next to a window. It reflects relaxing daylight into the room (and is a luxurious place to get dressed!).

 7. Invest in high-thread-count white sheets; you’ll notice the difference in the quality and white always feels indulgent.

 8. Make your bed the way hotels do…. pull the comforter halfway back and stack (instead of propping up) a double set of pillows. 

 9. Create long, low horizontal lines; they simulate the horizon line and feel relaxed and stabilized

 1o. Use a plush carpet underfoot, or a plush area rug

For more information on creating a hotel-style bedroom (and lots of other sleep-better tips!), check out RoomPlanners’ special Sleep issue. Click on the photo to the left, or visit to download it free.

To subscribe to our free online home decorating magazine, subscribe here.

 If you haven’t seen the new online magazine from Ashley Furniture, Trend Watch, check it out. It’s practical and a quick read. (You can also subscribe to get it free every month). This month features a pretty cottage-inspired collection. Also information about setting up a great TV-watching room for fall.

Go to, or click on the link below for the current issue.

Modern Craftsman, by Stanley Furniture

As if there’s not already a lot of reasons to love Craftsman style… here’s one more. The style is easily updated for a more urban look. That’s right! A style that set out to be sturdy, simple and smart can also be stylish!

More than a century after the first William Morris wallpapers and Gustav Stickley chairs, Craftsman style is anything but yesterday’s news! Seems sturdy furniture, smart features and simple, organic materials are just as welcome today! In fact, as rustic as it’s perceived to be, Craftsman style shares DNA with modern style! Beliefs that less-is-more and form-follows-function actually inspired Craftsman furniture designers before they did modern furniture designers.

So if your tastes run a litte more urban than rustic (but you love the warmth of wood!), check out these six ways to update Craftsman-style room designs!

  • paint the walls white or a cool, pristine off-white color; rustic, grainy woods look fresh and updated against very light colors
  • keep walls bare; use large, minimal accessories above furniture and keep the wall spaces     between pieces of furniture empty
  • add touches of black or iron on picture frames, lamp shades, chairs or placemats
  • hang botanical prints or black-and-white artwork in dark or light frames 
  • use polished hardwood floors in a light or dark finish
  •  lean rather than hang pictures; prop them up above mantels, ledges or sofa tables

Check out some updated Craftsman and Mission furniture collections in our roomplanners magazine.  

(If you’d like to receive our free online magazine every month, subscribe here).

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