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Back Page: Pillow Talk

Sheila Gibson Stoodley

Revisiting the bedrooms from a January 1987 article titled “Sleeping Beauties” to compare them with some bedrooms featured more recently confirms our suspicion: For better or worse, the swinging bachelor of that era has settled into adulthood and embraced all of its trappings. 

Set in loft apartments located in converted factory or warehouse spaces and decorated with automobile lacquer, plastic laminate, neon, and—in one regrettable instance—teal-colored leather, the 1987 bedrooms were indeed a celebration of bachelorhood. The designs permitted natural light but did so begrudgingly, for these spaces clearly were not intended for morning people or for daytime entertaining. Their purposes were of a more prurient nature. Abandoning subtlety, the article invites the reader to “slip into something comfortable—one of these seductive bedrooms.”

The Tom Riley–designed room featured in the 2004 Ultimate Home Tour and a Suzanne Tucker room, both with four-poster beds topped by draping fabric canopies, can be just as seductive, but only when the time calls for it. The rays of the morning sun are not only welcome here, they are encouraged and amplified by creams, golds, whites, and other cheerful hues. Tellingly, both rooms include chairs so that the seating options are not limited to the bed.

Tucker, who was selected as Robb Report’s Best of the Best Interior Designer in the June 2003 issue, explains that her designs reflect the maturation of the baby boom generation. “There’s been a trend toward cocooning and creating a home environment that’s more family-oriented,” she says. “Today’s clients want many things from a bedroom: luxury, comfort, and a setting that is seductive when they want it to be. But they want something that is also practical for the kids, the cat, and the dog. Some design a setup so the kids can come in and watch Saturday morning cartoons together as a family.”

Just as the bedroom designs of Tucker and Riley offer insight into the demographics of their clients, the “Sleeping Beauties” bedrooms reveal something about the 1987 Robb Report audience—that its majority consisted of single men, a demographic group most likely to find these rooms appealing. In contrast, 80 percent of today’s Robb Report readers are married and 45 percent have children. In other words, most readers now would probably consider a nearly lifesize sculpture of a rhino (page 64 of the January 1987 issue) a better fit for the twins’ playroom than the master bedroom. And having a fireplace a toe’s width away from the foot of the bed (January 1987, page 69) might seem more troublesome and dangerous than it is worth.

Tucker’s assessment notwithstanding, one could conclude—correctly in many instances—that the differences between the best bedrooms of the past and the present are simply evidence of tastes evolving and not of priorities changing. Still, it is not difficult to imagine that the same person who occupied one of the late 1980s bedrooms as a single man could now find as much pleasure in one of the modern bedrooms as a married father, even while watching Saturday morning cartoons. 

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Photo by Nigel YoungFoster + Partners
Photo by Mike Van Tassell