Whether you’re trying to “turn up the heat” in your bedroom, create a playful paradise for star-crossed lovers, or add silky touches to create a self-care sanctuary, creating a modern boudoir in your bedroom can be an easy and inspiring DIY, regardless of your relationship status.
And even better than the aesthetic is the feeling you’ll get from slinking around in an elegant sleep space that looks and feels sensual. So gather your silky bedding, put on that slinky dressing gown, and let’s dream about the perfect boudoir space for you to exude self-love and maybe even some seduction.
What is a boudoir?
Pronounced “boo-dwahr,” a boudoir is a woman’s dressing room, bedroom, or private sitting room, though it doesn’t have to be exclusive to any one gender identity. Most widely used in the Victorian era and early 1900s, it was meant to be a place for mostly upper-class European women to withdraw to, which helps explain why it derives from a French adjective that translates to “sulk” or “pout.” But despite the original intent, it represents an urge that many of us can relate to in our modern lives: Retreating to a private sanctuary to escape and unwind in a cocoon of serenity and comfort.
The term has expanded and taken on a more romantic notion since its Victorian heyday, leading to the genre of boudoir photography, best exemplified by those gorgeous, sultry, black and white photos of Old Hollywood screen legends and sex symbols like Jean Harlow, Mae West, and more. Today’s boudoir photography pays tribute to those legendary bombshells, and is popular for those who love to play with aesthetics and embrace their sultry side in bombshell, silver-screen style.
Of course, a boudoir-inspired bedroom is not for everybody.
Inspired by my inner Jean Harlow and the seductive power of la vie boudoir, I wanted to manifest a space that was comfortable, yet unapologetically feminine and confident. If you’re looking for a sensual, grown-up space, without feeling like you walked onto the set of “Moulin Rouge” or a cheesy reality TV dating game, here’s how you can do it, too.
Show off those curves
For this space, I fully embraced the idea of curves and femininity. I love how curvaceous furniture can mimic the curves of a woman’s body, and there’s just something so sensual about that. So it felt appropriate to furnish a boudoir with curvy items. These days, searches for boudoir furniture will churn out images of opulent and heavy pieces from the Italian Renaissance or French Louis XVI eras, but you should seek out pieces that reflect your taste and preferences, not to mention your desired vibe. For my bedroom design, I chose a black lacquered rococo-style bed from Fabulous & Baroque; the piece has become the inspiration and focal point of my layout. (Alternatively, I would suggest a tall, tufted, or channeled headboard.)
Not too matchy-matchy
Stay away from purchasing matching bedroom sets when curating a sexy bedroom. Most designers agree that these make a room less visually appealing, as well as completely outdated. The boudoir aesthetic is not for minimalists, so the assorted pieces of a room should deliver maximum visual impact.
My design approach relies heavily on sourcing both old and new pieces, and mixing and matching items to create a unique space customized for each home and individual. When I’m not at a flea market or an antique store, I love searching for vintage and secondhand items using online community-based resale sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. (They’re great for your budget, and purchasing previously owned items is easier on the environment!) And what better way to fully embrace the aura of Jean Harlow than with vintage finds from the past? When searching for boudoir furniture, the specific search terms I used included “rococo,” “baroque,” and “Louis XVI.”
Through online scouting, I found an open nightstand and an oversized black and white striped armchair, both also rococo-inspired and complementary, without overtly matching. The armchair was added to accommodate any visitors or guests...
Note how these pieces look like they’re from the same family as the bed. However, the ornate details and paint finishes are actually all different as seen in the varying rich detail and intricate carvings of each piece. This provides a nice but familiar contrast, especially when lined up next to each other.
When searching for boudoir furniture, it’s important to find balance by choosing pieces that are a mix of heavy and airy. For example, the armchair is quite a substantial piece that takes up a lot of room, so I placed it next to the open nightstand. Finding this balance of weightiness will prevent your room from looking too crowded or small.
Make it dramatic
Turn up the drama in your boudoir-style adult bedroom with vibrant wall coverings. Adding wallpaper to a space ALWAYS creates more visual impact and is practically a requirement for any boudoir bedroom. I chose a dark and moody floral print with dark pink accents to coordinate with the raspberry-colored dresser. (The dresser was also a secondhand find that I had professionally refinished in a high-gloss paint to really show off its curves and carved details. Are you sensing a pattern with these curves?) For those who are shy about using patterns or prints, try a textured wallpaper instead.
Next, what is a boudoir without a giant mirror to admire yourself in? The large framed mirror in my sexy bedroom was another vintage find and quite a show-stopping piece. The frame was originally an orange tint so I refinished it in gold leaf using Rub n Buff to add a bit of glamour and luxury. Again, the recurring theme of curvature is repeated with the ornate patterns of the frame.
The black bench below it — another vintage find from a local antique store — completes the family of black furniture pieces by mirroring the color and carved legs. It’s also the perfect place to toss clothes when dressing or undressing...
Add a peekaboo of color
Because the bedroom is ultimately meant to be a calming sleep sanctuary, I used mostly warm, muted paint colors for my bedroom design: A light purple-tinged gray for the walls and a pinkish white for the ceiling. I used the wallpaper as a guide in selecting the paint colors, ensuring that the shades I chose complemented the light pinks and grays of the wallpaper.
While pinks and purples are commonly used because of how feminine they are, other paint options for a sexy bedroom could be a dark jewel tone, a rich mauve, or even black if you really want to make things dramatic.
Soothe with tactile elements and textured design
This bedroom design tip is actually a good idea for any room: Adding texture will not only make things interesting for your eyes, but it will appeal to your sense of touch as well. This is especially important for a boudoir, where sensuality is key. (Let’s face it, you are meant to get handsy!)
In this romantic bedroom, we added a short black and grey pile rug and offset it with a dusty pink faux-fur throw. The Euro shams are also faux fur and provide a nice cushion against the bed’s wood headboard, while other black and white throw pillows bring in varying stitching methods and textures for tactile interest.
One of my favorite accent pieces in this room is the pair of fringe table lamps that I placed on each side of the dresser. Fringe always makes me think of burlesque dancers and strip teases (wink wink), so consider textures like tassels and fringe when creating your modern boudoir or for any romantic bedroom design. Throughout the space, I sought to appeal to as many senses as possible, thinking about how it would feel to run fingers or bare feet across materials.
Keep your light options dimmable and everywhere
Lighting is key in any bedroom, but it’s especially so in a setting meant to conjure sexiness. Consider putting dimmers on all of the lights to set the mood. This bedroom did not have any overhead lighting and I happily kept it that way. I recommend adding a combination of wall sconces, floor lamps, or tabletop lamps to adjust the amount of lighting in your boudoir. Having all of these options allows you to create an environment that maximizes relaxation and calm.
I added sheer flowy ruffled curtains that my mom sewed from a roll of wholesale fabric purchased from LA’s fashion district. Because the room’s windows are right next to the neighboring building, direct sunlight is very minimal, but I added opaque window clings for privacy from Peeping Toms. If you’re a light sleeper or prefer more privacy, you should opt for thicker curtains or blackout curtains.
Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for: Nudes. Few things are sexier than a woman who is comfortable and confident in her own skin. Remind yourself to love your own body (and maybe even get some creative inspiration) with art and décor pieces that feature or nod to nude or seminude forms and represent a diversity of body shapes and sizes.
The artwork I selected for the walls includes iconic prints of Marilyn Monroe between the sheets and Horst's famed "Mainbocher Corset." Marilyn was the epitome of female confidence and empowerment. She was once famously quoted saying, “If there is only one thing in my life that I’m proud of, it’s that I’ve never been a kept woman.” And that is the empowering feeling I aspired to achieve with this sexy bedroom design.
Lastly, I love anything by Jonathan Adler, and this boob jar is from his Muse collection. The final touch was a small candle in the shape of a female torso. The female form has been celebrated and reproduced by artists over the course of centuries for a reason. It should be a confidence-boosting visual worth celebrating.
Titillating yet inspiring, no? I hope these romantic bedroom ideas have encouraged you to create a modern-day boudoir.