Bedroom Design in the Age of Bedbugs

Bedbugs have invaded the East Coast and are marching west. This week, homeowners in Beverly Hills and other Southern California cities reported bedbug infestations. It may seem like a national epidemic, but there are easy steps you can take to avoid keep bedbugs at bay.

Bedbugs are kind of like vampires. If you create a welcoming habitat and invite them into your home, you’re in trouble. However, like warding off uninvited vampires with garlic and holy water, you can help keep bedbugs away by following three simple design rules: Isolate your bed, reduce clutter and minimize hiding places.

1. Isolate and simplify your bed

Bedbugs may hide in chairs, carpets, picture frames and other furniture, but they really want to be biting you in your bed, as their name suggests. Experts suggest the most important step you can take is to turn your bed into an island in the middle of the room. This can prevent infestation or minimize the spread of insects from an infested bed into other parts of the home. 

The type of mattress is not as important as the frame and the sheets. Bedbugs have been found in virtually every type of mattress, including waterbeds and memory foam. Instead of replacing an expensive mattress, focus on a simple frame that can’t harbor as many bugs. Basic metal frames are harder for bedbugs to climb, and easier for homeowners to inspect for infestations. Avoid complex platform beds. They offer plenty of hiding places for bedbugs.

Keep bedding from touching the floor, and buy bedding that can be washed in hot cycles and run through the dryer. Also make it difficult for bedbugs to climb from the floor onto the bed frame. One option is a moat-style interceptor trap with slick talc-coated walls. Place a trap under each leg of the bed frame to keep the critters from crawling up onto the bed. Another option is double-sided tape around all the legs.

Keep nightstands, paintings, baseboards and other potential hiding places separated from the bed. Bedbugs cannot jump or fly. While they can crawl up to 20 feet, bedbugs are a pretty lazy species that doesn’t walk too far.

Avoid second-hand beds. If you buy mattresses or box springs at yard sales or thrift stores, look for proof that they were sterilized by a certified sanitizer.

2. Reduce clutter

Cluttered homes are more inviting to bedbugs than dirty homes. For example, a few dust bunnies under the bed are less problematic than storage crates or dirty laundry. That balled-up shirt could be a bedbug stepstool into your bed.

Take clutter off the floor, particularly items that could provide access to the bed. Minimize the other furniture in the bedroom, particularly wooden and upholstered pieces, which are likely to have cracks, gaps, nooks and crannies for hiding bedbugs.

Bedbugs can also live under the items that stack up on nightstands, such as phones and lamps. Even picture frames may be considered clutter, as they have dark corners for hiding bedbugs.

3. Minimize other hiding places

Research has shown that carpet edges and baseboards are second only to beds and bedding in their tendency to harbor bedbugs. Be sure to keep carpet edges clean, and caulk and cracks and gaps in baseboards.

Even wallpaper and popcorn ceilings can hide bedbugs. A simple drywall finish and paint job can help minimize bedbug risks.

Designing your bedroom to minimize bedbug infestations doesn’t mean sleeping in a hermetically sealed bubble, but it does mean isolating the bed and simplifying the room.

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