I Live in a High-Risk Zone for Earthquakes, and Here’s How I Managed to Setup an Earthquake-Safe, Well-Designed Bedroom

published Mar 6, 2023
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Credit: Erin Derby

As a native Californian, I’ve experienced my fair share of earthquakes. After moving back to my home state after a nine-year stint on the East Coast though, I almost forgot just how scary they can be. In my current West Hollywood apartment, I took extra decorating steps to earthquake-proof my bedroom so that I can sleep more soundly — because being safe and staying ready for potential disasters can still make for a well-designed home. Below, I’m sharing a few of my go-to styling tips and must-have product ideas for protecting your bedroom against shaking, especially if you live in an earthquake-prone area.

Practice minimalism

This tip is a challenge, even for me. I’ve accumulated a lot of beautiful things during my travels, as gifts from friends, or just weird, whimsical items that caught my eye at a flea market. When it comes to decorating for earthquakes though, less is more — the fewer items you have around you, the lower the chance you have of accidentally falling over something and getting injured.

Credit: Ashley Fee

Position your bed away from windows 

During significant earthquakes, windows can shatter as walls sway back and forth. I chose to put the head of my bed against a solid wall instead of under the windows (as seen above), which keeps me away from potential falling shards of glass. For extra safety — or if you don’t have the space to distance your bed — consider applying transparent window film to lock the glass in place even if it breaks, like this style from Amazon.

Refrain from hanging anything heavy above the bed

I love hanging art above a headboard, since it helps anchor the bed in a space and sets the personality and tone of the room. However, most injuries during earthquakes are caused by falling objects, which limits what you should hang over your head at night. To keep myself safe, I opted to install a small print in a lightweight frame with plexiglass instead of heavy glass (try IKEA’s SANNAHED frame). You could also try tacking up a textile, such as a flag or tapestry you love. I went a step further and added some museum putty to the back of the frame for extra wall adhesion. 

Use museum putty

To that end, I swear by this stuff! Museum putty (also known as earthquake putty) effectively holds decor items in place without ruining them or surfaces. I used putty to secure the antique wall lamps on either side of my bed, plus the vases and clocks on my nightstand and dresser. It’s also reusable, so you can remove it and stick it somewhere else. 

Credit: Lula Poggi

Secure large furniture pieces to the wall

This one is tough if you’re like me and get the urge to rearrange your furniture every few months, or if you are renting and don’t want to put holes in the walls. Securing your furniture with the appropriate screws for your walls, though, will increase your safety in the event of an earthquake, even if it requires committing long-term to just one layout. Any large pieces that can fall over or slide around, such as bookcases and dressers, should be properly anchored to the wall. Some furniture pieces may come with their own anchors, or you can do what I did and use something order earthquake anchors from Amazon

Opt for flameless, battery-operated candles

Faux candlelight is still sexy and much safer than a real flame, but flameless candles also come in handy when the power goes out. Just make sure you keep spare batteries on hand, too. I love items that function for everyday use and are extra-useful in an emergency!

Have an exit strategy

It’s not a decor tip, but just like any design, it’s always a good idea to have a plan. I keep a “Go Bag” in my closet just in case, which gives me peace of mind knowing it’s there. I bought this one on Amazon, but you can shop others that serve different needs or create your own. I also keep a flashlight in my nightstand and wear pajamas every night to bed. I really don’t want to get caught in my birthday suit having to run out of my apartment during an earthquake!