Elaborate bed can work in contemporary setting


November 07, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: Long ago I inherited a 19th-century four-poster bed that was made in Germany. It's quite an imposing piece, due to its height and the heavy carving of the posters. The bed was kept in storage for many years, but now that we've moved into a new home with a large bedroom, I'd like to make use of it at last. But I prefer contemporary design with simple lines. Is there a way to integrate this bed into such a scheme?

A: You're going to have to stretch your imagination to achieve the desired effect. You'll need to pay more attention to contrast and scale than is usually the case. Fortunately, with today's highly eclectic attitudes toward interiors, your eventual solution should readily qualify as tasteful. Since the bed is always the most important piece of furniture in a bedroom, your four-poster can certainly be allowed to play its indisputable role of focal point. Don't worry if it seems out of scale even in your spacious bedroom. Concentrate on turning the bed into a mini-environment within the overall setting.

You'll be pleased to know that your preference for simple contemporary styling can be applied as a way of reinforcing the design direction established by the bed. Night tables, chairs and storage units should all be straightforward in their styling so as not to distract attention from the room's centerpiece.

The night tables should, however, be scaled in accordance with the bed. Since the mattress of your old four-poster is probably higher than today's standard, you may wish to purchase a tall table of drum-like shape. It might look more like a pedestal than a square, four-legged table.

Another possibility would be a pair of fabric-skirted tables that would help soften the bed's imposing presence. I wouldn't introduce the usual bed canopy treatment, however, since it would be difficult to integrate with the contemporary look that I'm suggesting. The bedcoverings, meanwhile, should feature crisp lines and colors in order to create contrast with the dark and ornamental posters.

The photo shows a contemporary adaptation of an Anglo-Indian, four-poster bed from the "Brighton" collection of Mike Bell Antiques in Chicago. As you can see, it's possible to make a large and heavy piece look quite elegant simply by using pristine white linens, lots of embroidered pillows and a fringed lace shawl.

Note, please, that there are no chintz or cabbage rose patterns here, nor a fussy canopy or dust skirt. Instead, the bed is allowed to make its own, unaugmented statement as a luxurious sleeping environment.

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