Creating a cozy nest to get your rest

DESIGN LINE

April 17, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I love the cozy feeling of a canopy bed, but I find that so large a piece of furniture simply doesn't look right in the contemporary-style home to which I've recently moved. The bedroom is actually rather spacious, with a 9-foot-high ceiling. Still, my traditionally styled mahogany four-poster bed looks more clumsy than comfortable in such a setting.

Are there any modern beds that would go well in this kind of room while still providing the nest- like security of my old canopy piece?

A: I sympathize. A canopy bed does create a sheltered environment. Indeed, it was originally designed as a mini-haven from the drafts and chills of large, unheated rooms.

Sadly, though, you're right -- these beds or their reproductions seldom look appropriate in the standard 20th-century bedroom. The awkwardness is compounded when, as in most cases, the ceiling is a full foot lower than your own. Instead of the reassuring sense of being in a nest, one is more likely to experience nagging claustrophobia.

But since your bedroom is comparatively large, you might want to browse the elegantly styled metal furniture that's now being marketed for indoor use.

One such piece is a contemporary version of the French campaign bed used by Napoleon's field officers. These pieces were designed to be easily assembled and dismantled within the RTC confines of a tent. In winter, the beds were draped with heavy fabric to help retain body heat inside a metal structure.

Happily, such features aren't necessary today.

But the sturdy construction and elegant proportions of the original have been retained in these reproductions, making them ideal for use in contemporary settings.

The bed serves as an armature for soft, flowing linens and laces. The proper choice of fabric materials, elegantly arrayed, will produce a cozy but not stifling environment.

I personally prefer either the back or the head of the bed to be entirely draped, with the panels at each corner loosely tied or pushed back.

The rest of the room can be furnished in whatever style you fancy. Most contemporary-style seating or storage pieces will go quite well with this postmodern rendition of the canopied four-poster.

Q: I recently inherited a relative's library. Most of the books are ordinary editions and will probably be sold to a used-book dealer. But one old volume contains a number of beautiful botanical prints that I believe were hand-colored. Is there some way I can use these prints in the decoration of my home?

A: As a book lover, I advise you to leave the prints in their original binding and to take them to a specialist for an appraisal. If the prints are indeed hand-colored and if the volume is complete and in good condition, it may prove to be quite valuable.

I realize, however, that the decorative plates would probably look wonderful on a wall once they had been matted and framed. And I must confess that I have occasionally taken prints out of books -- but only when someone else had already removed some of the pages.

So it would be hypocritical for me to insist that you resist the temptation of displaying some of the prints in groups if they turn out not to have been hand-colored or if the book had previously been cut up.

Like fresh flowers in a vase, botanicals and some types of engravings can be an appropriate decoration in just about any part of the home. The larger their size and the stronger their coloring, the more important they will appear when matted and framed on a wall.

In those cases, there's little danger of replicating the sort of ditsy floral prints seen in some hopelessly old-fashioned parlor.

Smaller, more detailed prints can be matted and simply framed to form a decorative band around a room.

Q: My living room is furnished mostly with antiques in a style that could be called neoclassical. It's a pleasant enough setting, with some interesting architectural features and strong detailing in the woodwork.

But if I give the windows a traditional drapery treatment, the room will definitely look too fussy -- and probably too dark as well. What other type of window covering will go with the room's styling while also affording the necessary privacy?

A: The first possibility that comes to mind is a variation on the traditional theme. In a room such as the one you describe, I might install swags and jabots above the window but barely touching its top and sides. If privacy weren't an issue, that could be all that's really needed.

But since you do need to block the view from outside, this treatment can be augmented by a shade that could be pulled from sill height to cover as little or as much of the window as you wish.

Often referred to as a top-down/bottom-up shade, this kind of covering will work well with many room designs.

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