Remaking the Bed

Clean lines, architectural details and unconventional fabrics can make what you sleep on dynamic and dramatic.

Focus On Furnishings

February 06, 2005|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

Dress the bed as you will; the big news in design is the frame. Simple ge-ometry rules the hippest modern bed styles today.

As simplifying our lives and decluttering our homes continue to be the mantra of the decade, it is no surprise that more of us are seeking a pared-down place to occupy one-third of our time.

The "wenge" (pronounced WEN-gay) look of espresso-black furniture that has been so popular in the living room has settled into the bedroom. The naturally dark African wood adds the same kind of elegance as a classic black dress or suit. Clean lines draw the eye, and details are held to a minimum -- noticeable, but subtle.

Architectural elements punctuate head and footboards, attracting attention without distracting. On upholstered beds, fabrics as minimal as natural-hued linen and skin-taut kid leather or kicky as a bold stripe look so much more fresh than traditional floral patterns with matching draperies.

Even four-posters and cano-pies are finding that less is more, the better to appreciate their graphic form. And then there's the return of the platform bed. The low-to-the-ground style has reached new heights of fashion, nothing like the crude dorm-room versions of slabs on cinder blocks, '70s plywood or carpeted low-rises that suited loft living.

Modern trends

Today's platform beds are more akin to stylish modern frames the Italians have been doing beautifully since the 1980s. In wood finishes, leather or upholstery, these beds sometimes have reading lights, built-in night tables or storage drawers tucked beneath. One of Pulaski Furniture's newest beds features shelving built into the tall headboard and panel footboard.

A couple of manufacturers even feature a mattress-lifting mechanism that reveals storage the full size of the bed. And no box springs are required.

In fact, that's another trend. Many of the new bed designs are good to go with only a mattress. This downsizing also contributes to a more spare profile. And it apparently is a look that is becoming more transitional, palatable to those who are not entirely comfortable with no-frills modernist interiors.

For those who still yearn for tradition, there are French, Italian and English country looks, baroque models and 18th-century-style beds crafted from elegant veneers embellished with exquisite carvings. But a growing audience is embracing serenity as the new romanticism. Just add candles and crisp white linens for mood.

British designer Kelly Hoppen's version of good nights, for example, is a contemporary headboard constructed of wood with a black finish and striped horizontally with a rectangular ivory fabric inset. Shown in a white room, framed by white curtains and dressed with white linens, with the bedcover and shams quilted with abstract circles, the black-and-white contrast is compelling.

Just the proper balance of light to dark in the headboard is matched by the room's equilibrium. To the side of the bed is a dark wood nightstand topped by a white lamp with a sculptural base, its round spheres echoing the circles on the bedding. At the foot is a dark bench topped with three (odd numbers always work best) chunky candles -- again, their round shapes a ditto to the other elements.

Sometimes, opposing elements create a paradoxical tension. Take the Italian manufacturer mobileffe's Ross bed, for example. Its low-slung platform seems to rest on feet too petite for its wide girth. Nearly ground-hugging side tables extend like arms from its sides. The frame is dark wood, but what an impact the bed makes with its red wool-upholstered headboard. White linens peek out of a red blanket, and the effect is sizzling.

Stained-glass look

A medium of red glass and steel lends a fiery kinetic aura to a bed designed by architect Andrew Ramsgard for Xander Blue. Head and footboard consist of panels created with squares of stained glass suspended in steel frames, like a see-through patchwork.

"It's an odd mix," Ramsgard acknowledges. "One of my clients described it as 'biblical contemporary' because it blends the old with the new. It's very different from anything out there."

Ramsgard, who displayed the piece at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York last May, says the stained-glass bed appeals because of its warmth.

"The downfall of modern contemporary furniture is that it's cold," he says. "Everybody can have the same cell phone or furniture anywhere in the world. That's what the Industrial Age did. But with such mass production, what was lost was the personal aspect of the handmade connection of one human being to another."

What's almost magical about the glass bed is its translucence, which transforms the space as light flows through it at different times of day.

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