Archive for the ‘Sleeping Through the Ages’ Category

Country Gothic bedrooms

Saturday, April 9th, 2011
Boyne Brass Bed from Original Bedstead.

Boyne Brass Bed from Original Bedstead.

Country Gothic styling offers a less formal, arguably softer approach to Gothic design projects. This style movement was particularly popular during the 1840s onwards when it was also referred to as Revival Gothic or American Gothic. Of course it was the Victorians who really embraced the look, as the architectural elements to be found in both public and private buildings from the era, bear testament today.

Gothic styling remained popular through the reign of Queen Victoria, for it was the dark woods, carved furniture, rich colours and arched features that so captured the imagination of our ancestors.

As a design trait that has endured through the passage of time, it still enjoys particular relevance within the 21st century, although these days we might prefer a lightening up of the Victorian interpretation of the style. However, true Gothic interiors still rely on beautiful wooden features and an elegant mix of ornate and country decor, to capture the heart of this most emotive of decorative solutions. As a fun and timeless approach to interior design, it might just be an option that appeals, with sympathetic use of elements of the look, or a complete makeover, for ravishing Country Gothic romance.

Antique markets and reclamation yards, make happy hunting grounds for any budding interior designer with Gothic yearnings. Look out for architectural and accessory elements that embrace Country Gothic style. The arch practically defined the look, so any arch-shaped features such as window frames, wall sconces, or actual wall or door arches, in original form or recreated using lighter materials, will set the scene. For those building or altering a house, or perhaps creating a whimsical folly, modern arched windows and arched features are fairly easy to obtain, and wooden features can be distressed down to impart a time-worn appearance.

Stain floors to resemble antique oak, or paint with patterns such as diamonds or hexagons. The ornate Gothic style would also have extended to the floors, and add an imposing focal point with a heavy and glamorous four poster bed in a moody dark finish with antique brass detailing, or perhaps an ornately carved wooden four poster bedstead. Allowing the bed to set the scene for the room set as a whole, will always pay dividends, and where space is tighter, a traditional normal height iron bed or romantic brass bedstead , is sure to be equally appealing as well as possibly a little more affordable.

Whatever your choice, bring the bed to life with a bedspread that features a richly coloured large scale floral print. Dressers and chests made from walnut or oak would also be appropriate, as would a glass or marble topped bedside table. Large scale gilt framed mirrors will add depth to the walls and impart a feeling of space to the room.

Complement the whole ensemble with colours that offer warmth and comfort. The Victorians absolutely loved the dark toned jewel tones that defined the Gothic period, and rich reds and burnt gold’s are particularly appropriate. Add a country element to the rich colour theme by using creamy white accents for trim on fabrics and window dressings. Alternatively you might choose to paint your walls a vintage white for a fresher, more contemporary Gothic feel, and as the perfect backdrop contrast for that glamorous traditional bed and dark wood furniture pieces.

Accent pieces such as leather topped chairs and ottomans will bring comfort and style to the room setting, or breathe new life into a chaise longue or wing-backed chair by reupholstering in rich damasks or velvets in dark brown, burgundy or royal blue.

Crucifix details will introduce another authentic dimension, whilst some richly patterned cushions and bolsters will add extra comfort and visual appeal to the most enticing of bedroom settings…

Victorian charm for girl’s bedrooms

Friday, October 29th, 2010
Windsor Iron Bed from Original Bedstead.

Windsor Iron Bed from Original Bedstead.

Think back to the days before television, computer games and all other forms of techno-wizzardry, to an age when simple playtime pleasures were the order of the day, and we’re starting to fall into the right mindset for children’s bedrooms with a Victorian theme and old fashioned values.

Simple vintage charm is the order of the day here, with rocking horses, floral prints, comfy bedside chairs and delightful dolls houses setting the scene. This quaint and homely bedroom style is very inviting and elements of the style, or a complete makeover are still relevant and timelessly appealing, particularly against the backdrop of modern fast lane lifestyles and transient forms of play and entertainment.

Whatever our age, we cannot help but be inspired and influenced by our surroundings, and in this regard, a Victorian themed bedroom delivers a comfy heap of nostalgic charm that might just be the perfect antidote for an ever-demanding 21st century culture.

It’s a great alternative, to the ubiquity of many modern bedrooms, whilst not appearing old fashioned or fusty. Once you (and your daughter!) are convinced that it’s the look to go for, a good start point is to select pastel colours for the walls and ceilings. Light pinks and faded pastel yellows are perfect, or why not choose a wallpaper that has a lovely Victorian floral print, or perhaps a combination of the two? The trick is to keep the colours muted. We’re not looking for formal Victorian decorative styles here; that’s another look altogether. Instead, soft and muted is the way to go, with accessories and fabrics to add comfort and appeal.

Investing in a pretty Victorian styled iron bed, will bring instant charm to the room. The Victorians were the masters of metal bed design and perfected the art of manufacture and construction, that we still emulate today. So it seems only fitting that we should choose a captivating reproduction as the centrepiece for our Victorian bedroom.

Dark colour finishes of black, burgundy and even royal blue, would have been popular back in the  19th and early 20th centuries, but here we’ll opt for a glossy ivory finish for a gentler, more feminine flavour. This will ensure a perfect harmony with our pastel colour themes, and when dressed with some vintage styled quilts and bedthrows will impart a truly homely and inviting feel to the room.

In fact, quilts, just like the traditional metal bedstead, are Victorian to a tee. There are many patterns from which to choose, whether that be a simple square pattern or something more intricate such as star or paisley designs. Match up with soft white linens, and by selected a few different but colour complementary quilt designs, it’s possible for any young girl to change the appearance of the room with just a simple change of bed dressing.

Wooden furniture is the perfect match for the iron bed. The contrasting elements complement each other, although it goes without saying, that any wooden pieces should have the distressed look of  an original antique, in the absence of the real thing.

It can be great fun to hunt down old pieces, and in this environment, they certainly don’t all need to match. A painted rustic look is always going to be in keeping; creams and off-whites are perfect and would look lovely in company with the bedstead. Metal detailing was not uncommon and adds a touch of vintage romance as would a beautiful dressing table and ornate cheval-type mirror for practical charm.

So we’re on the right track and it’s all starting to take shape, but there are still some little touches that will add that final touch of vintage magic to bring our Victorian girl’s bedroom springing into life….

Queen Victoria’s Bed

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

WITHIN THE ARCHIVES of famous beds, there must surely be a place for Queen Victoria’s majestic wooden half tester which presided majestically in her private bed chamber at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

It was where she was to spend her final days before her death on 22nd January 1901 attended by her personal physician, Dr James Reid.

As her life drew to an end, the doctor found it impractical to attend to her within the vastness of her grand bedstead and she was transferred to a smaller single bed within the royal room. It was to be the end of a remarkable reign lasting over 63 years, the longest of any serving British monarch and signalled the end of The House of Hanover.

During her time as Queen, Victoria had presided over the expansion of the British Empire and the industrialisation of Great Britain. Possibly the most significant period of change in recent British history and an era that was forever to bear her name.

It was this hugely important era of industrial revolution that was to give us the new metalworking skills that produced some of the finest engineering work and design led innovation of recent times.

The romantic Iron bedstead that still remains close to our hearts today, saw it’s zenith here.

As an example of excellence and an indication of our affection for this period of history and the craftsmanship that it spawned, it is surely a perfect case in point.

Victoria died, surrounded by her children and Edward V11 commissioned Hubert von Herkomer to paint the death bed portrait. A plaque was installed above the famous bed and the room was to become a family shrine for the next fifty years.

The Queen never recovered emotionally from the death of her husband, Prince Albert and on the headboard of the bed was his pocket watch and a tinted photograph of the Prince after his death.

The Queen had always had these two objects hanging from the headboard of her bed in every royal residence. Her demise heralded an end to a somewhat austere but unquestionably hugely influential era, which was to shape so much of what we treasure as a nation today.

James Grahams “Celestial Bed”

Friday, July 30th, 2010

ELSEWHERE within these pages we had made mention of “The Great Bed of Ware”, truly the grandest Daddy of all beds, which now resides in all its enormous splendour in the V & A Museum as a lasting legacy of British eccentricity.

And yet there are, of course other famous beds that have raised an eyebrow or two over the passage of time, and none more oddly intriguing than that of the Celestial Bed, designed and conceived (apt word choice!) by the great sexologist, Dr James Graham who lived between 1745 and 179.

Dr Graham was arguably an early pioneer in sex therapy with an undoubted genius for spectacle and persuasion. His electro- magnetic Grand State Celestial Bed was created to make the infertile, fertile and produce perfect babies.

For centuries, Graham was dismissed as no more than a quack, although today he is held in rather higher esteem as something of a medical entrepreneur.

In his day, Graham was certainly a larger than life character with a talent for self-promotion and public speaking, but it is clear that he also genuinely believed in the efficacy of his unusual and rather bizarre medical cures.

The culmination of his notoriety occurred in June 1781 when he unveiled the Temple of Hymen within new premises in Pall Mall. Designed primarily to house his new creation, The Celestial Bed, it must have aroused much controversy at the time.

His miracle bed, although a little smaller than the totally unrelated ”Great Bed of Ware”, made up for in paraphernalia, what it lacked in size. Measuring a not insubstantial 12 feet by 9ft and canopied in four poster bedsteads style with a dome covered in musical automata, fresh flowers and live turtle doves, it produced stimulating oriental fragrances and ethereal gases.

A tilting inner framework device, manoeuvred couples into the best position in which to conceive and their movements would set off celestial sounding organ music, which increased in intensity with the ardour of the occupants!

The electrified, magnetic creation was insulated by 40 cut glass pillars and at the head of the bed were written the words “be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth” above a moving electrified clockwork tableau which celebrated Hymen, the god of marriage.

Whether or not Dr Grahams creation could be credited with any successes we shall never know, and certainly the good doctor was dogged with financial woes for much of his career, so any financial rewards were to elude him.  But as testimony to the dogged beliefs of 18th century innovators there should always be a place in the history books for such groundbreaking characters whose quirkiness and resolve (by today’s standards) forms part of the backbone of these great Isles!

Cottage comforts and Country charm….

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

English Country Cottage

English Country Cottage

The image of the quintessential English country cottage is both endearing and enduring.

Whilst the stereotype pictured postcard village scene is often overplayed, few would deny the nostalgic appeal that our little rural communities evoke. In such settings the traditional cottage bedroom and the furniture therein is invariably comfortable and welcoming in keeping with the theme.

The rich textures and deep patinas of natural wooden beds are a natural partnership with the shabby chic of many old cottages and country homes as are traditional forged metal and polished or antique brass bedsteads. Indeed, since their rise to popularity at the end of the 19th century, these well-loved designs have enjoyed endless appeal.

Cast metal bedsteads in traditional styles particularly suit country schemes as their clean and inviting lines contrast with the quirky irregular contours and oak beams of old buildings. From its early peasant roots, the country bed was, of necessity, truly simple and modest.

Early wooden beds would have supported a functional Hessian sacking base or rows of tightly strung ropes or leather straps that supported a basic and invariably, uncomfortable mattress. Once iron and brass bedsteads became widespread and affordable within the more prosperous country home, they became popular for use for the serving staff in Spartan attic bedrooms.

The designs lacked decoration and embellishments and were accordingly very easy to maintain and keep clean as well as being largely free from the scourge of the bed bug, which had plagued previous generations!


A brief history of the Mattress.

Saturday, February 20th, 2010


We probably take the word mattress for granted although few realise that it owes its origins to Arabic culture.

Indeed, during the earlier part of the Middle Ages, Arabic culture was more advanced than that of Europe. One of the amenities of life enjoyed by the Arabs was sleeping on cushions thrown onto the floor.

Derived from the word matrah, which meant “place where something is thrown”, and “mat, cushion”, this kind of sleeping style was adopted by the Europeans during the Crusades and the Arabic word was taken into Old Italian and subsequently into French (materas) from which is derived the Middle English word of the same spelling, first recorded in a work written about 1300. Our modern day word, like so many, is a corruption of those original interpretations and owes its origin to the Medieval Latin translation matracium.

Whilst arguably not the most emotive piece of domestic necessity, the mattress and its derivatives have been with us in one form or another since the dawn of mankind. Indeed from the available evidence, it seems pretty likely that the concept of the mattress originated during prehistoric times when piles of leaves, straw and animal skins would have provided a more comfortable sleeping solution to early humans than a simple hard surface. As the greater numbers of ancestors left behind a nomadic hunting existence in return for a more settled agrarian lifestyle, primitive furnishings, including the bed, began to develop.


Sleeping in the modern age

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Bedroom Styles

Bedroom Styles

There can be little doubt that one of the benefits of living in the 21st century is that, in terms of bedroom style, we have never been spoilt with so much decorative choice and captivating design innovation. And whilst modern living might conjure images of contemporary minimalism, it need not be so.

Most would agree that that our preoccupation with contemporary design and an uncluttered approach to styling themes has had a significant effect on modern day bedrooms, and indeed, many architectural themes are perfectly suited to this philosophy. Yet many traditional bed designs can look strikingly modern in the correct setting, with basic contours that are perfectly suited to low maintenance settings and neutral colour themes.

Dark English oak and emotive Victorian Antique Brass are two such materials that simply come alive when sympathetically married to the minimal urban aesthetic. With clever lighting and inspired use of complementary accessories, some definitive results are possible as old and new come together with intriguing results. It is often a surprise to find that the Modernism trend is actually not modern at all but has deep roots that are linked to a period in design history almost a century old.

In fact today’s contemporary interiors often unknowingly pay homage to the style of the Machine Age and the early Modernist architects and designers, albeit with a different take on their maxims of function and simplicity. In clean-cut homes where technology has replaced artifice, and decorative nuances rely on simplistic texture and colour rather than pattern, the often elaborate period bedroom style has been replaced with a desire for calm minimalism and understated detail.


“Sleeping under the stars….”

Monday, January 4th, 2010

The bed is the ultimate escape. A pocket of sanctuary for renewal, respite and romance.

Creating a hideaway where the bed becomes a self- contained haven, means that wherever you may be, and however small the sleeping area, it is possible to climb between sheets and be instantly transported to a quieter place in time.

When on the move or sleeping under the stars, the sensory effect is sharpened and as a way of reclaiming our links with nature and recapturing a simplicity of experience, it has little equal, although one which we all too rarely capture.

A hammock or tree house in the garden during balmy summer months can provide a wonderfully simple escape, whilst a flight of fancy exotic beachfront retreat with a basic platform bed under a canopy of palms and the sound of the sea, might be the ultimate tropical fantasy.


“The Great Bed of Ware”

Monday, December 28th, 2009
The Great Bed of Ware

The Great Bed of Ware

I chanced upon this magnificent four-poster bed in The Victoria and Albert Museum whilst I found myself in London a week or so ago with a few hours to kill. And crikey…what fabulous monster of a bed this is! Surely the king of beds…!? For it measures approximately eleven feet square and is reputed to be able to accommodate 15 people sleeping together at the same time.

Originally built by Hertfordshire carpenter Jonas Fosbrooke circa 1590, we cannot be entirely sure for whom it was commissioned, although it spent its early years in The White Hart Inn at Ware in what must have been a sizeable bed chamber. Privileged travellers must have been somewhat taken aback at the grandeur of their nocturnal decadence and it seems likely that it might have attracted curiosity from far and wide. Certainly, many of those who slept in the bed over the years had carved their names into the enormous corner posts. Something of a lasting legacy still evident today.


Brass bedsteads….a Victorian legacy

Thursday, December 10th, 2009
Lochranza Brass Bedstead from The original Bedstead Company

Lochranza Brass Bedstead

The Victorians first perfected the art of Brass Bed manufacture.

In fact, as long ago as the early 1840s this expressive metal had taken a grip on the hearts of the nation as affluent and aspirational customer of the time, clamoured for the inspired and evocative designs made possible by the dextrous use of brass and the innovation of the era.

As the Industrial Revolution inexorably continued, hundreds of iron and brass foundries enjoyed boom times across the British Isles as they catered for a nation that had embraced the Brass Bedstead revolution.

From the smallest factories producing only a few bespoke beds a week, to the largest, manufacturing on a grand scale, by far the highest concentration of plants were to be found in the industrial heartlands of the Midlands and Birmingham in particular. Here, skilled artisans worked with this opulent new metal to produce bedsteads of huge elegance and style.

Incorporating such elements as porcelain and mother of pearl into designs of often-immense detail and majesty, there are wealth of wonderful creations from this era that are still preserved and revered today. The Victorians liked to furnish their homes in style and often the most important piece of furniture within any lavish country home or elegant town house would have been the bed.