BEDS & LINENS Canopied to contemporary: A vast range of periods, styles is available to bed buyers


In the past few years, the bedroom has evolved into an expanded living space. Some people have added not only televisions but sophisticated home entertainment systems to their boudoirs. Others use the bedroom as a home office or home gym. You might even find a mini-kitchen in the bedrooms of those who have deep pockets and plenty of space.

Statistics tell us, however, that we spend one-third of our lives sleeping. And so, for all the added creature comforts, the centerpiece of the bedroom is still the bed.

"There's a wonderful selection of beds today," says Peggy Kennedy, executive editor of House Beautiful magazine. "Painted, metal, bamboo, 18th century reproduction -- they allow the consumer to make a real personal style statement."

What makes this wide range of beds more exciting is a new

trend of mixing these materials. "It is not necessary See BEDS, 0X, Col. 0BEDS, from 1Xto match the bed to other pieces in the room," says New York designer Jena Hall, whose Old Country furniture collection for Broyhill includes several bedroom pieces. "This eclectic look started in the living and family rooms and has progressed to the bedroom.

"Most of the other furniture in the bedroom tends to be wood, and that can get monotonous," she says. "And if you've added extra elements to the room, like exercise equipment, you can't get the bed to match. So in the bedroom, the bed is the one piece of furniture that can be different."

In its April issue, House Beautiful featured an intriguing four-poster bed designed by artist Babette Holland. It's made largely of copper plumbing pipe, with iron fleur-de-lis finials. Although the bed suggests a minimal, avant-garde style, it is framed with diaphanous silk, hand-printed in gold, and off-white silk damask linens and pillows, all of which soften the more industrial composition of the bed frame.

"The bedroom is, after all, an intimate place," adds Ms. Hall. "Look at the popularity of the lingerie shop Victoria's Secret. There's tremendous interest in luxury intimate apparel, so it's not surprising that we want the same elegant, somewhat seductive mood about the bed and how it's dressed. It doesn't necessarily have to be feminine in terms of lace and color, but in style and comfort."

And for those not comfortable with the frills of the romantic room and bed, there are more tailored looks as well. In fact, there is a bed style to suit most tastes:

*Reproductions and interpretations of period pieces. Eighteenth and 19th century-inspired poster beds are among the most popular. The Tuckahoe Plantation poster bed, made by the Hickory Chair Co., was copied from an original purchased at an auction during the Depression. The bed is typical of the genre made in England and exported to the British West Indies and other British colonies in the second quarter of the 19th century. It is crafted of mahogany and has elaborately carved posts that feature ostrich plumes, a pineapple motif and spiral carvings.

The French company Grange offers a four-poster in the Directoire style (the period from 1795-1799), which has simple lines and ornamentation. Made of cherry wood, the bed is outlined in black to accentuate the curve of the moldings and to follow the tradition begun when the color symbolized mourning for the death of Louis XVI. The rosette, a simple bas-relief sculptured by hand, adorns the head and footboard. The company has even introduced a queen-sized Murphy bed, a companion to the Directoire collection, for bedrooms with limited space.

More elaborate carving characterizes the Victorian-inspired bed that is part of Thomasville Furniture Industries' "Memoirs" Collection. This substantial yet graceful bed, crafted in pecan with rustic pecan veneer, has bead and batten-style paneling that resembles wainscoting, and gently curved headboards and footboards.

*The painted look. Although you most often see pastel colors on light woods, a handsome example of a different kind of painted look is a reproduction of a Victorian antique bed from Baker Furniture's "McMillen Collection," with a floral motif set against basic black.

*Canopies. Fabric suspended above beds came into fashion in Europe in the middle of the 16th century. These beds are appealing to those with a bit of a theatrical bent. Today, both the more traditional four-poster canopy and the "lit a la polonaise" style, where the fabric falls from a dome atop the bed, are now being seen in bedrooms that aren't strictly period.

*Country. Most of the furniture manufacturers who have incorporated such a line favor the mix-and-match look, good news for those who want to create their own country style. Thomasville's Crescent Cove bed in its "Country Inns and Back Roads" line debuted last October at High Point's furniture market. It has an ivory antique-lace finish (five finishes are available) and companion pieces, including a Barnstable blanket chest in antique blue and featherbed steps in burnished antique oak.

Simplicity is the key to Timeless Design's Siljan (pronounced sill-yon) bed. The truncated four-poster, made of northern white pine, features ornate Scandinavian floral hand carving and is finished in glazed white lacquer. Hand-painted rosemaling (Scandinavian peasant-style decoration) adorns companion


*Mixed materials. Ralph Lauren did it a few years back; he combined mahogany with rattan in a beguiling bedroom collection. We're also seeing some iron and wood combos, such as Jena Hall's Old Country collection for Broyhill, and when furniture manufacturers feel the economy is safe enough for a few more risks, there might be more unorthodox marriages.

*Sleigh beds. As the name suggests, these beds resemble sleds. In American cabinetry, the bed typically was crafted of mahogany and featured a curved headboard and footboard characteristic of the American Empire style, which in turn was inspired by its French counterpart. These beds were popular from around 1820 to the turn of the century. Today they are available in many different materials, including metal.

*Upholstered beds. These were once only a custom design specialty, but consumers now have some viable choices in upholstered beds at furniture stores. In fact, one of the more exclusive designs, a contoured, fully upholstered bed, is now available in Baker Furniture's McMillen Collection.

*Western, Southwest style. Much of what's in the Southwest category, particularly, seems tired. The pastel incarnations of the Santa Fe look suffered from gross misinterpretation and saturation in the marketplace, and many industry observers feel the trend is on its way out. But there are companies that offer a view that's less cliched and more innovative.

The Naturalist, a furniture company based in Provo, Utah, prides itself on its use of natural materials, including wood, leather, wool, silver and tin. Its focus is the American West, and the company manufactures twig and pine-log furniture laced with leather, washed denim or white cotton. Its Colors Geometric line, consisting of pieces made of sculptured pine dyed with color that doesn't conceal the wood's natural grain, hints at a simple, bold Southwest style. The Navajo bed is crafted from weathered ranch wood and inlaid with polished turquoise and coral.

*Shaker, Prairie style. The Shakers, the religious sect founded in New York in 1774, created their own brand of design, one that was honest, functional and simple. There are some pretty decent renditions, one of which is available through Crate & Barrel.

Grange also has a lovely Shaker-inspired collection, part of its Horizons line, re-created in maple by Thibault Desombre, and finished naturally in gray or in such colors as cobalt blue and emerald green. Only the frame and panel work of the furniture are stained; the remaining tops and cornices have a saffron tint, which gives the pieces a warm glow. The bed's head and footboard are arced, and below the arcs on the boards are panels of woven cotton webbing.

Baronet, a Canadian manufacturer, offers one line that celebrates the linear Prairie style of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The solid maple tops of the dressers and desks contrast with charcoal- or gray blue-stained sides and drawer fronts. These door and drawer fronts feature a series of cutout designs.

*Architecturally inspired. This type of bed is usually commissioned by the client and requires an interaction of client, architect and/or interior designer. Its form is generally suggestive of buildings or architectural elements. Designer Connie Beale says one of her clients, a video director, wanted a bed with an architectural feeling and a whimsical touch. The maple bed has turrets and carved wooden flags that have been painted in different colors.

*Contemporary. The high-gloss, sleek, lacquer styles popularized by the Italians in the mid-'80s just don't have the same panache today because customers want a look of comfort and warmth. Much of the new contemporary has more classic references. Amisco, a Canadian manufacturer known for its tubular steel furniture, shows influences of French Empire and Shaker, among others. Design Institute of America employs curves and brass accents.

It's obvious from these offerings that furniture manufacturers are acknowledging that the bedroom, like other rooms of the house, is emerging as a showcase for personal style.

Martin deBlois, a former design director for Amisco, put it well:

"The bedroom is a place to pamper, indulge and soothe ourselves. It should reflect our own individual whims. We should be able to undress emotionally as well as physically there. It's the most personal room and the least affected by fads."

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