Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Picture taken from THE BED by Alecia Beldegreen
    French beds come in all shapes and sizes and I am always amazed by the variety of decorations and curtains that were used to dress them. The traditional 4 poster was a very elaborate affair with curtains, swags and tails
, canopy and assorted tie-backs, ropes and ornaments at the four corners - plumes and coats of arms for the grandest.
Sometimes when I buy a big lot of curtains, I find one odd one, much longer and tightly gathered at the top with small hooks or little brass rings and with a shaped bottom seam. This is what is called the 'ciel de lit' or 'heavenly ceiling' and was attached to the corona or baldequin above the head of the bed, usually fixed with an arm from the wall behind the bed or hung from the ceiling like a chandelier. The coronas were often made of metal, engraved and decorative, but sometimes also of carved wood, and the baldequins were usually very heavy Victorian style carved and polished hard wood, in various shapes like a half-tester, a semi-circle, or shield shape and needed strong support from the rear wall. Usually the fabric matched the curtains of the room, and often were not lined - sadly many are somewhat tired and damaged where hands pulled them aside and/or they were held back with ropes and metal fittings. Also the base hem suffered from feet and maybe the little pet dogs that they seemed to allow in every room! Anyway, the extra material is always useful if you need pelmets, cushion or seat covers to finish off your colour scheme. Sometimes you will come across a strange piece of carved and polished pole that you think might be a towel rail AND IS OFTEN MIS-SOLD AS SUCH, - this is in fact a pole that was inserted directly into the wall centrally over a bed placed sideways against a blank space in the room, a long piece of fabric was hung over it and the two ends fell over the high bed ends. See the picture above of a bed draped for Napoleon at Malmaison. Very simple, most effective and easily done. Traditionally, many provincial beds were dressed with blue/white checked Vichy fabric or the lovely Ikat woven flamme toile. I buy both from time to time as it is still one of the decorators' favourite combinations for pretty beds. Both were woven, not printed, in 19C. and you can see examples in the remnants I use to make my tote bags; see Post Remnants and Remainders

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