I was telling you about my love for four-post beds in my last post, but I have to say that I’m not the only designer around these parts who loves adding a bit of height around the mattress. Many designers enjoy finding truly exceptional beds for their clients, beds that were sought after in the 1700’s and still are today.
These beautiful Eighteenth century beds are frequently found at auctions, in local antique shops or at specialty designer shops—such as Leonard’s Antiques in Rhode Island. In purchasing an antique bed, you must understand that king and even queen sized mattresses did not exist. So you must either custom make your mattresses—or find a local craftsman to enlarge the headboard and rails to fit the standard sizes of our mattresses today. (If you buy your bed from Leonard’s, they’ll do this for you.)
You can also purchase from a myriad of sources rather decent Eighteenth century reproductions. Even with reproductions, though, be aware of the thickness of your mattress and box springs as no four poster’s platform is ever a standard height. You literally may be finding yourself “climbing” up quite far into bed. You’re going to bed, not scaling a mountain! Another tip—king size four posters can sometimes look squat, because the large mattress makes the bed feel wider than it is tall. I request companies like the Federalist - an exceptional reproduction company in Greenwich, CT that is helmed by John Erlich, and possibly one of the most learned authorities on historic furniture that I’ve ever run across – to carve my posts thicker and taller, and that solves the problem.
One can choose to dress these beds in several ways with or without canopy. Traditionally, the canopy can be pleated, ruffled or straight-hung. There can be a back drop and two side panels tied back or straight-hung. For the “ceiling of the canopy”, wonderful gathered starbursts of fabric at the top are fabulous—but a flat panel can also be effective if your budget doesn’t allow for the 20 yards of fabric that a starburst requires. Using a contrast fabric on the inside versus the exterior of the bed can add an intimate coziness.
In a more contemporary setting, the unadorned framework of the four-poster and its tester can be striking. This allows the beauty of the sculptural aspects of the bed to stand forth.
Currently, choices abound in the worlds of four-posters. Some of my favorites are: the sleek Shaker adaptations—slender, square and tapering in glossy dark chocolate; stainless square tubular steel constructions—minimalist and so chic; Portuguese brass confections—adorned with Baroque flourishes and romantic tracery; Spanish hand-hammered and forged iron beds—gutsy and hot; and East Indian beds carved in mahogany ebony or satinwood—sensual when veiled in mosquito netting.
Where to find some wonderful four-post beds? Available through designers, and at the higher end of the pricing spectrum, but truly worth it, are the Maillot Bed from Nancy Corzine, with its gradually stair-stepping posts and its textured wood glazed in any number of colors, is the epitome of glamour and high-style elegance. The Loire Bed made by David Iatesta and sold through John Roselli & Associates in NYC (to the trade only), with its beautifully scaled wide square based posts that gradually narrow and end at the top in hammered iron balls (see the photo on my previous post), is the perfect modern classic, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary; a bed that works stylishly in a wide range of environments and is available in a great selection of stained woods. At the more affordable end of the bed market, Oly Studio has some great options: the Willa Bed, with posts of turned wood is reminiscent of faux bamboo but wonderfully over scaled, and has an upholstered headboard, and the Marco Bed is a simple, modern bed, sleek and inviting in a sexy way in hammered black iron with optional silvering. Crate & Barrel has a great and somewhat whimsical selection, the Pavilion Canopy Bed, with tapered posts that lend almost a feeling of movement, a truly creative design that might transport a sleepyhead to a South Seas sandy slope.
Today, designers of note seek out some of the rarest of four post beds. Charlotte Moss has a pair of japanned chinoiserie four-posters, found most likely in Shangri-la. Jamie Drake prefers clear acrylic columns on his beds while Bunny Williams goes to sleep underneath a magnificent Venation confection of antique etched mirror.
If Ebenezer Scrooge, after a harrowing night with that gruesome Ghost of Christmas Future, found comfort and joy waking up beneath his four-poster complete with hangings and all—why can’t you? We spend eight hours a day in one spot—why not live it with more pizzazz, drama, and romance!