Canopy bed makes a high-ceiling room a more welcome retreat

January 12, 2009|By ROSE BENNETT GILBERT / Creators Syndicate

Q: The ceiling in our bedroom is 12 feet high. It makes the room feel cold and unfriendly. We painted the walls a medium blue and added deep crown moulding, but that didn't help enough. Two questions: Should we paint the ceiling a color other than white? What else can we do to make the room feel cozier?

A: A dark color on the ceiling will indeed bring it down to a cozier height. Try a deeper version of the blue you've used on your walls. Consider painting the mouldings as well, so you have an unbroken expanse of warm, dark color overhead.

There are other ways to counter the "unfriendliness" of too-high ceilings. Overscaled furniture will help fill the void -- such as a large armoire, a tallboy chest or a canopy bed. Dress the bed in layers of fabrics by hanging either from a traditional four-cornered frame or from the ceiling itself.


An elaborate headboard is also eye-filling. In the photo we show here, borrowed from "Bringing Paris Home" (by designer Penny Drue Baird and published by the Monacelli Press), the valance and curtain hang inside a frame that's mounted almost as high as the ceiling. It creates the effect of a lit clos, a classic French "enclosed bed," that is furnished with an antique wood panel headboard and a pair of sconces for reading in bed. A duo of matching framed drawings completes the little world within, bringing a welcome coziness to the bedroom at large.

Q: What to do with a guest room that really lacks character and charm? It's just a 12-foot by 14-foot square with a window and small closet. There is no architectural distinction, unless you count the old hardwood floors.

A: Lucky you to have such an empty canvas from which to conjure hospitality.

Try sensible furnishings, all calculated to add up to the main ingredient: comfort. Something we take for granted today, making guests comfortable is actually a relatively recent notion. Many people credit legendary hostess Nancy Lancaster, the American who was affronted by the stiff and cheerless quarters routinely assigned to guests in many English manor houses. She rocked the social set of the mid-20th century by offering guests such shocking luxuries as attractive color schemes, conveniently located bathrooms and plush towels.

As you think comforting thoughts for your future guests, get out the old legal pad and make a list of what you need to become a gracious hostess a la Lancaster -- later partner in the renowned design firm of Colefax & Fowler. Here's the easy list: a delicious bed, good lights for reading in it, an area rug, a convenient bedside table and a window treatment that softens noise and controls light. And if space permits, a reading chair.

There are two ways to go with color schemes. Stay neutral, which will suit -- and maybe bore -- guests of all kinds. Or be more adventurous, which gets my vote. A personal favorite guest room is totally wrapped in toile de Jouy -- blue and white and just right for wallpaper, curtains, bed covers and accessories. It might be in the home of a friend in Richmond, Va., but it's like spending the weekend in France.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.

Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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