From four-posters to lits bateaux via Victorian brass frames, Carla Passino discovers how best to dress a period bedroom.
We reveal beautiful period bedroom design ideas:
Creating a bedroom that matches the period and decorative style of your country house requires a fine balance—you don’t need every detail to be historically accurate. Instead, suggests interior designer and antique-furniture restorer Max Rollitt, it’s often best to layer pieces that secure a connection to your house’s original architecture with later elements so that it looks as if your room evolved over time.
The 18th century perfected the design of four-poster beds, with delicate, beautifully ornate pieces replacing both the stark Tudor designs and the excesses of the Stuart era. For this reason, a four-poster is the obvious focal point of a Georgian-inspired bedroom.
‘The bed is the key thing,’ says interior designer and architectural historian Edward Bulmer. ‘Eighteenth-century beds were constructed so you could curtain yourself in for warmth and draught exclusion. The four-poster bed still speaks to people, but you can do it in many ways.’ For example, he says, you could keep hangings to a minimum or even have none at all.
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Edward also recommends creating a sense of space and elegance in your room using soft florals or plain fabrics and dressing up your walls with historic wallpapers, such as those by Hamilton Weston. ‘A lot of them have small-scale patterns that can be very effective.’
Try: A neo-Palladian wood frame dates from about 1740, with a 19th- century mercurial mirror plate. £19,500 through Max Rollitt (01962 791124; www.maxrollitt.com)
The proliferation of French Empire interiors in British country houses is one of history’s greatest ironies: ‘The Duke of Wellington popularised the style partly by defeating the French,’ according to Edward.
The style has its roots in the streamlined architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, reinterpreted in a majestic key intended to convey imperial grandeur. Bedroom furniture should feature strong lines and rich Classical motifs such as laurel wreaths, grapevines, swans and winged lions. ‘It’s a huge style,’ acknowledges Edward. ‘You almost feel as if you have to don a Grecian dress to step into an Empire room.’
Empire-style beds—whether linear and masculine or the feminine, curvy lits bateaux beloved by the Empress Joséphine—are relatively easy to find, and Edward suggests combining Empire pieces with British neo-Classical furniture: ‘They’re not the same, but you can pair them very successfully.’
The colour palette for an Empire room should be bold. Napoleonic interiors often featured black, but if that feels too harsh for a modern bedroom, consider instead rich greens, reds, gold and turquoise. Choose fabric and wallpaper in striped or geometric designs and swooping chandeliers for lighting. A Savonnerie-style rug—which Napoleon loved and almost single-handedly brought back into fashion—is the perfect finishing touch.
Try: An original Savonnerie design, but in modern colours. Aurelie rug from £1,050 per
sq m through Loomah (020–7371 9955; www.loomah.com)
A private sanctuary devoted primarily to sleep, the 19th-century bedroom was an ornate affair. Describing the beau idéal in From Kitchen to Garret, Jane Panton mentions an iron-and-brass bedstead furnished with several mattresses, a bolster, four pillows, three pairs of sheets, up to four blankets and, in winter, an eiderdown. Although modern hygiene and better-quality bedframes have made Mrs Panton’s recommendations somewhat redundant, a beautifully dressed bed remains at the heart of a Victorian-style bedroom.
Pile layers of bed linen, bolsters and pillows on a bed that can be brass, wood or upholstered and decorate the room with fabrics and wallpaper in historic patterns. ‘Damasks and large floral, bird and animal motifs were popular,’ says Farrow & Ball’s Josephine Rance. Colours, she continues, were often darker, such as rich reds or deep aubergines.
However, counters Edward, ‘there are a lot of good books that show a lighter palette and lighter wallpaper.’ The key is to work with the architectural features of your room: ‘For example, if you have a Victorian fireplace in black marble, make sure it feels an integral part of your scheme.’
An authentic Victorian bedroom would also have an antique or replica dressing table, wardrobe, chests and mirrors, but, for a more modern take, you can team fitted furniture with one or two original pieces.
Try: A Victorian-style ebonised whatnot is the perfect place to keep bedtime books. £2,220 through Jamb (020–7730 2122; www.jamb.co.uk)
The glamour and elegance of Louis XV’s France was one of the main sources of inspiration behind the French Style that became popular in British country houses in the 19th century, particularly during the reign of George IV. A French Style bedroom calls for the sinuous lines of Rococo—a bed with curved headboard, footboard and legs, for example—and gilded, elaborately carved or lavishly upholstered furniture.
In 19th-century Britain, Rococo-inspired interiors also acquired an additional layer of rich upholstery, so consider dressing your bedroom windows with fringed curtains and, if adding seating, look at buttoned chairs decorated with tassels and braids. Opt for fabrics with floral or Oriental motifs, but keep your overall scheme light: ideally, it should be opulent and ornamental, but also delicate and graceful.
A few Sèvres-style porcelain pieces and gilded or brass wall-light fittings accentuate the French atmosphere.
Try: A three-arm brass wall light, with its stylised leaves, captures the essence of the French Style. £716 through Vaughan Lighting (020–7349 4600; www.vaughandesigns.com)