We have recovered from the excess of hygienic enthusiasm which led us to condemn ourselves at one time to brass and iron bedsteads severely devoid of hangings. As usual, it was a case of the return swing of the pendulum, the result of a reaction from the earlier Victorian tester bed, which defied cleanliness, and held an assurance of stuffiness.
The wooden bedstead of to-day is, however, very different from that of the early part of last century, and has overcome all prejudice. To begin with, very little of it is wood, the chief portion of it being of iron. Then, too, the old style of wooden bedstead was put together with bolts, and a key was required if it was desired to take the bed down for cleaning purposes. The key had a way of getting lost, and at the critical moment was nowhere to be found, so that the affair generally ended by the house-mistress sending for a carpenter, who, in his turn, sent for an assistant, and between them they took about a day to pull the bed to pieces and put it together again.
The modern wooden bed has practically only the head and foot of wood; all the rest is of metal. And it is so constructed that its parts fit into each other in the simplest manner, so that the maids can take it down and set it up again unaided.
Waring & Gillow
Many people feel that to put a piece of furniture made of metal, such as a brass bedstead, in the midst. of a handsome suite of wood has a very incongruous effect. These are glad to welcome the return of the wooden bedstead, whether it be the picturesque four-poster, a handsome inlaid mahogany affair to go in an Adams room, an earlier Jacobean one with cane panels, or a French bedstead of the Louis XVI. period, also with canework, that is much finer and is gilded.
Not only does such a bedstead make the room look far more comfortable, but we can satisfy our craving to have another furnishing detail carried out correctly. Even the modern wooden bedstead of light oak is, in the opinion of the Writer, more pleasing than one of iron or brass, which might interfere with the general colour scheme of the bedroom.
With regard to draperies, there is now a very general reaction in their favour. The tester bed, which was the cause of arousing a prejudice against them, had its cretonne valances and so on firmly nailed in place. But the Italian style of bedstead (see Fig. 1), with a straight back and curtains hung on rings, that can be taken down and cleaned almost as easily as a pair of muslin blinds, is another thing altogether. Such hangings are thoroughly practical, as they are necessary to exclude draughts, in these days when people sleep with windows open. When sitting up in bed, also, for the early morning cup of tea, the feeling of cosiness that they give is fully appreciated.
Twin beds treated in a somewhat similar fashion are very charming. The little fixture required for holding the curtains is quite separate from the beds. It is merely a cornice with a brass rod attached to it, and a couple of arms at the sides. The cornice is secured to the wall at a suitable height above the tops of the beds, and the curtains are suspended from the rod.
Muslins and nets made over sateen have given place to cretonnes as draperies to beds of this description, as the latter not only keep clean longer, but are less expensive at the beginning. It is impossible to generalise as to what kind of patterns are suitable to use. The writer recently saw a most beautiful result achieved by using a cretonne at about a shilling a yard.
Fig. 2. A charming drapery arrangement for a bed is to have a single large curtain and valance hung from a circular pole head
Waring & Gillow
Plain jaspe linen, or casement cloth, also looks extremely well, trimmed either with a fringe, such as is used for casement blinds, or one of the lovely printed borders which can be bought. The one thing to be avoided is the use of a cretonne with a different design from that on the window curtains, though a plain colour may be employed for the bed, with patterned window curtains, or vice versa.
A pretty effect is produced by having plain curtains, perhaps green or blue, with a green - and - white, or blue-and-white, or ecru fringe at the edge. For a French room a charmingly simple change from the Italian style of drapery with side wings is the circular pole head (Fig. 2), which needs only one large curtain with a valance hung on rings and caught up at the sides of the bed. The curtain may be of a plain colour, lined with ivory, or of cretonne lined with a colour. The bedstead is of inlaid mahogany.
A bed placed in the corner of the room looks rather out of place with a drapery straight over it, but the one shown in Fig. 3, designed for a French room, shows a solution of the difficulty. Another very pretty French notion, known as the "three-pole drapery," has a centre pole with the material hung over it, and caught again at each side over another pole, so that it does not fall too low over the head of the sleeper.
We now come to that very delightful affair, the four-poster bedstead. The firm which was largely responsible for its return to fashion have very much improved on the original model. In former days the headboard and footboard Were made of plain deal, and were hidden under the hangings. Now, although the original old posts are almost invariably used by this firm, which has a wonderful collection of them, they are made up with a new headboard and footrail of wood to match, and the back drapery is short enough for the former to show beneath. The wooden moulding at the top is also an innovation, and hides the rod from which the valance is hung. An even greater improvement is made by the omission of a tester at the top, which is thus left open, so that there is ample ventilation.
In buying a bed of this kind, it is usual to choose one's pair of old posts, and then have the bed made to fit them and suit one's requirements.
Among the most suitable materials for hangings for these beds are the bordered fabrics, which look so particularly Well in the valance. But plain cretonnes are also very nice, and replicas of the old block-printed designs look specially appropriate.
With regard to valances around beds, though some people prefer to have them, others use in their stead very wide coverlets, which fall to the floor at either side. Many prefer a straight valance to a full one. If made of casement cloth or linen with a printed border at the edge, the effect of the former is very good. A white band of English crochet is also sometimes used as a trimming, and looks extremely Well.
In considering the subject of beds, it is natural to conclude with a few words on the question of mattresses. Another swing of the pendulum of popular favour has brought our taste back to the box mattress. The best of these are not filled in with hair, but the spiral springs of which they are composed are fastened together at the base to help keep them in position. They are also made in three pieces, which are laced together, so that they can be taken apart with the greatest ease. Besides which, when the room is cleaned, each end can be lifted up and dusted underneath.
With regard to hair mattresses, the wisest advice to be given concerning them is to procure them only at one of the very best shops. The public has no possible guarantee as to what may be inside a mattress, and the only way to ensure good quality is to deal with a shop of which the name is itself a guarantee.
Having bought your mattress, be careful to see that it is kept clean. It should be overhauled thoroughly by some reliable firm at least every three years. The French are far more particular in this respect than we are, and it is the usual thing for the housewife to have her beds re-made every year. This is rendered more necessary by the Way in which they are sewn up. They are not stitched to form a band at the sides, as are ours, and consequently lose their shape sooner.
The Englishwoman is far too prone to think that because her mattresses look much as they Mid when she bought them they must be all right. But this is not the case.
Blankets should be washed once a year, but not more -often, as the process impoverishes them. Never buy bleached blankets. They look very well with their soft, downy surface, which is often teased out to make it appear fluffy, but the sulphur which is used in the process of bleaching has a deleterious effect on the wool, and also accounts for the disagreeable odour which is noticeable.
Fig, 3. A French scheme for the hangings of a bedstead placed in the corner of a room. This scheme is both simple and novel in design Messrs. Heal & Sons