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Make a Beautiful Bed

By PAMELA DITTMER MCKUEN
Back in the day, American folk singer John Denver delighted audiences with a spirited ditty that extolled the joys of Grandma’s feather bed. “It was nine feet high, six feet wide, and soft as a downy chick,” he crooned. “It was made from the feathers of forty-eleven geese, took a whole bolt of cloth for the tick.”

Today’s Grandma probably doesn’t own a gigantic feather bed, and she’s not about to make one. She’s off cruising around the world or perfecting her golf swing. And yet the sense of longing for a bed that caresses the body and soothes the soul remains.
  
It’s a sweet dream, but you can, and you must, have it for yourself. A beautiful, comfortable bedroom can have a powerful impact on your day-to-day experience, says interior designer Frank Ponterio, Frank Ponterio Interior Design in Lake Forest and Chicago.

   “The bedroom should be your private sanctuary,” says Mary Pat Wallace, founder of Chicago Luxury Beds. “It should be a place that is calm, quiet and encourages intimacy. You spend a third of your life in your bed, and that third fuels the other two thirds.”

Because the quality of your sleep affects your appearance, brain power, physical performance and overall health, a quality mattress is the starting point for creating your own haven. Most people spend more money on their sofas and bed frames than they do on their mattresses, but the mattress is used far more often and has greater impact on personal well-being.
  
“We research and study the best real estate, designers, builders, cars and schools, but when it comes to a mattress, most people go to the local mattress store and buy what is on the floor,” says Wallace.
  
She describes the ideal mattress as one that gives each person the right balance of support and pressure relief. It will be hand-crafted with all-natural materials, like the European brands Hastens and  Vi-Spring she is so very passionate about. Prices start about $5,000 for a queen-size mattress.
  
“Like our finest wool suits and cotton shirts, natural materials let us stay warm in winter and cool in summer,” she says.
 
“We then move on to our pillow selection. The proper pillow will support the head while relieving the pressure that leads to neck and shoulder pain. But one size does not fit all. A side sleeper, for example, requires more support than a back sleeper. Chicago Luxury Beds (www.chicagoluxurybeds.com) beckons you to its Pillow Bar, which is akin to the stores that fill plush animal toys while you wait. Cotton casings are filled with pristine Hungarian goose down to your individual preference and comfort level, then stitched shut and monogrammed, so you’ll always know which one is yours. A sachet is tucked inside,”
   “
There are pillows for sleeping and pillows for decorating,” says Wallace. “I say invest in the sleeping pillows, and buy less expensive decorative pillows, and use them for design.”
Even though hand-crafted mattresses and pillows are beautiful enough to stand on their own, we will envelop them with sheets and cases. They are available in myriad natural and manufactured fabrications including linen, bamboo and fleece. Each has fans and foes, depending on both skin sensitivities and aesthetic sensibilities. Some people happily snuggle up to micro-fleece and flannel while others find the finishes too harsh.
 
“Unless it’s play time, silk sheets are awfully slippery,” says interior designer Sandra Groben of Groben’s Inc. in Glen Ellyn. “There are very good 100 percent cotton sheets with a satin weave that are as beautiful and comfortable and wonderful as silk.”
  
Most people prefer the feel and ease of cotton and polyester blends. For them, all-cotton is a turn-off because of the wrinkle factor. Not for Groben, who happily irons and starches her king-size sheets every week. 
  
“My husband isn’t as particular, so his side just gets a quick job,” she says with a laugh. “My side gets heavy starch and crispness.”
  
Now we are ready for the topmost layer. This is the decidedly outspoken layer, where you express your personality and practicality. Will yours be a full-length bedspread or a comforter with a bed skirt? Will the bed skirt be tailored or ruffled? Will you accessorize boldly or scatter a few beloved pieces?
  
Ponterio opts for comforters because the ability to change out the covers presents greater design opportunities. He leans toward solid colors, often neutrals, incorporated with tactile, textural details. A chandelier reminiscent of a sea urchin, perhaps?
  
“Simple, clean beds with just a few shams invite you to put your feet up and relax,” he says. He also likes statement headboards such as the one he designed for his new furniture line for Charleston, S.C.-based Avrett. The handmade headboard, named “Erie,” stands nearly eight feet tall and is fashioned with two metal posts with chattered finish that flank a cashmere-upholstered center panel.
  
You can be as extravagant or as creative as you desire and your budget allows, says Groben.
  
If price is no object, consider a bespoke ensemble of bed coverings and multiple decorator pillows in assorted sizes and shapes, all trimmed with edging, crystals, tassels, starbursts, rosettes and fringe, and don’t forget the matching draperies. That Hastens mattress will seem a bargain in comparison.
  
A more conservative approach begins with a solid coverlet upon which you add decorative appointments. Drape a bed scarf, which is akin to a table runner, across the foot of the bed. Or scour flea markets and craft fairs for vintage decorative pillows stitched with embroidery, crewel, tatting or lace.
  
“You can make a statement with your accessories,” says Groben.
  
“Depending on the design preference, tight and clean linens with a few pillows give a more modern look,” says Wallace. “If you love the look of more, layering linens, coverlets and comforters gives you the ‘jump in here and get cozy’ look.”
    Just like Grandma’s feather bed.

Published: February 22, 2014
Issue: Winter 2014 Issue