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The Leaner, Cleaner Look of Beds

Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein's slim-lined platform with a tucked-in look. (Ballad Designs)


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By Patricia Dane Rogers
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 8, 2000; Page H01

The overstuffed bed has been put on a diet.

In recent years, beds became piled so high with downy duvets and plump pillows, there was barely room for people to sleep.

"I remember photo shoots where we used two duvets to make a bed look even puffier," says Newell Turner, former style editor of House & Garden.

Maybe it's time to give it a rest.

The freshest look in beds and their coverings--seen in shop displays, slick ads and glossy magazines--is low and minimalist. High box springs are being replaced with simple platforms. Sometimes a plain coverlet hangs loose, leaving the bed legs exposed. Bed skirts have been banished. Sometimes a top sheet, blanket and coverlet are shown tautly wrapped around the mattress on the platform--looking like nothing so much as a summer camp bunk or an Army cot.

The slimmed-down look is borrowed from boutique hotels, says Turner, now managing editor of Room12.com, a travel Web site scheduled to launch later this month. "And they borrowed it from the grand old European-style hotels," he says, reinterpreting that sense of crispness that comes from "tightly made beds with freshly ironed, white, high-thread-count linens."

Trendsetters like Calvin Klein took the look and ran with it. "Calvin Klein Home's ad campaigns show off tucked-in, tailored, luxury linens on platform beds," says Turner. Now it's everywhere.

"A platform with the wood exposed and a recessed base becomes a beautiful floating object," says interior designer Sophie Prevost of Cole Prevost, a Washington design and architecture firm. "The mattress sits on it like a futon."

At Apartment Zero, the new contemporary home furnishings store on Seventh Street NW in downtown Washington, co-owner Douglas Burton agrees that a sleeker look is in. "Ninety percent of our customers are looking for platform beds," he says. "They don't want the box spring anymore. They want to be low to the ground."

At B&B Italia near Dupont Circle, an imported platform bed designed by Antonio Citterio has a tall, upholstered headboard, but short, tapered, nickel legs and an ultra-skinny mattress make for a low-slung look overall. "Conventional mattresses start at 12 inches," says showroom manager Mark Myers. "With good design, a mattress should be no more than six or seven inches thick."

As an alternative to the platform, designer Prevost suggests a simple four-poster model, maybe in steel. "The less froufrou, the more modern it seems," she says.

Apartment Zero carries a decidedly un-froufrou, hospital-style bed in tubular aluminum by Area.

For those who prefer a more traditional bed, Prevost suggests eliminating the big box springs. So does Albert Hadley, the dean of New York designers, well-known for his pared-down style. "If you've got a thick mattress and you have a bed frame, you don't need box springs," he says, though you'll need to support the mattress with extra slats or a piece of solid wood.

When box springs do rise above the bed rail, decorators like them hidden. One easy solution: A ready-made mattress cover in white quilted matelasse from www.marthabymail.com or www.ballard-designs.com.

Prevost votes for disguising box springs with a fitted sheet or fabric in a "wonderful color like sagey green or even bright red."

As for dressing the bed, she would tuck in the sheets, wrap the mattress in a white matelasse coverlet and let the legs show through a gauzy bed skirt made of linen or mosquito netting. "The only problem with the new, flat look," she says, "is that it's very masculine." She compensates with subtle feminine touches like antique pillowcases with a bit of embroidery, hemstitching or even lace detailing.

In his own Florida getaway, Hadley used Victorian four-posters painted white but omitted bed skirts. He chose old-fashioned candlewick spreads from the '30s. Covered with fluffy tufts that look like cotton balls, the fringed spreads stop short of the floor, just enough to leave a flash of leg exposed.

"It makes for a cleaner, lighter look," Hadley says.

A fresh take on candlewick is proving a popular choice at Ballard Designs. "Diamond Pom-Pom," a white candlewick coverlet with pillow shams, "is now our best-selling linen," says Jennifer Brady of the Atlanta-based mail-order company.

About those shams. You won't need many with the pared-down number of pillows on the minimalist berth. Not only are there fewer pillows these days, but those that remain are more likely to be stacked like pancakes than propped against the headboard.

"I could never understand the need for 20 pillows," Prevost says. "Where do you put them when you go to bed?"

Have a decorating or design problem or solution? Share it with us. Write to Eye on Design, Home Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071; or e-mail Patricia Dane Rogers at rogersp@washpost.com. We regret that we cannot answer each message because of the volume of responses.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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