Four-poster bed makes comeback

One of the great pleasures of designing a room is the shopping that's involved. And here I'm using the term "shopping" as synonymous with browsing, because that's an essential step in planning any space.

Looking around to learn what best suits one's tastes and budget should always be a preliminary activity to making actual purchases. And prior to heading for the stores, it's smart to have some idea of the types of pieces and accessories that will eventually be acquired. Otherwise, shopping becomes too random and time-consuming.

Q: The master bedroom of the house to which we're moving has a 9-foot ceiling and a 13-by-15-foot floor space. We'd like to buy a four-poster bed in a contemporary style. But will it fit comfortably in a room with these dimensions? If so, can you offer some guidance as to what a bed of this kind should look like?

A: The four-poster with a canopy and bed hangings is experiencing a big revival, with contemporary styles now even more popular than the traditional model. The treatment for a bed of this sort is much more important than for a simple box spring mattress and headboard combination because a four-poster does dominate any room in which it's placed.

This kind of bed can easily be accommodated in a room with the dimensions you list. The big issue is where exactly to place the bed and its accompanying night tables, knowing that a canopied bed is usually situated across from the entrance wall.

The beautiful ebony bed shown in the accompanying photograph presents a contemporary interpretation of a Shaker-style four-poster. This photo comes from "Decorating Ideas That Work," a Taunton Press book written by Heather Paper.

With or without side curtains, four-posters have a purely aesthetic appeal in today's home; they no longer serve to protect sleepers from low-flying birds, dusty winds and cold drafts.

The custom-made canopy for this simply dressed piece is complemented by the fabrics trimmed with a contrasting binding. Wall-hung sconces between the fabric panels provide sufficient light for reading. And please note that the bedcover extends to the bottom rail of the bed, making a dust skirt unnecessary.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at