Design Series Tuesdays - Canopy Beds {part 1}

During my week off, I decided it would be fun to do a design series once a week during the winter months.  I realize we have very mild winters in Alabama, but sometimes the short cold days can be down right depressing, so I thought we could focus on something cozy instead.  

Each Tuesday in January, I am going to be talking about canopy beds.  Why?  Because they've been on mind lately.  And, no, I don't have one in my home, but I do think they are an amazing design feature, when done correctly. 


So, a few housekeeping items before we get started:
1. You must, I repeat, must have a large room  - a canopy can become visual clutter if you try to cram one into a bedroom that is too small (there are a few exceptions to this we will discuss).  
2. You need high ceilings that are in really good shape - The canopy will draw your eye up to the ceiling and any imperfections on the ceiling will glare at you. 
3. Quality fabric - Don't go cheap on the fabric you use on the canopy.  There is a lot of it and cheap fabric will be noticed (there is a way around this that we will discuss).  

OK, there are four basic types of canopies - with lots of interpretations of each.  We are going to start with the most basic.

Traditional Four Poster Canopy Beds

Canopies for beds began as bed curtains surrounding a bed and were traditionally used to create a cozy warm place for sleeping in large drafty bed quarters.  The bed was surrounded in curtains that could be pulled at night to allow for more comfortable sleeping.  Now, with central heat and smaller rooms, the canopy bed has become a beautiful feature for a bedroom.  

Peter Dunham
We can't talk about canopy beds without first talking about who I consider a master of the traditional canopy bed - Peter Dunham.  I think he includes one in every space he does!  So, he knows a thing or two about how to pull it off.  Here are a few samples of his take on the canopy bed.

In this example, the canopy is getting all the impact with the patterned fabric while the rest of the room remains neutral.  Notice the bed is placed on a "fabric wall" that is the same neutral color as the draperies in the space.

Peter Dunham

In this example, there are no panels on the bed, just a valance.  This creates and airy light feeling.  I love the look with the painted bed.

Peter Dunham

Again, an open airy feeling with the light panels on the canopy bed - no valance.

Peter Dunham

This one I love, love.  Notice, it breaks one of my rules (must have a large room); but, by not including any fabric on the canopy and using wrought iron (rather than thick dark wood), he has pulled it off.  I am not sure, but I think the drapery panel to the left is used as a partition where you can close off the bedroom from the rest of the room.  Also, the vertical striped wallpaper gives the illusion of tall ceilings.

Peter Dunham

I think it is important to remember that a beautiful canopy bed can stand on it's own - you don't necessarily need fabric panels to get a great look.  In this case, the grass cloth wallpaper and lush draperies give you the texture this bedroom needs.

In this picture, the canopy has been left open (valance only) but the walls and ceiling have been upholstered giving you the cozy feeling without the visual clutter. 

OK, below are several other canopy beds that I thought were worth mentioning.  When most people think of a canopy bed, they think of very traditional versions which are beautiful.  

But, there are more modern takes on a canopy bed.  Like this curvy creature. 

Or a rather sexy version. Like this (btw: would you look at those floors and the benches at the foot of the bed?!).

Or this (notice the tufted back on this one - gulp). 

Also, you can use the canopy bed to create a romantic french feeling in your space.

And then inject a shot of modern to the same style bed to achieve this yumminess (notice the ceiling while you're at it).

Also, remember, you can add fabric just to the top and down the back of the bed and still get something interesting.  I would much rather see this done with high quality fabric than an entire bed done in cheap polyester. 
via decorpad

All this said, before you decide to go out and buy a canopy bed of any type, come back next Tuesday to see some versions that do not require a special canopy bed!  

Still wanting more on canopy beds??? Here are two really great posts I found during my research that are definitely worth a read!  Taylor Galen at Outside the Workroom and Jennifer Mitchell at Design Hole Online.



  1. I love canopy beds and use to have one. They really can have a great impact in a nice large room. Great examples.

  2. I have been falling more in love with canopy beds lately. So pretty.

  3. Very cool. I've been obsessed recently with a four poster bed I saw in India Hicks' book Island Life, but this has perhaps supplanted the old one for me!

    natural mattress

  4. Look pretty good. Great job done here!


Thank you for thoughts on my post! M.