Four poster beds are often deemed the epitome of luxury and tradition, but many people wonder how to dress a four poster bed to suit a modern home. Let's take a look at six popular methods for dressing a four poster bed to give you some inspiration.
1. Pelmets and curtains for a traditional look
Traditionally, four poster beds would feature a full canopy over the top of the bed and heavy drapes on all four sides, with fixture points concealed behind pelmets. The goal was to block out draughts to create a warm and cosy sleeping space in large, chilly bedrooms before the days of central heating.
These days, there's less need for heavy curtains and a canopy to stay warm at night, but if you're trying to achieve a very traditional look with your four poster bed, you could still go for full curtains and pelmets when choosing how to dress a four poster bed. To complement the look, consider a valance sheet, which was traditionally used to conceal the bottom of the bed. The sheet fits over the mattress and will hang low towards the ground so that you cannot see underneath the bed.
2. Light curtains for modern timelessness
A much more updated twist on the traditional four poster bed is to have thin and lightweight curtains on all sides of the bed but without the pelmets. This gives a nod to tradition without making the bed look too boxed in. You can close the curtains to create a cosier feel or to create a little extra warmth on the coldest nights, but most people choose to leave them open and tied up at each corner. Another option is to have the curtain drawn at the head of the bed to create the illusion of a headboard while tying up the other curtains at the corners of the foot of the bed. This frames the bed nicely without looking too heavy.
To create an attractive drape effect, make sure your curtain panels are adequately wide enough that they are not pulled flat when fully open. They should be at least 50% - or preferably 100% - wider than the width of the gap they are set to fill. To maintain a contemporary and airy feel, use a medium-weight fabric that lets a little light through.
3. Curtains at the head of the bed only
If you like the idea of an enclosed space for sleeping but don't want full curtains on your four poster bed, consider putting them just at the head of the bed. As we mentioned above, this creates the illusion of a headboard and makes the head the focal point. You then add narrow curtains on the head end of each side rail to generate a cosy enclosed area around the pillows.
This style can really make a statement when you opt for a bold colour or print for the curtains. Make sure your fabric is double-sided for the narrow side curtains, as these will be visible from all angles. You can get away with using single-sided fabric for the panel that sits at the head of the bed as the reverse side will be facing the wall.
Product: Illington 4 Poster Wooden Bed Frame
4. Modern elegance with curtains at the sides
Another modern take on four poster bed curtains is to have them on just the long sides of the beds, leaving the head and foot open. You can keep them open for a light and airy feel, or close them to generate a more intimate space, but the bare head and foot leave a sense of openness.
Plus, if you have a bed with a beautiful headboard, you can ensure this takes centre stage without any drapery around it to detract attention. Very lightweight fabrics work well with this dressing method. For an ultra-modern look, consider a mesh-like material for the curtains.
5. Loose swags instead of curtains for an ethereal finish
An incredibly popular way to dress a four poster bed is to use long swathes of very lightweight fabric draped over the top of the frame. You could wrap the fabric around the upper bars and let it drape down the side of each poster. Alternatively, simply lay the fabric right over the two side bars to create a canopy effect above the bed and provide some coverage of the sides. This style is best achieved with a piece of white, sheer cotton fabric.
A big benefit of this dressing method is that it's relatively inexpensive to achieve compared to proper curtains attached to the four poster bed frame. Plus, it gives you the flexibility to play around with the finish to suit your needs. For example, when you want more coverage on the sides, simply spread the fabric out flat. When you want the bed to look more open, gather the fabric up and move it towards the head of the bed, or wrap it around the posts to keep it out of the way. Overall, this style always has a relaxed, informal and ethereal finish.
6. Leave the bed bare to shine the spotlight on the frame
Four poster bed frames look dramatic and impressive even without being dressed, so for an ultra-modern look, consider not using any curtains or drapes at all. Instead, you could add a throw and some scatter pillows to make the bed itself look cosy and inviting.
These accessories don't always fit in when you have curtains or drapes. The bed can look too cluttered, busy and overdone. By eliminating the curtains, you can generate texture with accessories and make the bed a true focal point while enjoying the cosy comforts of a warm blanket and extra pillows.
How to dress a four poster bed from Endurance Beds
Our Illington 4 Poster Wooden Bed Frame has beautiful detailing on the posts and headboard, but we've taken care to keep the design classic and timeless enough to suit a variety of tastes. This bed frame lends itself to both traditional and contemporary dressing styles, so you can style it exactly as you wish to suit your decor.