Tutorial: Dressing an 18th Century Canopy Bed

Tutorial: Dressing an 18th Century Canopy Bed

Building this dollhouse and filling it has been all about doing things I've never done before and dressing this bed was one of the most challenging. I bought the canopy bed kit from Red Cottage Miniatures with the house kit because I absolutely loved the detail online. Happily it looks just as lovely in person!

This is more of a 'how I did it' than a real step-by-step 'how to' but I hope that it might be helpful for anyone else thinking of doing something in a similar style. My inspiration in making this bed was 18th century French rococo-style canopy beds because I assumed anyone who stayed at this Ladurée hotel would expect to be treated like Marie Antoinette. 

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I built the bed first following the kit instructions, then painted it with Vallejo Liquid gold paint. I then added a layer of 50% clear matte medium, 25% black and 25% burnt umber acrylic to age it and make it look like antique gilding.

I made a mattress by cutting out a piece of cardboard the size of the bed frame, gluing 2 layers of batting to create the right mattress height and then gluing a piece of nice white shirting cotton on top, making sure to make crisp corners just like making a real bed! I added a piece on top, using the selvedge as edging. I realized it's so hard to have 'hems' in this scale because both sewing and gluing can create relatively bulky finishes.

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The next step was finding the right fabric to create the drapery effect that I was after. I am lucky to work in the garment district in NYC, so I spend a lot of time in fabric shops, so I knew I wanted a crisp taffeta or faille for the crisp, 'heavy' drape that would go on a canopy bed, but even so it took a long time to find something that would work in this scale. 

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To make the canopy, I cut 8 pieces of fabric that were the width of each section in the crown of the canopy and 18" long (so that there would be plenty of room for shaping). I decided to use the selvedge for the ends and not do any hemming to keep the distortion on the drapes as minimal as possible. I was concerned about fraying, but because I was planning to spray it with starch, that wasn't as much of an issue as if it was kept natural.

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After cutting the pieces, I ran each one under cold water, then lay it on the ironing board. I basically crumpled/draped each piece into the shape I wanted and pinned it to the ironing board (holding up the constructed bed next to it as a rough guide). Once it was in the right shape, I sprayed it with spray starch and left it to dry. 

 Look who's coming to help! And by that I mean biting all the pins and trying to eat them.

Look who's coming to help! And by that I mean biting all the pins and trying to eat them.

Once I had done the first 3, I got used to it and it got easier, but this definitely isn't for the impatient. The whole thing took so much time and concentration I was absolutely exhausted by the end.

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Once the pieces were dry, all I had to do was trim the pieces to the right length and glue to the bed! I also trimmed off any loose strings from the cut edges. And ta da! I still haven't gotten around to making the pillows yet, because the whole thing was so much work.

 The room so far!

The room so far!

Finishing the Top Floor: Bedroom & Bathroom

Finishing the Top Floor: Bedroom & Bathroom

Miniature Patisserie: Building the Kit + Exterior Finishing

Miniature Patisserie: Building the Kit + Exterior Finishing