Four-year-old me loved princesses.
My ever-patient babysitter used to draw me a daily portrait of Crystalina, our make-believe princess, and we’d invent story lines for her that usually had more to do with dresses than princes (aesthetics were a priority from an early age, natch).
When my parents dragged me along to Ikea one afternoon, I fell hard for what seemed to me at the time the pinnacle of princess bedroom accessories: an ethereal tulle canopy, suspended from a hoop. The BRYNE –- still available for only 9.99 if that’s your thing -– was in reality a pretty basic fly net setup, a Permethrin-free version of the thing that saved me from Malaria while studying in Kenya.
To say I had to have one doesn’t come close. My mother, who’d been wearing on me for a while to start piano lessons, used it as leverage. She’d buy it for me, and dad would install it that same day, as long as I agreed to weekly lessons and daily practice until I was sixteen.
What’s 12 years when you’re finally this close to all your princess dreams come true?
It was mine, it came home with us, it went up over my single bed and I was mentally prepared to sleep the unencumbered sleep of the most princess-like of all princesses. It was magical –- for about a week. Then I couldn’t stop sneezing. I was super-sensitive to house dust, it turned out, and the canopy was acting like a magnet, suspending it overhead and sprinkling it over me in my sleep like fairy dust every time I moved.
It came down, relegated to basement storage for the remainder of my childhood, and soon forgotten, just like my princess ambitions. (I spent the next decade trying to become Devon Sawa, circa Casper.)
Sadly, there was no clause in my mother’s tradeoff, and I practiced scales and arpeggios for an hour daily until my 16th birthday. I did eventually learn to love it, and surely enough, my love for super-girly, princess-like sleeping quarters returned as well. It just took me a while to get it right, at which point it was also important that I strike a balance between Disney princess and décor-mag so as not to send potential suitors running for the hills.
I am going to tell you exactly how to recreate the princess bed that I currently sleep in (among other activities: I’m writing from it right now), since posting a picture of it in one of Jane’s open threads is how I got to writing about décor for xoJane in the first place.
There are four elements to consider:
This is the real measure of a regal bed. We’re talking about a quality mattress, box spring (even if you have a frame, I recommend the box for extra height) good pillows, etc. I’m partial to memory foam because I often work from bed, and the lack of springs saves me from spilling water all over my keyboard when my dog jumps up uninvited.
Also memory foam is a lot like being held by the perfect lover who never snores or hogs the blankets. A good mattress should last 20-25 years. Invest what you can, if you can. If you can’t, consider a memory foam or pillow-top mattress cover -– they’re fractionally as costly and can seriously upgrade a basic Ikea or hand-me-down situation.
I read somewhere that within two or so years a pillow’s weight is 2/3 dead skin and mites. I try to switch mine up on the regular (once a year, maybe) by buying them cheaply at Homesense, or during department store sales. I’d rather only sleep on 1/6 bugs and detritus, if I can help it.
I don’t iron, and don’t own one. I do own a retail store-style clothes steamer, but since I don’t intend to steam my bed sheets any time soon, I’ve come to terms with the fact that they’re always going to be a bit wrinkly looking.
Since no-iron stuff usually has formaldehyde in it (gross!), I opted instead to go for the wrinkliest fabric that looks BETTER that way: linen. Nubby, white and neutral linen looks sexier rumpled, IMO.
Because I really like monograms, I sometimes procrastinate writing by browsing Etsy for vintage trousseau sheets that have my initials on them, often in metis (half linen, half cotton). If you’re going to start doing this, be sure to heed measurements, because beds are a lot bigger than they used to be, when women were still hand-embroidering sheets to take with them to their future husbands’ homes.
FYI, there’s some pretty heteronormative monogramming traditions out there, if you’re interested, but they can be distilled down rather simply. If you’re single, it goes initial of your first name, INITIAL OF YOUR LAST NAME, initial of your middle name. If you’re in a couple, it’s supposed to be initial of the man’s first name, INITIAL OF THE MAN’S LAST NAME, initial of the woman’s first name. (I say it doesn’t really matter, and if you like a sheet and it’s someone else’s initials altogether, that’s cool too.)
Lace-bordered pillows, embroidered duvet covers, gauzy blankets –- anything white or creamy tends to lend a country château vibe that works well in layers. Fold the flat sheet overtop your duvet and layer a blanket along the bottom of the bed for extra textural interest. I love the look of a monochrome bed with loads of layered blankets and pillows. More is more here.
A canopy bed is not absolutely essential, but if you have the ceiling height and the access to one, it definitely makes princessing easier. Mine is from Restoration Hardware, if you’re in the market. They even sent cute deliverymen to assemble it -– royal perk right there.
Other appropriate options include four-posters or just elaborate frames. Barring either of those, you can create a canopy frame by mounting a round shower curtain rod (the kind they used to use for clawfoot tubs) to the ceiling and attaching curtain hooks to it in order to drape fabric curtains instead of shower curtains from it.
A canopy bed is pretty on its own, and sometimes the graphic lines of the frame are enough for the space you’re in. This is especially true if the room is busy, décor-wise. But if the bed is going to be the most striking element in an otherwise more neutral space, this is an opportunity to really play up the drama.
I went all out, with gauzy swiss-dotted cotton panels from Ikea (cheap curtains work better, since they tend to be less opaque and create more of an ethereal effect than heavy drapes), vintage eyelet fabric bunting from Etsy seller Oakapplerose, and a circular starburst mirror over the headboard. An antique coromandel screen just behind the bed adds to the coziness.
I find it creates a space not unlike the opium beds from the 1800s, which often had a back wall to them. You could also use a bamboo or silk folding screen, or as a budget-friendly option, a plain wood one purchased cheaply and pasted with wallpaper or even high-end gift wrap, to similar effect. Since I live in an open space with no broom closets, I hide all my house cleaning paraphernalia (and my laundry basket) behind mine.
The final touch to bring your princess bed to fairy-princess-bed proportions is lighting. I strung Christmas tree lights up one back arm of the canopy, through the roof of it, and back down the other arm, but you’re only limited by the amount of lights you purchase in terms of coverage. I only wanted to spend $20, so that got me one set at Target.
It really does create a beautiful, glowing room-within-a-room effect at night, and so long as the wires are white as well, they’re not super noticeable when unlit.
Whether you recreate one or all of these elements in your own room, it’s kind of like Lesley’s definition of a beach body being whatever body you bring to the beach (to borrow a really important point for a much more frivolous one, obv) -– there’s only one absolute requirement for a princess bed: a princess. So get in.