Preparing for the overhaul...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Making (That Other) Medieval Bed

It's a common misconception that medieval furniture is all heavy beams and dark wood.  In actual fact, many pieces were brightly colored and patterned.  We know this from surviving examples, as well as numerous woodcuts.

This chest is a modern (full-sized) reproduction of a classic medieval design.  Painted inset panels were very common, and varied a great deal.  Depending on the artist's location and individual tastes, you might get anything from biblical scenes to geometric patterns.

Pieces like this--and less intricate copies--began appearing during the late middle ages.

And hey, let's face it: all that dark wood gets boring after awhile.  The real middle ages were a fairly dark and gloomy time; people tried to inject a little color into their lives whenever they could.  Your dolls' tastes are probably no different.  Moreover, unlike today, paint was expensive.  Using it in your house was a mark of status.  Bright colors like blue and purple were made from rare natural materials.  The wealthier the owner, generally, the brighter his house.

I made this bed out of bass strips and Houseworks newel posts, then I started painting it green.

Here's a closeup.

I'm still at a loss for how to come up with some bedding.  A seamstress I ain't.  Anyone have any ideas?

I painted the entire bed green, leaving the panels blank.  Green is a good middle and upper middle class color, because green paint was made with readily available materials.  Unlike purple, which was made from rare murex shells--and, therefore, protected by sumptuary laws--green was available to nearly everybody.  Since Roman times, people mixed their own green paint using crushed parsley, sap, or various berries.

The next issue is the inset panels.  While some brave souls prefer to paint their own designs, I don't.  My principal concern is one of scale: even the tiniest brushstrokes are HUGE in dollhouse person scale.  Pre-printed designs provide a level of detail that's very, very tough to reproduce freehand.  When I do use my own designs, I tend to paint them, if not full-sized, then quite a bit larger than 1:12 scale, copy them, and shrink them.

These panels are cut from Brodnax wallpaper.  Les Chinoiseries also has some wonderful designs, which are adaptable for these types of projects.  Especially useful are their murals, from which you can cut some lovely "slice of life" scenes.

So far, so good...

The finished product.

You can touch up any exposed white bits with the appropriate color paint.

But seriously...bedding, anyone?

What do you think?


Michelle said...

I love this little bed, very simple design, but lovely! I don't do freehand where I can help it I love your idea for the panels.

I don't sew where I can help it, and rather enlist my mother to do that deed! So, I can't help you there.

Michelle :o)

Heather Cutting-Rayl said...

I just found your site and it's wonderful! I have learned quite a bit from your tutorials!
as for Tudor bedding, it's quite easy and can even be done without a sewing machine! I have done some very realalistic beddding which is straw filled mattresses and duvet type covers which work very well.