Dollhouse beds are one of the details that help to make a small home look ‘lived in’. I take that finishing touch very seriously when furnishing my dollhouses. Sometimes this results in that detail lingering unfinished long after the rest of the home is completed.
Until I have just the right bedding decisions made and the results are created, I confess to a lot of naked beds in my little dwellings. Sometimes, even when the decisions have been made (usually the hardest part), the materials or methods I’ve settled on are difficult to obtain or achieve. This results in a further delay, but usually the results, when they are achieved, are worth waiting for.
I’ve made a concerted effort lately to dress some those unfinished beds and I’ll share some of the processes and results with you.
Dollhouse bedding can be very elaborate or very simple depending on a number of factors. I have some that are elegant wire-framed; some that are rustic or carved wood and some that are simply a basket or card box re-purposed.
The sheer variety makes dressing the beds a lot of fun and at times, very challenging.
The most important factor for me is creating a sense of realism in my miniature settings. I like to leave a viewer imagining that someone just climbed out of that little bed or is about to climb in for the night.Naked Beds in a Variety of StylesA Layered Bed and Bed Side Table
Before embarking on this mission, a few considerations must be made. The time frame of the miniature setting and financial circumstances of the miniature inhabitants are a few things to keep in mind. The style of the dwelling and the imaginary location should also be taken into consideration. For instance, a bunk in an 1800s New England Lighthouse would appear vastly different from a bed in the master bedroom of a successful British Sea Captain of the same era. The first would be strictly utilitarian; a warm place to rest for a few weary hours between shifts. The second would be a luxurious haven, showcasing exotic treasures garnered from trade and travels around the world.Lighthouse Keeper’s Bedroom
One bed that has given me a particularly creative challenge is the one in the master bedroom in my Art Nouveau dollhouse. I found a tester style bed that fit the setting early on. I have suitable small print fabric for the under bedding; sheets, pillowcases, blankets and bed ruffle. For years however, I was unable to determine what design of bed top covering would best suit that bed and setting. When I finally determined an appropriate style, I was initially stymied about how to do it. I wanted to use a fabric that evoked an Art Nouveau tapestry, inserted as a center panel. Efforts to find anything resembling that print on fabric, in a small enough scale, proved futile.
I did eventually find some wrapping paper with a small-scale William Morris print that seemed just right. I’ve read about a process by which a print can be transferred to fabric, using a color copier. I haven’t had time to experiment with the technique yet, but hope to try it this winter when I have a bit more time.
I’m planning to print this pattern onto some well-worn muslin I scavenged from a box of old fabric I discovered at a barn sale. If successful, I will use the resulting fabric to create a bed topper appropriate to the style and era of that setting. If not, I will go back to the drawing board!A William Morris Print Rug, with a Print Similar to the Wrapping Paper I Found, and the Vintage Muslin
In the Attics of the same Art Nouveau dollhouse, is the nanny’s room and nursery. The bed I chose for the nanny’s bedroom reflects a well-dressed bed in a servant’s room for the timeframe (about 1910). The bed itself is brass and the bedding is made to reflect cast-off but good quality bedding from the family the nanny worked for. This bed has a bed ruffle of pink and white pinstriped fabric and sheets of simple muslin, with a bit of lace at the edge of the pillow slip, with a quilt of worn rose print and colored fabric.The Loft Bedroom in Ros Cottage
Thinking Beyond the Obvious
Some of the small cottages I’ve built have very small sleeping spaces; snug little lofts really. No standard 1” scale doll bed would fit into these spaces so I’ve had to really think outside the box.Box Lid and Fabric Similar to Those I used to Make the Bed in Rose Cottage
In my Rose Cottage bedroom, as in the rest of that cottage, I’ve maintained an English rose theme. After much consideration, including the seriously limited confines of the space, I decided to use the base of a note card box covered with an appropriate rose print fabric. Then I dressed the bed in dark green velvet. This bed sits directly on the floor of the loft, eliminating the space required for a traditional bed with headboard, posts and legs. It was the solution for that setting. I included a few rose print throw pillows to enhance the softness of the bed.
In the Adirondack cottage, I’d worked hard to create a cozy, rustic ambiance with a lake house feel. The Adirondack style brings several elements together, including some Victorian Highland touches blended with Native American basketry, Rustic Bentwood furniture and North Woods styles. A diverse mix if ever there was one, but against all likely odds, it seems to work. This combination of styles actually gave me some appreciated artistic leeway when it came to creating the most appropriate bed and bedding for the setting.
I was fortunate to find a low slung trundle type bed and my friend Ellen made me a coverlet with a Native American design on it, in colors that complimented the setting. Perfect !
Styles, Choosing the Correct Bed and Bedding
I usually envision what the bed should look like, after I determine the style and era of the home and choose the bedroom colors. Then I chose an appropriate bed frame and start to imagine who will sleep in it and what their circumstances and needs would be.
A simple Irish cottage bed would probably be painted or stained wood and dressed in worn muslin and wool, cotton or linen. A castle would likely have a carved wooden bed with silk or tapestry dressings.
Some beds have skirts and some do not. Some have canopies, most do not. For some more luxurious bedroom settings, lace and embroidery are appropriate, for some simpler times and places, those trimmings are not fitting.
One look I love, is coordinated print fabrics, layered in a ‘Laura Ashley-like’ setting. This could include a bed ruffle, sheets, pillows, blankets, quilts, afghans and throw pillows all assembled together. The finished product is a combination of textures, colors and prints, the compliment each other. It is a very comfortable and luxurious look. Of course, it is not appropriate for all settings.
Much careful thought and many careful decisions go into the choices of beds and bedding.
Vintage Lace, Edgings, Fabrics and Doilies, Awaiting an Assignment
Textile Options, Effects
I always keep an eye open for vintage fabrics, old silk neckties, handkerchiefs and doilies etc. for current and future miniature bed dressing projects.
I use a variety of materials including assorted textures, fabric types, prints and colors when dressing dollhouse beds. I keep a lookout for small-scale print fabrics and odd bits of lace and ribbon or vintage fabric that has a nice ‘age’ and drape to it. If the drape of the fabric is realistic, the overall effect is much more believable. If the fabric sticks out stiffly or looks awkward on the bed and the effect is not believable. Mixing textures adds another layer of authenticity to the project, as long as the texture remains in proportion. Getting these details correct is critical to me.
While some of the sewing of the bedding may be done on a sewing machine, much of the work inevitably ends up being done by hand. Each layer of fabric is molded and turned to produce the most realistic appearance. Tiny hidden stitches create many subtle, natural-looking effects. Tucks and folds must often be created after the bed is dressed and require some tricky needlework to be effective. These are the touches that mimic the fold and fall, the loft and heft that full-scale fabric embodies. These are the details that matter.
Accessories Make the Outfit
As in personal attire, a well-dressed bed may include some enhancing accessories. Bedroom accessories help to set the style of the room. I like to add a bed tray with a bit of breakfast to a scene for instance. Imagine a turned down bed with a bed tray containing tea, a lemon slice, a croissant and butter.
I paint and stain small wooden trunks and line them with dollhouse scale wallpaper or fabric. These sit at the foot of some dollhouse beds and add a further dimension to a bedroom setting. Sometimes I make a bedside table with a table skirt that coordinates with the bedding. It may contain a candle or kerosene lamp, a book with a pair of glasses and a mug of cocoa or hot cider, setting the scene for a cozy retreat.Bed Side Table with the Essentials
In choosing bedding for this room box, made from an old crate, I knew I wanted the mattress and pillow to be old-fashioned blue and white striped mattress ticking, with no sheets; very rustic. I tea-stained those items to reflect the years of hard duty they had endured next to the sea.
I was having a difficult time finding the correct fabric to create the blankets out of. I wanted something warm and worn in appearance, but rustic as well. When I wore a hole in the heel of my favorite blue cotton ragg socks, I found my answer! The smooth and worn material was exactly the look I needed for that project and it made me feel better about giving up the socks as well! As a bonus, I utilized the ribbed part of one sock to create a little sweater for the lighthouse keeper.
Bed and Breakfast Room Box Bed
This bed is part of a room box depicting a room in a bed and breakfast inn, and I wanted the entire setting to be cozy and welcoming. I looked a long time for the right bed to grace this room. One day I spied it on a discount novelty gift shelf at a local pharmacy, of all places. It was perfect.
I chose a shade of coral from the wallpaper as the underlying sheet color, to highlight the white wire work bed. The pillowcases are coral as well. I used a floral striped fabric for the under bedding, which has a pattern similar to the wallpaper but in subtler colors. The reversible puff quilt combines the deeper blue and pinks in the wallpaper. A delicate afghan in coral, crocheted by my dollhouse dilemma savior Ellen, drapes across the end as a bed throw, tying it all together.
This bed resides in the master bedroom of my retired sea captain’s British 17th century Georgian home. Each room in this residence reflects a different sea trade route. The bedroom represents the India Trade. The wallpaper in that room is off-white and various shades of delicate blues.
I found a wire wicker bed on a table with other broken and defective dollhouse furniture at a dollhouse shop years ago. It needed some minor repair that I was able to accomplish. The bed was white and I’d imagined it being more buff-colored so I simply spray-painted it the shade I wanted it to be.
To help create a light, airy, exotic (Indian) feeling, I suspended some fine-weight netting above the bed. That fabric benefited from a bit of tea-staining to soften the color.
I had a tough time finding a bed covering that was appropriate until I remembered a scarf, made in India, that I wore in high school and college. It was shades of pale blue and somewhat faded from years of wash and wear. It had been tucked away for a very long time. I found it and decided it was the perfect solution and created the bedding from that, to complete the room. I made a mattress and pillows and covered them in a pale blue fabric. I added a matching/coordinating sheet. Then I made a slightly puffy bed quilt from that old scarf and pillow shams as well from the border design.
Artistic Resources and Assistance Appreciated
I am fortunate to have some very talented friends who have assisted with making some of the difficult design decisions and in dressing my dollhouse beds over the years. They have contributed quilts and coverlets for several of the otherwise naked or nearly naked beds in my small dwellings.
Here are a few of the bed toppings that I’ve had wonderful assistance with.
Ellen needle-pointed this bed cover to accent a dark bed in my collection. I do not needlepoint so the hand-crafted touches she has contributed for my dolls, are especially appreciated. They give some variety to the mix of dollhouse beddings.
I imagined a crazy quilt to complete the setting in Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother’s Cottage (Note the Big Bad Wolf in Granny’s bed). However, the task of fitting all those little fiddley bits together effectively was beyond me. Lucilla stepped in and created a wonderful treasure to complete this setting.
The attics of the Retired Sea Captain’s House, are the preferred environment of the Old Salt himself. His bed with a half wheel headboard seems especially fitting but I was at a loss for the correct bed dressing. Lucilla and her son Henry, designed this quilt with a repetitive wave pattern which is the perfect complement to this décor.
After a dollhouse tour, my friend Annette noticed that the crib in the Victorian Nursery was woefully bare. She offered to assist and I readily agreed. She created a tiny quilt that pulls the whole setting together and has eliminated the distraction of yet another naked bed! The Victorian babies are thankful too!
How lucky I am to have such caring and talented friends. All my miniature dollhouse denizens are very appreciative and significantly warmer!
There are still several miniature beds that need dressing but I feel like I’ve made a lot of headway recently. I hope I’ve inspired you a little bit if you are in the midst of a similar dilemma. If you do not need to dress any dollhouse beds, I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing my efforts just the same.