A Study Of Beds

Lectrology, the study of the bed and its surroundings, can be extremely useful and tell you a great deal about the owner, even if it’s only that they are a very knowing and savvy installations artist.

Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals
a bedroom scene from Midnight Feast
a bedroom scene from Midnight Feast. See some process drawings in this post. And more in this one.

Each of us has three lives: public, private and secret. We are rarely afforded glimpses into the bedrooms of other people, a room which, in the West, bridges the private and secret selves.

Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917) In Bed 1878
Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917) In Bed 1878
Mary's Blanket ad, John Gannam, 1948
Mary’s Blanket ad, John Gannam, 1948

CANOPY BEDS

Canopy beds can be cosy, or anything but.

Daddy's Room by Carl Larsson, Sweden
Daddy’s Room by Carl Larsson, Sweden
Jill Barklem (1951 - 2017) British writer and illustrator Brambly Hedge bedroom
Jill Barklem (1951 – 2017) British writer and illustrator Brambly Hedge bedroom
The Little Golden Funny Book, pictures by J.P.Miller, 1950
The Little Golden Funny Book, pictures by J.P.Miller, 1950
By Edmund Dulac (1882-1953)--'The Sleeper'. f. The Bells and Other Poems, E.A. Poe, 1912
By Edmund Dulac (1882-1953)–‘The Sleeper’. f. The Bells and Other Poems, E.A. Poe, 1912
KAY NIELSEN bedroom canopy bed
by Gwen raverat tiger above the bed
by Gwen Raverat tiger above the bed
Illustrations by Roland Pym (1910-2006) for The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope. Pym drew these in 1988, but they have only just been posthumously published
Illustrations by Roland Pym (1910-2006) for The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope. Pym drew these in 1988, but they have only recently been posthumously published.

But fiction lets us all the way in. In fiction, the bedroom can be a representation — perhaps ironic — of a character’s inner world.

EXAMPLE ONE: THE SPARTAN BEDROOM

Alice Munro is master at describing the ordinary, and so she shows us here, in her descriptions of bedrooms described as ‘Spartan’ or as bachelor pads.

My father slept in what had been a pantry, off the kitchen. He had an iron bed and a broken-backed chair he kept his stack of old National Geographics on, to read when he couldn’t sleep. He turned the ceiling light off and on by a cord tied to the bed-frame. This whole arrangement seemed to me quite natural and proper for the man of the house, the father. He should sleep like a sentry with a coarse blanket for cover and an unhousebroken smell about him, of engines and tobacco. Reading and wakeful till all hours and alert all through his sleep.

Alice Munro, “Queenie

The ceiling of [Delphine’s] room sloped steeply on either side of a dormer window. There was a single bed, a sink, a chair, a bureau. On the chair a hot plate with a kettle on it. On the bureau a crowded array of makeup, combs and pills, a tin of teabags and a tin of hot chocolate powder. The bedspread was of thin tan-and-white striped seersucker, like the ones on the guest beds.

Alice Munro, “Trespasses

He stood aside for Robin to enter the big front room, which had no rug on the wide painted floorboards and no curtains, only shades, on the windows. There was a hi-fi system taking up a good deal of space along one wall, and a sofa along the wall opposite, of the sort that would pull out to make a bed. A couple of canvas chairs, and a bookcase with books on one shelf and magazines on the others, tidily stacked. No pictures or cushions or ornaments in sight. A bachelor’s room, with everything deliberate and necessary and proclaiming a certain austere satisfaction. Very different from the only other bachelor premises Robin was familiar with—Willard Grieg’s, which seemed more like a forlorn encampment established casually in the middle of his dead parents’ furniture.

Alice Munro, “Tricks

EXAMPLE TWO: THE TECHNICOLOUR BEDROOM

She woke in the night with the vibrating pink lights of the restaurant sign across the street flashing through her window, illuminating the other teacher’s Mexican doodads. Pots of cacti, dangling cat’s eyes, blankets with stripes the color of dried blood. All that drunken insight, that exhilaration, cast out of her like vomit. Aside from that, she was not hungover. She could wallow in lakes of alcohol, it seemed, and wake up dry as cardboard, flattened. Her life gone. A commonplace calamity. The truth was that she was still drunk, though feeling dead sober.

Alice Munro, “Fiction

EXAMPLE THREE: THE FOREST BEDROOM

The forest is symbolically rich for storytellers, multivalent in its associations — a place of refuge and a place of terror at once. The forest is basically the subconscious. That is how it functions in fairytale.

The bedroom from Beauty and the Beast (1945) is interesting because Beauty’s bedroom spills over into the forest. This is a story which delves into the deep subconscious. (The text below has been auto translated from French.)

12 Films Inspired by the Art of Gustave Doré

The bedroom without walls, blending with surrounding landscape has been utilised by contemporary picture book illustrators, for instance Anthony Browne in Just A Dream. (In that post I offer other examples.) There’s A Sea In My Bedroom by Margaret Wild blends a child’s bedroom with the sea.

The illustration below is by English-Australian writer/illustrator Inga Moore and is set on a ship, but the bed is very similar to those in Scandinavian cottages.

Inga Moore illustration of Captain Cat

In English they’re called Scandinavian box beds.

Little Peachling, and other tales of old Japan', 1928 retold by Georgene Faulkner illustrated by Frederick Richardson
Little Peachling, and other tales of old Japan’, 1928 retold by Georgene Faulkner illustrated by Frederick Richardson
From ‘Sleeping Beauty’ 1970 by Hans Arnold, Swiss emigre illustrator
From ‘Sleeping Beauty’ 1970 by Hans Arnold, Swiss emigre illustrator
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren and Kitty Crowther 10
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren and Kitty Crowther 10
Barbara Ninde Byfield (1930 - 1988) The Haunted Spy Doubleday, 1969. Written and illustrated
Barbara Ninde Byfield (1930 – 1988) The Haunted Spy Doubleday, 1969. Written and illustrated
Ebenezer Newman Downard - Morning Prayer 1860-61
Ebenezer Newman Downard – Morning Prayer 1860-61
Brita's Forty Winks by Carl Larsson, Sweden, 1895
Brita’s Forty Winks by Carl Larsson, Sweden, 1895
Sunday Funnies, illustration by Jack Welch - Detail from Saturday Evening Post cover December 20, 1947
Sunday Funnies, illustration by Jack Welch – Detail from Saturday Evening Post cover December 20, 1947
Amos Sewell - Parents Reveille
Amos Sewell – Parents Reveille
Bettina Baldassari - Italian
Bettina Baldassari – Italian

SEE ALSO

Children’s Bedrooms In Picture Books

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