SUCH STUFF AS DREAMS ARE MADE ON… A bed­room favourite re­turns

Nostal­gia at its loveli­est, with an af­fec­tion­ate re­vival of the head­board

Town & Country (UK) - - CONTENTS - By CATRIONA GRAY

Few house­hold fur­nish­ings di­vide opin­ion as de­ci­sively as the up­hol­stered head­board. Loved by tra­di­tion­al­ists, loathed by mod­ernists, they are an in­stant sig­ni­fier of your en­tire at­ti­tude to in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion. They ex­ude com­fort and deca­dence, and have done for cen­turies, whether in the boudoirs of the Regency belles who spent morn­ings loung­ing in bed, quaffing cups of hot choco­late, or those of Hol­ly­wood’s Golden Age star­lets re­clin­ing in their neg­ligees amid masses of pale-pink satin.

The last cou­ple of years have seen an up­surge in the head­board’s pop­u­lar­ity; along with the reap­pear­ance of pat­terned wall­pa­per, colour­ful fab­rics and gloss paint, they her­ald a move away from neu­tral pal­ettes and Scan­di­na­vian min­i­mal­ism. The in­te­rior decorator Kit Kemp has long been a cham­pion of this bed­room sta­ple, cre­at­ing state­ment pieces that lend char­ac­ter and life to the many rooms of the 10 ho­tels that com­prise the Fir­m­dale Ho­tels em­pire.

‘Head­boards add scale to a bed­room – they act as a cen­tre­piece and al­low you to show off a re­ally beau­ti­ful fab­ric,’ says Kemp, who works with Chelsea Tex­tiles and Fine Cell Work to pro­duce hand-em­broi­dered de­signs. ‘We of­ten com­mis­sion artists to craft spe­cial pieces – they treat the sur­face as they would a can­vas. A head­board is the per­fect ex­cuse to be creative; you can use a found fab­ric, or even a rem­nant mounted onto black cloth.’

Kemp is so well known for her use of up­hol­stered head­boards that she has al­most sin­gle-hand­edly pop­u­larised the trend. ‘We get cus­tomers ring­ing up say­ing that they want a “Kit Kemp-style” piece,’ says Laura Kel­way-bam­ber, who founded the Head­board Work­shop with her hus­band Euan six years ago. ‘Pre­vi­ously, they would choose a style to match the rest of their room, but re­cently that process seems to have re­versed and peo­ple are look­ing for some­thing that stands out.’

Kel­way-bam­ber’s work­shops are based in ru­ral Wales, where ev­ery­thing is hand­made by skilled crafts­men. Their cus­tomers tend to favour deep-but­toned clas­sic mod­els, al­though re­quests for pat­terned tex­tiles are on the rise.

An­other in­te­rior decorator with a long-stand­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the head­board is Tara Craig, who launched Ensem­blier in 2014, af­ter re­al­is­ing that there were few places to buy shaped and cus­tom-size ver­sions in the UK. She drew on his­toric sil­hou­ettes and in­vented her own de­signs, li­ais­ing with a net­work of up­hol­ster­ers across the UK. Each head­board is con­structed us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods, giv­ing them a struc­ture and springi­ness that is built to last. The bulk of her trade comes from pro­fes­sional dec­o­ra­tors such as Turner Po­cock and Rita Konig, who like the be­spoke op­tions and high-qual­ity fin­ish.

‘Head­boards are a piece of fur­ni­ture in their own right,’ says Craig. ‘They make a good in­vest­ment, as you can take them with you if you move house – sim­ply un­hook them from the wall or un­bolt them from the bed. And a well-made head­board lasts for ever – they’re a bit like a sofa in that they can just be re-cov­ered, while keep­ing the ba­sic form.’

‘I feel that there’s so much hos­til­ity in the world at the mo­ment that peo­ple are seek­ing com­fort and soft­ness in their own homes,’ Craig con­tin­ues. ‘That slightly “granny” look with tas­sels and trims has come back around again. It’s the peren­nial sit­u­a­tion where each gen­er­a­tion hates their par­ents’ fur­ni­ture but the suc­ces­sive one ab­so­lutely loves it.’

And while the bold fab­rics and fan­tas­ti­cal shapes of con­tem­po­rary head­boards feel very much of the mo­ment, they also evoke the spirit of a dif­fer­ent era, a sense of ro­mance and a li­cence to dream. Kit Kemp (www.fir­m­dale­ho­tels.com). The Head­board Work­shop (www.the­head­board­work­shop.co.uk). Ensem­blier (www.en­sem­blier­lon­don.com).

above: a covent gar­den ho­tel room de­signed by kit kemp. be­low: kemp in her de­sign stu­dio

be­low, be­low right and op­po­site: head­boards by ensem­blier

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