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Shopping for Antique Beds With Robert Kime

Robert Kime is a decorator’s decorator—the AD100 London-based designer is known for exquisite layering, sophisticated patterns, and unimpeachable traditionalism. Naturally, he knows precisely what to look for when sourcing one of the most sumptuous items for a bedroom project: the antique bed. Read on for his expert insights. 

What are your first considerations when sourcing an antique bed? Do you have favorite sources?

Interestingly, I do find beautiful antique beds in Paris, but I usually have a few on hand, either in my shop or in my stores. We have made beds out of antique pieces too—for example, we might have the cornice and the posts, but have to craft the rest. We now have added a bed to our collection of reproduction furniture because we know how difficult they can be to find. We wanted to create something that we would be happy using ourselves.

When purchasing an antique bed for a client, what factors do you consider?

Of course, size, suitability, and how we think the bed will work are all considerations. Very often they need a bit of work, which we undertake in our workshops. We used a beautiful antique bed for Tory Burch’s bedroom in France—but it was a sum of parts. The canopy was antique and we made the posts. The Queen Anne fabric we used tied it all together against walls upholstered in Lorimer. A small chair acts as a kind of punctuation in the room against the bed and architecture. I think other furniture is something to be considered too.

An antique Italian bed currently for sale at Robert Kime's Ebury Street London location.

An antique Italian bed currently for sale at Robert Kime’s Ebury Street, London, location.

Simon Brown

Are there particular limitations of antique beds, such as sizing? How do you adapt or get around them?

As we use so many four-posters or canopy beds, we must always consider ceiling height. We used an old bench back for a headboard once and that had to be upholstered and fitted to the wall. We use our Paris Lights too, because being able to read in bed is very important.

What about the mattresses—do modern mattresses fit? 

We tend to do handmade or custom mattresses. Antique beds often need custom sizing. And our reproduction four-poster bed can be made in any size. 

What are some other notable antique beds you’ve used in projects? 

At Gela [Nash] and John Taylor’s house, South Wraxall Manor, there was a lot of forensics we had to do architecturally to the house in order to first see what rooms could take the drama of the beds we then sourced. In Gela and John’s bedroom, I had a beautiful antique piece of velvet that I wanted to use, and that was the starting point. In another bedroom, we exposed the Gothic arches which had been ceilinged over and combined with the Gothic windows; we selected an antique bed that, although it had no canopy, still has beautiful features with the addition of a hanging textile behind, which provides interest.

On a more simple note, we have an antique bed at our shop on Ebury Street right now (pictured). It is Italian, polished metal, and we used a combination of our new Nara fabrics and document textiles to dress it. I have always had canopy beds myself—since I was a young child—and I find them to be so safe. So my own bedroom in London is a good example: It is lined in antique voiles, and this gives it a very open feel, which is nice for the city.

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