Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lit à la Polonaise

Allen and I have been out of town for a couple of weeks, and I've had this post prepared since before we left. Unfortunately, I'm missing the picture that Jessica has requested - one of Huey (our dog) reclined on the bed and wearing an old-fashioned sleeping cap - but I will do everything in my power to bring this important item to fruition soon.

Please don't hold me to the correct terminology here. There are several types of ciels de lit - which themselves are a type of bed canopy - including lits à la duchesse, and lits à la polonaise - or "Polish beds." All I know is I'm a sucker for ridiculous drama, and two-thirds of the bedrooms that I've ripped out of House Beautiful feature canopies (like these from Eddie Ross, with whom - like Dolly Parton - I'm convinced I could be best friends if we ever met). Since our guest room has recently taken on a cool, calm, less schizophrenic personality, I thought I'd rig one up in there.

It's actually pretty easy. Here's what you need:

  • plywood
  • about 6.5 yards of outside fabric, depending on your ceiling height, plus a little extra (roughly a 4" square)
  • about 6.5 yards of liner fabric (or a pair of Ikea curtains), plus some extra (see below for details)
  • a staple gun and staples
  • a sewing machine and thread
  • 1/4" upholstery tacks
  • a hammer or tack-hammer
  • a small disk about 1 1/2" in diameter - an aspirin bottle top works well
  • threaded metal hooks

Use a jigsaw to cut a big donut out of the plywood - mine is about 17" diameter, with a two-inch hole in the middle.

Use the extra liner fabric to cover the donut. (The fabric should be equal to about twice the donut's outside circumference, and a little wider than the donut's diameter.)

Picture an imaginary line down the middle of the fabric's length. Along this line, staple the fabric to the edge of the plywood donut, bunching it as you go. Staple every inch or so, folding the edge of the fabric down at the end so that no raw edges are showing.

Once the fabric is stapled along the edge, gather it and push it through the donut's hole. Staple in place. Staple the loose fabric on the other end to cover the plywood (this part isn't important, as you'll never see it once the canopy is installed).

Cut your exterior fabric in half so that you have two widths of fabric, about 3.25 yards long - you want it long enough to reach from ceiling to floor, plus about six inches. Sew the pieces together so that you have a double-width of 3.25-yard-long fabric.

Repeat with the liner fabric or curtains.

Place the two double-wide pieces of fabric with the right sides against each other. My exterior fabric was wider than the liner fabric, so I folded it back in (and I like the look of it on the finished product).

Sew the sides of the fabric together, then sew the bottom. You'll have a giant fabric sack now. Flip it so the right sides are out. Fold the raw edges of both fabrics so they're inside the sack, and pin in place. Sew shut. Now you have one big double-sided panel.

Measure about three inches down from the top of the panel - a patterned fabric will help you eyeball this as you go along. Tack the panel onto the edge of the donut using an upholstery tack. Position the other edge of the panel flush with the first edge, so that the panel wraps around the donut - there should be a lot of excess. Tack in place. Estimate the halfway point of the panel's width, and tack it onto the opposite side of the donut. Keep working like this - finding the halfway point of the loose panel, and tacking in place between the two existing tacks. The idea is to get the panel evenly distributed around the plywood circle. Finally, space your tacks about an inch apart, with the fabric bunched all the way around the circle.

Last, you want to cover the donut hole in the plywood. Cut out a circle of your exterior fabric, and stretch it taught around a small plastic disk, like an aspirin bottle top, sewing it in place. Sew this over the donut hole, hiding the stitches as possible.

Sink three threaded hooks into the plywood, spaced equally around the circle - snipping the fabric as necessary.

Position the canopy exactly where you want it over your bed - get a partner to help. Push it up against the ceiling, and nudge it backward carefully a quarter-inch - this will leave marks on your formerly pristine white ceiling. Use heavy-duty drywall anchors to sink three more threaded hooks into the corresponding positions. All that's left is to hang the canopy hooks from the ceiling hooks - which is a bit of a pain in the ass, since you have to do it blind. Patience, my friend. Because once you're done you can relax under your canopy and pretend you're royalty.


  1. oh love it! I've been wanting to make a little canopy for my guest room for a while. I like the look of this one better than the others I've seen too.

  2. I didn't even notice the pleated underside when you showed me. I love it!

  3. Replies
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