hand painted bed

After a long search, we found an antique French bed for the old country cottage.


The frame is a couple of hundred years old. It had some surface damage but we didn’t mind as we planned to paint it.


I used chalk paint, which is essential to replicate the long tradition of European hand painted furniture, and can be thickened to impasto, thinned to a wash, distressed and waxed to produce a beautiful surface. Unlike the chairs and other refinishing projects, it took an amazing amount of work to get this bed finished. There were some trouble spots that I fixed with some knotting, and by using some of the “old white” chalk paint mixed into the beeswax finish. The process of painting and distressing was like making a textured painting. Such a pleasure. At the end, the beeswax buffs to a gentle gleam.

bed & bag © elisa rathje 2011

I’m so pleased with the way the antique white has a serenity that overcomes the austerity of the original wood. Somehow it manages to combine ornament with minimalism in a way that fits so well in the old cottage.

© elisa rathje 2011

We’re very much in love with it. It’s been years since we’ve had a bed with a proper headboard, I adore it for sitting in bed and reading, writing, having a morning cup of tea. This furniture was built with tremendous strength and elegance years ago and it’s wonderful to have a piece with a long history. Now I’d like to sew some bedlinens for it, a whole cloth quilt perhaps, and knit us a throw.

© elisa rathje 2011

I was so lucky to receive a pot cupboard as a gift from my sweetheart. I may never get out of bed again.

© elisa rathje 2011

pot cupboard

A bedside table has become one of my most beloved, essential pieces of furniture. I saw a photograph of an antique French pot cupboard years ago and fell for it, head over heels. I’ve been longing for one, something made from real wood, something with some history and character, something elegant and highly functional. In London we had a very wide bed, it fit all of us when the children joined us in the night but left no room for a little table. My family surprised me with a pot cupboard on Mothering Sunday. Great secret! I am so lucky.


I’m partial to writing before bed, and often upon waking to plan my day, so I like to have my fountain pen and writing book in a drawer, with a good lamp, at a good height. A spot for the ink bottle is very nice. It sounds simple, but without these, my best habits fall apart. I misplace my writing materials, it’s too dark to write, I get disorganised and distressed without the bedtime routine I’m fond of. I like to have my knitting nearby, a couple of books I’m reading, a glass of water or a cup of tea. This one is marble topped, so I needn’t worry about my cup. Its colours are quite entrancing.


In fact the cupboard is also lined in marble, as it was originally designed to hold a chamber pot. How do you like that for old fashioned? It just so happens that the table perfectly matches the old bed I refinished.