When we look for New York living spaces, the one constant in advertising lingo is the “BR.” Whether preceded by the number 1 or 3 or 6 or even the ubiquitous word “no,” the focus is on the BR, the most essential component of all living spaces. And why not? We will sleep in our BR, we will eat in our BR, we will work in our BR and make messes in our BR, we will love and lose and live in our BR—for where else do we spend our time when we’re at our most vulnerable, night after night, or day after day, during the hours in which we dream? And, just as we must pay for the BR spaces, we must pay to fill these spaces too. And an actual bed is just the beginning . . .
WHAT GOES UP . . .
What could be hokier than a bed that falls out of the wall? In our town, however, sometimes apartment size leaves a lot to be desired—like space to place a bed. Since you convinced yourself that 150 square feet would suffice, you can take what you saved on rent and invest it at the Murphy Bed Center instead. Because a super-slick, spy-style Murphy bed will cost you. Prices start at $695 for a full-size mechanism alone; that’s the hardware, not the mattress, and certainly not the material to hide the bed behind when it is safely locked in its upright position. A basic unit with case (the New Yorker style, natch) runs from $1,199 for a full size to $2,899 for a king. It’s a good choice, though, because you can finish the case (which is made of medium-density fiberboard) any way you choose. A bigger splurge brings almost endless possibilities—sliding doors, folding doors, mirrored doors, shoji screens, bookshelves, recessed lighting, cherry wood, hydraulic closure, remote control! At the highest end, you can plunk down $14,000 for the enclosure cabinetry of your dreams. It sure is a good thing you saved on that monthly maintenance fee, eh? Phil Caruso, proprietor of the Murphy Bed Center, assures me that his beds will absolutely not open or close automatically, and they certainly won’t move with people and or pets inside. Gives a whole new meaning to taking your bed-friend for a ride. (The Murphy Bed Center, 20 West 23rd Street, 212.645.7079, murphybedcenter.com)
IN THE FOLD
Often less expensive than traditional bed frames and mattresses, futons are good solutions for spaces that require single pieces of furniture to serve two purposes. And although a quick trip on New Jersey Transit to either New Brunswick or Princeton may remind you of that unfortunate association most have between futons and frat houses, the wares at White Lotus Home are anything but collegiate. Most futons you’ll find on the market are made entirely of foam, which is squishy and unsupportive. White Lotus, however, handcrafts each futon out of layers of U.S.-grown cotton (and will insert a foam core in some futons used primarily as couches, since the foam does help some models keep their upright shape). Prices start at $265 for a double-size, non-boric, all-cotton futon with organic case. They’ll even let you take a peek into their work studio to see how it’s done. A friendly, family-owned company, White Lotus is dedicated to caring for their customers, employees, and the environment; their stores ooze a comforting charm—a welcome change from most mattress hawkers. They also make kapok, buckwheat, and wool pillows, wool mattress toppers, and sheets. And they carry a wide variety of artisan-crafted wood frames for the futons as well. Delivery and setup in New York are available, and all products can be ordered online if you can’t bring yourself to escape the city. (White Lotus Home, 191 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey, and 202 Nassau Street, Princeton, New Jersey, 877.HANDMADE, whitelotus.net)
SHABBY CHIC VS. SHABBY CHEAP
Shabby Chic, Rachel Ashwell’s Soho shrine to all that is slightly weathered, worn, and White Whisper, is stocked with the chic-est of bedding, of course—all stylized floral prints and softness for a pretty penny or two. But she’s just debuted a more affordable line, Simply Shabby Chic for Target, as well. Still strewn with Blush Bloom(s), British Rose(s) and Lavender Jewel(s), these sheet sets start at a mere $39.99—less than half the price you’d pay in Soho for a single sheet (twin poplin fitted sheet, $92). (Shabby Chic, 83 Wooster Street, 212.274.9842, shabbychic.com; Target, 8801 Queens Blvd, Elmhurst, Queens, 718.760.5656, target.com)
THROWS OF FASHION
So you spend a lot more time in bed than anywhere else, right? And if you calculate the cost of wearing that Marc Jacobs gold lamé dress ($3,950 divided by one wearing = $3,950 per use!) and then do the same calculation for his divine new cashmere throws (satin-edge blanket, $1,695; knitted thermal blanket, $2,450; Marc Jacobs logo throw, $995, each in light natural, lilac, ivory, or blue) that you’ll want to cuddle up with every night of the year ($2,450 divided by 365 nights = $6.71 per use!). I’d say that that adds up nicely. (Dress: Marc Jacobs Men’s and Women’s Collections, 163 Mercer Street, 212.343.1490; Marc Jacobs Home products: Marc Jacobs Accessories, 385 Bleecker Street, 212.924.8126, marcjacobs.com)
The New Stalking will be defined by online registries—so telling, so easily accessible and yet untraceable. They’re all you need to peruse what the object of your obsession covets. A little electronic list on a public commerce website: They’re asking for it (literally) and thus practically begging you to peer into their cabinets, or, in this case, their bedroom. True confession: An ex is engaged, friends tell me. Super. That’s swell for him. Really. The New Stalking to the rescue, via weddingchannel.com, of course. Groom’s last name. First initial. Check. Three registries, eh, Mr. Fancypants? Enter the site. Still undetected. And then the slap. Ouch. Mr. and Ms. Fancypants–to-be are registered for that damn DKNY duvet cover (DKNY Urban Garden duvet cover, full/queen, $290) I’ve coveted for months! My chances with it (the duvet! the duvet!) ruined in an instant. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to settle for one of those knockoffs Nicole Miller is peddling at Bed Bath & Beyond. I’ll be sure to check the registry there, too, though. Just in case. (weddingchannel.com; Bed Bath & Beyond, 620 Sixth Avenue, 212.255.3550, and 410 East 61st Street, 646.215.4702, bedbathandbeyond.com)
YOU’RE ALLOWED TO BE UGGLY IN BED
Our little secret: We wear Uggs (and will continue to wear them next season when they’re “over”) because they’re so damn soft. We laugh to ourselves as our sistern attempt to scurry around in stilettos. If you’re actually afraid to leave the house in them, however, there’s a simple solution that makes perfect sense: Ugg slippers (shearling slip-on, $70, shearling mule, $65). Admits one knowledgeable PR exec-footwear fiend: “They’re so ugly I take them off when company comes. But I bought my husband a pair.” They’re lucky; they’ll be ugly, but their tootsies will be extraordinarily comfy, together. (uggaustralia.com; Neiman Marcus, 1200 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills, New Jersey, 877.634.6269, 877.777.5321, neimanmarcus.com)
So soft, so smooth, so friendly to the worker and the common man! American Apparel is a fine, upstanding anti-sweatshop company, and I’m smitten with their sleepwear as well. Their Baby Thermal long-sleeved T-shirt ($26), Fine Jersey muscle T-shirt ($14), and PE shorts ($16), are fine for the boys, but what’s really dandy for the dames is their Sheer Jersey Chemise ($28) and Girly Dress ($40) (both from their Classic Girl line). Although the Girly Dress is meant to be outerwear, it also serves as a perfectly adorable flirty and fun nightgown. The chemise and matching T-Back Thong set is the only item in the store that’s actually meant to be sleepwear, and unless you like to let your G-stringed cutie patootie fly free in public, that’s probably for the best. It’s one sexy, soft piece of cotton. The catch, however: The p.c. poster children of AA must be unfamiliar with the word sizest, because their Classic Girl cuts leave a little to be desired by those of us who don’t think that girlish and teeny tiny are synonymous. And the Baby Rib Thong is tiny enough, no? So it’s weird that they pair each chemise (sizes S, M, and L) with a size #1 (their smallest in undies). (712 Broadway, 646.383.2257; 373 Sixth Avenue, 646.336.6515, americanapparel.net)
Lacking the luxury of a guest bedroom, bunking visiting buddies is a challenge. Beautiful Bed Rolls (Mini Floral Bedroll, Turquoise Velvet Stripe Bedroll, Woven Stripe Bedroll, all $100 at Urban Outfitters) are one solution, and when guests are gone you can even use them as decoration for your own bed; propped up against a wall, they make a splendid soft headboard. Other options abound with the Aero inflatable products. The simple original model with built-in pump retails for about $89, the deluxe, complete with “cottony” cover, hovers around $119, and the pièce de resistance, the Raised AeroBed, which rises to the height of a regular bed and costs about $199, all inflate in just a few minutes, and deflate and fold up for easy storage. (Urban Outfitters; Bed Bath & Beyond; AeroBeds, thinkaero.com)
Rubber sheets, yeah, they still make them, but why deal with that crinkling noise and sticky feeling? The red-PVC Play Sheet ($35) protects your regular sheets and your mattress from wax, oils, gels, and liquid latex—all of which are conveniently available in myriad varieties from the knowledgeable and welcoming staff at Toys in Babeland. Simply throw the sheet in the washing machine when you’re finished. And smile. (Toys in Babeland, 94 Rivington Street, 212.375.1701, and 43 Mercer Street, 212.966.2120, babeland.com)
SIDE BY SIDE
We know where you’re going to rest your head, but what about your alarm clock, your telephone, your lamp, and personal items of a private nature that you’d like to keep close at hand? The Juxta Drawer ($29.99) sounds like something you’d find at Ikea, but is actually available in Manhattan at the Container Store. Its adorable boxy style is slightly curved and stackable. The drawers come in color combinations such as hot pink and white, orange and white, and black and white (all the drawers are a cloudy plastic that will keep the contents you store safely out of sight), and the aluminum legs can be stored in specially designed slots in the unit base when not in use. (The Container Store, 629 Sixth Avenue, 212.366.4200, thecontainerstore.com)
NO SLEEP TILL BROOKLYN
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the Brooklyn Designs show, a festival of some of Brooklyn’s finest working furnishing designers. Look for bedroom-related objects from Susan Steinbrock, whose hand-painted cotton twill and silk fabrics look like they’ve been watercolored, and are available by the yard; Erin Wilson, who makes hand-dyed cotton quilts of almost frantically simple, brightly colored geometric shapes; Bubbly Babies, which crafts pillows, rugs, and linens for the wee ones; and 10 Essentials, which makes just 10 pieces of furniture—simple, sculptural, and appealing to only the most essential of needs. Their bedside table is probably the best piece in their entire collection. Also of promising note, a lecture titled “Working With a Designer for the First Time” and a panel discussion explaining “Commissioning Work—Easier and More Affordable Than You Think” will be held at St. Ann’s Warehouse during the fair. (Brooklyn Designs, April 30, May 1-2, St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street, DUMBO; Brooklyn Designs Gallery, 37 Main Street, DUMBO, 718.875.1000, ext. 146; brooklyndesigns.net, susansteinbrockdesign.com, erinwilsonquilts.com, tenessentials.com)
The biggest variable in besotting your bed is sheets. Options abound around the city and via a brisk mail-order business. Let’s start at the top: Pratesi, of course, for an exquisite and expensive take; splurge on the store’s cheapest line—the cotton print—which starts at $430 for a full/queen-size top sheet or $1,120 for a full/queen set (top sheet, fitted sheet, and two standard shams). They did have a sample sale earlier this spring . . . so get ready now to pounce next year. Garnet Hill’s fairly priced sheets excel in the pattern department. Catches this season include the most perfect plump Pineapple Percale, a punchy pattern that looks like it was stamped onto a background of pink (a double sheet, flat or fitted, is $35, a double/queen comforter cover is $85), and the Picasso-esque Guitar Shop Percale pattern.
Another bright spot: the Marimekko offerings at Crate & Barrel. While the Raita stripe line is a bit summery for any other season, and the Pisara pattern looks like it was tie-dyed, the Peoni line, a creamy colored set, is quite classy (full-size sheet sets are $74.95). For a real bargain, though, head straight for T.J. Maxx. When I was young, I couldn’t have been more mortified that that was where my parents would drag me. Mother does know best, in this case, though, as a recent trip revealed Ralph Lauren odds and ends at $49.99 for a striped quilt, a red-and-cream Laura Ashley toile queen-size sheet set for the same price, and a mauve floral Tommy Hilfiger comforter for $29.99. While their stock is, of course, hit or miss, it’s hard to argue with a bargain. The biggest bargain of all also takes me back to Jersey, although this time quite literally: Among Ikea’s wonders (and there are many), it’s hard to beat their linen prices. Adorable finds start at $3.99 for pillowcase sets and never rise higher than $39.99 (for some quilt covers). (Pratesi, 829 Madison Avenue, 212.288.2315, pratesi.com; Garnet Hill, garnethill.com; Crate & Barrel, 611 Broadway and 650 Madison Avenue, 800.967.6696, crateandbarrel.com; T.J. Maxx, 620 Avenue of the Americas, 212.229.0875; Ikea, Elizabeth Center, Elizabeth, New Jersey, 908.289.4488, www.ikea.com)
MAKE YOUR BED(DING)
Fancy schmancy sheets a bit out of your price range? Or maybe you just feel like doing it up yourself. Pals Cal Patch and Diana Rupp will help you at their Make Workshop studio, nestled sweetly on the Lower East Side. The girls run this school/design studio/craft club that also serves as a knitting supply store (specializing in artisanal yarns) and a retail and wholesale showroom for local artisans. Not sure how to D.I.Y.? Want to D.I. With Others First? Score. The school offers tons of classes including Intro to the Sewing Machine (one two-hour class, April 28, $60), and Embroidery (one two-hour class, April 30, $40), and, from time to time, workshops in appliqué, block printing, hand quilting, Kool-Aid dying, afghan knitting, and even a home decor course where you’ll walk away with a fringed pillow and matching café-style curtains. Not your grandma’s stitching bee: Look for a free (with RSVP) outdoor stitching circle the first Friday of every month, once the weather gets warm. A related option if you really want to D.I. By Yourself—make your bedding in bed, even—is to order a neat little kit from Jenny Hart’s Sublime Stitching. Her Purty Pillows Pillowcase Kit comes with an embroidery hoop and needle, seven colors of six-strand embroidery floss, diagrams, instructions, four packs of Sublime Stitching patterns, and two standard white pillowcases for you to create your masterpiece. (Make Workshop, 195 Chrystie Street, #502, 212.533.9995, makeworkshop.com; Sublime Stitching, sublimestitching.com)
Plain, plain, plain, plain, plain, plain Jane. She wants an innocuous piece of unfinished wood furniture. So she waits and waits and waits and waits, and oh, well, there’s no need for her to wait really. She could easily run to any of the 10 locations of Gothic Cabinet Craft in Manhattan, the eight stores in Brooklyn, the four in the Bronx, the seven in Queens, or the one on Staten Island and snatch up a nifty Galaxy Platform Bed (full size, $209), or even a Galaxy with underbed drawers on metal glides (full size, $248) if she’s feeling like going all out! Truth be told, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with such poetic simplicity, especially at such a good price. (866.255.3567, gothiccabinetcraft.com)
ODE TO MY BEDSIDE CARAFE
(FIRST A HAIKU, THEN A TANKA)
Oh my, my carafe,
which I set near my bedside.
So sleek, I sip, sigh.
Oh, Crate & Barrel,
you’ve done the unthinkable—
what pristine design.
This is one for the ages!
The pages of Arch. Digest!
(Bedside Carafe, $14.95, includes 23 oz. carafe, 6 oz. glass, Crate & Barrel, see above)
Take two—no, not Ambien, silly—and call me from your dreams.
FURNISH A FUTURE
The New York City Department of Homeless Services recently released the results of HOPE 2004, the second annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate. Volunteers counted the homeless population on the streets of the city on this past February 23. They estimate that there were 2,694 people living on the streets and in the subways of Manhattan, Staten Island, and Brooklyn. The Partnership for the Homeless is committed to helping the homeless population through initiatives such as the Furnish a Future program. You can help too. Rather than navigate the city’s rules and regulations for throwing your old mattresses and furniture out with the trash, you can donate your no-longer-needed belongings to the program’s warehouse, which serves as a free furniture bank for formerly homeless families as they begin to settle in new homes. Furnish a Future is also always looking for volunteers to staff the warehouse, to fix up donations, and even to set up and design displays of the furniture. (476 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn, 718.875.5353, partnershipforthehomeless.org)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 20, 2004