Please design help me design a functionally medieval bedroom
October 2, 2009 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find tasteful, grown-up fantasy-themed decorative and design ideas for a bedroom. Longer explanation inside.

I have a large bedroom that I'm considering decorating with some kind of medieval/fantasy theme. It shouldn't be too cute, but I also don't want it to be too severe. I'm not looking to go overboard on this, and don't want to put dragons and suits of armor all over the place. I've tried searching MeFi, Google, and various home design sites (like apartment therapy), but I'm having trouble finding descriptive terms for what I'm looking for. "Fantasy" might not be it.

The end result I'm going for is something where these three pictures (Joanna Newsom's Ys, Mastodon's Blood Mountain, and the Arnolfini Portrait) could all hang on the walls. I especially like the geometric patterns in the background of the Blood Mountain picture, and was thinking I could try to find some fabric with a similar design to stretch over wood squares and put up. Runes might also be good (something like this).

About the room: it's long, with hardwood floors and dark brown wood furniture. One long wall is all windows, so there's plenty of light. There are curtain rods, but we're just using blinds for now. There isn't a lot of space for free standing stuff, but there is a lot of open wall space and a lot of surface space and empty shelves.

Do you have any suggestions for nature/fantasy/magic decoration that won't make my bedroom look like a Spinal Tap show?

Or, do you have any suggestions for how I should phrase this so I can have more successful searches? ("watered down elder scrolls" "middle earth lite" etc. aren't turning up much) Is there a term for that geometric design, for instance, that would let me find similar things?

Happy to provide more info or clarity if needed. Thanks in advance.
posted by jalexc to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The geometric designs look vaguely like Celtic knotwork. Searching for keywords like "Celtic interior design" turns up some possibilities like this.

Substitute "medieval" for "celtic" and you get this and this.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:35 AM on October 2, 2009

Have you considered painting the walls to look like faux stone -- as though you're in the interior of a castle?

I'd suggest woven sisal mats to go over the floor, instead of rugs.
posted by amtho at 11:37 AM on October 2, 2009

Two books that give you inspiration or at least suggest keywords for further searches are Rebecca Purcell's Interior Alchemy and Matt Maranian's Pad. Both contain some unorthodox ideas for interior design that might appeal to you.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2009

The Arnolfini portrait has a convex mirror-- Apartment Therapy recently did a roundup of current versions. That could be a really subtle, non-goth way to add some early Renaissance flair.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:53 AM on October 2, 2009

Best answer: Illustrations inspired by Kalevala could be suitable, as they try to portray mythic times, but with romantic or modernist sensibilities. (1, 2, 3) I couldn't find any ready to use patterns, but maybe these help you to pinpoint your search.
posted by Free word order! at 12:29 PM on October 2, 2009

I'd suggest hanging the walls (or at least the windows) with some really posh fabrics; maybe velvet in a dark, bold color (pick a color from one of the paintings).
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:59 PM on October 2, 2009

Try using SCA (society for creative anachronism) in your search, like 'sca decorating.' You should get lots of medieval and earlier results looking at SCA related sites.
posted by x46 at 3:19 PM on October 2, 2009

One strategy that I particularly like for putting geometric patterns on darkly-colored walls is to paint with stencils-- but the catch is that you use either clear glossy paint or the same color paint as the background but in glossy instead of flat. Alternatively, you could use a color that's one tiny shade lighter than the background. I've seen David Bromstad do this on HGTV a few times, and it always look really sophisticated-- you just get a hint of the patterns without making everything too busy. I'm picturing dark gray walls for you, with red velvet curtains (like in your photos) and lots of wall sconces.
posted by dino might at 4:28 PM on October 2, 2009

Best answer: The pattern in the background of the Blood Mountain cover is an Islamic Star Pattern centered around a 12-pointed rosette.

Here are some links to examples:

This is my favorite book on the subject:
posted by aneel at 5:52 PM on October 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for your advice. After searching around on the links that free world order posted, I found this picture, which I really like.

Thanks also to aneel for reminding me where I'd seen that design before--in mosques. I'll need to do some research to make sure it's neither overtly religious nor sacrilegious to use these patterns jus fo decoration, but I hope I can incorporate them.

I'm looking forward to exploring some of the other suggestions for books and searches to consult, thanks for giving me some direction!
posted by jalexc at 9:22 PM on October 3, 2009

While the best examples I've seen are from religious and royal buildings, patterns like that are also common in upscale Moroccan guesthouses (Riads) and restaurants. They do have mystical meanings associated with them (see, for example this short discussion of the symbolism of the 8 pointed star), but are pretty common decorative motifs.
posted by aneel at 11:05 PM on October 5, 2009

(I presume they're also present in riads that have not been converted to guesthouses, but I have never personally seen the inside of one that's still a private house)

This MetaFilter thread has some links to the symbolism and historical context.
posted by aneel at 11:13 PM on October 5, 2009

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