We are delighted to have found an ambassador of indulgent sleep.
The writer and journalist Stefanie von Wietersheim, 45, writes about culture, interiors, travels and fashion. Her bestsellers „Frauen & ihre Refugien“ („Women and their hideaways“), „Vom Glück, mit Büchern zu leben“ („About being lucky to live with books“) and „Mütter & Töchter“ („Mothers & daughters“) were published by the Callwey publishing house. She works as an author for several magazines and newspapers such as „Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung“ and „Architectural Digest“. After having spent some years in Munich, Paris and Toulouse she now lives in a country house in Lower Saxony and travels the world for her reports. In the future, she will contribute posts for the Schramm Werkstätten blog „Bedtime stories“.
Bedtime stories No. 1 –
The bed of my life
By Stefanie von Wietersheim
Have you ever thought about the kind of bed that painters, poets or dancers prefer to sleep in? Whether these unconventionally living and thinking people tend to sleep in any other way than people working in so called bourgeois jobs? Do they rest in screwier or nicer beds? Are their dreams more colourful? Do they fall into a particularly mysterious, creative deep sleep, providing them with the extraordinary energy needed to perform their excellence on stages, canvasses, paper?
You may remember spontaneously Carl Spitzweg’s painting of the deplorably freezing poor poet (Bild: Carl), having escaped to his makeshift mat below the pitched roof; or Ernest Hemingway in his Finca Vigia in Kuba which was furnished with a bed so unostentatious that it would take anybody by surprise considering the man’s eccentric personality; or excruciatingly sharp thinking Simone de Beauvoir on her downright female coralline divan on that day in 1952 when she was awarded the Prix Goncourt. Perhaps you may also think of Henry Miller’s beds which were tested by quite a few girlfriends or tyrannic Pablo Picasso’s bedroom at Vauvernargues castle where his bed with the self-designed headboard of green and yellow stripes keeps alluding to the Catalan colours until today.
Yes, artists’ beds are projection screens for our dreams because our bedsteads are always something distinctly intimate, whether they are real or imaginary. The Parisian Musée des Arts Decoratifs exhibits the giant state bed of famous Parisian courtesan Emilie Valtesse de la Bigne – a bed like described in the novel „Nana“ by Emile Zola. This piece of furniture symbolises an entire era during which demimondaines ruled the capital from their beds. What about today? New York painter Julian Schnabel - the man wearing pyjamas instead of business suits – sleeps in a brightly pink-coloured room of his New York Palazzo Chupi in a sky-blue and gold-plated wooden bed. On the most luxurious bed linen you can think of, manufactured in Italy and designed by his wife Olaz.
Reclining and resting, dreaming and dawdling, softly passing out and waking up to a new day – for me being a writer these are absolutely precious and delightful issues. Playgrounds for imagination, unlimited source of excursions into cultural history, the world of design and fashion. Therefore I spontaneously agreed and in my mind started right away to bounce up and down on one of her boxspring beds when Angela Schramm asked me if I felt like writing blogs for Schramm Werkstätten.
Being a journalist and writer I have travelled many countries for twenty years for book projects, magazines and newspapers, have interviewed artists, designers, politicians and otherwise interesting and prominent personalities. I portrait their lives, their work and often their houses. I am thoroughly engaged in finding out how individual life and the things we are surrounding ourselves with are related to each other and how inner harmony and exterior beauty may boost each other. There’s always the question how culture expresses itself – and why this is so important to us human beings.
To a writer, the mysterious realm of resting, of falling asleep and sinking to the bottom of great deep sleep appears like a magical treasure chest opening up to her and inviting her to rummage around in it. Particularly to a woman who – and this is the absolute truth – prefers to live in bed and therefore has to put up with her family’s teasings far too often. „Where‘s Stefanie? In bed, of course!“, they often say at home. Of course I lack the luxury to spend my whole life in my beloved spacious bed. However, I would certainly be able to do so without any problem. Surrounded by piles of novels, illustrated books, radio set and opera CDs, cashmere scented candles, linen sprays, Indian plaids, my iPhone and a small tea bar. Returning to my tranquil haven from travelling the world outside as a reporter is what makes me happy.
My double bed’s cover of stone-grey linen extends down to the floor and boasts a large grey headboard in front of which I always line up three rows of large white cushions. The most beautiful cushion cases are my grandmother’s vintage models dating from the 1930s, adorned by interwoven Art Deco motifs - and her monogram because they were part of her dowry and are still as beautiful as a hundred years ago. I make an almost delusional cult of these cushions, changing them repeatedly as flat pleats tend to annoy me, starching and ironing them, spraying them with lavender water. To me, arranging the cushions is a ritual which makes me truly come home.
When I visited Schramm Werkstätten in the Palatine for the first time and saw how the master craftsmen and master craftswomen cut the fabrics, covered the springs with nettle cloth, sewed the mattresses like they were meant for a fairy-tale princess, I recognized gestures which have kept fascinating me throughout my entire professional life: The noblesse of making something by hand. Handcraft. Demanding oneself to create a perfect, long-lasting product by using needle and thread, hammer and saw. Something truly unique in an age when container loads of stuff are bought although they are not needed.
I am intrigued by these gestures of „old Europe“, the attention to detail, the search for perfection. In the studios and halls of Schramm Werkstätten – recently having been rated for good reason as one of the best German luxury brands by the business magazine „Wirtschaftswoche“- I was able to identify the same gestures and rituals which I had already encountered when writing about other artisans, craftspeople to whom the hand and the eye are the measure of all things: in the Parisian Haute-Couture studios of Lesage’s embroidery artists, in the workshop of bespoke shoemaker Massaro - both work for Chanel today - , also at Jean-Claude Ellena’s, the chief perfumer at Hermès, or the great chocolatier Pierre Hermé.
Just like many people I went through phases of my life when I had to desperately fight for sleep no matter how good or bad my bed was: before exams at university, excited before the wedding (afterwards I slept away my honeymoon), during the restless nights with small babies when I would have paid a fortune for some quiet nights. I have several unforgettable bed memories, like presumably all of us do. Uproariously funny was the moment when our bed in an idyllically picturesque holiday home in the French Luberon area collapsed after we had been visiting restaurant after restaurant, enjoying the delicious food to the maximum. We suddenly found ourselves bruised all over on a slatted frame on the floor at 1 o’clock at night and my husband couldn’t resist to make a deadpan humorous remark: „Seems like the dessert was simply too much, today“. The worst thing I remember was the inflatable mattress while camping in a tent in Cornwall, it had been raining cats and dogs for two weeks, I was reclining for hours in a damp sleeping bag and my feet felt like icicles while I was extremely bad-tempered and kept watching the biggest spiders of Britain hovering over me. I had rather cuddled up in a true bed in a holiday home. However, that may go wrong, too, just like it did in the white cubic house on the sea in the Portuguese region of Algarve where the rock-hard mattress caused me such severe back pain that I grabbed my cover and tried to sleep in the bathtub instead. Even worse. Most pleasant the holidays in a creaking wooden bed on thick new mattresses in an Engadin chalet in the wintertime. To sleep with tilted windows while the outside temperature dropped to -10° C, slight snowfall, wake up under thick, crackling duvets felt like heaven.
But most romantic was the first bed during my years in Paris. Much to the distress of my husband I insisted on building a canopy bed draped with orange golden silk. For an entire week I kept searching for a suitable canopy frame at ebonist workshops in the St. Antoine quarter but their frames would rather have fitted into a Norman castle than into a domestic’s quarter of a Mansart house where we were living in at the time. Finally, I had a matching semi-circle brass frame made by the BHV department store opposite the Parisian town hall – and paid a small fortune for it. At the fabric market Saint Pierre I managed to find dozens of meters of orange golden silk and the lining for the waterfall drapes below the bow. A friend of mine and seamstress sat at the sewing machine for a whole week before we finally draped the orange-coloured waves around the bed. It looked breathtaking, almost like the state bed of one of Emile Zola’s demimondaines. I admit that my husband was truly taken aback when he first saw our new bed. Unfortunately the fabric of this Parisian bed faded and became flimsy as the years went by as it was exposed to sun and moon, dusting and childrens‘ cavorting. And today I end up sleeping in the modern grey bed reminding the beholder more of the iPad-generation than of a French novel’s heroine. However, the last rest of the orange-coloured silk is still hanging in front of my bedroom window – reminding me of the bedtime stories of my life.