If your idea of an exotic room decor is an Arabian tent with a canopy overhead, thick carpets underfoot, and lots of comfortable seating and pillows, you can create that look, in resplendent style, with the use of plenty of luxurious fabrics. An authentic or near-to-authentic Arabian tent room will be a true oasis of comfort and serenity, a place for meditation, a nap, or conversation. You can take your design concept as far as you like, but the most convincing treatment will be complete, erasing all vestiges of a modern European or North American (Western culture) room.
Choose your color palette. Your tent room should be filled with a happy melange of colors, all in "jewel" primary color tones like ruby red, amber yellow, lapis or sapphire blue. Balance these colors with off-white or light beige, in generous portions, such as in the "tent" fabrics and wall-to-wall carpeting so these strong primary colors don't overwhelm the senses.
Remove Any Ceiling Fixtures
Turn off power to the room at the main circuit breaker box if there are any ceiling fixtures or wall sconces in the room. Since you will be upholstering the ceilings and walls with fabric, you won't be able to use these lighting fixtures again for safety reasons. Remove all of these light fixtures. Cap off all the wires in the electrical boxes with plastic electrical nuts and close all the boxes with metal plate covers. If you intend to install a new Arabian-looking light fixture, like a Moroccan lantern, in the center of the ceiling, extend these the fixture wires approximately 8 to 12 inches below the electrical box. Cap these wires off, temporarily, with electrical nuts. Restore power to the room.
Tent the Ceiling
Cover the ceiling with pleated fabric to form a "tent canopy" overhead. Begin with a section of fabric and staple one end to a point that marks the center of the ceiling. Stay clear of the area where the ceiling light fixture electrical box might have been located: staple the fabric around this hole, approximately 2 inches away from the hole, and avoid contact with the capped off electrical wires as you do this, if they are present. Gather the fabric with your fingers to form loose pleats as you staple. Extend the length of the fabric to the place where the wall meets the ceiling, directly opposite your starting point on the ceiling. Pull the fabric tight. Staple this end of the fabric to a point on the wall that is approximately 12 inches below the ceiling line to create a gentle, sloped effect. Continue to gather the fabric to form the pleats as you staple this end to the wall. Install a second section of fabric alongside the first section, starting at the center of the ceiling and working out toward the corresponding area on the opposite wall. Overlap the two side-by-side sections by 2 inches so the seam between the two sections is somewhat masked. Work all the way around the room, section by section, until the ceiling is completely covered with pleated fabric.
Create a round ceiling medallion, cut out of 3/4 inch plywood, that is large enough to cover the place where the fabric has been stapled to the center of the ceiling. Drill a hole through the center of this medallion to accomodate the light fixture wires if you intend to install a hanging light here. Mount this medallion securely to the ceiling with molly bolts. Decorate the medallion with paint or upholster it with more of the ceiling fabric: do this only after installing a hanging light fixture from the medallion if that is in your plans.
Optional: Install an appropriate ceiling light fixture such as a Moroccan hanging lantern. The larger the lantern the better. Turn off power to the room at the circuit box. Mount the fixture to the plywood ceiling medallion and connect the fixture using the capped wires. Restore power to the room and test the fixture.
Tent the Walls
Line the walls with lengths of fabric. Use the same material employed in the ceiling, or a slightly different or darker fabric for contrast. Staple the fabric, loosely pleating it as you go, to long strips of 1-inch-by-2-inch lumber. Wrap the fabric around the wood and staple it on the back side of the wooden strip so the staples won't show. Staple the top end of the fabric to a strip of wood, and then staple the bottom end of the fabric to another strip of wood to form one wall "panel" of fabric with a top and a bottom wooden "rail." Raise the top rail and place it against the wall so it covers over the stapled ends of the ceiling "tent." Nail or screw the rail to the wall here. Align the bottom rail at floor level and nail or screw it to the wall as well. Repeat this until you have covered all the wall surfaces from floor to ceiling, even over windows. Try to place fabric over any windows in such a way that two sections overlap at the windows: you will be able to part the fabric with your hands when you need to reach and operate the windows. It helps to start by installing two fabric sections at the window locations and working around the room from there to be sure two sections come together at the windows. Install short "filler" panels over the tops of doors; don't cover the doors.
Remove any doors in the room and replace them with heavy velvet curtains. Mount the curtains on cafe curtain rods installed inside the door jambs.
Carpet the Floors
Carpet the room if it is not already carpeted, wall to wall. A neutral or "sand" tone is best. Add layers upon layers of Oriental or Arabian carpets and rugs, one over the other. Two or three layers of different carpets are typical. These carpets should each be different in design and coloring.
Furnishings and Accents
Furnish the room with a ring of comfortable low couches and masses of pillows of all sizes. Traditional Western furniture is acceptable but wall-to-wall couches is the look you want. Pepper the room with small tables with round or octagonal tops, all placed in front of the couches, not at the ends. The wood finish on these tables should be a dark red mahogany.
Decorate with Middle Eastern accent pieces, including mosaics, brass vessels, and tapestries. Remember that depictions of human beings are not acceptable art subjects in Middle Eastern design so stick with art based on Middle Eastern design patterns and animals.
- "Arabian Design"; Daab; 2007
- "Arabian Geometrical Pattern and Design"; J. Bourgoin; 1973
- "Arabic Art In Color"; Prisse d'Avennes; 1978
- Photo Credit Tangier 41 image by Rainer Tagwercher from Fotolia.com
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