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Making a Room Into an Arabian Tent

J.E. Myers
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Turning a room into an Arabian tent is about more than the tent fabric. Such a bedroom boasts resplendent style with the use of plenty of luxurious elements. 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.

Capture the flavor of a Middle Eastern tent room with this decorating scheme.

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 room.

Color Scheming

Choose your color palette. Your tent room should be filled with a happy melange of colors, all in “jewel” tones, such as ruby red, amber yellow, lapis lazuli or sapphire blue. Balance these colors with off-white or beige, in generous portions, such as in the tent fabric and carpeting so these rich colors don't overwhelm the senses, but have a neutral base from which to emerge.

Cover the ceiling with lightweight fabric, such as nylon or mesh, 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. If a light fixture protrudes from the center point, stay clear of it by at least a foot all around. Create a medallion-type border one foot or so from the fixture with ornately curved trim -- think "Taj Mahal" -- from where to begin stapling the tent in gathers, if you like. Extend the length of the fabric to the place where the wall meets the ceiling. Staple this end of the fabric to the wall, 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 continuous and overlapping fabric sections to the wall. Install continuous sections 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.

Magic Carpeting

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 for contrast and visual .

Furniture for Effect

Furnish the room with a ring of comfortable low couches and masses of pillows of all sizes and in assorted colors relating to the room. Traditional Western furniture is acceptable, but wall-to-wall couches are preferred. 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 dark-red mahogany.

Arabic Accessories

Decorate with Middle Eastern accent pieces, including mosaics, brass vessels, and tapestries. Depictions of human beings are not acceptable art subjects in Middle Eastern design, so stick with art based on Middle Eastern animal designs and patterns vivid in geometric shapes or visually busy abstract-floral prints. A layering of like-colored, but aesthetically varied fabrics, art and accessories come together for a sultry finish.