I have a wonderful pen pal in Santa Barbara who has led the most fascinating life. Her name is Beverley Jackson, and she seems to have traveled everywhere and met everyone along the way. For years, Beverley was a columnist for the Santa Barbara News-Press, but what I find even more interesting is that she is an authority on 18th and 19th c. Chinese life, dress, and customs. She has a noted collection of Chinese robes, something that eventually led to her friendship with the late Rudolf Nureyev, also a collector of Chinese robes. She has written numerous books on Chinese culture, including Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition, Ladder to the Clouds: Intrigue and Tradition in Chinese Rank, and the recently released The Beautiful Lady Was A Palace Eunuch. She is currently working on her next book, Living Like a Rothschild, which is based on her friendship with the late Baron and Baronne Philippe de Rothschild. And if that wasn't enough, she also writes an intriguing blog that chronicles the wonderful adventures that she's had in her life.
Beverley is noted for her stylish and effortless entertaining, but there is something unusual about where she hosts her seated dinners. She does so in bed...actually, a wonderfully elaborate 18th century Chinese alcove wedding bed! Beverley found the antique bed in a shop outside of Santa Barbara and had to have it. Because she already had a beautiful bed on which she sleeps (it's a copy of the bed that once belonged to Pauline de Rothschild), she decided to use the wedding bed as a dining chamber.
After having the bed restored, she placed it in a room whose walls were painted with 2/3 black and 1/3 burnt umber paint- a color that seems to cast a glow on the bed at night. She also added a wooden moon window on the inside of one of the room's picture windows to help integrate the bed into the space. (You can see the wooden window in the photo that immediately follows this text.) On the bed itself, the restorer added a false floor and banquettes that can be removed, leaving the bed's integrity intact. Four people can dine in the bed itself, while two additional guests can dine in the antechamber on two small 18th c. chairs and two small huanghuali 18th c. tables. If Beverley invites six guests to dinner, she simply sits outside of the bed and dines from a tray on her lap!
Beverley usually entertains in a casual fashion. Table linens are often made from fun cotton fabrics decorated with Chinese themes. When she does entertain with more formal dinners, she is assisted by Vicki and Fernando who don Chinese robes in keeping with the surroundings. One constant though is that Beverley makes sure to serve very good wines, some that are from the vineyards of her dear, late friend Philippe de Rothschild.
And in case you're wondering what the "Pavilion of the Soaring Kingfisher Bird" means, I'll explain. Beverley has a large collection of items made from Kingfisher feathers and has written a book on the subject, Kingfisher Blue: Treasures of an Ancient Chinese Art. In fact, she includes the room's name on her fill-invitations which you can see below.
I hope to make a trip to Santa Barbara soon so that I can see the dining bed for myself! In the meantime, I'm getting the lay of the land thanks to these photos that Beverley sent me. And by the way, that's Beverley in the top photo, standing in the alcove of the bed. Her miniature wirehair dachshund, Rennie Jackson, just had to be in the photo too.
For a complete list of Beverley's books, click here.
A detail photo of one corner of the alcove bed with the wooden moon window next to it. The peacock is a recent addition to the pavilion.
This is the way Beverley usually sets the table. Beverley believes that the paintings were not original to the bed but were added later.
An article which profiled Beverley's unique style of entertaining.
Her helper, Fernando, wearing a Chinese robe.
Beverley's Smythson fill-in invitations.
Kirk and Anne Douglas and Joanne Kendall supping in Beverley's bed. Even Julia Child dined in it!
Here you can really see the bed in all of its splendor. The giant fortune cookie was a prop from a film that was shot in the Soaring Kingfisher Bird Pavilion.
All photos courtesy of Beverley Jackson.