One of several unique interiors created for traditional New England-style cottages at an executive resort in Vermont, this one features an Arabian sheik's tent theme. “The idea was to create a bit of a fantasy. The interiors are supposed to surprise you,” says architect Scott Cornelius, who designed the project when he was with Johnson Wanzenberg Associates in New York City.

The cottage's main room promises luxurious Arabian nights. To get the tent effect, Craig Hervey of Housewright Construction, and architect Scott Cornelius used a rope to figure the tent's “droop factor.” The curve was transferred to plywood ribs which, along with horizontal fir dowels, formed the framework for the bent drywall and plaster veneer ceiling. “The painting [by Boyd Reese Studio in New York City] was much more technical than the construction,” Hervey says. Photo: Carolyn Bates Though the ceiling looks like fabric, it is made of plaster over “bending drywall” installed over plywood framing. Hervey and Cornelius suspended rope from the ceiling's center and pulled to a point 2 feet down on the wall to get the proper “droop factor.” The profile was still too angular, so Cornelius hand-sketched the form on plywood, using it as a template to cut the curved framing. Two layers of ¼-inch drywall were bent and nailed into the edge of the curve-cut plywood. “It was very simple” to do, says Craig Hervey, owner of Housewright Construction, in Newbury, Vt., which built the project.

Housewright created one tent ceiling in the main room and one in the bathroom. The main tent has veneered plaster over drywall. The square at the ceiling's center is edged by starched, then painted, canvas. Brass column “tent poles” in the room's corners complete the look.

Hervey constructed the smaller bathroom ceiling using wire lath instead of drywall. The 2-by-8-foot sheets of extruded galvanized metal screening, “are flimsy and have no structure, but once you put on a base coat of plaster, they become a reinforced gypsum shape,” Hervey says. The form of the ceiling curve was copied from that in the main room but scaled to size.

The design elements, especially the Celtic patterned Moroccan-style tilework, were all of a piece with the built environment. “It was engineered from the finish out,” Hervey says.

Housewright, general contractors specializing in creative residential and commercial projects, was involved in many detailed woodworking finishes on the cottage project, including cabinets and screens intricately cut with Middle Eastern-inspired designs. “It was a great challenge,” Hervey says, “but we do a lot of projects that have a lot of complications. You learn from all your previous work, which allows you to bring solutions to the job at hand.”

Stacey Freed is a senior editor for REMODELING.