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What You Need to Know when Buying an Antique Bed

Updated: May 28



There aren’t many modern options that can match the elegance and beauty of antique furniture, and this is no different in the case of beds.


An antique bed serves as a beautiful centerpiece in any bedroom, and they come in a variety of styles. Often, these beds come into homes after they’re passed down by older family members.


For many, the idea of seeking out an antique bed seems like a daunting task, but, finding a gorgeous antique bed, or restoring one, and making it a sleep-worthy addition to your home does not have to be a challenge at all.


Types of Antique Beds


Most antique beds range from the styles of the 16th to the late 19th century. Obviously, the latter being the more common as you’re more likely to find a bed from the 1500s in the Smithsonian than someone’s bedroom.


Understanding the differences between these models of beds can help narrow your search and get you sleeping in the antique bed of your dreams faster.


Canopy Beds


Canopy beds were a popular variety of beds from the 16th to 19th century. The canopy bed is a rendition of a four-poster that is connected along the top for hanging drapes that enclosed the bed for warmth, privacy, and protection. In Europe, these drapes were often expensive, beautiful silks royalty used to decorate their homes. In America, the drapes took on a much humbler tone and were used by everyday families to add flavor and personality to their room.


While the practical uses of the canopy bed’s drapes are obsolete thanks to the comforts of modern life, they still make for a delightful addition to any bedroom.


Rope Beds


The rope bed was standard in American bedrooms throughout the 1800’s. In fact, the term “sleep tight” originated thanks to the rope bed’s support system that required tightening to keep the straw mattresses of the 19th century in place.


Rope beds remain a simple yet appealing bed. They often feature shaped headboards that easily fit into a wide range of bedroom aesthetics. If you come across a rope bed that still features its rope-support system, no need to worry. These beds can easily be retrofitted to accommodate modern mattresses.


Sleigh Beds


The sleigh bed is still produced by modern bed manufacturers today, but its roots go back to 19th century France. While you could opt for a modern take on the sleigh bed, they won’t quite match the style of a genuine antique.


These beds are marked by their tall headboards the s-shaped scroll designs that detail them. It’s also common to find sleigh bells with brass décor lining the outside of the frame, but what makes these beds most desirable is the sturdy, polished woods they were made of. They may take some restoration, but many remain solid and sleep-ready at more than 100 years old.


Victorian Beds


If you’re in the market for an antique bed, there is a good chance you’re hoping to find a Victorian bed. These beds have remained one of the most popular antiques for decades, and for good reason.


Victorian beds come in two styles, gothic and Rocco. Both feature stunning headboards often made of walnut. The gothic bed has a flare for the dramatic with an especially large headboard that commonly comes to an arch and features raised carvings.


On the other hand, the Rocco bed is known for capturing all the elegance of the Victorian era. Rocco beds are full of detailed carvings, curved head and footboards, and intricate woodwork that adds a certain level of class to a bedroom.


Securing an Authentic Antique Bed


Setting out on your own to hunt down the perfect antique at an estate store or flea market can be intimidating. Thankfully, there are plenty of methods locally, and online for finding antique furniture.

The obvious choice is your local antique store but be cautious. Many sellers will simply list any item over 50 years old as an “antique,” and if you’re hunting for a genuine Victorian, you want the real thing not a cheap copy from the 1970s.


Understanding the assorted styles of beds gives you an advantage, but a keen eye can guarantee you find exactly what you’re looking for.


When shopping, it’s important to pay special attention to the carvings and cuts along the bed. Precision lines and perfection usually mean it was machine manufactured. In the world of antiques, you will want to value personality over perfection.


Another key detail is the wood. These beds were made to last with high-quality sturdy woods. If the sleigh bed you have your sights on seems flimsy, but also shows little signs of wear, that is a red flag.


If you’re confident working with your hands, or have experience restoring furniture, it’s possible to get many of these beds looking brand new on your own as YouTube user DIY Projects has.


If this type of project seems outside your skill set, finding a qualified antique restorer may be a safer route for you to take.


What Size mattress Fits an Antique Bed?


Finding the proper mattress for an antique bed can be a bit tricky. Any authentic antique bed was built long before the rise of wide-spread mass-production, and because of this, the sizes of these beds are not always consistent.


If you’ve encountered any of these antique beds in person, it’s likely your first thought was “Why is it so small?”


Well, prior to the 20th century beds were made to fit a mattress that was approximately 48 inches wide by 75 inches long, also known as 3/4 mattresses. However, while antique beds are almost always smaller than the modern bed, a 3 /4 mattress will not always be an exact fit.


Perhaps the average person was shorter, or maybe smaller beds allowed for more warmth in homes heated by fireplace. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking to sleep in your vintage bed, a standard, modern mattress won’t do the trick.


Where Can I Find a Mattress for my Antique Bed?


Purchase a custom mattress here. We can provide the comfort of modern mattresses while still fitting the odd specifications of antique beds. Due to a lack of standardization prior to the 1900’s it’s not uncommon to find antique beds with slight differences in sizing. A three-quarters mattress will often do the trick, but in some cases complete customization may be a necessity.


One of the benefits of living in the modern-century is being able to take advantage of the innovations that have happened in the mattress industry. In addition to traditional, pocket coil spring beds, we offer memory foam-based mattresses that can be expertly designed to fit your antique bed.


Whatever decision you make, finding a high-quality antique bed and ensuring a good night’s sleep is possible.


How Do I Accessorize My Antique Bed?


Seeing as ¾ mattresses aren’t the most common, it can be difficult to find accessories that compliment your antique bed. As purveyors of specially-designed three quarter beds, we offer accessories that both protect your mattress and make it more comfortable. You can purchase a custom-made mattress protector that is specifically designed for your antique bed so it always remains stain and smell free. Bed sheets are also available that can be personalized in both length and height in the off-chance your antique bed doesn’t feature boast a three-quarter mattress.