Choosing a new bed? Whether you’re furnishing a new house or replacing your old bed, it’s a big decision to make. It’s very important to get it right, to strike the right balance between comfort and practicality as well as style and of course, budget.
A popular choice is the sleigh bed, a type of bed that has been around for hundreds of years in a variety of different forms. The sleigh bed is named because of its distinctive headboard, which is curved or rolled, often along with the foot of the bed. This and its usually sturdy, solid construction makes it look uncannily like a sleigh or a sled.
Sleigh beds were around as far back as 200 years ago, but the style is believed to have roots even further back - from ancient Greek and Roman times. The look we recognise today comes from the American Empire style, a trend from the 19th century. It is a French-inspired neoclassical look, most popular in the U.S. in the 1820s but popular enough as a style to still be in fashion today.
Why are sleigh beds so popular?
This style of bed offers many benefits. You can find many affordable options, ranging from French reproduction sleigh beds all the way through to minimalist, modern styles. The sleigh bed often has attractive curves, and is a solid, durable presence in the bedroom. They often come in wood, but you can also find upholstered sleigh beds. Another possible reason why so many people love sleigh beds is the slightly enclosed or cocooned experience of sleeping in one. Sleigh beds have the appearance of curving at the head and foot, with height at both ends, so they can make sleepers feel safe and protected.
Choosing your dream sleigh bed
These days, sleigh beds come in all kinds of styles, sizes, finishes, fabrics and shapes. You really will be spoilt for choice. Here are just a few of the most popular options:
- Wooden slats. Sleigh beds can be heavy and solid looking, making them quite dominant in a room. To soften the look, you can choose a sleigh bed with wooden slats at the head and footboard. This lets light through and makes the bed appear lighter and more contemporary - while still hinting at the rustic and traditional roots of the style.
- French-style solid wood. This is the classic sleigh bed look, in beautiful polished hardwoods such as mahogany, and with plenty of high quality detail.
- Headboard only. Not all sleigh beds have both a curved headboard and footboard. You’ll find many that still have the distinctive sleigh look, but with just a rolled or curved headboard. This is a modern take on the style, ideal for neat contemporary spaces.
Can you upholster a sleigh bed?
Sleigh beds tend to be made from wood, but you can also find beautiful upholstered versions of this classic style. It’s not recommended to try upholstering a wood sleigh bed, as it can be very tricky - and why would you want to hide all of that beautiful detail and the elegant curves of the bed’s outline?
If you love the upholstered look, why not opt for an upholstered sleigh bed in a crushed velvet look, smart linen or even luxury faux leather? You’ll find sleigh beds in all kinds of designs, styles and fabrics, showing just how versatile this classic look can be.
How to dress a sleigh bed
With a sleigh bed, you’ll want to show off its curvy contours rather than hide them under inappropriate bedding. Avoid floor length bedding, as the footboard may get in the way of making the bed properly, opting instead for a duvet cover or quilt that hangs no more than a couple of inches over the sides. Ruffles and fussy details are to be avoided as they compete with the decorative features of the bed - which should be the centrepiece of the room.
If you have a traditional or classic-style sleigh bed (for example, one in polished wood with plenty of decorative detail), you should choose your bedding to match. This doesn’t necessarily mean complicated or old-fashioned patterns, but nothing too modern. Simple, beautiful white or pale coloured bedding would be perfect, creating an elegant and classic look.
Do you need a boxspring with a sleigh bed?
A box spring or divan, usually used to support the mattress and act as a brace, is not usually needed with a sleigh bed. Most types of sleigh bed have enough of a frame and base to support the mattress, and they are already the correct height to make getting in and out of bed nice and easy. You should be able to use a standard mattress with your sleigh bed, just make sure before you buy that it’s the perfect size to fit your bed snugly.