Sleigh beds became popular during the 19th century. France and America were expanding rapidly during this time, so the furniture makers began to call their style the Empire style. French and American Empire styles drew inspiration from previous empires, especially those conquered by Greece and Rome.
Although the sleigh bed wasn’t built until the 19th century, you can see elements of Greek and Roman architecture in the beds straight lines, ornate constructions, and heavy woods.
The Empire Bed
Shortly before sleigh beds gained popularity, Empire beds emerged as a trend. Empire beds have sweeping forms that look perfectly crafted. In many respects Empire beds looked similar to other types of furniture made during the American Greek Revival period.
As tastes changed, though, the Empire bed began its evolution into the sleigh bed. Many sleigh beds have columns built into their headboards and footboards. These columns are meant to evoke images of Greece’s masterful architecture.
Some craftsmen also started to add curves at either end of the bed. With just a few adjustments, the Empire bed starts to look much more like the sleigh beds that you find in stores today.
Sleigh Beds Add Decoration to Rooms
It’s important to remember that people in the 19th century had different concerns than people living today. Many cities and towns didn’t even have access to reliable electricity. They lived in a very different world than the one that exists today.
Households that could afford handcrafted furniture often wanted to bring more decorations into their homes. If you visit 19th century mansions, you’ll find that most of them have ornamental interiors with carved doorways and stair handrails. Walls weren’t just built to keep the elements outside. They were a way to communicate wealth and bring beauty into homes.
Since sleigh beds have many ornamental features, they became popular among wealthy families.
Sleigh Beds as a Folk Craft
Of course, few people lived luxurious lifestyles during the 19th century. The average person struggled to find nutritious food and potable water. Families were more concerned with putting food on the table than buying pretty beds.
Poor households, though, wanted some of the things that wealthy households enjoyed. Simplified versions of sleigh beds gave poor households a chance to own something that stood out and felt special to them.
Unlike the sweeping, curved lines and columns that decorate handcrafted sleigh beds, common people purchased or made sleigh beds with straight headboards and footboards. Making a curved piece of wood requires much more time and skill than making a straight headboard. Opting for straight sleigh beds, therefore, helped families save money while still allowing themselves a minor indulgence.
Today’s Sleigh Beds
Sleigh beds don’t fit into what most furniture makers think of as contemporary style. There are, however, several companies that still make sleigh beds. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are made with the ornate style that wealthy families preferred while others have simple styles that common families would have used in the 19th century.
In addition to buying new sleigh beds, it’s possible to find antique sleigh beds at peddler’s malls, antique shops, and similar stores throughout the New York area.
Depending on the sleigh bed’s age, you may need to refurbish some parts of the furniture. Refurbishing the beds usually takes no more than reapplying stains and sanding away imperfections. For many people, refurbishing old furniture like sleigh beds has become a rewarding hobby. You may even find some refurbished options when you shop for a sleigh bed.
Sleigh beds have changed over the last few hundred years, but they’re still an attractive option that can make bedrooms look delightful.