What is a Bedstead?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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A bedstead is a metal or wooden framework that holds up a mattress. Since ancient times, bedsteads have been considered important pieces of furniture, and were often passed down through generations. Today, bedsteads can be built in a variety of styles, from simple metal frames to enormous four-poster sets.

The earliest bedsteads are believed to have been made in Egypt, between 3000-1000 BCE. These were coveted by royalty and frequently heavily carved or covered in gold. Most of these early beds were made one large piece, comprised of four legs, a horizontal frame under the mattress and a headboard. Etruscans and Romans also had early bedsteads, although these were usually less elaborate than the Egyptian versions.

Scandinavian Vikings are probably responsible for the first collapsible bed frames. These wooden beds could be easily taken apart and put together for traveling purposes. This made the bedstead easily transportable, even for crowded ship journeys.

Tester and four-poster bedsteads became popular during the 17th century. These extremely heavy pieces were normally carved from wood by master craftsmen, and often featured a padded headboard or thick curtains. Many 17th century beds were considered heirlooms, and passed down through families. William Shakespeare famously left his second-best bed to his wife in his will. While some people have suggested this gift was meant as an insult, other historians claim that this bed was probably their marital bed and intended to be sentimental.


The modern bedstead is available in many styles to suit varying décor needs. The most basic bedstead is usually a metal frame that consists of only mattress rails and legs. These are often on wheeled legs, for easy transportation. Most do not include a footboard or headboard. These basic models are usually available between $50-$90 US Dollars (USD.)

Another popular variety of bedstead is the called captain or admiral style. These bed frames are modeled after maritime captain’s beds, and are usually quite heavy. Generally made out of wood, captain beds are a raised platform that usually has drawers underneath the mattress. This is a great style for small rooms, where storage space may be limited. Captain bedsteads vary widely in price depending on size and materials, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars (USD).

For a dramatic statement, you may wish to purchase a four-poster bed. These are large pieces of furniture, usually carved from wood. In addition to the bed frame and headboard, a four-poster features large poles at each corner, often with a roof or canopy connecting them. Heavy four posters match well with Renaissance or Victorian design styles, while lighter wood varieties can be combined with delicate fabrics for a colonial or tropical look.

The bedstead is one of the oldest and most important pieces of furniture in human history. While they can be expensive, a beautiful bedstead can serve as a major design element and set the tone for your décor style. Whether you prefer platform, captain, four poster or waterbeds, investing in a bed can add volumes to your comfort and the design of your bedroom.


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