1) Sleigh beds are often referred to as French beds as
it was Napoleon who popularised this style of bed at his court in
the French Empire period (from 1795 - 1820). These French originals
were designed for one. Although they had the classic old-fashioned
sleigh shape, there were usually slimmer than our current double
ones, and had more of a day-bed vibe. Used less for curling up with
cocoa and soothing novels, they were used more for flouncing about
on and socialising.
2) However, the French weren't the first to buy beds in this
distinctive shape: courtesans in Napoleon's day actually got their
inspiration from the shapes and styles of antique Roman beds that
were often discovered throughout Europe in those days. The French,
getting into the swing of their own empire, clearly fancied a taste
of the Roman bedroom style. We're not sure if the Romans had
sleighs, and they certainly won't have called them French beds, so
we're guessing they just used good old 'lectus'.
3) By 1815 the sleigh bed had made its way to the US, where
almost every town with a decent craftsman was seeing a flurry of
them being made. Initially they weren't entirely wooden beds
but had simple wooden veneers. Later, they were made from solid
cherry, oak or pine wood. They became particularly popular in the
Southeast - east of the Mississippi river. Charles Platt Rogers
was one of the early bed magnates, and his store - opened in 1855 -
is still trading in the US.
4) One thing that's always been a constant about sleigh beds
is that they have been luxury beds. French cabinet makers
were highly competitive with their rolled-out tops at both the head
and foot end, trying to make the finished article as fancy as
possible. The American versions increasingly became status symbols,
seen in the fanciest homes and in the very smartest guesthouses.
These days they aren't even always made of wood, with designers
branching out into all kinds of swanky leather and metal
5) We're sure the ancient Romans, the flouncing French and the
empire-building Americans of yesteryear enjoyed their sleigh beds.
The feeling of snuggliness and security is second to none when
you're tucked up in one. But we can't help but think it must have
been a right hassle to get hold of one. We'd quite like our own
vineyard, our own French maid or our own plantation. But we also
like the idea of online
beds too. Here's to the pioneers!