What is a Sleigh Bed?

Traditional single panel mahogany Sleigh bed with ball feet

One of the more distinctive types of bed available is the sleigh bed. Here we will be discussing what a sleigh bed is, the history of the design and the different types of sleigh beds that are available.

What is a sleigh bed?

It has a headboard and footboard that curve or scroll outwards, giving the bed its unique silhouette.

Sleigh beds are typically made of a solid wood like mahogany, but today they can be made from a variety of materials, such as different metals. However, the curves that give the bed its distinctive silhouette are usually less exaggerated when made from these materials. Depending on the style, sleigh beds can bring an elegant, rustic, or whimsical feel to a room.

A sleigh bed is a type of bed that has a distinctive shape modelled after a sleigh.

The history of sleigh beds

Sleigh beds originated in the early 19th century and are a product of the Empire style that was popular in France and the United States at the time. The Empire style drew inspiration from the ancient empires of Rome and Greece, which contributes at least in part to the sleigh bed’s opulent aesthetic.

It is believed the bed’s original design was based on the artistic depictions of Roman-era beds with their curved, sweeping ends. People also think that one of the earliest fans of this style of bed was Napoleon, resulting in the style’s popularity across France.

At the time, the American Empire was particularly focussed on Greek architecture, particularly the curved feet and columns, as well as beds with headboards that curved into a scroll-like shape at the end.

The combination of these styles resulted in the sleigh beds we know today, with their aesthetic reminiscent of an ancient horse sleigh, or indeed, the sleigh we see in depictions of Father Christmas!

Originally, sleigh beds were bought with pride, as a status symbol, often designed to be very ornate and therefore expensive. In some cases, people would place them in the centre of the room as a statement piece to show their wealth and position in society.

Today, there are many different varieties of sleigh beds, from those resembling the traditional styles, to those that are more contemporary and suited to a modern home.

Classic mahogany Sleigh Bed with navy footboard and headboard leather upholstery. Mahogany finished in Tan with solid slats.
Antique brass Celtic design disc on Sleigh bed footboard
Single panel mahogany Sleigh bed with delicate spiral carving and low footboard

Types of sleigh bed

While sleigh beds do have a distinctive aesthetic, there are a few different styles of the bed. French and Celtic-style sleigh beds for example, have  As well as these stylistic variations, sleigh beds also come with different structures:

variations in the style, such as the curvature and height of the headboard and the type of detailing or carving that is featured.

  • Classic sleigh beds – these beds feature the traditional scrolled headboard and footboard.
  • Storage sleigh beds – these types of sleigh beds feature underbed storage in the form of drawers, giving the whole unit a thicker base, but still retaining the elegant curves on the headboard and footboard.
  • Sleigh beds with pull-out guest beds – These sleigh beds are similar to the storage versions, except the base houses a pull-out bed on castors, giving you a sleeping option for guests that doesn’t take up any extra room when not in use.
  • Sleigh beds with a low foot end – As the name suggests, these types of bed feature the traditional curved headboard of the sleigh bed, but without the footboard. These beds can be a bit more versatile in settings where the classic sleigh bed may feel a little too opulent.
  • Half rail and full rail sleigh beds – These beds still feature the curved style of the traditional sleigh bed, but the headboard and footboard are split into rails (either at the top of the boards or through the full length).
  • Divan-style sleigh beds – These sleigh beds keep the curved head and footboards but have a frame that goes all the way to the floor and houses a divan bed in the middle

Sleigh beds certainly have a distinctive appearance and their international history gives them a timeless character.

Sleigh beds can add a touch of elegance to any bedroom and here at AKD we have mahogany sleigh beds in a variety of designs and finishes, so you can find the right piece for your home.

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