Sleigh Beds - A popular choice for American homes
Traditional and modern designs
Sleigh beds are a staple of American bedroom furniture, particularly in the southern states, so it's surprising to learn that they're actually based on a French design.
The sleigh bed as we traditionally know it - crafted from beautiful wood with curved headboards and footboards - would be completely at home in Napoleonic-era France. However, sleigh beds have been part of American culture for a long time, and there are plenty of intriguing variations on the classic style.
Sleigh beds define the style of a room without much help from other furniture. A traditional cherry wood sleigh bed with antique-style carving will effortlessly give your bedroom a period feel. Ornate sideboards and rich brocade curtains will enhance the look, but they're really just the icing on the cake. For this reason, when you choose your sleigh bed, you need to think carefully about how you want the whole room to look.
Part of the reason sleigh beds have traditionally been more popular in the South is that they lend themselves well to Southern-style romance: billowing curtains, floral prints, mosquito netting and the inevitable rocking chair in the corner. But there's another, more practical reason for this regional variation in preferences: sleigh beds take up more space than most other types of bed. Statistics show that Southerners tend to have bigger bedrooms, whereas house-builders in the more populated North are likely to skimp a little on space. However, sleigh beds are becoming increasingly popular in northern cities, perhaps because it's now possible to buy compact, modern variations on the traditional style.
Although sleigh beds are traditionally made of solid wood, plenty of modern variations incorporate metals such as iron and aluminum. The solidity of the scrolled footboard is replaced with metal bars. For example, Charles P Rogers, one of America's oldest manufacturing companies, now stocks hand-forged solid iron sleigh beds alongside more traditional beds in cherry wood and mahogany. Another contemporary variation on the sleigh bed style is to replace dark hardwoods with lighter materials, such as pine. But however modern a sleigh bed design is, it always retains its curves. If the shape of the headboard and footboard is straight, it's not a proper sleigh bed. Of course, this is great news if you want a modern-looking bedroom; when it comes to contemporary design, hard lines are out.
Of course, not all sleigh beds are fine examples of Southern Gothic or urban chic. On the contrary, there are plenty of sleigh beds that break all the style rules. Avoid any sleigh bed with a basket-weave bottom border. Basket-weave is too rustic for a contemporary bed, and too tweed for majestic Southern grandeur.
But the area in which sleigh beds really break the bounds of fashion is that of children's bedroom furniture...
For example, designers are fond of adding gilt touches to over-styled white sleigh beds for girls, before accessorizing with frilly white bed-linen. There have even been examples of white wrought-iron sleigh beds for children. Even the boys' beds tend to be white. It's hard to know what's worse - the fact that a frou-frou girl's bed can cost as much as a classy adult bed, or the fact that these fussy fashions are hugely popular among girls, so your daughter's probably already got her eye on one.