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Lit a la polonaise

Lit a la polonaise is a whimsical style of canopy bed that has a fabric dome on curved stretchers and elaborate upholstery details. The posts are sometimes embellished with ostrich plumes. Centuries ago it was fashionable for hosts to receive visitors while still in bed. This made the bed a particularly important piece of furniture. A lit a la polonaise is fanciful and must be custom-made but, if your budget permits, is beautiful and amusing. Originally the upholstery was silk damasks and brocades, but a simple cotton print also looks great.


Daybeds are narrow beds that, placed lengthwise against the wall, also function as sofas. They have headboards and footboards of equal height that double as arms for the sofa, and bolsters and pillows to lean against. In the French Empire style of the nineteenth century, daybeds were particularly in vogue. A well-known modern version was designed by twentieth-century architecture Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and has a simple flat, armless surface with one bolster. Daybeds with a mattress and box spring are generally more comfortable to sleep on than a sofa bed, but sofa beds are not restricted to twin size. Daybeds can be great in an alcove, especially with bookcases on either side. Daybeds are perfect in a home office, a sitting room that doubles as a guestroom, or in a studio apartment where space is limited. With a daybed, consider the lighting necessary for reading in bed and being able to turn off the light without getting out of bed – wall-mounted lamps can be a successful solution.

Four-poster beds

Four-poster beds have two tall posts at the headboard and two tall posts at the footboard. (there are also low four-poster beds that have posts not much higher than the headboards and footboards.) Four-poster beds are the skeletons of canopy beds. They can be any size, from twin to king, and the frame can be painted or stained wood or even metal. A four-poster bed lends an interesting vertical element and design detail to a room. The posts are traditionally topped with a finial, which is an ornamental knob that can be a simple sphere or quite ornate.

Headboards and footboards

Headboards and footboards, originally built into bed frames to keep the drafts away, can be wood, rattan, wicker, metal or upholstered. An upholstered headboard is soft to lean against. Headboards and footboards can be straight or shaped along the top. The headboard need not be part of the bed frame. A narrow wooden door or an iron gate, for example, can be hung on the wall as a headboard. Beds often have a metal frame supporting the box spring and mattress to which a headboard and footboard can be secured. A headboard should not just be propped up between a bed and a wall; it should either be bolted to the frame, or hung on the wall.

Murphy beds

Murphy beds have a spring hinge that allows the mattress and frame to be stored vertically in a cabinet. William Murphy, who was a stage coach driver and tinker, invented his famous bed in the early 1900s. Murphy beds are available in all sizes and typically hinge from the head of the bed. You need enough flat wall space to accommodate the height and width of the bed within the cabinet. For rooms with low ceilings, there is a style that hinges from the side. Murphy beds work in tight quarters where every inch of floor space counts. They don’t provide the additional seating that a sofa bed or daybed does, but they can be a good solution when freeing up floor space is critical. The finish of the cabinet should integrate with the design of the room and might be painted the color of the wall.

A sleigh bed

A sleigh bed has a curved headboard and footboard that resembles a horse-drawn sleigh. The frame is traditionally made of wood. They come in any standard bed size – from twin to king- and can be set in the middle of a room or pushed against a wall. A twin sleigh bed placed length-wise against the wall can be a form of daybed. A sleigh bed can go in any style of house and lends an interesting design element to a bedroom. It often has rails like a four-poster bed. There are charming sleigh beds made for children, in pint-sized proportions, which are low to the ground and perfect for a first bed.

Sofa beds

Sofa beds are great for multi-use rooms and for small spaces. A daybed, practically speaking, can only have a twin mattress, but a sofa bed can have a full- or queen-size mattress. A sofa bed also provides comfortable seating. Due to the necessary mechanism that allows the bed to fold up into the sofa frame they are not as comfortable as daybeds with a box spring. Sofa beds can either have loose cushions on the seat and back, or else they can have a tight back, meaning there are no separate cushions. A tight back on a sofa bed makes a comfortable headboard and means fewer pillows to take off and store when the bed is pulled out. A sofa bed can be covered with any durable upholstery-weight fabric.

Trundle beds

Trundle beds have a mattress on a frame with wheels that slides under a regular bed. The idea of a trundle bed dates back hundreds of years to when servants and children in Europe slept on beds that were stored during the day under the master’s bed. With a trundle bed, you need to have enough floor space for the second bed to be pulled out. Trundle beds are great in children’s rooms, as they leave more floor space for everyday use and can be pulled out for a sleepover. A less expensive alternative to a trundle bed is an inflatable mattress for guests. However, inflating the mattress is a bit more of a production than just rolling out a bed.

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