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The Four-Poster Bed Guide

For centuries, the bed has been a sign of wealth. The richer the nobleman, the better the bed, which is probably why many people still aspire to owning a four-poster bed, the bed of kings, and the king of beds.

Saxon and Norman furniture would have been basic in quantity and quality. The two essentials in their lives were “bed and board,” a phrase still used today, the ‘board’ was literally a board or boards, set up on trestles or tree stumps used for a table and a bed.


The bed clothes would consisted of pillows, quilts and fur rugs, and would have only been for the wealthy, everyone else would have slept on the floor of the hall, around the fire.


Beds have had their evolution through the Saxon bed, usually made up against a wall; the Norman bedstead, similar but with curtains drawn at the sides and the truckle bed, a plain low-framed bedstead. In the 13th century, a canopy or tester was introduced, suspended by cords from the beams above, on which curtains were hung. This developed into a bed chamber which was becoming more common by the 14th century. Then came an elegant bedstead, called the Arabian, and perhaps first found by our ancestors during the crusade, with bed curtains hung from wooden or metal rails.


The four post or great standing bed was introduced in the 15th century, and was probably brought from Austria. Since then, it’s become a part of bedroom décor. One that everyone may not have but everyone aspires to own. Be it traditional, modern or contemporary interior, the poster double bed creates a royal retreat out of a regular bedroom. And things get better when you add a canopy.


Types of four-poster beds

Traditional The traditional four-poster bed has four posts connected at the top by a panel known as the “tester” or the “roof”. Traditional models feature ornate designs while contemporary four-posters offer sleek simple lines that work well in modern homes.


Half-tester. A half-tester poster bed has posts that are higher at the head of the bed and lower- almost half that size – at the foot of the bed. The canopy typically extends over the top half of the bed. These beds work really well in a room where a traditional four-poster would be too overpowering or it would block lighting fixtures.


Pencil. A pencil bed is much like a traditional four-poster bed but has one difference – the posts are thin and rounded. The long thin posts create a focal point. You can have yours customised with a frame on top to hang a canopy.


Canopy. A canopy bed has four long posts on each corner with decorative fabric hung from the top and around the sides of the bed. Old-style canopy beds feature heavy cloth and ornate designs; modern ones have simpler frames and lighter material like silk or voile.


How to choose. There are a few questions you should think about whilst deciding on your four poster bed. This is only a little checklist to get you started


  • What mattress size does the bed need to fit?

  • Which bed/s do you like after your research?

  • Would you prefer a bed base or wooden slats?

  • Do you want a traditional or contemporary design?

  • What is your house like? You want them to compliment each other.

  • What type of wood do you want the bed to be made from?

  • What is the height of your bedroom ceiling?

  • What else would you like on your bed? Any drapery? Different posts?

  • Keep in mind that four-posters work really well in rooms with high ceilings or large rooms where anything else would seem too small.


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