Life would be very boring if everybody wanted the same
thing, so it is just as well we all have different tastes.
The function of a bed could be solved with a mattress on
the floor, and in many countries in the world this is sadly
still regarded as a luxury.
People want more than a plain bed frame; they want a centrepiece
of the room, probably the room in the house where they
spend most time, albeit asleep. For many generations, the
four-poster bed has been revered as the elite bed, many
believing it to be the ultimate possession. Four-poster
beds with or without canopies made in wood or metal are
still extremely popular, with history playing an important
part in how we feel about it.
There are two fields of thought relating to the four-poster
bed, that of the British, and the Americans. In the U.K.
(and Europe) we consider a four-poster bed to be a bed
with four posts, cornice, high headboard and roof,. In
the States, I understand this would be called a four-poster
canopy bed. In the U.S. a four-poster bed is exactly that,
a bed with four posts, no cornice, no roof, just four posts.
The tall, elongated posts stand like spires above the
rest of the bed, often ending in finials. For obvious reasons,
this style is frequently called a pencil bed. We have seen
and made a variety of posts for these beds, either slender
to give it a Shaker feel, or chunky for a country flavour.
The posts can be turned round, left square, but tapering
with some shaped features, or octagonal. They can have
twists, flutes (dished hollows), or reeds (raised beads),
or even inlayed wood down the length of the post. The list
for the traditional looking posts is long enough, but if
you start to get away from the past, and what’s been
done before, then a whole new world can open up, it’s
just a question of what the public will tolerate.
Traditional British four-poster or canopy beds had turned,
reeded, fluted or twisted posts, indeed, many were made
more ornate with extensive carving added to them. In years
gone by, only wealthy noblemen would own such a bed and
when he died one of the treasures was the four-poster bed.
It’s amazing just how many people love or always
wanted a four-poster bed with a full canopy, many feeling
it an ambition or dream fulfilled when they finally own
one. You will hear comments like, ‘I saw one once,’ or ‘I
slept in one, and I’ve always wanted one ever since.’ Many
consider the four-poster to be extremely romantic, but
it may all come back to fairy tails, and the days of fair
maidens, white horses and shiny knights, or were they white
knights. Tradition has instilled into many of us to aspire
to own a four-poster bed, antique if possible. Failing
that, then reproduction is a good alternative, as it is
often not as costly, and when you commission a piece of
furniture, you get what you want. People at furniture auctions
either seem to compromise their wish or wait till next
time, whereas asking a furniture maker for something you
can have any size, style, wood, colour or carving that
The more bed you have, the more you can personalise it,
and by the time it is complete, you would rarely find two
the same. So the four-poster bed is ideal, with a choice
of several wood, post and panel designs, carving, finished
colour (including paint), and the variety in size and height,
four posters are very individual. If you add to that the
variety of fabrics, patterns and colours available from
which drapes can be made, there is no end to the possibilities.
It is not just the look of the bed that is important, but
also the feel. The sheets are a critical factor in feeling
the quality of your bed, and as you spend a third if your
life there, you may as well make it comfortable, so buy
good quality linen.
From heavy tapestries draped over deeply carved posts,
with linenfold panels and a fully enclosed oak roof, to
light silks and lacy dressing an American style pencil
bed with no footboard, fine rope twists ending in a finial
rather like that of a pawn or bishop in a chess set, the
four-poster bed will survive for many more centuries. It
is up to us to start looking into the future, moving with
the times, developing new styles, dragging the bed by its’ posts
into the 21st Century, to be held in esteem as the ultimate
dream for another 600 years.