One of the first things you should consider if you’re thinking about purchasing an antique iron bed is where you plan on using it. Is this going to be a bed for your master bedroom that gets a lot of daily use. Or is it for a guest bedroom that gets limited use. Maybe a child’s room.
If you’re looking for a bed for your room that is going to be used every day, now look at how you use your bed……Do you read in bed? If so you’re going to want a headboard strong enough and tall enough to support the pillows you’re going to be leaning against it to do your reading. Maybe you watch a lot of TV. You’re still going to want a good strong headboard with at least 1″ thick wall tubing across the top and an inside design that doesn’t have any skinny gauge tubing that will flex when you lean up against it. But if TV is something you watch a lot of in bed, you’ll need to consider the height of the foot board. If it’s too tall, it could impair your vision of the TV. Unless you’re able to elevate the TV in a cabinet etc.
If TV or reading in bed aren’t issues for you, you can contemplate a wider selection of iron beds that will include thinner gauge iron rods, usually 3/8″, across the top. Assume a little flex from thin gauge rods. But don’t worry about it’s strength. Keep in mind the beds you’re looking for are most likely between 150 to 200 years old. Anything you can imagine has already been done to them hundreds of times over…and they’re still here and in good condition.
You won’t have to be as concerned with these issues of TV and reading in bed, if the bed is meant for a guest bedroom that gets restricted use. Here you have a lot more flexibility. If you’re probably just going for the “look”. So get something you like.
A child’s room holds a whole new set of issues to concern yourself with. First the age of your child. If you have a very young child you should be concerned with “open” scrolls that a small child could get clothes stuck on or possibly an eye poked by. Unless the child is a teenager it’s probably better to choose an interior design that’s less busy with fewer hard edges.
Now that you’ve made the decision which room you’re getting the bed for…….consider what style you like. There are quite a few…Victorian: with lot’s of beautiful scrolls and curves, Craftsman: straighter more clean lines, Art Deco: more modern, Art Nouveau: beautiful long fluid curves, no open ended scrolling like Victorian.The prospects are infinite. As you probably know, there was a distinct finite quantity of metal beds made back in the 1800’s. But there would seem to be an infinite amount of designs. So rest assured, there’s a frame out there you haven’t seen that’s exactly what you have in your head.
There are a few of things you’re going to want to make sure of before you start negotiating for the antique iron beds you found. Here is a shot list of things you’ll want to make certain of.
Side Rails: Does it have a set? If so, do they fit perfectly? Don’t take any one’s word for it……especially the person you’re making an attempt to purchase it from. Have it set up to make sure the headboard and foot board don’t rock back and forth. If it’s missing the authentic pair that was made for it…..walk away….better yet run. Side Rails, despite the fact that they look similar, are not universal and will not fit all beds. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re simple to find, if the bed does not have a pair. A iron bed without it’s original set of side rails is worthless, simply because it can’t be set up and used. Also…make sure the cast pieces on the end of the side rail haven’t been damaged and welder back on. If they have been, rest assured….they will break again. Only settle for side rails that match perfectly and have not been fixed.
Hitches: These are cast iron pieces that were poured in the foundry around the outer tube, on both sides of the headboard and foot board, that the side rails drop in to and self tighten. It’s imperative that all four hitches are intact….not broken, and especially not welded or repaired. This is another really critical thing…… cast iron hitches can not be welded. They will always weak and vulnerable to re-breaking.
Rust: Superficial rust is no problem. It can very easily be sandblasted off. But check the texture of the iron tubing. If it’s rough or “pitted”, you’re going to have problems. You don’t want to get into doing body work on your bed like you do on your car. Sometimes changing a rusted tube or rod is OK. If you have it done by a knowledgeable welder who can do it properly.
“Marriage”: This is a term used to explain a bed who’s head and foot board don’t match. This happens more than you’d think it does. Some people will put a foot board and headboard that don’t look anything alike and try and tell you they came that way……no they didn’t. Make sure the castings on the head and foot board are the same and that the design is the same on both. Also…..make sure the headboard is taller than the foot board.Some sellers will try and sell you two foot boards or two headboards, and say they’re one complete bed. They aren’t.
Castings: Make sure they’re all intact. If one is damaged or missing, ask if they dealer or owner has it. If they don’t….walk away. These are not things you’re going to be able to find and substitute. They’re also hard to repair properly.
If you closely examine any bed you’re thinking about and follow these basic common sense rules, you’ll be a happier owner in the end.