The dichotomy of today’s beautiful antique canopy beds lay in there utilitarian origin. Medieval building left much to be desired. Ill-kept thatch roofs did little to avert dead bugs and rodent droppings from falling on to a peasant’s bed. As is always the case….”necessity is the mother of invention”, it was found that the construction of four posts, on the corners of the bed, with a sheet hung over the top, afforded the occupant some degree of protection. Although the more wealthy land owners who lived in stone castles and people fortunate enough to have homes constructed of stone and ceiling tiles, also used canopy beds. But for fully different reasons.
Early European castles had what were called “great halls”. Not only did the Lord of the manor and his family sleep in this room, all his servants did as well. The Lord’s family slept at one end of the large hall and the servants at the other. The canopy bed, with its thick curtains, afforded the families some degree of “privacy”. As castles were built with separate sleeping chambers, canopy beds with curtains, no longer were used for privacy but were now being used for warmth.
The “utilitarian” need for canopy iron beds is long gone. But there are still some countries and climates where canopy beds are used for protection from mosquitoes and bugs. Although iron canopy beds were popular in Europe throughout the 1800’s, when they were the most popular in this country, next to none were made in this country at that time. Little is known why.
That has certainly changed. Every Princess related fable and animated movie, at some point, displays a beautifully detailed tall canopy bed. As a result generations of impressionable young girls wanting to be that princess have created a market where before, there wasn’t much of one. Interior designers are always looking for that “wow” factor in their bedroom decorating and canopy beds gives them that beautiful tall focus to decorate around. So although the now popular canopy bed no longer has the same practicle applications as it did in medieval times, it possesses a whole new set of factors that have endeared it to a public looking for beautiy as apposed to practicallity in an antique iron bed.