When most people think about antique iron beds, they think “white”. What most people aren’t aware of is that “white was probably the least popular color that beds were painted back in the 1800’s.
“White” only became popular when “reproductions” started to help satisfy the demand for the lack of original antique beds that were available to the public. Powdercoating were the easiest and strongest finishes available in the early 70’s. Antique faux’ finishes had not become popular yet. Everyone wanted their bed to look new and fresh. The aged look was something everyone was having sandblasted off. It would be until the late 70’s and early 80’s that custom antique faux’ finishes became popular. Pioneers of the “aged” look were companies like the Ralph Lauren Co , who started displaying their blankets , sheets pillows and linens on old antique iron beds that still had their distressed flakey paint. The original old finish gave a stark contrast to the new fresh linens and comforters, and actually helped display and highlight them. Soon the public started looking for similar beds with old finishes and when the supply of original old beds couldn’t supply the demand for the old look……”reproduction” companies started doing custom antique faux’ finishes.
Traditionally throughout the 1800’s, which was their hay-day, iron beds were painted nearly every color of the proverbial rainbow. Some of the more popular colors were “Barn Red”, “Apple Green” and “French Blue”, as the photo on this page. It was quite common for the manufacturer to paint the perimeter of the bed frame in one color and then the castings in either a white or gold guilding for accent. Painting the castings in their own color was a very common thing to do because it helped the foundries and manufacturers to highlight and show off their designs better. It took more time …….. but was well worth it. But then what would happen was the next time the bed was painted, and that was also a very traditional thing for a homeowner to do, the owner wouldn’t want to take the time to detail all the castings in a different color. Hence…….more and more beds became monochromatic ……. one solid color.
Whenever a person would paint their home or barn, it was a very natural thing for them to use whatever remaining paint their was to paint their beds. This resulted in numerous layers of paint over the years and often the bed frame could chronicle the color history of the home.
So as the Blue bed in this photo, which has an “original” factory finish, most beds were painted something other than “white”.