Antique Bed Mattresses
Antique Beds Call for Modern Mattresses
In an effort to get better sleep, people are thinking outside the box spring and exploring different options for a better night’s rest. People are trying different styles of sleeping, like sleeping separate from a partner. They’re also looking at different styles of beds, whether for a specific look or for a more restful environment. Custom mattresses and custom beds are on the rise, not least of all being custom made mattresses for antique beds.
Antique beds or antique reproduction beds are stylish, great for smaller spaces and tiny homes, and provide options that people need to make their homes multifunctional spaces. But finding mattresses to fit antique beds can be tough; antique bed sizes are different from the standard twin, full, queen, and king sizes mattresses that are the norm today.
In fact, among antique bed frames, you’ll find a whole array of sizes that will definitely require a bespoke mattress maker to fabricate for you.
Custom Size Mattresses
Antique Bed Mattresses were Made in Antique Sizes
Some antique beds need three-quarter size mattresses. A ¾ size mattress is somewhere between a twin and a full, at 48” x 72" or 48" x 75” in size. Since all mattresses used to be bespoke mattresses (read: made by hand), any mattress-maker could make a custom bed easily. If you think about it, it makes the process of rehabbing your antique bed historically authentic! Except the actual mattress materials, of course.
Today’s bed sizes didn’t really become “standard” until the mattress market went into mass-production mode. An antique bed mattress would usually be custom sized for the bed frame. And since historic/vintage styles are back on trend (cottage-core, anyone?), almost as opposition to the also-trendy, super-modern aesthetic, people are looking for custom size mattresses for their antique bed frames. Bringing vintage beds back to life isn’t only cool, it’s sustainable – you’re upcycling an existing bed instead of contributing to the manufacture of new ones.
But we’re not trying to sleep on horse hair or hay-stuffed beds anymore; we want custom memory foam mattresses for maximum comfort. So, how did we move forward and backward with our mattress preferences at the same time?
A Brief History of Mattresses: From Ancient to Antique
People have been sleeping on mattresses since… before it was just people. Neanderthals were known to build stone platforms and cover them in plant material. Early hunter-gatherers – like, 77000 years ago early – used platforms of sedge grass to sleep on. This is specifically cool because sedge grass has a calming aroma and is also a natural insect repellant/insecticide.
If you ignore the achievements of Neanderthals, as we usually do, people often credit the Egyptians for the first raised beds around 6000 years ago, which is technically like 60000 years after the Neanderthals did it. But whatever. What we can actually “credit” the Egyptians for is making beds into status symbols. If your bed was off the ground, you were high status, especially if you had gemstones and stuff to put on it. Poor people still slept on the ground, which, as we will see, for 5000+ years in all Western empires – from Greece to Rome to the US colonies.
The Hierarchy of Sleep: Custom Size Mattresses Fit for Kings
When people think about a bed fit for a king, they usually think about the castles of monarchs in Europe in the Middle Ages. Every culture has its own unique bedding history that includes different types of beds and mattresses. Like most lifestyle factors, climate, conditions, and social status all affected the story of the mattress.
In Europe, big beds, comfy mattresses and lush bedding were symbols of status and wealth. Whatever the size, whatever the materials, the wealthy had the resources to get it. While a monarch’s castle had dozens of bedrooms, all with huge beds, it wasn’t unusual among the lower classes for entire families to share one bed - probably on the ground, probably made of hay and rough down. It really depended on what level of not-wealthy you were.
Nobles and royalty would usually have large ornate carved wooden beds that were raised high off the floor. This was so that the people in the bed wouldn’t be disturbed by vermin that tended to run across the floors, especially at night. In colder climates, people would place hot rocks or bricks under their beds for heat. Beds also had high canopies that were draped with heavy fabrics.
Among the nobility, these canopies and coverings were a display of wealth; the fabrics used had ornate woven designs and were made of high quality materials. Less affluent people had beds with canopies made from coarse fabrics that were utilitarian. They prevented rodents, insects and debris falling from the thatched roof of the home into the bed where the family was sleeping.
Sleeping in Cabinets: Antique Mattresses in Box Beds
For the lower classes who had homes consisting of one large room, box beds became popular. They gave people privacy, protection from vermin, and trapped body heat during the cold winter months. Box beds were, quite literally, a bed in a box. They were originally developed during the Medieval period in Europe, but in various places throughout Europe and the U.S. they were still used well into the 20th century.
Box beds were cabinets similar to an armoire or wardrobe that had a mattress inside. The doors had windows cut into them for ventilation and light, and often there were shelves that could be used as storage during the day but worked as steps at night so that people could climb in and out of the beds. Box beds used custom mattresses of canvas stuffed with straw or other material made to whatever size the box was. Often, people who had money would put a featherbed over the straw mattress to make it more comfortable and warmer.
Box beds may look strange to modern people, but they are making a big comeback. People who live in small spaces like a tiny house or a Manhattan studio are rediscovering the benefits of box beds. Antique-size mattresses that fit into box beds can be hard to find, but custom antique-size mattresses can be made to fit any unique bed. And they’re not stuffed with straw anymore; anyone can get a custom made mattress for an antique bed that’s memory foam, pocket coils or latex. Custom mattress makers can make any kind of mattress, even for creepy antique bed cabinets.
How Modern Mattresses got Their Names and Sizes
The basic mattress sizes that most people today use are the twin, full, queen, king, or California king. Have you wondered how those become the default mattress sizes? It turns out that standard mattress sizes are a relatively new convention, and they’re also not “standard” to anyone but us; go to the UK and you’ll meet an entirely new set of custom and standard mattress sizes.
One reason mattress sizes that are used today were not the sizes that were used in the past is because of mass production. What we think of now as the modern mattress wasn’t actually a thing until the 1920’s, when the twin mattress was invented. It was really expensive at the time, but caught on quickly because it was so comfortable. Plus, once you standardize a size, you can produce thousands upon thousands with one simple mold or process.
In the late 1940s to mid-1950s, a few key factors came together that prompted larger mattresses to become popular. First, the economic boom that followed WWII. Second, people quite literally grew; in 1900 less than 5% of men were over 6ft tall. By 1950, that number spiked to 20%. We again have mass production to thank for that, but this time it was food.
Third, by the ‘50s and ‘60s, more married couples were sleeping in the same bed. It became clear that twins and fulls weren’t going to cut it anymore. Enter: queen and king size mattresses. There’s not really a lot to why they were named “queen” and “king”; people wanted to feel luxurious and appear wealthy. We’re all trying to keep up with the Joneses or whatever.
Antique Beds for Modern Living Call for Custom Mattresses
Antique bed styles and antique mattress styles are becoming popular again as people search for ways to adapt their heirloom furniture to modern life. Old-fashion mattress sizes are becoming popular with people who are turning away from the modern huge bedroom suite.
Many century-old antique bed frames would work perfectly well if they had a comfy mattress, but you can’t find them on retail floors. Which is why custom mattress manufacturers (like us!) specialize in custom mattress sizes for antique beds and other non-traditional sleeping arrangements like RVs, semi-truck beds, vans, and more.
Technology has freed people to pursue nomadic living in vans and trailers, and the tiny house movement has also spurred the popularity of custom shape, custom size mattresses. People are adapting how they live and how they sleep in ways that are at the same time old and new. Rediscovering the practicality and comfort of antique beds means that more people than ever need to look for custom mattress solutions.
Tailor-Made Solutions to Bring Vintage Beds into the Present
Because antique beds aren’t today’s standard sizes, they have the ability to save you space and allow rooms to serve more than one purpose. Seriously, is there anything more beautiful than an ornate mahogany antique day bed? And as people turn away from traditional beds and start to explore box beds, rope beds and other antique bed styles, they need custom mattresses made from modern materials that will stand up to heavy use and still be comfortable.
At CustomMattress.com, this is exactly what we do. We make custom mattresses by hand, in any shape or size you need. From ¾ mattresses for that antique bed frame you’ve been dying to use, to cut-corner mattresses for short queen RV beds, we do it all. Lifestyles are changing and proliferating, so the types of custom mattresses we make are as well!
Getting a custom antique bed mattress or an old-fashioned mattress size mattress isn’t as difficult or as confusing as you might think. If you have an old box spring or a mattress that is roughly the size that you find comfortable, we can create a mattress the exact size of the antique bed that you have or want to use. If you don't have either, our mattress experts can help you with the just a few pictures and measurements that you send us.