Get To Know the Contemporary Canopy Bed

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Image: AD Russia

I simply adore canopy beds! I longed for one as a child, pressured my mother into buying me one as a teenager, and still own one as an adult. What is it about this voluminous structure that draws adoration from the young and old alike—not only in modern times, but over its several-hundred-year history? I decided to play design sleuth and learn all about the highly-coveted canopy bed.

What is a Canopy Bed?

Black and Tan Canopy Bed
Image: Nuevo Estilo

Let’s begin with the basics. Like a four-poster bed, a canopy bed typically has posts at each of the bed’s four corners, which extend roughly 4-5 feet above the mattress height and connect with cross posts. Some beds use decorative fabric across the top and/or draped along the sides while others leave posts bare. Contemporary varieties tend to be minimal and angular, like the examples shown.

Where Did the Canopy Bed Originate?

Metallic Canopy Bed
Image: Lonny

Surprisingly, I found conflicting ideas about the early days of the canopy bed. Even its place and period of origin seem to be up for debate, ranging from 14th century China to 16th century France. One theory suggests that the canopy bed was merely a means to designate the sleeping area of noblemen from their servants, who slept nearby on the floor. Over time, servants came to sleep in their own chambers, but the canopy bed endured.

Black and Aqua Canopy
Image: Elle Décor

Conversely, another theory claims that the canopy bed was developed to combat the perils of less-than-impervious rooftops. Straw-thatched roofs, which attracted animals and creepy crawlies, often gave way, requiring an additional layer of protection for sleeping occupants below. By draping a sheet across tall polls at a bed’s corners, one could sleep comfortably through the night, and thus, the canopy was born! But again, it’s just a theory.

From Medieval Days to Modern Times

Purple Black and White Canopy Bed
Image: Yatzer

Whatever the origin, the canopy bed’s value shifted from being purely utilitarian to that of aesthetics and style. Details became more ornate, a symbol of wealth and luxury, but eventually reversed to yield the minimal, present-day version that I love so much. Streamlined, sophisticated, and versatile, the contemporary canopy bed earns high marks among the design savvy!

Gold Canopy Bed
Image: Elle Décor

Would a contemporary canopy bed work in your bedroom?

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Desiré is a designer, blogger, and lover of all things glamorous. Though primarily a self-taught decorator, Desiré studied at The Art Institute, where she honed a distinct aesthetic largely influenced by the Modern Glamour movement, the theme of her popular design blog, Sukio. Not only is she considered a "closet fashionista," discreetly stashing handbags and shoes whenever possible, but, as an MIT graduate, she’s also an undercover nerd. Fashion, nerdom, and several years as a Washingtonian have combined to shape her unique perspective on interior design.