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How To Dress An Antique Iron Bed

January 22nd, 2013 · No Comments

      If you were to come across any vintage photo’s  of bedroom interiors, you would probably be amazed at how spartan they are. The factor that would probably catch your attention before anything else is the lack of pillows that were used and the manner in which they were displayed. Most of the time there was a solitary pair of pillows that had little “loft” to them and they were normally laid flat…….not even propped up against the headboard.

      One of the things that is a dead give away for the way pillows were typically shown and used on iron beds, is that much of the interior design element on the old antique beds gets concealed with todays pillow top mattresses and large European shams and pillows.

      That was not the case, back in the 1800′s. Back then, the spring unit all the beds came with was merely that……. a “spring unit”……. not a box spring as we know it today. But alternatively, a series of individual springs that were tied collectively with wire or even sometimes twine. They were renowned for their noise factor and also a country full of back issues.

       On top of that “spring unit” was usually a feather mattress. Some extremely rural places, used “horse hair” mattresses, if feather mattresses weren’t readily available.

       The total height of the “spring unit” and “feather” mattress generally didn’t exceed more than 8″ to 10″. So the interior design of a bed was made with this height in mind. Keep in mind……todays box springs alone can be 8″ to 10″. A pillow-top mattress can go as high as 25″. That’s a lot of height to have to account for. Here are two sensible ways to do that so you can enjoy any authentic antique bed and look proportionate………use a “bunkie board” and eliminate the use of a box spring. A “bunkie board” is a 2″ thick hard foundation with no springs. That makes it 6″ less in thickness that a normal box spring. There are two rewards to working with a “bunkie board”……one- the removal of 6″ in height, putting the top of your mattress at a much more manageable level. The second benefit is the better orthopedic support a hard foundation like a “bunkie board” gives, than does a box spring that does nothing other than exacerbate the amount of “flex”, spring upon spring creates.

       The purpose you’re having to contend with all these measurements, and a way to use todays mattresses and big European shams, is because the rail system that supports the mattress and box spring starts at about 13″, on all antique iron beds. On todays typical Hollywood/Harvard bed frame they are only 5″ off the ground. A difference of 8″ that has to be accounted for, so everything looks proper.

       The second way to successfully deal with todays tall pillows and pillow-top mattresses, is to have the headboard of your iron bed “lifted”. This is a rather easy thing to have done ( any welder can do it) and it will give you a lot more display of the headboards design. It will also give you a much more “Regal” look.

 As soon as you’ve contended with the height issues of your bed frame, you’re now ready to tackle the issue of a dust ruffle. Now here again is something that wasn’t being readily used throughout the Victorian era. Why?……….. Because back then it would have negated one of the major draws of owning an iron bed. That was there effectiveness in keeping rodents out of the bed. Had dust ruffles  been utilized, it would have completely negated that issue. Mice can very easily climb up fabric material. 

     The good thing about dust ruffles is that they are adaptable to any decor or gender. Straight pleated can work best for a more tailored masculine look……. whereas heavily ruffles punch-board eyelet can give an ultra feminine romantic attraction.

      When it comes to bed coverings……..well you’re on your own. Every and anything works……quilts, comforters, blankets etc. Determine your decor and the type of bed covering will become obvious. If you’d like to produce a “lush” look, use a color coordinated throw that is folded in the direction of the foot of the bed.

      The final and most essential appointment for your antique iron bed are the pillows. Here once again…..the skies the limit. For that full comfortable look, a recommendation would be to use three sets. If you have a king size bed try this….2 Large European Square Shams with two king size shams in front of the Euro’s. Then try four or five more compact throw pillows in coordinating fabrics with your comforter. The more the better. Even tailored Craftsman style can use several pillows and look good. The type of pillow should obviously be the same style as your decor, comforter and iron bed. Coordination of all factors, when dressing a bed will give you the “show stopper” you’re looking for. The possibilities are endless.

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