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The History of the Bedroom

The bedroom is a room in a house, hotel, apartment, mansion or dormitory where we sleep. In a usual western bedroom, you will be able to find one or two beds, a clothes closet, a nightstand, and a dresser. But did you know that the place where we sleep has an interesting history? Our bedrooms, just like people, are continuously evolving. Before, the ancient nomadic people used to lie down on grasses and on animal hides, unlike the bedrooms we have today, which reflects massive advancements in technology as well as comfort.

European bedroom

Our bedrooms in the present time emphasize privacy. But what do you think are the events or changes which lead to the bedrooms we have today? If you’re also curious, then let us know the early beds and bedrooms which people had before and discover how they evolved through the years.

The Earliest Beds

In Africa, archaeologists have found evidence of bedding made from sedge grass which dated back 77,000 years ago when they studied the ancient people of Sibudu in South Africa. These aromatic leaves have a pleasant scent and can also be used as a natural insecticide. The woven bed mats made from these leaves are very effective and in fact, they are still being used by local people today. People who live along the uThongalthi River in South Africa still collect sedge to create their sleeping mats.

In China, archaeologists found out that during the Neolithic period, the idea of heating stones and resting upon them may have taken place. They think that these beds which were called huoqiang, have been used 7,200 years ago. During those times, a fire would be lit on top of a hard surface and the ashes cleared prior to resting upon them. The use of heat to warm a stone platform eventually evolved and ventilation was created so that a fire could be built under the stones and this technology was called a kang. In fact, it is still being used in some parts of China in the present time. This technology is not just for sleeping because they also used it for cooking, heating, and other activities.

Beds of the Ancient Societies

Wood and fibers were used by the ancient Egyptians for the majority of their furniture pieces including beds. The wood they used usually came from neighboring societies which were carved and gilded into ornate shapes. Even today, some of these furniture pieces still exist. An ancient bed is quite similar to the modern ones because it was a raised, rectangular structure that had a perforated platform for ventilation. They also had claw feet and other decorative touches which might indicate the status of the sleeper. Curtains may have also been hung around the pharaoh as he slept and carved headrests and stuffed pillows might have been used as well.

Ancient Romans, on the other hand, were famous for their use of beds in many aspects of life and their beds were not restricted to the bedroom. They had beds for eating, for studying, and as well as for the dead which they called lectus funebris.

The History of the Bedroom

Countries like England and France were the inspirations of the early Americans in architecture, furniture, and textiles. Even in the present time, designs from Europe still influence a lot of our home design and décor decisions. This means that the story of our typical American bedroom in the present time mostly came from European countries. To know more, here’s the history of the European bed and bedroom.

Medieval Bedrooms in the 5th to 15th Centuries

During the Middle Ages, there was no concept of privacy. Within a community, the people have centered their lives and livelihood in and around the great hall. All of the things they do such as cooking, business, trade, and sleeping took place within the safety of the great hall. Once night time comes, they would lie down on the rush flooring and sleep around the embers of the central fireplaces.

The lord and lady lived above the masses in the upper floor called the chamber. It was for their family, close friends, and servants. That somehow offered privacy because it was by no means devoid of people. The bedchamber was the perfect place for conducting important matters such as business, trade, and marriage. It was like a modern VIP lounge and only the privileged were invited to stay and sleep. This is why the bedroom or bedchamber was considered as a place of great importance in their community and being allowed to be inside it was an enormous privilege.

During this period of time, beds were extremely expensive to craft and design. Wealthy noblemen took the bed with them when traveling and it would also be recorded in a person’s last will and testament, passing it down to family members. Servants were even employed strictly to manage the important bedchambers and the head servant was the Lord Chamberlain. That post is still held in many royal households in Europe today.

Tudor Bedrooms of the 16th Century

In the 16th century, the middle class emulated and they began to live in their own homes with their own upper floors. Bedrooms during this period of time were sparsely furnished but they contained a bed with a trundle and a chest for clothes. The bedchamber served as a public stage for all critical aspects of life such as births, weddings, business, and socializing.

But for the Tudor Royals such as King Henry VIII, the bedroom was not only a place of importance for the entourage but for the royal lineage itself. The King’s success depended upon his success in the bedroom. Great attention was also directed to life within the series of bedchambers and it was considered as a position of great importance to be able to hold court inside the chambers of the king and queen.

The beds of the middle class in the 16h century were extremely valuable. In fact, it was as much as one-third of a family’s wealth and it was passed down from generation to generation. But in this period, privacy was still not a concept. There were bed curtains which would be drawn at night, but beds were still public.

Stuart Bedrooms of the 17th Century

In the 17th century, beds and bedrooms continued to hold places of prominence for the middle class and the ruling class as well. In larger houses, bedrooms or bedchambers were usually a series of rooms which include a separate bedroom for the husband and wife together with separate closets. However, these closets were not like the ones we have today which we use as dressing rooms but they were private and reserved for the man or woman of the house for prayer and solitude.

Bedchambers were still rather public during these times and even trips to the bathroom would be public because servants were needed to assist with many layers of clothes. And if servants need to see the king, they would be walking through one room to another because there were no hallways during those times. Beds during those times were great symbols of status and wealth.

Queen Anne, the lasts of the Stuarts, even commissioned a grand bed for her death which as an uncommon practice back in those times. The death of Queen Anne marked the beginning of the Georgian period. It was the end of one style and the beginning of another one. Queen Anne’s bed was comprised of 5 separate mattresses where each was more luxurious than the next. It also had delicate embroidery on the covers and on the drapery.

Georgian and Federalists Bedrooms of the 18th Century

During the English Georgian period, homes were built with internal staircases and hallways. It means that servants no longer have to walk through one room in order to get to another. It was in this century when bedrooms were becoming private spaces. Servants had their own quarters and no longer slept with the master or mistress. There were also bells outfitted into the bedroom which were used to call the servants.

During this period of time, the middle classes were rising and the members of the royal family were losing hold of their supreme power slowly. Power was transferred to Parliament and the drama of the bedroom began to fade as well.

The Georgian style influenced the colonists in America. This blended the strict architecture with a neo-Palladian style, creating a Federalist style. This style was less decorative compared to the Baroque.

Victorian Bedrooms of the 19th Century

In the 19th century, homes were being built with private bedrooms for the master and mistress of the house and there were also separate bedrooms for the children. There are also separate bedrooms for the household staff. Decorative touches also became common in the bedrooms and greater emphasis on interior design and decorating as well as colors and textures. Some of the common designs and décor found in the bedroom were window shades and blinds. And since the bedroom was still used to do many tasks reserved for the bathroom, there were also a washbasin, mirror, and sometimes even a commode found inside the bedroom.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America, life in the city was terrible for the poor. The tenements in New York City were overcrowded and unsafe because too many people were sharing the same facilities. Families would even share a singular bedroom and all manner of life took place in that space.

20th Century

Many technological advancements were brought into the home by the Industrial Revolution. These include coiled metal springs for mattresses, electricity for people to still pursue hobbies after dark, and as well as the glitz and glamour of moving pictures. It was also during this time when women’s rights focus on glamour and the 1920’s economic roar created a desire for luxurious bedroom design. Bathrooms were also moved out of the bedroom, allowing the space to become pretty and glamorous.

After the Second World War, there was a boom in the housing industry when the soldiers returned from war and got married. Young married couples no longer lived with their parents and they desired their own home. They created a demand for home furnishings as well.

In the 1950s, there was an economic rise that allowed couples to afford luxury in their home and emphasis was placed on domestic life. A new change to the bed was introduced to America via England in the 1960s. It was the duvet which was a Scandinavian creation brought to England by Terrance Conrad, a famed goods retailer. With this, comfort and relaxation was the dominating trend in the 1960s and 1970s because couples were literally freed from the layers of formal bedding.

The Bedroom of Today

New homes in the present time have a lot of luxuries for the bedroom and bed furnishings. There are sitting areas, televisions, fireplaces, walk-in closets, and even massive bathrooms found in a modern bedroom. A lot of luxury bed linens are also available everywhere and people are very willing to spend a lot to customize the bedroom and make it more comfortable and relaxing. The bedrooms we have today can be considered as one of the most agreeable and indulgent among the rooms in a home.

From centuries past, today’s bedrooms offer the best of all the bedroom trends. It’s because they are private and quiet, and is specially designed for ultimate comfort and relaxation.

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