What Is an Upholstered Bed?

Design History

What is upholstery?

First things first. Before we get into specific types of upholstered beds, it’s important to understand what is meant by the term “upholstered”. Fortunately, it’s pretty straightforward.

Upholstery refers to any piece of furniture (beds or otherwise) that is covered in fabric. Specifically, an upholstered bed includes a textile covering on top of a layer of padding that collectively make up the soft, cushioned parts of a bed.

The textile coverings themselves can vary greatly – from a performance velvet, to a mohair, to a printed cotton, to a faux leather. Imagine any type of fabric that you’d find on a piece of furniture, and you can probably find an upholstered bed in that material.

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Why upholstered beds?

There’s a number of reasons why upholstered beds are so popular. Here’s a few perks that may help you determine whether an upholstered bed is right for your lifestyle and aesthetic:

  • Comfort: If you’re someone who often reads, watches TV, or uses a computer in bed, a plush upholstered headboard will greatly increase your comfort and coziness compared to, say, a wooden headboard. By opting for a bed with built-in cushion, you won’t be stuck propping piles of pillows around your neck each night.
  • Soft visual effect: If your existing bedroom furniture is not upholstered – for example, a pair of wooden nightstands or wooden dresser – an upholstered bed can inject your bedroom with a sense of softness and serenity.
  • Texture, color, pattern: If you want to infuse texture, color or pattern (or all of the above!) into your bedroom, an upholstered bed is the easiest way to do so. And that doesn’t mean your bed needs to become a statement piece – adding a neutral, earthy velvet or a subtle stripe can read as a neutral while incorporate a layer of visual interest and depth.

Types of upholstered beds

Not all upholstered beds are created equal – in fact, far from it. Here are the primary types of upholstered bed frames that you’ll frequently encounter.

Platform Bed

Platform beds are perfect for people who want easy installation, as they don’t require a box spring. Because there is no box spring required, the beds offer a modern, low-to-the-ground look. The resulting style is very clean and streamlined. 

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Storage Platform Bed

Storage platform beds are great for people who live in a small space, or just generally a space that lacks enough storage. We’d opt for a guest room where people aren’t sleeping regularly, as you can stow the winter coats or heavy-duty duvet in warmer months. And as above, no box spring required. 

Standard Bed

A standard bed is just a regular bed that requires a box spring. This universal silhouette is truly the most versatile style-wise. While it’s tough to edge a platform bed towards a traditional aesthetic, a standard bed could look modern or traditional (or somewhere in between!). It all depends on how you decorate the rest of your space. Also, since you can opt for different box spring heights, you also have more control over the height of your mattress.

There are also a number of details that can elevate the standard bed. For example, instead of sewn finished seam, some standard beds have decorative nailheads, called a nailhead trim. These types of details add a level of visual contrast (in this case, a polished nickel or brass) beyond the textile texture, color or pattern.

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Wingback Bed

If you’re looking for a statement bed that feels really luxe and substantial, evoking the vibe of a fancy hotel suite, you may opt for a wingback bed. Its name refers to the wings on either side of headboard protrude several inches, and they tend to have a taller profile that further adds to drama. But there’s also a great functional component – the wingback was originally designed as a chair characteristic, optimal for napping because the wings support your head.

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Canopy Bed

This is one of the most romantic-feeling beds. The canopy is designed to take a layer of textiles (such as bed curtains or mosquito netting) to create protection and coziness. Nowadays, a lot of people forgo bed curtains, but the canopy bed often evokes a more traditional vibe. These beds tend to have a metal bed frame because they support bed curtains, and then often have upholstered headboard component.

Sleigh Bed

A sleigh bed is a more traditional style, whose presence of a footboard (think: opposite of a headboard) evoke the image of a sleigh. While they are generally made out of wood, upholstered options do exist, and often feature button tufting to give it that heavy traditional look with extra cushion and volume.

Panel Bed

A panel bed refers to a specific upholstery treatment that creates seams to give the bed a paneled effect, which can feel very glam and luxurious. A panel bed is especially impactful in a fabric like velvet. 

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Between all these different styles of upholstered beds, there is truly something for everyone. After choosing the frame that achieves your desired look (step 1), you can layer this with the texture, color and pattern that speaks to your personal style (step two). Your upholstered bed is guaranteed to transform you bedroom into the place you don’t want to leave and can’t wait to come home to.

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