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Interior Designer Stephen Ryan - On the history of beds.

The modern bed has a hugely illustrious history .

Basically of two parts, the frame and the mattress , the former conveying style and status, with the latter, an ongoing search for comfort.

The first known mattresses were probably made from leaves, grass and straw and covered with animal skins.

If you thought waterbeds ( I’ve never tried one although would be intrigued to now, covered in silk/satin sheets, one would fly everywhere ?) were a 1970’s invention,

behold, the ancient Persians used beds devised of goatskins filled with water.

In the lovely story book 'The Princess and the Pea’ Hans Christian Anderson wrote how in searching for a suitable Princess, the Prince lost a pea within the greatest pile of mattresses and the suitors Royal identity and suitability would thus only be ascertained by her physical sensitivity .

Today , a mattress created by Savoir Beds and naturally named The Royal State , is reputedly available for the Princely sum of £115,000.

Indeed with no humble peas involved, the mattresses from Savoir are made of the highest quality fillings , and manufacturing techniques, including curved horsehair, cashmere, lambswool , cotton and superior pocket springing . I’ll have two please ?

The poor inventor of the pocket spring mechanism , one German named Heinrich Westphal sadly made no profit from his 1857 invention, he must be turning in his gravebed at the thought of a £115,000 mattress today.

Hästens, a Swedish manufacturer of quality mattresses uses interesting fillings including flax and Swedish pine.

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ViSpring, a quality British manufacturer founded in 1901, and available in good department stores , even does a top end line for £52,000.

My personal tip is research and consider mid - high end hotel quality mattresses as they are often very serviceable and comfortable.

Indeed, returning to Savoir Beds, these were founded by supply to the Savoy Hotel, which launched the product.

Enough about mattresses, my joy is the bed frame. Here is were the design fun can begin. I adore four poster beds of any description .

Originally designed for draughty renaissance castles and chateaux where heavy drapery ( of silk, wool , crewel or velvet ) were the fashion, and a practicality, to retain the warmth within a huge cold bedroom ( warmed by a huge fire far away, in the wrong corner ) .

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These beds would often be up to the equivalent of 700-800mm in height , which you could easily drop of and in my opinion , far nicer than the modern equivalents , like those modern Italian beds, barely 300mm off the floor .

Beds were originally designed to be well off the floor to avoid dirt, pests , rats, who knows what ? Now we know what makes those lovely Italians so frisky ?

I love all styles of four posters from the classic iron Lit à baldaquin though to its modern steel boxy frames. Romantic colonial and Regency wooden frames either plain, or dressed in silk, wool , chintz, sheers and even mosquito nets . Having spent nights under the latter in Sri Lanka, I have still got to experience a waterbed in Waterloo ?

Sweet dreams !

London Interior Designer Stephen Ryan.

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