Getting Snug With Box Beds

If you’ve ever browsed properties for sale in expensive and over-crowded cities such as London, Tokyo or New York you may have seen some creative descriptions from estate agents that are only surpassed by the ingenious if often very unsatisfactory layouts that some developers try and make a quick profit to sell a home that they would never choose to live in themselves.

Space is always at a premium but as is often the case, history can lead a helping hand if you are looking to make the most of your tiny living space, all 497 square feet of it in my case!

The next ‘big’ or indeed tiny thing might be the Box Bed a small, raised bed, entirely enclosed in wood. This ornately carved and decorated cabinet came with a mattress and bedding, creating a cozy nest to ensure the perfect night’s sleep. The bed usually had an opening on one side that was covered by a curtain, or by sliding or swinging doors.

Box beds were usually elevated and included a bench below the opening to allow people to climb up into the space. The area underneath the bed also doubled up as extra storage, and could be used as a bench for sitting during the day or could even contain an equivalent of a roll-out bed.

The box seems to have originated in late medieval Brittany but spread throughout the U.K. and northern Europe. The popularity of the box bed may be attributed to a number of reasons. First, it provided privacy in an era when many families often slept in the same room. Indeed, in poorer households, entire families may have been living in houses with only one or two rooms — the modern equivalent of a studio apartment. The box bed allowed individuals to sleep in the same room but still retain a modicum of privacy.

The box bed also provided extra warmth in a time when central heating was not an option. The enclosed space would retain its heat during the cold winter nights, and the fabrics used to line the box offered excellent insulation.

Many box beds were used to house the entire family. Although they were much smaller than our typical beds today, they were often designed for two adults, even if taller inhabitants had to sleep in a half upright position.

The drawers underneath could also be pulled out to make a smaller bed suitable for children, thereby providing sleeping space for all family members in just one piece of furniture.

In the 20th century, with the advent of central heating, the need for box beds diminished and they faded into history. However, in recent years, they have made a comeback in a more modern style at home with beds that incorporate storage or working space for children and teenagers or as in the photo below as capsule beds that came to prominence in Japan and have spread into certain hotels and hostels as far off as London.

If like me your heating bill has doubled in just a day or tripled in a year or so then perhaps it’s time for you to get yourself a nice snug Box Bed.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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2 Responses to Getting Snug With Box Beds

  1. These are real? There was a “Seinfeld” about this years ago! Kramer using an over-sized dresser as beds for some Japanese house guests. I thought it was just a joke. Wow, you learn something new everyday.

    Liked by 1 person

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