When one hears the phrase, French style beds, the first image that comes to mind would be the lavish, intricately carved four poster beds used by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in their bedchambers at the Palace of Versailles. Believe it or not, that’s not the only type of bed the French have. In fact, they have variants that are, until now, still used in modern and transitional interior design.
More often than not, French beds are compared to their counterparts from their neighbors, the Italian beds. While they have similarities in form, there are distinguishing characteristics that subtly differentiate one from the other.
French beds or lits, as they are called, have always been considered as a symbol of wealth during the Renaissance period, as most people then viewed the idea of sleeping and relaxing as a luxury that only the wealthy could enjoy. They were often made from shiny, well-polished oak or walnut wood. Eventually, ebony veneers were used in the beds. They were typically monumental in character, with elaborately carved details and massive testers.
There were two types of the French style beds that were widely used then: the duchesse bed, which had 2 rear posts with a tester, and the daybed that allowed seating for 2-3 people.
During the Rococo period, beds were designed with an emphasis on asymmetrical balance rather than formal balance. The two main types then evolved into the lit duchesse which was a bed with a canopy that supported by four bedposts and the lit d’ ange which meant ‘angel bed.’ It was a bed with a canopy that was supported by just the back bedposts. Its canopy also partially extended over the bed.
By the time Napoleon Bonaparte came to power, the beds were slowly designed to suit a more functional, less garnished purpose. An exception was the lit en bateau or boat bed which was a bed shaped like a boat.
Regardless of the evolution of the beds, they are still being employed in many modern and eclectic interiors as most people find them both appealing and iconic. A lit en bateau can be used in an industrial bedroom scheme, and even a daybed can be employed in a French lounge.
Whatever the purpose, the French style bed is not just the type of bed used by the royalties. Instead, it has undergone evolution from being a symbol of wealth to a functional and eye-catching piece.