What are Sleigh Beds?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Sleigh beds refer to bed frames that have a headboard and footboard characterized by an outward curl at the top of each end. Sleigh beds somewhat resemble a sleigh, hence their name. Though sleigh beds can be made in different metals, they are typically made of carved wood. The more expensive variants of sleigh beds may feature hand carved curls.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The design for the sleigh bed is French. Generally such a bed would have been made for a single person and might have been used as a day bed or as a child’s bed. The footboard is almost always shorter than the headboard.

Americans loved the look of sleigh beds and first began to modify the design in the early 19th century. In furniture design terms, sleigh beds come from the American Empire period, from 1800-1820. The American Empire period declined as the ornate carvings of the Victorian Period became popular.

Early sleigh beds might curl either inward or outward. Today’s versions often stress the outward curl as it is considered more comfortable, and one doesn’t hit one’s head on the curl if one quickly sits up in bed. In fact some variants of modern sleigh beds do not even feature a curled headboard. Instead they offer a flat headboard and a curled footboard.

Some modern sleigh beds may also be covered in leather as new designers “reinvent” sleigh bed trends. Though designers first became re-interested in sleigh beds in the 1990s, they are now popular throughout the US. Much of this is attributed to the many magazines and television shows that focus on interior design.

If choosing a sleigh bed for one’s bedroom, be aware that the outward curl at the top of the headboard will require a little additional space. The headboard will not be flush with the wall as it would be with a flat headboard design. If one is limited as to space, one can choose from a variety of flat headboard sleigh beds that still showcase the beautiful curl on the footboard.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


As far as I know, in addition to the curly, some beds also have a slant in the headboard. This type does take up more space but it also looks nicer. It resembles a sleigh more. The sleigh beds with a headboard that go straight up resemble a traditional bed despite the curl.

I saw a sleigh bed at the store the other day. The headboard and footboard were covered in cushions. It gave this style of bed such a comfortable, modern look. I also really love that the footboard is only half the size. It definitely makes it easier to get in and out of bed. It's also better for other bedroom furniture, like an Ottoman at the end of the bed.


@burcinc-- Actually, the headboard on most of the modern sleigh beds I've seen weren't very curved. They tend to have only a slight curve and the footboard has a bigger curl. Like the article said, you may even find one with a headboard that's straight. But then, what's the point of buying a sleigh bed if the headboard isn't going to have a curl at all.

I'm not sure why you don't want a curled headboard. I have a sleigh bed and it has never been a problem. I think it looks great and it's comfortable too. And the curl really doesn't take up much extra space.


I think that sleigh beds look very pretty but I'm not sure if I would be happy with it because I like my bed's headboard to touch the wall. I don't have the largest room and I've always had my bed by the wall.

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