Recently overheard in a furniture store:
She: "Now that we've bought such a beautiful chest of drawers, we should get a neat bed too."
He: "What do you mean, 'neat bed'? A bed is a bed."
She: "You know. A wooden frame. With a headboard or posts. Like grandmothers have."
He: "We'll have to go to an antique store for one of those. I think the only kind of frame they make nowadays is that rickety metal thing on rollers."
How wrong he was. Not only do they still make four-poster beds in the style of Grandma's decor, they also produce beds fit for Napoleon Bonaparte.
And beds fit for a little boy whose tastes and requirements run somewhat less extravagant. Or a teen-age girl who needs reserve space for those occasions when friends sleep over. Or a bachelor who prefers keeping his condo contemporary, or a couple who leans toward a traditional scheme.
The newest craze, according to interior designer Courteland Sciortino, is the "sleigh bed." Actually, it's a very old idea, but its popularity has surged in the past year.
In keeping with its name, the bed is shaped like an old-fashioned sleigh. The mattress and box springs sit inside a wooden frame that has matching head and foot boards--both of which curve with the elegant contours of "Citizen Kane's" Rosebud.
"It is a European design, taken from the late 18th and early 19th Centuries," said Sciortino, a consultant with Von Hemert Interiors furniture store in Costa Mesa. The bed comes in various degrees of ornateness, from carved veneers to upholstered headboards.
"A work of art in itself," Sciortino said, the bed should be "displayed as a decoration as well as a piece of furniture. It can sit in the center of the room; you shouldn't hide it away in a corner." Its price tag runs from $2,000 to $6,000, sans mattress and box springs.
While fads come and go, day beds are the biggest sellers. "The day bed is the single most popular item in our store today, period," said Carol Kozin, owner of Beds and Brass in Laguna Niguel.
When the sun is shining, the bed acts as a sofa, with cushion-lined rails forming three sides. By night, it becomes a twin bed, which pops out into a king-size mattress to accommodate visitors.
"It's great for kids' rooms," Kozin noted. "It doesn't take up much room, and then when buddies come over to spend the night, there's an extra bed underneath.
"Also, it's very popular for guest rooms. The day bed has practically killed the sleeper sofa, because it's so much more comfortable."
Until two years ago, customers were not offered much variety in the way of day beds. "There were just a few styles to choose from," Kozin said. "But the market on them is so phenomenal that today we have day beds in 60 different styles--oak, iron, wicker, Southwestern." Prices range from $200 to $1,000 for the frame.
Speaking of Southwestern, the Santa Fe desert look that became so hot a few years back continues to sizzle. "A whole industry has been built around it," Kozin said.
New Mexicophiles might select a four-log bed, in which the posts consist of
gnarled timber--often whitewashed for an additionally rustic effect. Or they might go for head and footboards with either Indian carvings or a pastel-colored stucco finish.
Dina and Patrick Meek of San Juan Capistrano decided on the Southwestern flavor for their son's bedroom.
"I lived in Arizona for 10 years and loved the furniture," said Dina Meek. "We thought it would be a good, neutral look for a boy." She bought a matching bedroom set at Beds and Brass for 7-year-old Michael.
The head and footboards on the twin beds are natural blond pine engraved with Aztec-influenced geometric shapes. Navajo-print bedspreads, in beiges and blues, add the finishing touch.
While the clean, breezy air of the Southwest still wins over frontier hearts, Old World decor has made a comeback in many homes. "People are returning to a more romantic look," said Villa Park interior designer Linda Buffington. "My clients are picking sensuous bedroom furniture--four-post beds with canopies, floral comforters, lace."
Upholstered beds--similar to sleigh beds but without the signature curves--follow that romantic mood. Head, foot and sideboards are covered with material. The material determines the bed's ultimate look.
"You can go very traditional, with a silk plaid or paisley," said Tom Sceberras, owner of Newport Bedding Co. in Costa Mesa. "You can pick a romantic floral pattern in cotton or canvas, or a solid satinique."
Of course, even the most plain of beds can experience a personality change with a change of clothes. "People spend more time picking out what goes on their bed--comforter, dust ruffle, shams, sheets--than they do on picking out the actual bed," said Lois Harding of Lois Harding & Associate Interiors in Orange.
Tustin interior designer Helen Bruce Lawrence recently helped a client decide on three rotatable wardrobes for her bedroom. "She had a winter bedspread, a bedspread she used during parties and a springtime/summer comforter," Lawrence said.