The History of Bedrooms

The history of bedrooms.
Reading Time: 17 minutes

Today, we think of bedrooms as a haven, a place we go to for sanctuary after a hard day. This hasn’t always been the way. Bedrooms have a long history, and the privacy we expect of them wasn’t a concept until around the 17th century. Today’s bedrooms have progressed a long way from yesterday’s ones in their function and how we decorate them. Get ready for some surprises as we look at the history of beds and bedrooms.

Bedrooms in the days of ancient societies

The ancient Egyptians wore a bit fancy pants. They’d have ornate decorations carved into their beds, which may have indicated the (social) status of the sleeper. Surprisingly, Egyptian beds were similar to beds today: raised, rectangular, and with perforated platforms. There would have been a board at the foot of the platform, and the head is likely to have rested at the open end of the bed.

The famously innovative Romans were even fancier and didn’t confine beds to bedrooms. They used beds for all sorts of activities: eating, which you did on your left side (bizarre!); marriage (this was a symbolic bed near the central courtyard); and studying. There was even literally a deathbed on which the Romans would carry you to the pyre.

Bedrooms in the Middle Ages (500 to 10,000 AD)

In the Middle Ages (roughly the 5th to 15th centuries), bedrooms were quite different from what we experience today, varying greatly depending on social class and location. Here’s a breakdown:

Wealthy households:

  • Luxury and privacy: For the rich, bedrooms were a symbol of status and offered some privacy. Beds were large and elaborate, featuring canopies, drapes, and rich fabrics. Feather mattresses provided comfort, while chests and cupboards stored belongings.
  • Multifunctional spaces: Even for the wealthy, bedrooms weren’t just for sleeping. They served as reception areas, studies, and sometimes even birthing rooms. Social gatherings and meetings often happened in bed chambers.
  • Limited furniture: While grand, there wasn’t an abundance of furniture. Chairs, stools, and chests were common, but the bed typically dominated the space.

Middle class and peasants:

  • Shared spaces: Privacy was rare. Families often slept in the same room, on benches, straw pallets, or simple wooden frames. Shared living quarters were the norm, especially in colder climates where warmth was prioritised.
  • Basic necessities: Furniture was minimal, with a focus on practicality. Straw mattresses (sometimes shared with animals!), woolen blankets, and simple chests for storage sufficed.
  • Multifunctional again: Similar to the wealthy, these spaces weren’t just for sleeping. They served as workshops, storage areas, and even cooking spaces, depending on the household.

Some key differences from today:

  • Light and temperature: Homes had limited light and heating, making bedrooms dark and chilly. Open fires in other rooms provided some warmth, but staying comfortable at night could be challenging.
  • Hygiene: Frequent bathing wasn’t common, and bedding wasn’t always washed regularly. This meant bedrooms could be quite smelly and potentially harbor pests.
  • Limited privacy: True privacy was a luxury few enjoyed. Even for the wealthy, with curtains around the bed, noises, and activities easily traveled between rooms.

Overall, bedrooms in the Middle Ages were far different from our modern experience. They served multiple purposes, reflected social status, and lacked the comfort and privacy we take for granted today.

By the time the Romans vacated the scene in the 5th century, life was very public. Trade, marriage, eating, preparing food, and sleeping all took place in the great hall. When it was time to sleep, people would lie down on the rush flooring and close to the fire to get their zs.

The lord and lady would live on the upper floor and kept this for family, friends and servants. It wasn’t a bedroom but rather a ‘chamber” or “bed chamber” and offered a sense of privacy. The chamber suggested importance and hierarchy within the community.

Kings and queens had royal bed chambers. They’d move around because they were in battle often. So would their furniture. The throne was constantly changing hands, given the upheaval of those times. They’d have servants whose sole duty was to manage important bed chambers. The head servant was the Lord Chamberlain.

Tudor beds and bedrooms (1453 to 1603)

In the days of the Tudors, houses began to change. The middle class had started to live in their own homes but with their upper floors. Bedrooms had a bed, a trundle, and little else. The bedroom still served a more functional purpose and was a venue for public life. Birth, marriage, socialising, and death all took place in the bed chamber. Curtains around the bed provided the only privacy.

The associations with bedrooms had started to change, however. They weren’t just important to the people who surrounded the king and queen; people considered the bedroom as important for the success of the crown’s royals themselves. Queens would hold court in their bedroom. The mere presence of servants attending conferred status on them because they became privy to the inner workings of the court and were not just physically close to the king and queen.

The Stuarts and bedrooms (1603 to 1688)

Things start to change in the time of the Stuarts. In larger homes, bed chambers take the form of a series of rooms, and we start to see separate rooms for sleeping. This is the dawn of the concept of privacy.

Although bed chambers were still very public, bed chamber closets were private and only for the house’s man or lady. Servants would help dress and undress them because they wore so many layers of clothing. Bedchambers were still the domain of the richer folk, too.

Bed chamber closets were private and only for the house’s man or lady. Servants would help dress and undress them.

At the residence of William and Mary Tudor, you likewise had to go through a series of chambers to receive an audience with the king and queen. The beds within the bed chambers were elaborate. They had lots of drapery, were gilded, and acted almost like a mock bedroom. The king and queen would dress in them, with help from the servants, but would sleep in a separate bedroom.

Bedrooms in the Georgian period (1714 to 1837)

Into the 18th century and the Georgian period, the desire for privacy had become stronger. The public-life feel of bedrooms was becoming a thing of the past. Servants had their own quarters. They no longer had to walk through a series of rooms to reach their master or mistress. Staircases were starting to appear in homes. Clocks had become fashionable in bedrooms, and bedrooms had bells so masters and mistresses could ring for their servants.

Not only this, but royalty was losing its power. The real power was going to Parliament, which had an impact on the bedroom décor. The private bed chambers started losing their authority, and their luxury also dwindled.

This was the century in which the Industrial Revolution began, too. The revolution would continue into the Victorian period and wasn’t just changing the way we produced things but also our attitudes towards design. People could afford their furniture. They also started looking at the furniture more in terms of functionality and practicality than of privilege. And so on to the Victorians, who loved a bit of practicality!

Bedrooms in the Victorian era (1830 to 1901)

The Victorians wanted functional, elegant bedrooms. They thought more about colours and textures, and interior design really started to come into its own. Bedrooms became more decorative.

Social uses fell away from the bedroom, and privacy evolved further. Just like in the Georgian times, servants had their own quarters. The Victorians also introduced window shades and blinds into bedrooms. That being said… some of the tasks we perform today in other rooms, such as washing or using the toilet, still take place within the Victorian bedroom. Bedrooms and bed chambers often had a washbasin, toilet, and mirror.

But what mighty beds they produced! They were made from metal, full size and had as many as ten blankets on the top. Mattresses were filled with straw, feathers, or horsehair. The Victorians may also have been the first people to suggest we should turn our mattresses over regularly. Historians have found one Victorian manual that recommended doing it every morning and changing pillowcases twice per day. 

Moving into the 20th century 

The 20th century was one of turmoil. Two World Wars would influence architectural and design styles and trigger a struggle between the desire to preserve tradition and the need to accept machines’ presence as an essential (new) basis of society. 

For instance, the Bauhaus movement wanted to remove some of the mechanical feels from design and restore human warmth and spirit. The International Style, the style that emerged from the movement, failed at this in some. There was no colour, and shapes were like boxes, and surfaces were hard and glassy.

Bedrooms in the 1920s and 1930s

In the 1920s, the world started to put World War 1 behind it. People developed a taste for glamour and more lavish rooms. Bedrooms got bigger and more elegant. The bathrooms started to disappear from them.

Meanwhile, designers and architects struggled between the styles. The thinking was becoming more futuristic, although the style of one of the prominent architects of the years between WW1 and WW2, Le Corbusier, came in for some stick due to his belief the house was like a machine.

A new movement arose, too, Art Deco, in which craft worked together with industry, from 1925. Then Functionalism returned, led by the Bauhaus movement’s principles, and it became about simplicity and a swift return to form proportion, line, and texture.

Bauhaus movement

  1. Form follows function: This principle emphasizes that the design of an object should be determined by its intended use. This led to a rejection of unnecessary ornamentation and a focus on clean lines and simple forms.
  2. Unity of the arts: The Bauhaus believed that all art forms, from architecture to typography, were interconnected and should be studied and practiced together. This led to a collaborative approach to design, where artists from different disciplines worked together on projects.
  3. Use of modern materials and technologies: The Bauhaus embraced new materials and technologies, such as steel, glass, and plastic, and incorporated them into their designs. This led to the development of innovative and functional products.
  4. Integration of art and industry: The Bauhaus believed that art should be accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy elite. They aimed to mass-produce well-designed objects that were both affordable and beautiful.
  5. Emphasis on craftsmanship: Despite their embrace of technology, the Bauhaus also valued traditional craftsmanship and believed that good design should be combined with quality workmanship.
  6. Education through experience: The Bauhaus curriculum was based on the idea of “learning by doing.” Students were encouraged to experiment with different materials and techniques and to learn from both theory and practice.
  7. Internationalism: The Bauhaus was an international movement with faculty and students from all over the world. This led to a cross-pollination of ideas and a truly global perspective on design.
  8. Social responsibility: The Bauhaus believed that design could improve people’s lives and create a better society. They were committed to social reform and aimed to create designs that were both functional and beautiful.

The Bauhaus principles have had a lasting impact on design, architecture, and art. They continue to be relevant today, and their influence can be seen in everything from furniture and appliances to websites and graphic design.

 Flintshire Oakenholt Metal Bed Frame.
Pictured: Flintshire Oakenholt Metal Bed Frame, Art Deco offered a unique blend of geometric design and opulence.

This design movement emphasized geometric shapes, bold colors, and luxurious materials like chrome and glass. While not all bedrooms embraced the full Art Deco treatment, the influence of the style is evident in the use of geometric patterns on wallpaper and rugs, as well as the popularity of mirrored furniture.

The increasing importance of functionality

  • The increasing importance of functionality: As homes became smaller, furniture had to be both stylish and practical. This led to the popularity of built-in storage and convertible furniture, such as beds that folded into sofas.
  • New technologies: The invention of electric lighting allowed for more creative lighting schemes, while improvements in heating made it possible to have more comfortable bedrooms year-round.

Here are some of the key features of bedrooms in the 1920s and 1930s:

  • Beds: Metal beds with simple designs were popular, often with geometric shapes incorporated into the headboard and footboard. Four-poster beds were also still in use but with a more streamlined look.
  • Bedding: White linens were popular, as they were seen as being clean and modern. Floral patterns were also common, especially in the 1920s.
  • Furniture: Dressers and chests of drawers were often built-in to save space. Nightstands were also popular and often featured mirrored surfaces.
  • Walls: Walls were typically painted in light, neutral colors, such as cream, beige, or pale pink. Wallpaper was also used but in more muted patterns than in previous decades.
  • Floors: Hardwood floors were popular, as they were easy to clean and maintain. Rugs were also used, often in geometric patterns or solid colors.
  • Overall, bedrooms in the 1920s and 1930s were designed to be stylish, functional, and comfortable. They reflected the changing times and the increasing importance of modern living.

Bedrooms in the 1940s and 1950s

Bedrooms in the 1940s and 1950s were quite different from what we’re used to today.

During the 1940s and 1950s, some couples still felt odd about couples sharing a bed. They didn’t want to advertise it to their kids. They started to use twin beds but would share the room.

In the 1940s and 1950s, some couples still felt odd about couples sharing a bed.

Family life was becoming more important, too. Men were returning from the war, getting married, and seeking their own homes. Children were getting their own bedrooms. People were turning even more to luxury and comfort. This was the order of the day.


  • Smaller square footage: Bedrooms in the 1940s were typically much smaller than they are today, often around 100-150 square feet. This was due to a number of factors, including the need to conserve space during World War II and the fact that most families had fewer children.
  • Limited closet space: Closets were also much smaller in the 1940s, as people typically had fewer clothes. Built-in storage was rare, so people often used dressers and chests of drawers to store their belongings.
  • Simple furniture: Furniture in the 1940s was typically simple and functional, with little decoration. Wood was a popular material, as it was durable and affordable.
  • Wallpaper or painted walls: Walls were most often wallpapered or painted in neutral colors. Bold colors and patterns were less common.
  • Hardwood floors or linoleum: Hardwood floors were common in wealthier homes, while linoleum was a more affordable option for most families. Carpeting was less common, and when it was used, it was typically in small rugs.
  • Few electrical outlets: Electrical outlets were less common in the 1940s than they are today, so there were often fewer lamps and appliances in bedrooms.
  • No air conditioning or central heating: Most homes in the 1940s did not have air conditioning or central heating. People relied on fans and space heaters to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • Shared bathroom facilities: In some homes, especially apartments and older houses, bathroom facilities were shared between multiple bedrooms.
Video: Winston Churchill’s War Bunker and Bedroom.


Slightly larger square footage 

Bedrooms in the 1950s were slightly larger than those in the 1940s, averaging around 120-170 square feet. This was due in part to the post-war economic boom and the increasing popularity of larger families.

  • More built-in storage and closet space: Built-in storage and closet space became more common in the 1950s, as people had more possessions and needed more places to store them.
  • Double beds becoming more common: Double beds became more common in the 1950s, as more families could afford them. Single beds and bunk beds were still used, but they were less common.
  • Mid-century modern furniture styles: Mid-century modern furniture styles became popular in the 1950s, featuring clean lines, simple shapes, and natural materials like wood and leather.
  • Painted walls with occasional use of wallpaper: Painted walls became more common in the 1950s, although wallpaper was still used in some homes. Bold colors and patterns became more popular, reflecting the optimistic mood of the era.
  • Carpet or hardwood floors: Carpeting became more popular in the 1950s, as it was seen as a more luxurious and comfortable option than hardwood floors. However, hardwood floors were still used in many homes.
  • More electrical outlets: Electrical outlets became more common in the 1950s, as people used more appliances and electronics.
  • Increased adoption of air conditioning: Air conditioning became more affordable and more common in the 1950s, as people sought ways to stay cool in the summer.
  • Private bathrooms becoming more standard: Private bathrooms became more standard in the 1950s, as people valued having their own bathroom facilities.

Overall, bedrooms in the 1940s and 1950s were smaller, simpler, and less functional than they are today. However, they also reflected the style and values of the times, and they continue to be popular with people who appreciate vintage design.

And then the 1960s happened, (oh, and the Beatles form in Liverpool!)

Bedrooms in the 1960s

The 1960s need no introduction. It was the decade of flower power and free love. Design-wise, comfort, relaxation, and bedroom individuality were the order of the day. Pop art found its way onto wallpaper and furniture. The colours were vibrant and would even clash. Art Nouveau also made a return.

Bedrooms in the 1960s were a far cry from the minimalist havens they often are today. They were bursting with personality, reflecting the social and cultural changes of the decade.

In the bed industry, something just as revolutionary was taking place: the duvet was making its way onto British and American beds.

The truth is, we don’t know exactly who invented the duvet! There are several theories and pieces of evidence, but no single person or even culture can be definitively credited with the invention. Here’s what we do know:

Early signs: Archaeological evidence suggests the concept might have existed in China as early as 5,000 years ago, though confirmation is difficult. However, it is plausible during the Mongol dynasty many led the jin higher and deeper onto the snow-covered mountains, and wore a lot of animal fur to keep warm, they were very nomadic.

European evolution: In Viking times, Scandinavia used duvets filled with eiderdown (duck feathers), a practice that spread through continental Europe by the 16th century.

English adoption: Attempts to introduce duvets in England in the 17th century failed, but Sir Terence Conran successfully popularised them in the 1960s.

So, while the exact origin remains a mystery, it’s likely a collaborative effort with contributions from various cultures throughout history.

Picture credit Wikipedia: Terence Conran was without a doubt one of the outstanding figures in British design history. His most influential achievement was the creation (with his then wife Caroline Herbert) of household furnishings retailer Habitat.

1964: Sir Terence Conran, founder of Habitat, imported duvets from Sweden and marketed them as the “10-second bed,” boosting their popularity.

A Shift Towards Comfort and Individuality:

  • Gone were the formal, matchy-matchy bedroom sets of the past. People embraced a more relaxed and personalised style, prioritizing comfort and self-expression.

Furniture with Flair:

  • Furniture was sleek and modern, often made from wood like teak and walnut. Platform beds became popular, and low-profile dressers and nightstands added to the streamlined look.

The Rise of the Duvet:

  • The duvet, a Scandinavian invention, made its way into British and American bedrooms during this time. It offered a more casual and relaxed alternative to traditional bedspreads.

A Touch of Boho:

  • Macramé wall hangings, beanbag chairs, and shaggy rugs added a bohemian touch to many bedrooms. This reflected the growing interest in Eastern cultures and alternative lifestyles.

Q: Are you looking for a Boho chic style bedroom? The blog post below may just be the inspiration you are looking for.

Personal Touches:

  • People displayed their individuality through collections, posters, and artwork that reflected their interests and passions. This could be anything from music memorabilia to political statements.

Remember, these are just general trends, and individual bedrooms could vary greatly depending on personal taste, budget, and location. But overall, 1960s bedrooms were a reflection of a decade that embraced change, self-expression, and a touch of fun.

Wood also became a bit of a thing and would highlight bedroom spaces. There was a special preference for dark cherry wood. Although not used for the furniture itself, wood was a popular choice for panelling. This love affair with wood would continue into the 1970s.

60s bedroom interior. Wooden walls concept.

Bedrooms in the 1970s

In the 1970s, the zeitgeist of the 1960s was fading. Disco was materialising, and people wanted a glitzier feel to their spaces. They also wanted more liveable spaces, but the individuality of the 1960s somehow went against that slightly. Shag pile carpets stayed, however. Bedrooms in the 1970s were a far cry from the minimalist havens of today. They were bold, and expressive, and reflected the free-spirited vibe of the decade.

70s Bedroom with shag pile carpet

Whereas dark cherry or ebony was more traditional in the 1960s, the 1970s were all about lighter rattan wood. This light and airy wood gave bedrooms a bohemian look. Today, you can achieve the look with a standout rattan piece, such as a bed. Please don’t go overboard with it and use rattan furniture everywhere in the room.


  • Earthy tones like avocado green, mustard yellow, and burnt orange were all the rage. Think bold stripes, geometric patterns, and floral motifs splashed across walls and furniture.


  • Think low-slung platform beds, beanbag chairs, and funky plastic furniture with chrome accents. Rattan and natural wood added a touch of boho chic.


  • Shag carpets were a must-have, as were plush throws and bedspreads in geometric patterns or paisleys. Macrame wall hangings and knitted afghans added a cosy touch.


Lava lamps, with their mesmerizing, bubbling blobs, were iconic. Other popular choices included hanging pendant lights, globe lamps, and track lighting.

Pictured: MATHMOS Astro Lava Lamp The Original – Violet/Red (Credit Amazon UK)


  • Personal expression was key, so expect to see dreamcatchers, band posters, peace signs, and other items that reflected the owner’s interests. Plants were also popular, adding a touch of nature to the groovy digs.
  • 1970s: Duvets, often called “continental quilts,” gained mainstream popularity in Britain.

Overall, 1970s bedrooms were anything but boring. They were a celebration of individuality, comfort, and fun, and their influence can still be seen in some modern trends.

Bedrooms in the 1980s

The 1980s loved pastel! The softness was the way to go and worked well with generous amounts of white. If you didn’t have plastering or wallpaper on your walls, the trend was artex. This popular finish involved a swirling pattern but would look hideous now.

The drapes were also big. They were long, sweeping drapes that covered the window and trailed along the floor. The 1980s were also the time we’d see technology start to creep into people’s bedrooms, a trend that would continue into the 1990s.  

Flashback to the 80’s bedroom, with posters plastered on the walls, and a radio cassette player.

Another popular craze, but more in the US, was the emergence of water beds. The British media lampooned these, partly because the beds could burst so easily. A more sensible trend was bunk beds in kids’ bedrooms, both in the 1980s and 1990s.

Bold Colors and Patterns

  • Gone were the muted tones of the 70s. Bedrooms embraced bold colors like fuchsia, teal, cobalt blue, and emerald green, often paired with contrasting geometric patterns and stripes. Floral prints, especially chintz, were also popular, adding a touch of romanticism.

Memphis Design

  • This influential movement brought playful, geometric shapes and squiggly lines into bedroom décor. Think furniture with asymmetrical cuts, lampshades in unusual shapes, and graphic carpets.

    We have more information regarding Memphis and the 80s. See the following link:
  • The Return of 80s Bedroom Décor


  • The 80s saw the rise of personal technology, and bedrooms weren’t left behind. Cassette players, boomboxes, and early computers found their place on shelves and desks, alongside neon lights and lava lamps that added a futuristic touch.

Do you remember 80s tech?

Old newspaper advert for the ZX Spectrum, from the 80s. Almost  Every teens bedroom had some tech in there.
Pictured: Advert for the ZX Spectrum. The 80s saw the rise of personal technology, and bedrooms weren’t left behind. The ZX Spectrum was conceived and designed by English entrepreneur and inventor Clive Sinclair.


This was the era of self-expression, and bedrooms were a canvas for teenagers to showcase their interests and hobbies. Walls were adorned with posters of favorite bands, movie stars, and sports teams. Collections of action figures, comic books, and other memorabilia were proudly displayed.


Space was often limited, so furniture had to serve multiple purposes. Beds often had storage compartments underneath, and desks doubled as dressing tables. Bean bag chairs and floor cushions provided extra seating and a relaxed vibe.

Remember, these are just general trends, and individual bedrooms could vary greatly depending on personal taste and budget. Some people preferred a more minimalist approach, while others went all out with bold colours and patterns. But overall, 1980s bedrooms were fun, expressive, and a reflection of the unique personalities that inhabited them.

Bedrooms in the 1990s

90's Bedroom
Pictured: Typical 1990’s teenage bedroom, with DVD player and portable TV with pop posters on the wall.

In the 1990s, the trend moved towards minimalism. The 1980s had been a culture of excess, and it was time to get rid of it all, although, as we saw, the tech was appearing more and more in people’s rooms.

Bedrooms in the 1990s were a reflection of the decade’s vibrant personality, filled with bold colors, quirky trends, and a touch of teenage angst.

Colour Explosion

  • Gone were the muted tones of the previous decades. Walls were painted in bright hues like teal, bubblegum pink, and lavender, often adorned with contrasting borders or stencils.

Poster Mania

  • Teenagers plastered their walls with their favorite bands, actors, and movie characters. From Nirvana and Spice Girls to Leonardo DiCaprio and Drew Barrymore, these posters were a declaration of individuality.

Furniture Fun

  • Beds were typically simple metal frames or wooden platforms, often dressed in colorful comforters and patterned sheets. Beanbag chairs, inflatable furniture, and futons offered cosy seating options.

Tech Revolution

  • The bulky cathode-ray tube TVs found their place in bedrooms, along with clunky computers and CD players. Neon lights and lava lamps added a futuristic touch.

Personal Touches

  • Collections of Beanie Babies, troll dolls, and Pokemon cards were proudly displayed on shelves. String lights, dreamcatchers, and inspirational quotes added a personal touch.
90s Bedroom Decor.

There are actual painting techniques, too. Some people really loved their bedrooms and would sponge paint the walls of these and other rooms. This involved the use of a sponge and two other media to paint your rooms. It was an excellent way to add texture to a tired finish or, if you were a little bit clumsy, to cover up a mistake or some old plaster!

Remember: These are just some general trends, and individual bedrooms could vary greatly depending on personal style and budget.

Overall, 1990s bedrooms were a kaleidoscope of color, personality, and pop culture references, reflecting the carefree and expressive spirit of the decade.

Bedrooms in the 21st century

Look how far we’ve come. In the early years of the 21st century, muted colours came in. White, red, and bronze were the colours of choice. It’s also the century in which teenagers have had a bigger say in how their bedrooms look. They use their bedrooms to express their tastes.

Today we’ve got a catalogue of styles from which we can choose. We can go minimalist and still keep up with the times. Bedrooms have gotten much sleeker. We use gadgets more and more. The amenities in our bedrooms are more modern. Take memory foam mattresses, expensive bedding, flat-screen TVs, and dimmer lights. 

Kaydian Design Titan 5FT Kingsize TV Bed - Marbella Grey.
Pictured: Kaydian Design Titan 5FT Kingsize TV Bed – Marbella Grey. The evolution of bed has certainly evolved!

The one thing that stands out in all this modernity is that the bedroom has become more like a hub. Children use it to play and do their homework. Students study in their bedrooms. Remote workers may use it as an office. It’s no longer just a place where we sleep or engage in intimacy. Ideally, though, we should because, ultimately, it’s a haven.

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