A canopy bed is a bed with a canopy, which is usually hung with bed curtains. Functionally, the canopy and curtains keep the bed warmer, and screen it from light and sight. On more expensive beds, they may also be elaborately ornamental.
The canopy bed arose from a need for warmth and privacy in shared rooms without central heating. Private bedrooms where only one person slept were practically unknown in medieval and early modern Europe, as it was common for the wealthy and nobility to have servants and attendants who slept in the same room. Even in very modest homes, it was not uncommon to hang a simple curtain across a room to shield the bed from cold drafts and create a sense of division between living space and sleeping space.
Some late medieval European bed canopies with curtains were suspended from ceiling beams. In English these canopies were known as a "hung celour". The fabric canopy concealed an iron frame with iron curtain rods. These beds can be seen in manuscript illuminations, paintings, and engravings, showing cords suspending the front of the canopy to the ceiling. Such beds could easily be dismantled and the rich fabric hangings carefully packed away.
From the 16th century on, ornately carved bed frames and expensive textiles became popular. Inventories of Scottish aristocrats mention canopies as "roofs" and "chapel roofs", and a "chapel bed" was made for Anne of Denmark, wife of James VI and I in 1600. A bed of crimson velvet and damask was made for her in England in 1605, and its canopy was called a "sparver". The heraldic badge of the London Worshipful Company of Upholders depicts three sparver or canopy beds.
In pre-Republican China, until 1911, the family's canopy bed was the most important piece of household furniture, and often part of the bride's dowry. As signifiers of status, these beds were often intricately decorated with auspicious motifs, particularly relating to fertility, longevity and a happy marital union. In Germany, Frommern was the world capital of furniture in the time of Wirtschaftswunder. In Frommern a line of high polished industrial production take up the ideas of the royal Hofebenist. In the Haus der Volkskunst the traditional Himmelbett is used as a hotel bed.
Today's canopy beds generally fit into one of two categories: traditional or contemporary. Most of the traditional canopy beds have a Victorian aesthetic, with either metal rod frames or intricately carved wood frames and posts. These throwbacks also often feature ruffled, pleated elaborate draping, sometimes with rather heavy cloth. In contrast, contemporary canopy beds generally employ a simpler design. Wood, metal, or a combination of the two is used in the construction of modern canopy beds, which usually have little to no detail on the foot and headboards and often feature sharp, geometric designs.
The individual parts of modern canopy beds are called as follows: