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What is a bed frame? Everything you need to know

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A bed frame is also referred to as a bedstead and is a type of bed base that supports the mattress. Bed frames come in various styles, such as wood, metal, fabric and leather.

A beautiful focal point for any bedroom, bed frames come in various styles, such as wood, metal, fabric and leather. Most bed frames include a headboard, footboard, and side rails or panels to attach them.

A bed frame is also referred to as a bedstead and typically takes up more space than a divan as the mattress usually sits inside the frame.

There are many different types of bed frames to choose from, providing different levels of support. Most bed frames come with a slatted bed base for the mattress to rest on. But the mattress can also be supported by a metal grid or a divan.

The overall feel and support of the bed are affected by different types of bed bases. Solid slats or a metal grid provide a firmer feel. As there is no give, this leaves the mattress to do all the work, affecting its longevity. Sprung slats offer a more springy feel and can make the bed feel slightly softer. There is some give from the slats, which can help cushion the mattress and extend its life.

low wooden bed frame in modern room setting
Low wooden bed frame

Types of bed frame

There are many different types of bed frames. Your choice of bed frame is likely to be influenced by the look and style you want to create for the bedroom and the overall space you have available.

Sleigh bed frames

A sleigh bed is a distinctive style of bed that features a curved headboard and footboard resembling a sleigh.

Because of their distinctive shape, sleigh beds tend to be much longer than other bed frames and can take up more room space. The side panels tend to be larger than other bed frames, leaving less space underneath the bed for storage and cleaning.

They tend to be heavier than other bed frames and may be harder to move. Sleigh beds are available in various materials, such as wood, fabric, metal and leather. They can work well in traditional and modern settings.

Trundle beds

A trundle bed is a low bed that is stored underneath another bed. The under bed consists of a frame with castors so that it can slide out easily when in use. It can usually be raised to the same level as the main bed and either be pushed together to form a larger bed when two people share or kept apart as twin beds. Alternatively, the under bed can be kept on the floor when in use by a child so that they are less likely to hurt themselves if they fall out of bed.

It’s a space-saving design ideal for smaller rooms, as the under bed does not take up extra space when it is stored underneath the main bed.

The mattresses tend to be thinner so that one bed can fit underneath another. This means that the mattresses are generally not as comfortable as other mattresses. Trundle beds work well as guest beds for occasional use but are usually not suitable for every night use.

light wooden bed frame with pull out bed underneath
Light wooden bed frame with pull out bed underneath

Leather bed frames

Sleek and sophisticated, a leather or faux leather bed frame is a stylish addition to any bedroom. They come in various sizes, colours and styles.

There are different qualities of leather that will affect how it looks and feels. Higher-quality leathers tend to feel softer and are more breathable. Natural markings and blemishes may be noticeable on the leather.

Cheaper leather bed frames will typically have a treatment applied to the leather to hide any imperfections. The appearance is not as natural, but the coating makes the leather more resistant to stains and easier to clean.

Faux leather is a cheaper alternative that is created synthetically to give it the look and feel of real leather.

Metal bed frames

Metal bed frames come in a range of stylish and elegant designs. They are typically made from high-quality materials, such as iron and brass and come in various colourways, including black, white and even pink. Some metal bed frames are also available with adjustable frame heights.

white elegant metal bed frame against grey wall
White elegant metal bed frame

Bunk beds

Bunk beds consist of two or more beds stacked on top of one another. The top bed is usually accessible by a ladder. Bunk beds are a good space-saving option for small and shared bedrooms. Some bunk beds come with additional options, such as under bed storage and pull out desks.

two bunk beds in guest room
Bunk beds

Wooden bed frames

Wooden bed frames offer plenty of warmth and charm to any bedroom. Made from various hardwoods and softwoods, such as oak, pine and ash, wooden bed frames come in many styles to suit any décor.

The frame often includes a slatted or panelled headboard, which can be either straight or curved. It may come with or without a footboard.

Wooden bed frames are strong and durable, and easy to keep clean. The mattress typically sits on wooden slats, which can be either solid or sprung.

A range of matching furniture may also be available, such as bedsides, drawers, wardrobes, and under bed storage.

Ottoman bed frames

Ottoman bed frames provide plenty of under bed storage and are ideal for homes with limited storage. The frame lifts from either the end or the side, giving you the space underneath the mattress for storage. Ottoman beds come in a range of styles and sizes.

cream ottoman bed frame
Cream ottoman bed frame

Adjustable bed frames

An adjustable bed allows you to adjust the head and foot of the bed to different sleeping positions.

Many people assume that adjustable beds are old fashioned and designed for older adults, which is not the case. Adjustable beds come in traditional and modern designs and can be made in wood, metal, fabric, or leather.

They tend to be more expensive than other bed frames due to the adjustable features that allow the user to raise the head and foot sections of the bed.

All adjustable beds require a mattress that is 200 cm long. It is vital to check that the mattress is compatible with the bed base as the mattress needs to conform to the shape of the adjustable bed when it is operated.

Bed frame sizes

Bed frame sizes should correspond with the mattress size they are intended for. A double bed frame (135 cm) is designed to hold a double (135 cm) mattress.

But, as the mattress typically sits inside the bed frame, the actual measurements of the bed frame will be bigger than the mattress. The dimensions of the bed frame will vary depending on its style. Sleigh beds, in particular, are much longer as they typically feature a curved headboard and footboard. So, you should ensure you measure the space correctly before ordering.

There are six typical bed sizes in the UK:

 Imperial sizeMetric size
Small single2’6” x 6’3”75 cm x 190 cm
Single3’0” x 6’3”90 cm x 190 cm
Small double4’0” x 6’3”120 cm x 190 cm
Double4’6” x 6’3”135 cm x 190 cm
King size5’0” x 6’6”150 cm x 200 cm
Super king size6’0” x 6’6”180 cm x 200 cm

There may also be a slight gap between the mattress and the outer frame.

Bed frames provide good ventilation

A mattress should always be placed on a well ventilated bed base to prevent moisture from accumulating. Bed frames typically offer good ventilation allowing plenty of air to circulate underneath the mattress.

Bed frames are easier to keep clean

Maintaining a clean and hygienic sleeping environment is essential to prevent allergies. Upholstered beds and headboards can accumulate dust and may be more susceptible to dust mites. It may also be harder to remove stubborn stains from the fabric.

In contrast, metal and wooden beds are much easier to maintain. You can routinely clean a bed frame with a soft dry cloth. Bed frames usually provide sufficient space underneath the bed for vacuuming and cleaning.

Property access

For homes with access restrictions, such as narrow staircases, low ceilings or tight corners, it may be challenging to manoeuvre the bed into the room it is intended for. Many bed frames are flat packed to allow easier access to the property, making them ideal for homes where bigger beds would typically be out of the question.

Although many bed frames are flat packed, it is vital to check your dimensions to avoid problems with delivery. Also, keep in mind that the bed frame will need to be assembled once in situ.

Check with the retailer if they assemble the bed frame on delivery. Many only provide a drop to room service, and you may need to build the bed frame yourself. Most bed frames should take around twenty minutes to assemble.

A bed frame can make a bedroom look bigger

Many bed frames are elevated on legs exposing the floor underneath, this can make a bedroom feel more spacious.

Bed frames are harder to move

Although most bed frames provide sufficient space underneath for cleaning, they can be heavy and difficult to move. Moving a sturdy solid wood bed frame can be particularly difficult. While metal bed frames tend to be lighter and more manageable.

You may need to disassemble a bed frame before moving it. Otherwise, fitting self-adhesive glides or pads to the legs allows you to move or slide the bed without damaging the floor or the frame.

Do bed frames creak or squeak?

Squeaky bed frames are often the result of friction between components and are usually no cause for concern.

If the bed is relatively new, it may be that it has not been assembled correctly. Tightening the components should resolve the issue. Otherwise, speak to the retailer where the bed was purchased, as it may be faulty.

When inspecting a squeaky bed frame, tighten all the joints and screws. You may also consider applying lubrication between the joints. If the bed frame has a centre support leg, ensure this is tightened and positioned correctly. Also, check that the slats are fastened securely.

Bed frames tend to squeak more as they get older due to general wear and tear, so they may need to be replaced sooner than later.

What type of mattress is best for a bed frame?

Most types of mattresses are suitable for use on a bed frame. But some mattresses may perform better with slats, while others may perform better with a divan.

All-foam mattresses, such as memory foam and latex, tend to perform well on slatted bed bases with good ventilation underneath. As foam can cradle the body, pairing a foam mattress with a sprung divan may put the body in an unnatural sleeping position and make it harder to turn over in bed. While some pocket sprung mattresses may feel more comfortable and supportive with their matching sprung divan.

A cheaper mattress may wear out sooner than expected on a bed frame, as there is little to no give from the base. There may also be a distinct lack of support where you feel you are sinking to the bottom of the mattress. Similarly, a higher-quality mattress may not perform as expected if it is placed on a cheap or worn-out bed frame.

If the bed frame has a slatted base, it is important to check the spacing between the slats, as the mattress may sag between the gaps if the slats are too far apart.

Each manufacturer will provide guidance on slat spacing, so it is vital to check this before ordering. Using a mattress with an incompatible bed base may invalidate its guarantee.

Final thoughts

The mattress and the bed base should work together. Although your choice of bed frame will often come down to its look, the base provides the underlying support. It should be considered just as important as the mattress it is paired with.

Learn more about bed frames 

About the author

About the author

Tony Brown is the founder and creator of The Bed Consultant. His career in the bed industry began in 2002. After graduating from university with a degree in Business Administration, Tony joined one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the UK as a bed consultant. Tony has helped thousands of customers find the perfect mattress.

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