Buying a Bed: Our Guide Makes it Easy
There are a lot of mattress buying guides out there (including ours!), and far fewer guides to buying a bed itself. Often, you start reading a buying guide for beds and immediately it switches into advice on mattress firmness and filling, when you really want to learn about headboards and slats.
To an extent, we understand. A mattress is the main thing that determines your nighttime comfort, with the bed it rests atop a secondary consideration. Even the best bed in the world won’t compensate for a lumpy, threadbare mattress. And we all have that friend who has no bed at all, just a mattress directly on the floor, and seems to sleep just fine.
But buying a bed is still important: it is the centrepiece of a bedroom, it offers support and style, and it sets the tone for a good night’s sleep. If your current bed is noisy and uncomfortable, or if you are that friend with your mattress on the floor, read on for our advice in ensuring your best sleep in the perfect bed.
As with mattresses, a well-made bed can last for years, but when you start to feel like you’re not getting as good a night’s sleep, it might be time to consider a refresh and look at buying a bed. Likewise, if your bed is starting to make noise every time you move. The average person changes their sleeping position up to 40 times in a night—that’s a lot of squeaks and creaks.
There are style considerations as well. Your bed might be a grandiose, Victorian four-poster canopy, but if you’re redecorating your bedroom into a minimalist Scandi dream of white walls and clean lines, it just won’t fit.
- Bed sizes
- Bed types
Before you choose a new bed style, you should first choose its size. If you’re buying a bed to replace one you already have and/or pairing it with a mattress you already have, that’s an easy decision . A bed frame will usually be slightly larger than a mattress while a divan bed should have the same length and width dimensions, but either way you can match it to your mattress with the same sizing: single, double, etc. If you’re choosing a brand new set or redoing your whole room on the other hand, you have more decisions to make.
Generally, for your own bedroom you should be buying a bed that is the biggest your budget allows. Unless you sleep like a corpse, you’ll appreciate the room to move around, especially if you share your bed with a partner.
However, not all bedrooms accommodate a Super King size bed, and while your bed should be the featured piece of furniture in the room, you don’t want to choose a bed that’s so big you can’t fit any other furniture or walk around your room.
Buying a bed that’s a bit smaller can also be great for kids’ bedrooms or a room you want to serve double duty rather than being solely a bedroom (such as a guest bedroom that’s also a home office).
While exact bed dimensions may vary slightly due to features like headboards and footboards, for the most part you can count on them being slightly larger than standard mattress sizes (to accommodate fitting the mattress). You can find standard mattress sizes in our buying guide. Note that for divan bases, the mattress sits directly on top and so divan base lengths and widths should be the same dimensions as the mattress you choose.
Bed frame: The classic bed look, this bed will usually have a headboard and footboard, and sometimes siderails. The platform bed eliminates the footboard, while a curved head and footboard creates the sleigh bed style. Bed frames usually hold the mattress on either wooden slats or metal springs, providing different amounts of support to offer your ideal sleep.
A bed frame is likely to have the most visual options, with a variety of materials and upholsteries, so if you’re looking for a piece that’s as decorative as it is functional, a bed frame could be your best option.
Divan bed: A divan bed is a low-profile option that can be ideal for a smaller space as it matches the length and width dimensions of your mattress, but can also have a huge influence on the feel of your sleeping surface. The divan bed’s top can have a sprung edge with coils similar to a mattress—this is sometimes called a box spring and is a luxurious style as the springs provide added support and flexibility to the mattress.
For a firmer and often more budget-friendly option, a platform-top divan has a solid surface that allows mattress springs to compress without flexing.
Storage bed: A storage bed isn’t a unique type of bed but rather a subset of a bed frame or divan bed. While bed frames often leave space underneath for you to put your own storage, some have built in drawers beneath for a coordinated look and functional design.
Likewise, divan beds frequently have drawers included, or operate in a way where you lift the mattress surface to reveal the storage underneath.
Daybed: A daybed is a perfect choice for a room you want to pull double duty, such as a home office that will transform into a guest bedroom as needed. Daybeds feature a single mattress that serves as a sofa seat so the piece can be used for daytime relaxation or for a space-saving sleep. It’s not exactly the best of either world as the seat is small for a bed and not as cushioned as most sofas, but for convenience it can’t be beat.
Sofa bed: What’s the difference between a daybed and a sofa bed? While a daybed uses the mattress as its seat, a sofa bed mattress folds or lifts out from beneath the sofa cushions. It requires more setup for its changeover than the day bed, but it often allows for a larger, more comfortable mattress. And in sofa-form, it slots easily into your living space for everyday use.
In an extra-small space like a bedsit or studio, a sofa bed could even serve as your main bed and take your room from day to night with ease.
Other types: Trundle beds feature a pull-out bed under the main mattress that provides extra space for guests, great for children’s sleepovers.
Bunk beds are another childrens’ bedroom choice for kids who share a room, or a single bed can be lofted to allow for desk or other furniture underneath.
Adjustable beds are outfitted with a motor to raise and lower the head or feet (think, hospital-bed style).
A cot isn’t a bed for everyday use, but a small bed that is stored folded and comes out when extra sleeping spaces are needed.
Similarly, while we wouldn’t recommend an airbed for everyday use due to a lack of support and durability, it earns a mention due to convenience for occasional overnight guests (or camping trips).
Divan beds are usually made similarly, with a timber frame covered in fabric and set on castors or wooden legs. However, there is a bit of variety involved when you are choosing a bed frame. Mostly, these are aesthetic decisions. Whether you go for wood or metal, a quality bed frame will be durable and resilient, but they can fit into very different design stories.
Even within each material, there are a lot of options—for example, a sleek, minimalist wood frame with natural tones and clean lines is ideal for a Nordic-inspired space, while dark varnish and carved headboard details bring a more traditional, opulent feel. A metal frame, meanwhile, is ideal for an industrial look, or turn to polished gold and silver hues to bring a touch of glamour to your space.
Then, there’s fabric. Although the bed will still be made of wood or metal, it can be padded and upholstered in fabric for a different, softer feel. A tufted fabric headboard is a classic style that dates back to Victorian England, perfect for a traditional look, but with a little tweaking it can have a much more contemporary feel. Go for a flat finish rather than quilting, or use a surprising fabric choice to make a bold bedroom statement.
A padded headboard is also a comfy choice if you’re the type who likes to relax in bed to read or watch tv before you sleep or on a rainy afternoon.
Measuring for a bed is usually simpler than measuring for a sofa, because beds don’t come in a variety of shapes the way sofas do (although there might be an L-shaped bed out there, we’ve never seen it!). And if you’re buying a bed to replace one that you already own, you already know what size you need, so it couldn’t be easier. However, if you are starting fresh or upgrading from a Single to a Super King, we have a few tips to make sure that your bed looks great in your room:
- Follow the ⅓ rule: This is a rule that interior designers often utilise for bedroom spaces that says your bed should take up one third of your room, your other furniture one third, and your walking space the rest. It’s not hard and fast, but your room will look more balanced and you’ll have enough space.
- Think about positioning: Most people prefer the head of their bed to be against the wall, with the bed jutting out into the centre of the room. However, to save space, you might find it makes more sense to have the long side of the bed against the wall.
- Don’t forget height: Measuring a bed is easy; it’s just a rectangle. But if you are choosing a bed with a head and/or footboard, make sure you keep in mind anything it could bump up against like artwork on the walls or hanging ceiling lights.
- Consider installation: Some beds require full assembly, while others arrive to your home nearly complete. An already-assembled bed is convenient, but one that needs assembly can make it easier to bring through doorways and around corners to reach your bedroom.
Customisation & styling
What if you’re set on a divan bed but you want the style of a traditional frame? Never fear—you can get an unintegrated headboard to bring that classic look to your bedroom. Similarly, if your chosen bed shape doesn’t offer underbed storage but you really need somewhere to stash your stuff, many ranges offer coordinating bed benches or blanket boxes to pair with your new bed.
Bedrooms have some of the most versatile options for home furnishings, so you’re sure to find exactly what you need to suit your style. If you’re looking for a full bedroom refresh, consider buying a bed that’s part of a range so you can be sure to find dressers, bedside tables, and more to match your interior decorating vision.
Otherwise, play with accessorizing! A new sheets set, duvet, or pillows don’t make as much of a difference as a new bed or mattress, but why not take the opportunity to make your bedroom the cosiest place it could be?