Antique bed is a general term to describe many bed styles popular throughout history. Here are some of the more popular antique styles:
Baroque Bed: originating in Italy during the 17th century. This style is opulent and heavy. Beds include rectangular lines, ornate carvings, paneling and gilded accents. Geometric and head motifs are common. Dark wood tones are frequently used. Walnut and rosewood add to the overall regal appearance of baroque beds. Proportions of a baroque bed are large with oversized headboards (usually 8 or 9 feet tall).
Queen Anne Bed: this style is attributed to Queen Anne of England who reigned during the early 18th century. Characterized by refinement and femininity, the Queen Anne bed features soft graceful lines, delicate leaf and shell motifs, balanced proportions and little ornament. Queen Anne beds are made of walnut, cherry and maple and often have a lacquer finish. Headboards often incorporate broken arch cornices into the design.
Louis XVI Bed: beds from this period are named in honor of the late 18th century French king. The Louis XVI bed is also referred to as neoclassical due to that era's renewed interest in Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilizations. Ancient symbols and architectural motifs are common in the details and carvings of this style. Beds are made of mahogany and feature straight, symmetrical lines. The overall appearance is one of slender, yet masculine proportions. The elegance of this style is owed in part to Louis XVI's wife, Marie Antoinette, who was known for her refined taste.
Shaker: this style is named for the 19th century American religious sect that designed simple, practical furniture with clean, straight lines, sparse details and no motifs. High quality, beautiful woods such as maple, birch, chestnut and honey pine are common with all Shaker beds. Occasionally Shaker beds are colored with a thin Venetian red or yellow ochre wash. Both headboards and footboards are low in height and the entire bed sits low to the ground.
Art Deco: popular during the 1920s and 1930s, Art Deco bed style boasts sleek, geometric lines. Wood is combined with chrome and glass, while mirrored accents are common. Art deco beds made from iron feature bold patterns, zigzag lines, sharp curves and heavy ornament.
If a bed is referred to as antique, but can't be dated to a specific era, the bed in question is usually less than 100 years old. When choosing an antique bed it should be clear whether the bed is an actual antique or a reproduction. If purchasing a true antique, the condition of the bed should be carefully inspected and restoration work may be required. Also, many antique beds need to be converted to modern height/weight standards since men and women have grown considerably taller over the centuries.