Since the beginning of time, man has instinctively sought out a place to rest his head. Even when he was living in a cave, creating a location that catered for this most basic of needs was a chief priority. Primitive man probably didn’t quibble over the colour and texture of his headboard, that would come much later, but he certainly understood the need for security and comfort.
The basic design and shape of the headboard has changed remarkably little since the idea was first conceived, making it instantly recognisable regardless of time or place. But its purpose has not always been what it is today.
Thanks to archaeological evidence, it is possible to trace the origins of the headboard back to ancient Egypt. Made from gold, silver, and ebony, their main purpose was to regulate the temperature of the bed, acting as a barrier against cold and draughts. Unlike today, it wasn’t common practice to own a headboard, so they were treated as a sign of social status. Generally speaking, the more extravagant the headboard, the more distinguished its owner.
The Greeks were some of the first people to actually put thought into how their headboards were designed, creating objects of aesthetic and visual pleasure. They also served several functions and as well as offering warmth and back support, it was also normal practice to turn them on their side and use them as a table. That must have created a lot of debris in the bed.
By the medieval period, the purpose and design of headboards had changed once again. While no longer used as dining tables, they still served as a symbol of status, but now they were also more readily available. As a bedroom accessory, they truly came into their own, being used as a point of focus and to enhance the overall look and feel of the room. Many of the headboards from this period still survive today, which is testimony to their quality.The four poster bed was particularly popular amongst the nobility and were usually accompanied by a large, ornately carved headboard. Those not wealthy enough to afford a headboard would build their own, usually from straw.
During the era of colonial expansion, headboards became a very lucrative business, and were transported all over the world. While many of the materials for creating bedroom furniture could be sourced locally, a headboard made from exotic and luxury items would garner more social respect.
Today, with the number and variety of headboards available, it would not be amiss to say that this classic item of furniture is undergoing something of a renaissance. There are literally thousands of styles to choose from, ranging in colour, materials, textures and shape, all of which can be selected by the customer to create a bespoke design tailored to their preferences and needs.