The daybed occupies an interesting niche, both in a home's decor and in the history of furniture design. Understanding the evolution of daybed design can not only provide decorative inspiration, but also help you to determine which daybed features and styles are most important to you as you shop at Daybeds.com.
The daybed's place in furniture history
interior design, the purpose of a day bed is mostly functional: sofa by day, bed by night. Yet style has always been a part of its appeal—in fact, there was a time when the day bed was the image of beauty and fashionable society.
Daybeds have been around in some form for centuries. Shakespeare even mentions them in his play Twelfth Night
, written around 1601. But it was Napoleon-era France and its Directoire and Empire furniture styles (about 1800 to 1840 AD) that brought the daybed to prominence in the modern era.
The most famous daybed in history belonged to Madame Juliette Recamier (1777-1849), the beautiful, charming socialite whose salon was one of the most fashionable and intellectually scintillating in Paris. Her habit of reclining on a daybed was captured in a famous portrait by Jacques-Louis David. The painting is now in the Louvre, and the daybed style Madame loved now bears her name: the recamier.
Other recamier-like daybed forms were in vogue during the neoclassical Empire period, some of which blurred the line between daybed and chaise longue. Traditionally, chaises had backs, daybeds didn't. Loungers lay on their backs, daybedders lay sideways. But the meridienne, for example, named for the mid-day rest its users enjoyed when the sun neared its meridian, featured a high headrest that sloped down into a truncated half-back. Another popular daybed of the Empire era, the lit en bateau, resembled a sleigh-style bed (e.g. scrolled ends), and was often dramatically furnished. According to furniture historian Judith Miller, it would be "raised on a dais and draped in fabric."
The daybed's transition from decadent salon seat to living room sleeper sofa began with the relative aesthetic severity and function-oriented designs of late-19th century movements such as Arts and Crafts. In the 1920s and '30s, modernist designers were fascinated with the daybed's cousin, the chaise. Chaise lounges such as Le Corbusier's LC4 became icons of the streamlined modern style—now chaises were backless, and daybeds were the sofas. Mid-century modern designers responded by reducing the daybed to its cleanest form: an armless, rectangular-framed sofa.
What to look for in a daybed design
Armed with knowledge of the daybed's design history, there's much for shoppers to find at Daybeds.com. Along with basic shopping points such as size and material (see our Daybeds at a Glance article for more on daybed basics), keep an eye out for daybed designs which can be used in creative ways that hark back to the daybed's glamorous past—and look forward to its future.
Backless daybeds offer authentically traditional style for the historically minded decorator. The backless daybeds of early-to-mid 19th century France were often decorated with a matching fabric canopy and a roll pillow (aka bolster pillow) at either end. A stunning example of this can be seen in Napoleon's bedchamber in the Grand Trianon at Versailles, which features a neoclassical daybed and dramatic overhanging canopy with tasseled tiebacks.
Because they were backless, French divans and daybeds were often placed parallel to a wall (with pillows, of course). Within an alcove or great-room corner, a daybed and fabric canopy could create a luxurious hideaway for relaxing or sleeping. Our backless daybeds from Armen Living and Zuo Modern may inspire some Empire-worthy ideas. They combine traditional forms with modern materials such as microsuede—you could start your own Parisian-style literary salon.
The patio lifestyle has inspired many of the most interesting innovations in contemporary furniture. Outdoor daybeds
are a beautiful example. Made from all-weather resin wicker and a strong aluminum frame, their chic style would doubtless win the approval of Madame Recamier herself. What's more, the matching fabric coverings of our canopy and poster outdoor daybeds transform the French Empire style's majestic canopies into UV-blocking, fade-resistant, minimalist forms. How's that for progress?