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Friday, April 7, 2017


I could get used to this.
About a week ago I wrote regarding one of the man's oldest inventions--doors. One of my most dedicated readers commented that he enjoyed that item tremendously. So, I went back and read it again myself. I enjoyed it tremendously too. My reaction was: "Damn I'm good." However, in rereading my ruminations about the second or third oldest invention of mankind (after fire and walls) it occurred to me that there is yet another human invention likely older than either one of the others--beds. I mean, discovering fire and inventing doors and walls probably took...oh, several days at least. The inventors had to have place to sleep at night. Right? So, they likely piled up some leaves and dry grass, maybe animal skins too, in a quiet corner of their subterranean habitat upon which to sleep comfortably, thereby giving birth to the old adage that: "Necessity is the mother of invention". (Convenience is probably the father.)

Not exactly prehistoric, but close.
Like doors, beds have changed markedly over the past few millennia. About the only consistent feature during this time is the requirement that they always be somewhat soft. When I mentioned to my wife this morning that I planned to write about beds, she laughed. She knew where I was coming from. We just spent about $1,500 for a brand new, queen-size, adjustable bed, some six inches higher off the floor than our old one; complete with an insurance policy covering the cost of injuries if we should roll out of bed (just kidding about that last part). Last night we slept in an electric bed. Now that's what I call progress.

I could sleep in any of these positions.

For twelve years, my brother and I
shared bunk beds, but not as well
designed as these.
There's a distinct difference be-tween an inventor and a designer. The inventor fulfills a basic need, the designer makes it look pret-ty...or at least not ugly. In the case of beds, the designer took over when someone suggested their sleeping pallet have legs. From there, bed design progress-sed to some type of contrivance to prevent bugs and vermin from falling from the ceiling to disturb a good night's sleep. (Don't you just hate it when that happens?) To solve that problem, tall corner bedposts were added to the de-sign to support a tent-like canopy overhead. A short time later dra-peries appeared on all sides for the sake of privacy, to cope with drafts, and to conserve body heat (below-bottom). Where confined space was a problem (as on ships), necessity dictated the invention of bunk beds (above, right). That, briefly, is the history of bed-design up through the 18th-century.

Early bed design was dictated by when and where.
In the years that followed, environmental controls and various architectural innovations eliminated the need for most such optional extras leaving only the bedframe, box springs, mattress, and headboard, the latter being a concession to the bed-designers' union so as not to put their members out on the streets with nothing more to do. When I was a kid, we refer to any such nighttime furniture item having no headboard as a "Hollywood" bed. Since then the bed-designers union has dictated that even Hollywood beds must have designer headboards.

20th-century bed development

Obviously for the intellectual
young lad.
The only other major design im-provements in sleep surfaces have been the futon bed (for those who like to sleep on a couch); the convertible couch (for those who like to sleep with others on a couch), the disappearing murphy bed, and adjustable beds like ours. Waterbeds made a brief appear-ance in the 1970s when 1960s era hippies began to pair off into long-term relationships, but largely disap-peared once the inherent eroticism faded and their accompanying back pains set in. And that is the history of bed design up to the present.

I've always fantasized about having a round bed.
Once you tell a designer that his or her feature has little or no practical function, rather than facing unemployment, that moment is when imaginations soar to new heights (or sometimes sink to new lows). The round bed is an example. As much as my wife loves hers, I suppose adjustable beds might be another. If you really want to go off the deep end, try a vibrating bed sometime. And of course all such electric beds come with a remote control. We saw one in a furniture store...excuse me, "sleep center"...with more buttons that our TV remote. It even had a light under the bed. What the hell for, I'm not sure. I'd be glad if some designer would just add a device to raise and lower the bed, making it easier to get in and out of.

I especially like the top and bottom ones.
What is it they call this? RAD?


1 comment:

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