A restored antique Jenny Lind bed

Jenny Lind beds have always caught my eye. The first versions of these beds date back to the early 1800s and were named after a famous opera singer who favoured the style. Throughout the years the bed has seen a number of variations, and both antiques and reproductions are still used in design today.

I was surprised to stumble upon an old one at a local antique store while facing a design dilemma. I needed a bed that would fit in front of a window, and preferred a headboard that was similar in height to the windowsill. This particular bed seemed perfect, as it came with a matching height headboard and footboard, a design feature of the earlier versions. It also came with the original side rails, which is a bonus. Being a lover of antique and vintage pieces, I snapped it up despite the fact it came with layers of chipping old paint and needed refinishing. I won’t say it was an easy DIY, given the amount of prep work required before repainting, as all the old paint had to come off, but certainly worth it to give this piece a new life.

Things to consider when buying an antique bed:

  • Most old beds are only 48″ wide, which I personally love for kids’ rooms. New mattresses can still be purchased in this size; however, it can be a challenge to fit a newer box spring in an old frame, so you may need to use 2 mattresses or consider having a piece of plywood cut for support under one mattress. Bed sheets can also be hard to find in this size. Bedding can be purchased in a full size, which is 54″ – they just won’t fit perfectly.
  • The original bed rails should ideally be included with the headboard and footboard. Trying to get a set made can be costly, and although standard metal ones may work for the bed, they usually aren’t as nice looking or, from my experience, don’t seem as sturdy as the original ones.
  • If the bed has been previously painted it can be a lot of work to refinish, especially if it has spindles. For best results, the old finish has to come off before repainting. Having it professionally done is ideal; however, the cost of this may put you in the same ballpark as buying a new reproduction bed.