Brass beds were first introduced in the 1820s and became popular toward the latter half of the 19th century. The brass used is a gold-colored metal made from a zinc and copper alloy. Brass beds are either 100-percent metal or plated on other metals, such as steel. The beds have a brass headboard and typically a footboard, with steel frame rails stabilizing the bed. Brass-bed styles range from highly ornamented to simple, unadorned beds.
Brass beds were first made during the Victorian era with testers and half-testers, or tall corner posts extending above the headboard and footboard. Many of these beds had a canopy for a drapery to hang from to enclose the bed and hold warmth in during the night. Victorian brass beds were very ornate and decorated with filigree, finials, knobs and turnings. Their romantic styling often had lots of curved details, Gothic arches and hand-painted porcelain finials.
Oxford brass beds originated during the Civil War. They can be identified by the matching curved tops on the headboard and footboard. The scale of Oxford beds was modest; this bed has simple, unadorned lines and fits into both contemporary and traditional rooms. The Oxford style is one of the most popular brass bed styles, available in both antique and reproduction models.
Brass beds from the Art Nouveau era during the late 1800s and early 1900s featured whimsical curves and floral scrolls in keeping with the artistic designs of the time. Many art nouveau brass beds combined porcelain accents, brass rosettes, white paint and wrought iron with brass in these artistically influenced beds.
Art deco brass beds are characterized by straight lines and angles influenced by the art and architecture during the 1930s and 40s. Vertical slat-style designs were very popular, and many beds featured zigzag and geometric designs. Many beds of this era were elongated to look tall and thin, a common style of both art deco and art nouveau.
Modern brass beds are reproductions of antiques or new designs. Antique brass beds are very expensive, and it can be hard to find a quality bed. They were originally only made in single or double sizes, rather than today's common king and queen sizes, so using an antique is not feasible for larger mattresses. Newly designed brass beds have a wide range of styling; some with a simple metal tube headboard and footboard, others with vines and flowers, decorative scrolls, or plain vertical rods and knob finials.