How to Buy a Mattress for an Antique Bed

When Sizes Vary, Here's What You Need to Know

Antique Bed
An Antique Bed. Getty Images

Vintage quilts are sized to fit the antique beds and mattresses that were available when the quilts were created. Sizes vary, but lots of antique beds were 48" wide, or 3/4 of the width found in our modern day full-size mattresses.

Vintage bed length was often the same 75" as today's full-size mattress, but variations in length are not unusual. A photo of a much shorter vintage bed illustrates one example of the differences you'll find.

Outfitting a 3/4 Antique Bed with the Correct Mattress

Search the internet and you'll discover quite a few companies that make custom mattresses, and many of their products aren't as pricey as you might expect. I don't have experience with any of the custom makers that come up first in search results, so I hesitate to recommend anyone -- you'll need to do a bit of research.

  • Before deciding how to outfit your own antique bed, be sure to measure the area that holds the mattress.
  • Try searching the term: custom mattress for antique beds.
  • If you like what you see on websites, give the companies a call to ask questions about their products, including how long they've been making mattresses.
  • Can they create your mattress depth preference? Are box springs part of the setup? How will the two combined work with your vintage bed -- will the height be a problem?
  • Shipping costs are a consideration for large items. Perhaps you can find a custom mattress maker close to home. We have one in our area, even though we do not live near a huge city.

Convert the Vintage Bed to Accept a Full Size Mattress

It isn't difficult to convert most antique beds to hold a standard size mattress, and the extra width isn't usually noticeable. You can even convert some antique beds to hold a queen size mattress although that much of a jump sometimes isn't the best look for the smaller scale of the bed.

I have three antique beds, and one is slightly wider than the others, but they can all be fitted with a standard full-size mattress.

  • Bed conversion kits are inexpensive¬†and typically available at stores that sell beds and mattresses. Conversion kits give buyers more flexibility with headboard and footboard choices.
  • Photograph your vintage bed's components before shopping, and talk to a salesperson who understands the conversion process.
  • Antique shop owners are another good source of information. They are usually familiar with the expansion process and may even sell the components needed to make the change.

Remember that a vintage quilt may appear a bit narrow when placed on a full-size mattress. Try adding a coordinating spread or dust ruffle underneath the quilt to disguise the larger area.

If You Are Shopping for Antique Beds

Take a measuring tape with you when you shop for antique beds. Beds may not be assembled, but you should be able to estimate their size. Will the size hold a contemporary mattress or will conversion be necessary?

For more information about mattresses, see my article about mattress size comparisons, which includes ideas to help you design a quilt for different types of beds.