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Box-bed in Austria

A box-bed (also known as a closed bed, close bed, or enclosed bed; less commonly, shut-bed[1]) is a bed enclosed in furniture that looks like a cupboard, half-opened or not. The form originates in western European late medieval furniture.

The box-bed is closed on all sides by panels of wood. One enters it by removing curtains, opening a door hinge or sliding doors on one or two slides. The bed is placed on short legs to prevent moisture due to a dirt floor.

In front of the box-bed was often a large oaken chest, with the same length as the bed. This was always the 'seat of honour,' and served also as a step for climbing into the bed. It was also used to store clothing, underwear and bedding the rest of the time.[2]

The closed-bed in Brittany[edit]

Closed bed in Finistère (France).

In Brittany, the closed-bed (French: lit-clos) (Breton: gwele-kloz) is a traditional furnishing. In homes with usually only one room, the box-bed allowed some privacy and helped keep people warm during winter. Similar enclosed bed furniture was once also found in western Britain; Devon, Cornwall, Wales particularly in Gower.[3]

Some closed-beds were built one above the other in a double-decker, two-story arrangement. In this case, young people would sleep above.[4]

It was the main furniture of rural houses in Brittany until the 20th century. Often carved and decorated, it was the pride of its owners.

Closed-beds were 1.60 to 1.70 m length, long enough for people of that region who were rather small. And because they slept in an almost sitting position, they leaned on three or four pillows.[5] It was the tradition of the Middle Ages not to sleep lying down, because that is the position of the dead and of effigies.[citation needed][dubious ]

Later out of fashion and because they were expensive to make, box-beds were gradually abandoned in the 19th and 20th centuries. Fine pieces were put in museums (Lampaul-Guimiliau, Nantes, Quimper, Rennes, St-Brieuc), while most of them were converted into bookshelves, dressers or TV cabinets. In the 21st century, rental companies offer nights in authentic box-beds. The contemporary Breton designers Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec have reinterpreted the form with their lit-clos, 2000 for Galerie kreo.

Box-beds were also used to protect people of the home from the animals (pigs, hens) also living in the house,.[6] In Breton culture, the box-bed was also believed to offer protection against wolves.[7]

The closet-bed in the Netherlands[edit]

A Dutch bedstede

In the Netherlands the closet-bed, or bedstede, was in common use into the 19th century, particularly in farmhouses in the countryside. Closet-beds were closed off with a door or a curtain.

One of the advantages of the closet-bed was that it could be built into the living room and closed off during the day, making a separate bedroom unnecessary. The other main advantage was that, during the winter, the small area of the closet-bed would be warmed by body heat. This meant the stove would not need to be kept stoked at night. The door would not be shut completely, but left open a bit.

During the 16th and 17th century, closet-beds were much smaller. Lying down was associated with death, and therefore sleeping was done in a half-upright position. These closet-beds held two people, and beneath them were often drawers "rolkoetsen" that pulled out and provided beds for the children.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Morris, William (1889). The Roots of the Mountains. Project Gutenberg. pp. 8, 15, 41, 45, and others.
  2. ^ "Box beds in Brittany". 2007-08-12.
  3. ^ "Kennixton farmhouse interior, Museum of Welsh Life :: Gathering the Jewels". Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  4. ^ Thomas and Frances Trollope, A Summer in Brittany, 1840.
  5. ^ (in French) Ils sont fous ces Bretons#Coop Breizh|Erwan Vallerie, p. 104
  6. ^ "Le lit clos breton". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
  7. ^[bare URL]