Updating the daybed, with flair

Furniture: Both a bed and a sofa, the practical but pretty daybed is enjoying a resurgence of popularity.

April 15, 2001|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

Polished urban studio apartments and frilly girl's bedrooms often have one thing in common: a multipurpose piece of furniture that serves as a sofa during the day and a place to sleep comfortably at night.

Daybeds are experiencing a mini-revival, and furniture experts speculate that affluent baby boomers may be in part responsible. They are using them in second homes and buying them for their grandchildren's rooms, says Sean Slack of Powell Company, one of the largest marketers of beds in the country.

For the price of a low-end sofa bed, a daybed offers better construction and materials and a better night's sleep.

"You get more bang for your buck," explains Larry Thomas, bedding editor for the trade magazine Furniture / Today.

Daybeds with trundles are the most useful. They are actually two beds, with the secondary bed pulling out on casters. Both take standard twin bed mattresses. If you don't need the trundle, you can substitute a drawer that holds bed linens and blankets

Furniture historians see the origins of the daybed in the lounging couches of ancient Greece and Rome. It seems to have taken on its current form in Restoration England in the 17th century, going in and out of style since then. In the '90s, the popularity of futons caused a mini-slump in daybeds; but these days affordable versions in all sorts of styles are back in furniture showrooms and catalogs.

Apartment dwellers appreciate the versatility of daybeds, both in function and appearance. Buy a new coverlet and pillows, add a throw, and you have a quick-change sofa with a whole new look.

In the latest Pottery Barn catalog for the young, stylish and short of space, furniture shoppers will find half a dozen hip new styles of daybeds. Some of these are actually alcove beds with trundles. (Strictly speaking, a daybed has a back and two sides, while an alcove bed has equal sides but no back and fits in a small space against a wall. Both are designed to be piled with pillows and function as a sofa during the day. )

Their usefulness isn't limited to one-room apartments. Designer Won Cha Shake of Galleria Interior Design in Towson has found daybeds a practical addition to all sorts of rooms. The fact that they function as emergency bedding is a bonus.

"They are comfortable seating," she says. "I've used them in home offices, spare bedrooms used as sitting rooms, small apartments and condos. And they are very nice to have in your daughter's room."

There's no real reason daybeds wouldn't be equally at home in a boy's bedroom, but they lend themselves to a frilly look. Girls who like lots of pillows and ruffles will love the romantic linens available for daybeds. And the trundle provides a guest bed for sleep-

overs. Manufacturers, who know that the majority of daybed sales are for girls' bedrooms, reinforce the trend by producing pretty styles with white or other feminine finishes.

"They just don't come in guy colors," says Thomas.

That may change, as more and more adults are finding uses for daybeds. "Designers have rediscovered them for today's new homes with bigger bedrooms," says Slack of Powell Company in Culver City, Calif.

In other words, while daybeds are practical for very small apartments, they are also being used as extra sleeping space in a master bedroom. "In resort areas boomers are putting their children in the guest bedrooms and the grandchildren in their [own] room," Powell explains.

While still a niche item in the home furnishings market, daybeds come in a wider variety of styles than ever. Cindy Shaeffer of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association in High Point, N.C., is expecting to see more formal looks in daybeds as a result of this spring's International Home Furnishings Market. These beds will appear on showroom floors in about six months.

Daybed trends

Not surprisingly, the most important current styles in daybeds reflect the trends found in regular beds:

* Mixed media, particularly wood combined with metal

* Dramatic frames--a particular challenge for manufacturers because they must work with a standard twin-bed size (39 by 72 inches) to create an oversized "sofa"

* Mission furniture styling

* French country

* An emphasis on finishes, such as distressing, highlighting and glazing (a sheer color that allows the base coat to show through).

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