The evolution of divan beds can be traced through both form and function. The furniture treasure made its first popular European appearance from the mid-1700s until around 1850. They were often found in boudoirs and served as something similar to "fainting chairs" for women, many of whom at the time wore tight corsets beneath their dresses that made it difficult for them to breathe.Â
Origins of the Divan Bed
The term "divan" itself came to the rest of the world from a Middle East practice of pushing a mattress up against a wall and then placing pillows along the backside of the mattress to create a comfortable sitting place. Middle Easterners used them primarily in government offices, which were also called divans.
Over time, the chair beds have become better known as a style rather than a piece of furniture per se. Chairs with similar flair are now general referred to as "divan style" furniture.
The most obvious benefit of divan beds is that they can be used for both sitting and sleeping. Original cushions for these beds were long mattresses. Divans have always featured either a platform to hold the mattress or thick cushions designed to imitate the look of a mattress. The iron rails and wooden framework that usually accompany beds today had mostly been missing. Contemporary divans easily convert to guest beds and remove the mystery work of trying to setup sleeping arrangements for friends and family who spend the night.
Modern versions typically also have storage drawers. This is a perfect way to stash sheets, pillows and other accessories for easy sleeping conversion. If the chair is in a living room area and serves as a chaise, the storage drawers also offer a tidy stowaway option for magazines, books and board games.
The 21st century has seen the arrival of double divan beds. Complete with a full- or queen-size headboard, they are most often used solely as beds. In fact, it is hard to tell the difference - until you notice there is no iron or wooden frame. The base is a solid platform, and a mattress top is mounted on the base for sleeping.
From its roots in the Ottoman Empire, the divan bed has survived many epochs of the bed - mattresses stuffed with straw atop a latticework of rope, cast iron beds with cotton mattresses, coil springs, innersprings, futons, water beds, foam rubber beds and airbeds. A humble mattress pushed against a wall and dressed up with pillows has grown to become a fully functional centerpiece of the room.