An article at Jezebel is ostensibly an opinion piece on whether couples should sleep in the same bed in a shared bedroom, but a large part of it is a history of the bedroom in Western civilization. While poor people always slept communally due to lack of space, even wealthy families all slept together in medieval times, including servants. The concept of dedicating a room for sleeping, separate from other household activities, came about only gradually.
In the 17th century Dutch or English colonial American home, the master bedroom doubled as the entry parlor, where a family kept all its nicest possessions, including the home’s “best bed,” typically reserved for the master and mistress, according to Elizabeth Collins Cromley in “A History of American Beds and Bedrooms.” But by the mid-18th century, upper-class New Englanders had adopted the English trend of adding landings, hallways, and centrally located staircases to homes in order to create dedicated rooms for different purposes. In America, however, for the upper and middle classes, the home’s main bedroom was still connected to rooms used for entertaining, though more private, dedicated spaces for servants and children were often found upstairs. But trends toward individualizing sleeping spaces by decorating children’s rooms according to gender also had the trick of making them more private, and the “Mother’s room” (which was the term for what we now call the master bedroom) was generally tailored to a wife’s needs rather than a husband’s:
The custom of keeping the master bedroom on the first floor will not go away, because children grow up and leave, but the folks left behind get older and don’t want to climb stairs. We also learn about the evolution of sleeping configurations, including sleeping porches and arranging a bed halfway out of a window, which is hard to picture. Read about the evolution of the master bedroom at Jezebel.
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