Bring Back the Four-Poster Canopy Bed

A modern smart green version could save energy, space, and be a lot of fun.

Canopy bed with dogs

Hi Interiors

When Treehugger founder Graham Hill was building his LifeEdited apartment, I was advising him and coming up with sometimes silly ideas. One of the sillier ones was to party like it's 1499 and have a canopy or four-poster bed with insulated curtains. Hill said he couldn't sleep without air conditioning, which at the time I disapproved of but thought he could have a tiny one, like the rooftop units they stick on parking kiosks. I even found a totally silent Peltier effect version, if you are cooling a tiny space you can get a tiny air conditioner.

A Nobleman's dwelling room in the 14th century
A Nobleman's dwelling room in the 14th century.

The Arts of the Middle Ages/ Paul Lacroix Jacob

But another reason I liked the idea was that Hill wanted to be able to accommodate guests. Instead of fancy moving walls, I thought that with this he could just close the curtains. As Paul Lacroix Jacob wrote in his 1870 book "The Arts in The Middle Ages and at the Period of The Renaissance": "The bed, which usually stood in a corner, surrounded by thick curtains, was effectually screened, and formed what was then called a clotet; that is, a sort of small room enclosed by tapestry."

Melissa Snell wrote in Thoughtco that rooms often were shared:

"Though lords and ladies had their bed(s) to themselves, attendants might share the room for convenience and security. For the sake of warmth as well as privacy, the lord's bed was curtained, and his attendants slept on simple pallets on the floor, on trundle beds, or on benches."

Hill ignored my suggestion and went for fancy moving walls, but I have always thought the four-poster with curtains could provide privacy in small spaces and temperature control with a far smaller footprint. I also thought it could be fun, with a big-screen TV and great acoustics thanks to the sound-absorbing curtains.

HiAm Bed

Hi Interiors via V2com

So I was excited to see that Italian design company Hi-Interiors brought back the four-poster with the Hibed. It is sort of a tiny home inside your home, and is responding to a whole new set of conditions:

"In the age of remote working and forced closures, between distance learning and home fitness, consumers began to express the need to redesign their living spaces with the goal of transforming them into authentic oases of well-being, designed for relaxation. The hibed, produced by the Hi-Interiors brand, was created precisely with that goal in mind: to offer an innovative response to new lifestyle needs."  

Its latest version of the Hibed integrates lighting, entertainment systems, health monitors, and smart alarms. "HiAm, the new hi-tech four-poster bed, is a real oasis of rest and well-being in which to rediscover the true meaning of leisure, and is intended as a primary source of creativity for an individual’s personal realization," notes the company. There is even a "refined fragrance diffuser for personalized moments of relaxation — all activated through a native iOS app."

It is a smart bed that will talk to your smart thermostat and maybe even Alexa or Siri: "The brand's modern four-poster bed will also be able to collect data on sleep conditions and the environment. The sensors’ many functions include detecting any ambient noises that could disturb your sleep, and identifying the ideal temperature for achieving optimum rest."

Hican bed

Hi Interiors

I actually prefer the earlier, clunkier HiCan version, which came with privacy curtains and had more wall and less post. It could easily be modified into a tiny private room. Designer Edoardo Carlino calls it "a new interpretation of the classic canopy." And of course, it comes with an app that lets you control it all:

"You can track your sleep on a daily basis; get feedbacks on how to improve your habits, set smart alarms and create your own favorite scenarios to facilitate your falling asleep or awakening, relax, meditate, read a book intimately or enjoy a private cinema experience. You can manage ambient lights, reading lights, side curtains, motorized bed bases, fragrances, and the high fidelity audio-video system."
Technology in bed

Hi Interiors

Given our usual distaste for smart home technology, one might ask "why is this on Treehugger?" Indeed, we have quoted Stephen Moore's article "In Praise of Dumb Tech" where he wrote:

"The biggest problem with the 'smart' world is that very few have figured out how to build products that actually do anything useful enough to justify their price tags. In many cases, adding complexity to once-simple devices is leading to all kinds of unforeseen problems, meaning that many smart products try to 'do it all' and end up being not very good at any of it."
Child watching cartoons

Hican interiors

But conceptually, being able to draw the bedcurtains for acoustic and visual privacy, condition and filter the air, and even watch a movie makes a lot of sense. We just need a greener version of this.