Vintage quilts are sized to fit the antique beds and mattresses that were available when the quilts were created. Sizes vary, but lots of antique beds were 48" wide, or 3/4 of the width found in our modern day full-size mattresses.
Vintage bed length was often the same 75" as today's full-size mattress, but variations in length are not unusual. A photo of a much shorter vintage bed illustrates one example of the differences you'll find.
Outfitting a 3/4 Antique Bed with the Correct Mattress
Search the internet and you'll discover quite a few companies that make custom mattresses, and many of their products aren't as pricey as you might expect. I don't have experience with any of the custom makers that come up first in search results, so I hesitate to recommend anyone -- you'll need to do a bit of research.
- Before deciding how to outfit your own antique bed, be sure to measure the area that holds the mattress.
- Try searching the term: custom mattress for antique beds.
- If you like what you see on websites, give the companies a call to ask questions about their products, including how long they've been making mattresses.
- Can they create your mattress depth preference? Are box springs part of the setup? How will the two combined work with your vintage bed -- will the height be a problem?
- Shipping costs are a consideration for large items. Perhaps you can find a custom mattress maker close to home. We have one in our area, even though we do not live near a huge city.
Convert the Vintage Bed to Accept a Full Size Mattress
It isn't difficult to convert most antique beds to hold a standard size mattress, and the extra width isn't usually noticeable. You can even convert some antique beds to hold a queen size mattress although that much of a jump sometimes isn't the best look for the smaller scale of the bed.
I have three antique beds, and one is slightly wider than the others, but they can all be fitted with a standard full-size mattress.
- Bed conversion kits are inexpensive and typically available at stores that sell beds and mattresses. Conversion kits give buyers more flexibility with headboard and footboard choices.
- Photograph your vintage bed's components before shopping, and talk to a salesperson who understands the conversion process.
- Antique shop owners are another good source of information. They are usually familiar with the expansion process and may even sell the components needed to make the change.
Remember that a vintage quilt may appear a bit narrow when placed on a full-size mattress. Try adding a coordinating spread or dust ruffle underneath the quilt to disguise the larger area.
If You Are Shopping for Antique Beds
Take a measuring tape with you when you shop for antique beds. Beds may not be assembled, but you should be able to estimate their size. Will the size hold a contemporary mattress or will conversion be necessary?
For more information about mattresses, see my article about mattress size comparisons, which includes ideas to help you design a quilt for different types of beds.