Bed hangings were originally tapestries or lengths of woven wool hung from all sides of a four-poster bed and across the top. These were both for privacy and to keep the bed warm , in times when rooms were multi purpose and homes were cold at night. These have since evolved from flat pieces of thick woollen material or tapestry into highly ornate draperies and show pieces.
Any type of bed can have such hangings, so long as there is a framework attached to or around the bed, or some sort of ceiling fixing from which to fit the hangings. Bed hangings may be created as an integral part of a room’s architecture, in a garden, a terrace or centrally in a room.
Four-poster bed frames are self sufficient, having a post at each corner and a top rail specifically designed to hold a certain amount of material. Most have a top cover–the tester–and curtains at each post that draw across completely to enclose the sides; if the bed is against the wall, there might be a fixed back curtain. When there are permanent hangings at the head end, the head posts are usually less ornate simply covered in fabric, leaving carved or painted decoration for the posts at the foot end.