If there is one thing that is increasingly missing nowadays in metropolitan housing is space. Every cm/inch is precious considering the costly price of getting a flat in Rome, New York, London or Paris.

Woman reading inside a box bed – Jacob Vrel, 1660 circa

Above: public domain picture

The difficulties when it comes to furnish a space in a functional yet aesthetically pleasing manner are well known. It maybe come across as odd but a creative hint might come from the ancient times, more specifically from the Middle Ages, when it wasn’t a rare event that numerous families would cohabitate altogether within one or two rooms.

what could be better than a box bed, or lit-clos for the French, in order to get some coziness as well as warmth?

Thee French Lit clos of the 18° century

Above: picture by Wolfgang Sauber shared via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The lit clos was a widespread piece of furniture in North-West, especially in Brittany, some part of Great Britain and Holland.

Traditional inside of a Breton house with lit clos

Above: picture by Moreau.henri shared via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

When we look at those “caged beds” with our current mindset, the layout might provoke a claustrophobic reaction, but when the lit clos is inserted in the historical context where it was originated from it is possible to recognise the many benefits that owning one would offer.

French Lit Clos with cradle by its side– 1650

Above: picture by MOREAU Henri shared via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

The most obvious one is the saved up space: in a certain way, a box bed would function as a tiny bedroom, by occupying a limited amount of space yet preserving some privacy to the people who would sleep within its structure.

Box Bed from Holland

Above: picture by Quistnix shared via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 2.5

Another important factor not to forget is the human warmth: sleeping inside an enclosed space would certainly offer an advantage in terms of warming up, in a period where houses were generally cold and moist.

Wardrobe and Lit Clos in Brittany

Above: picture shared Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

This was not all though; according to other opinions, the lit clos were a preventive method against wolves attacks in isolated houses in the countryside. Children and adults could supposedly be spared from being eaten while asleep.

Lit-Clos in the Museum of Cap Sizun, Brittany

Above: picture by Moreau.henri shared via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

The box bed was lifted from the ground, in order to fight off cold and moist, and it usually had a bench at its feet which would allow the access to the little space. The area could be shut both by a wooden door or a fabric-made curtains.

Dutch scene by Pieter de Hooch – 1658 circa

Above: public domain picture

The trend of the box beds did not last little time; contrarily the phenomenon carried on from the late Middle Ages all the way to all the 19th century too. In Brittany, in the country houses this type of bed was commonly employed up until the 20th century as well, often considered as a precious piece of furniture in solid wood sculpted and decorated, sometimes with 2 floors.

Above: picture of a 2 floors type of box bed shared via  Pinterest – public domain

With the invention of heating, the purpose of the box beds slowly disappeared from the houses of Northern Europe.

Modern Swedish interior

Above: image shared via Entrance – public domain

The concept of the peculiar bed might come back though, although in different shapes and sizes, as a result of the attempt of dealing with the tight houses of the modern dwellings. Two famous Breton designers thought about this too: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec suggested a Lit-Clos inspired by the tradition of their land yet revised to fit the aesthetic standards of the 21st century.

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