An art nouveau bed typically bears the characteristic organic curves of other art nouveau furniture. As this type of furniture has fewer structural considerations when compared to other large functional items, an art nouveau bed is often more free to express asymmetry and open curves. The most common material for this type of bed is wood, but iron may have been used as well. Beds made more recently in this style are often bolder in their construction in order to directly call forth the great designers of the past.
Possibly the most defining characteristic of an art nouveau bed is its shape. Many of these beds feature a high headboard and a lower footboard designed to match the headboard. The relationship between the headboard and footboard can be one of scale, in which the footboard is essentially a shorter version of the head of the bed, or it can be complementary, in which the two pieces do not necessarily have the same shape but still go together. In many cases, the sides of the bed are also decorated, unifying the entire construction.
The actual design of the bed typically makes use of art nouveau's organic curves, but many historical art nouveau beds were muted or very similar to other traditional bed designs. Bold strokes and asymmetry were found in some cases, but most of the time an art nouveau bed remained fairly subdued. Branching sections, designed to call forth images of plants, were often included in bed designs. Actual carved images of flowers and plants, however, were rare.
While wood was the most common material for art nouveau furniture, iron examples do exist as well. When wood was used, panels and sections that showcased the beauty of the wood itself were common. Colors were often dark, but lighter examples can be found. Most wood used retained a natural shade, but some items can be found painted black or other colors not naturally available. Sometimes, iron and wood were used in combination to create very unique pieces of furniture.
Most of the time, an art nouveau bed does not involve padding or upholstery, but some people create beds related to this movement by upholstering a headboard in art nouveau fabric. It is also possible to decorate a headboard using wallpaper, which allows for easy application of the many art nouveau motifs. While this type of bed is related to the art nouveau style, it is usually unlike anything seen in authentic antiques from this period.