5 Methods to Modernize a Sleigh Bed and Give it A Makeover

Although sleigh beds were originally inspired from classic designs, it doesn’t mean they fit only in traditional bedrooms. Sleigh beds have unique shapes and can be made from all sorts of materials ranging from solid wood to upholstered cloth. With such a variety of materials, sleigh beds offer endless flexibility so that you can change their appearance to your needs. This article discusses different methods to modernize a sleigh bed’s appearance with simple ideas like painting or decorating it to create a distinctive focal point in any bedroom. 

To modernize a sleigh bed, remove the footboard from the sleigh bed, paint the sleigh bed with modern colors, decorate the sleigh bed, or transform it into another piece of furniture. 

Method 1. Remove The Footboard From The Sleigh Bed

Footboards are used to box the top of the mattress within the bed frame. They aren’t always essential to the construction of the bed and most are decorative. Sleigh bed footboards tend to be tall and include stylish curved or scrolled elements which mimic the shape of a sled. Modern sleigh beds may include shorter footboards with gradual scrolling. Some models even feature a footboard in an upside-down position or no footboard at all like this one.

To remove the footboard from your sleigh bed, remove everything off the bed frame, identify the footboard brackets, loosen the bolts from the footboard, and remove the footboard.

Since sleigh beds tend to be bigger than other bed frames because of their substantial footboards and headboards, they could take up a lot of space and make tall sleepers feel restricted, as the elevated footboard would limit their leg room. Some contemporary sleigh beds feature removable footboards, so they can be modified to take up less space, work well for smaller bedrooms, and ensure comfort for tall people. Our article on how to replace a sleigh bed footboard explains the step-by-step process to remove the footboard. 

How To Remove A Sleigh Bed Footboard

Step 1. Remove Everything Off the Bed Frame

Remove the bedding, pillows, and the mattress off the bed. If your sleigh bed is supported with a box spring you need to remove it as well. Put the items in plastic or storage bags so nothing gets dirty.

Step 2. Locate the footboard brackets

Find the brackets that attach the footboard to the bed rails at the right and the left of the footboard. Get the right wrench size or adjust it, if the wrench is adjustable like this one from Amazon, and adjust it to the size of the nuts and bolts. 

Modernize a sleigh bed by removing the footboardUse a wrench to detach the footboard from the footboard brackets to remove the bolts, washers, and nuts to detach the footboard from the footboard brackets. Image source: Walmart.

Step 3. Loosen the Nuts and Bolts

Once you identify the brackets it is time to loosen the bolts. Hold the footboard firmly so it does not wobble or topple over, or have someone else hold it for you. Unscrew the nuts using the wrench, then loosen the bolt and remove it. The washers will slide off easily. Repeat this step for all the bolts. 

Step 5. Remove The Footboard

Remove the footboard from the bed frame, then secure and tighten the bolts, nuts and washers onto the end of the bed frame if required for the bed type. If not required, put the nuts and washers onto the bolts to keep them together.

Method 2. Paint a Sleigh Bed With Modern Colors

Another way to modernize a sleigh bed is to paint it in an unusual color. Traditional sleigh beds are made out of dark wood. A dark tone is considered a classic and ensures a rustic interior. So if you want to reduce that antique feel, you need to select softer tones like pastels and neutral colors. You can also use other colors like light blue or pink for a stylish look.  

To paint a sleigh bed with modern colors first remove all bedding and accessories from the bed. Then clean the bed frame, add a primer or undercoat before painting the bed frame. Next paint the bed frame in a neutral color, and finally apply wax or a finishing sealant to the painted surface. 

Popular colors for painting a sleigh bed include soft lilac and pink colors, neutral beige, gray, mint, sky blue and white. Brighter colors such as red, yellow, orange, burgundy, cobalt blue do not work well with sleigh beds, because of the limitations when trying to match it to a bedroom’s style and other furnishings. But bright colors can work well in a child’s bedroom. 

Colors to Modernize a Sleigh Bed

Modern Colors to Paint a Sleigh Bed Colors that Make Furniture Look Old Link to Modern Color on Amazon
Soft lavender Chocolate Soft lavender
Dried sage Burgundy Dried sage
Sea glass Dark brown Sea glass
Manatee gray Ochre yellow Manatee gray
White linen Black White linen

You may also find interest in our related article explaining how do you close a sleigh bed mattress gap too. 

How To Paint A Sleigh Bed With Modern Colors

Step 1. Remove Everything From the Bed

Remove all the sheets, pillows, stuffed toys and the mattress from your bed. If you have a box spring, remove that too. Store everything in plastic bags and lay down a drop sheet like this one to protect the floor.

Step 2. Clean The Bed Frame

You don’t have to strip off any old paint or varnish anything. Simply clean the bed frame with water and soap or with alcohol. Then sand the frame with sandpaper to remove any damaged layers of wood and ensure its surface is as smooth as possible for a polished look. You can use an electric sander with various sandpaper grit types like this one to sand the entire bed frame. 

Step 3. Add a Primer Or an Undercoat

If your sleigh bed is made of wood, add a primer or an undercoat, available from Amazon, so that the paint adheres to the wood. The primer should go on bare wood, whereas an undercoat should go on wood with a finish. You can add different types of finishes after painting your sleigh bed such as glossy, satin, or eggshell paint. 

Step 4. Paint The Bed Frame

Once the undercoat or primer is dry, choose a color and paint the bed using a quality paint brush, or a foam roller to eliminate streaking. You may have to put on several coats to achieve the desired color and coverage. Make sure you choose the right specialty paint for specific applications, depending on the material your sleigh bed is made of. Read this article from ScienceDirect regarding non-toxic water-based paints that are safe to use in house interiors. With a light palette, you can easily modernize a sleigh bed.  

Applying a primer base coat before painting wood furniture will ensure that you achieve a long lasting paint finish. Image Source: Better Home & Gardens. ALT: Use a primer base coat to make sure that your modern color stays on as long as possible and is durable

Step 5. Apply Wax

The wax will seal the color and stop debris and water getting into the finish. It will also protect the painted surface against scuffs and chips. Apply the wax in small sections. Make sure to use a separate brush from the one you are using for painting. 

Method 3. Decorate the Sleigh Bed

Minor touches to your sleigh bed can make a huge impact on the overall appearance of your room. Read our article about sleigh bed decorating ideas for extra tips and tricks to enhance a sleigh bed. 

To upgrade a sleigh bed, decorate it by adding luxurious bedding on top of the sleigh bed, upholstering the bed with different fabrics, or add a canopy. 

Tip 1. Add Luxurious Bedding On Top of the Sleigh Bed

A modern look for a sleigh bed can be achieved through the use of stylish bedding choices. Avoid floor-length bedspreads or quilts that have ruffled edges or jumbo welts, so that the headboard, footboard, and bed rails remain visible. Choose a modern sleigh bed comforter made of velvet or silk for a formal look or opt for one that is made of cotton or jersey for a more casual style. 

Bedding sets also come in a variety of color hues such as pastel, grey, white, pink, and blue. Read our article about sleigh bed comforters for more stylish ideas on how to decorate your sleigh bed.  

Simple patterned comforters can make a sleigh bed more modernThis navy blue comforter has a rich contrast of colors, which gives an elegant touch to your room. Image Source: Amazon.

Tip 2. Add Stylish Cushions

Add some simple stylish accessories such as throw cushions on your sleigh bed to harmonize the color palette in the bedroom. Stack some pillow shams on the mattress at the head of the bed with your bed pillows hidden underneath or lean them against the headboard at a 45-degree angle. You can also place a row of decorative throw pillows that are square, rectangular or round shaped, in front of your pillow shams for additional accents. 

Boho style cushions add color to a bed roomThese boho-style cushions will look amazing in a room with modern decor. Image Source: Amazon.

Tip 3. Upholster The Headboard and Footboard

Upholstering a sleigh bed is a great idea to make a sleigh bed more modern. Integrating fabric detailing and upholstery is simple, inexpensive, and quick. First remove the headboard and footboard from the bedframe and measure their lengths and widths so you know how much foam and batting you’ll need. For further instructions on how to upholster a bed, see this article by Hannah Bruneman. 

Trace the outline of the headboard onto the foam to cover all the curves and cut the foam and the batting to the size and shape of the headboard. Leave a few extra inches to staple it to the back of the headboard. Lay the foam on top of the headboard and cover it with batting. Pull the batting to the back of the headboard and staple it to the back with a staple gun on all the sides of the headboard. Finally cover the batting with the desired fabric, and reattach the headboard to the bed frame. You can use Cotton Fabric, Leather Upholstery Fabric, or Vinyl Upholstery Fabric, for a luxurious feel. Check out our article on how to attach a headboard for helpful tips on reattaching your headboard when you are done covering it. 

An upholstered sleigh bed frame with scrolled headboard and footboard.This sleigh bed is covered with tufted velour fabric to add a modern flair to the bedroom. Image Source: Amazon.

Tip 4. Add a Canopy

Adding a bed canopy will create a cozy and romantic atmosphere, deliver warmth and privacy, and will make your sleigh bed look splendid. For further instructions on how to convert a bed into a canopy bed, see our article.  

When installing a canopy to complement your sleigh bed be sure to choose a canopy that hangs from the ceiling without touching the floor. Your goal is to keep the headboard, footboard, rails, and curves visible.  

You can install a grommet in each corner of the canopy fabric, string rope through each hole, and then tie the panel to the ceiling by means of hooks or screws. This idea also works perfectly in bohemian style if you picked up a grand tapestry with a mandala pattern.

Soft white curtains can modernize a sleigh bed roomThese soft curtains add an elegant and romantic feeling to the room. Image Source: homedit.

Summary of Sleigh Bed Decoration Ideas

Sleigh Bed Decoration Idea What style of decoration makes a bed look modern? Decoration styles to avoid (which make a bed look traditional) Example from Amazon Price
Add Luxurious Bedding On Top of the Sleigh Bed Modern comforters White tufted comforters, long bedspreads, quilts with ruffled edges, floral patterned comforters Madison Park Amherst Faux Silk Comforter Set-Casual Contemporary Design ~$125
Add Stylish Cushions Throw cushions, pillow shams of different shapes and colors Long bolster pillows, plain colors Modern Decorative Pillow Covers ~$20
Upholster The Headboard and Footboard Fabrics like leather, velvet, velour, vinyl Solid unpainted wood J. Allen Fabrics Glam Upholstery Velvet Sheen ~$20
Add a Canopy  Curtains, canopy, mandala patterns  Grand tapestry Truedays Four Corner Post Bed Princess Canopy ~$20

You may also be interested to add more storage space to your room. Be sure to check out our related article explaining how to lift up a sleigh bed and raise it to find out how you can add more space.

Method 4. Transform a Sleigh Bed Into Another Piece of Furniture

Any piece of furniture can be repurposed, but sleigh beds are especially suited for repurposing because of their unique shapes. A sleigh can be turned into different types of furniture such as a trundle, a bench or a platform bed. For further information about how to create a new piece of furniture, see our article about repurposing a sleigh bed into a porch swing

Idea 1.Turn a Sleigh Bed into a Trundle Bed

For the steps to turn a sleigh bed into a regular trundle bed, read this article from hunker.  All you need is some household tools such as a screwdriver, a saw, and a wrench. The final result will offer an extra bed for a guest room or kids room. 

Idea 2. Remodel a Sleigh bed into a Bench

A bench can be a great addition to an outdoor space like a balcony, a backyard, or an entryway. It is a charming piece of furniture to freshen up your home. With a little bit of paint, maybe some upholstery and pillows you will turn an old sleigh into a completely different and modern piece of furniture. Read our article on turning a sleigh bed into a bench for some unique ideas. 

Idea 3. Convert a Sleigh Bed into a Platform Bed

You add a platform to your sleigh bed for extra storage space for your bedding. You will free up space in your closet, and create sleek storage beneath your bed. Here are methods on how to add a platform to your sleigh bed. 

You can find more ideas by reading our related article – nine different ways to repurpose a sleigh bed.

Method 5. Buy a Modern Sleigh Bed

If you don’t feel like upcycling your old sleigh bed, a simple way to incorporate a modern sleigh bed is to buy a new model. Modern sleigh beds include woven wicker sleigh beds, lattice design sleigh beds, upholstered sleigh beds, wrought iron sleigh beds, minimalistic nordic sleigh beds, storage sleigh beds, and modern upside-down sleigh beds. 

Example of Modern Sleigh Bed Features that make it “Modern” Price
Baxton Studio Torino Walnut Wood King This is a platform bed with a footboard and headboard. The footboard is short for that modern feel. You may not consider it a traditional “sleigh bed” because it lacks scrolls. ~$500
Modway Ophelia Upholstered Azure Low Profile Bed This low profile platform bed has an upholstered headboard and a footboard. None of them are scrolled but you still get the feel of a sleigh bed because of the bed’s design. ~$500
Metal Bed Frame Twin Size with Vintage Headboard and Footboard This bed has a classic feel to it but an industrial design. Both the headboard and footboard are short and they don’t have scrolled tops. You might say this isn’t a real “sleigh bed” but it feels like one.  ~$150

Also, if you need to add another bed to your home, make sure to check out our comprehensive guide to air bed benefits. You might find that an air bed is just what you need!