How to Buy a Canopy for Your Bed

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How to Buy a Canopy for Your Bed

To make a bedroom into a cosy, welcoming haven of sleep, a place where the sleeper can really nest, there is one fairly simple adaptation: installing an overhead bed canopy. Canopies respond perfectly to the human urge to be swaddled, sheltered, and cocooned in a private sanctuary, yet at the same time, they have the complementary effect of bringing grandeur and individuality to what is often a fairly bland sleeping place.

Whilst in history, commencing in the Middle Ages, bed canopies had a far more practical function, both to protect sleepers from the dust and even masonry that may fall from primitive ceilings and to offer some insulation from the cold in large, draughty bedrooms. Today, they are an optional indulgence, which for couples, are ideal to give the bedroom a whole new romantic feel. Romantic bed canopies come in a huge range of fabrics, from chintzy cottons to richly shimmering taffeta.

The traders that sell bed canopies range from furniture warehouses to antique markets. Some bed linen shops stock canopies, as do home decor departments of large high street shops. Certain online retailers also offer bed canopies, and the well-known auction website, eBay, hosts extensive listings of canopies, as well as fabric from which to create homemade canopies. Since the term “bed canopy” applies to a number of soft furnishing items, shoppers need to familiarise themselves with the main forms, such as circular, box, and half-tester canopies, before making their purchase.

Forms of Bed Canopies

A bed canopy may merely be some fabric draped according to whim behind or above a bed. It may serve a dual function, both as a decorative feature and as a barrier against insects, especially mosquitoes. The mosquito net is often the most economical bed canopy of all, being effectively a tent made of fine mesh.

Broadly speaking, the bed canopies that customers seek today fall into one of three categories. These refer mainly to the shape and scope of the canopy

The Circular Bed Canopy

With a circular bed canopy, the fabric cascades from a metal ring attached by means of fixings to the bedroom ceiling roughly above the bed’s centre. The most usual material for circular bed canopies is fine mesh; its principal function being as a barrier to keep insects, especially mosquitoes, away from the bed’s occupants. In the case of this style of canopy, there is at least sufficient fabric to surround the sleepers’ top halves, the light material drapes behind the headboard and falls onto the bed linen below where the sleepers’ hands normally rest. However, larger mosquito nets can be purchased that drape to the floor. Depending upon the number of openings or entrances the net possesses, this type of canopy can offer some decorative flexibility. For example, a quite exotic impression, resembling a Balinese beach pavilion, can be achieved by tying back the four quarters of a pendant mosquito net that has four openings.

The Box Canopy

Canopies that descend from a rectangular structure over a bed have a greater feeling of historic accuracy. These, in most cases, require a canopy bed or a traditional four-poster, also known as a full tester, for both of which a frame consisting of posts supports just such a canopy. A less costly and altogether less permanent type of box canopy, which still achieves the full tester effect is one which is suspended from four rings or hooks in the ceiling, screwed in, or attached at points, above the bed’s four corners to correspond with the bed’s outline. The advantage of the box canopy is that there is a good distance between the human occupants and the material. This way, ventilation is optimum and maximum comfort is assured. During the day, the fabric can be tied back attractively.

The Half Tester Canopy

Previously called a half tester, this very popular type of canopy resembles a partial four poster. The support, or frame, is positioned only at one end, such as above the headboard. This may be either a square type of frame made from wood, or made from plaster ceiling mouldings. Alternatively, a French style of support may be chosen in the form of a crown or coronet centred above the bed’s headboard. Either way, its effect is decorative, as no actual shade, protection, or privacy is provided.

The fabric falls in two swags, just like curtains, gathered into tie-backs or holdbacks, one on each side, softly framing the head of the bed. The effect presented can be either very full, ruffled, even flamboyant, or restrained in the form of two simple muslin drapes.

Another great way to get a very similar look, and a greater sense of privacy for minimal financial outlay is to attach two lightweight, fairly short curtain rods of the swing-arm type, or even two such swing-arm towel rails, to the wall above the headboard, one rod above each end-post of the headboard. Where these two rods jut out is where a canopy can now be supported that is suspended across the bed in a gently dipping shape and falling straight by the sleepers’ sides, creating a degree of seclusion.

Bed Canopies for Children

The child who adores camping, and frequently begs to spend the night under canvas in the garden can be pacified by the simple action of buying and installing a bed tent. It is important to look closely at the seller’s description and the images supplied with an online listing. Many such tents screen the bed to create a sense of a room within a room, while others suggest a tunnel open at both ends. The term “bed tent” is used to describe various designs of kids’ bed canopy, outlined in the chart below.

Type of Child’s Bed Tent or Canopy




Cabin bed tent

A set of concealing fabric panels to hang around either three or four of the bed sides, suspended from the base of the bunk bed above

Gives each child privacy and encourages play

Can hinder daily bed-making and may create a den for messy toys, etc.

Pop-up mosquito dome

A dome-shaped, lightweight mesh structure that overarches the whole bed and provides protection from insects

Pop-up design aids installation, removal, and packing

Can feel restrictive, admitting less air

Tunnel tent

A half-cylinder-shaped, lightweight framed tent which forms a tunnel-like arch over a child’s bed

Non-enclosing, hence no loss of ventilation, but can aid sleep due to darkening effect

Similar to disadvantages of cabin-bed tent, but less severe

Bed shade

A canopy without sides comprising light structure that stretches a piece of fabric, suspended over bed

Novelty shape, e.g. large leaf, creates imaginative illusion of jungle

Can be damaged during boisterous play, cleaning, etc.

Additionally, no child’s mid-sleeper bed, or cabin bed with slide, is complete without the type of canopy known as a “tower”, which lives up to its name by cascading around the top of the slide.

A baby’s bed can have a canopy gently cascading either from a coronet of a suitably small size attached to the ceiling, or from a similar coronet that is attached using a vertical bracket screwed to the bed or cot side. For extreme lightness, these canopies are often made of chiffon.

Buying a Bed Canopy on eBay

eBay is a one-stop destination for any prospective buyer of a bed canopy. These items, otherwise a nuisance to track down in high street shops where they may be located in the furniture section, or alternatively among the bedding or bed linen, are a click away on eBay. All you need do is type “bed canopy” into the search field to be on your way. This returns a wealth of canopy possibilities for the home; everything from children’s themed canopies and bed tents to attractive, useful mosquito nets and luxury king-size canopies, both vintage and modern.

Bed canopies from France bring a sense of history, and by typing “French bed canopy&” into the search field on eBay, you can see a varied sampling to get you thinking about styles and fabrics. To complete the French shabby-chic look, you can also track down the “ciel du lit” or bed canopy coronet from which to hang your canopy. Their vintage appearance, constructed either from wood or metal, complete with evidence of wear, such as flaked-off paint, can deliver a note of nostalgic romance to the boudoir. When searching on eBay, bear in mind the cost of delivery or postage, and in cases where the bed canopy is heavy, consider collection in person.

Measurements are important, so be armed with these before finalising your decision. eBay sellers provide fully-detailed measurements, and if in doubt, a message can be sent to the seller posing a question about size.


Both personal tastes and uses of the amazingly versatile phenomenon of a bed canopy vary from purchaser to purchaser. Gone are the days when home decor was a matter of slavishly following trends. Homemakers can give their creativity free rein, and should a unique-looking bolt of cloth, a sari, or even a wedding veil correspond with the individual’s taste, then it can become a canopy. The layering of two or more lengths of material creates a more complex, sumptuous look, and if the individual tires of the look, the canopy is easily replaced with another. It is no more difficult to do than changing a pair of window curtains.

Sometimes a canopy purchase is not intended for the home, but for a holiday, whether to take camping near water where midges are a possible issue, or to transport on a family trip abroad, in order to prevent mosquito bites from taking the edge off of the holiday experience.

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