Divan or bedstead: Which is the best base for your mattress?

We explain the difference between bedsteads and divans, and how to choose between them

What the difference between a bedstead and a divan?
(Image credit: Greg Rivers on Unsplash)

So you've found your ideal mattress. But what kind of base should you buy to support it? In this article, we’ll outline your main options, and explain how to choose between them and find the best bed base for your needs.

The two main types of bed bases are divan bases and bedsteads. We’ll start by looking at each in turn. Meanwhile, if you're buying your mattress separately, check out our selection of the best mattresses (or if you're bargain hunting, head to our roundup of the best cheap mattress deals live now).

What is a divan?

TheraPur Divan Base

The TheraPur Divan Base is available in a range of colours in soft touch fabric

(Image credit: TheraPur)

Divans are wooden boxes encased in fabric. They may be just one box for a single bed, or two that join together for a double or larger bed. You usually have the option of adding castors so you can wheel them about with ease. 

There are two main types of divan: platform top and spring top. A platform top divan base has a hard wooden top and thus is normally the cheaper option. It can also a better choice for people who suffer back pain and require a firmer feel (although the main consideration, of course, will be the mattress that lies above it). 

The spring top, or sprung edge divan base features a top layer of springs (either open coil or pocket springs), which offers a softer sleeping experience. This is normally the more luxurious and expensive option of the two. 

What is a bedstead?

DreamCloud’s Bed Frame With Headboard

DreamCloud’s stylish bedstead features an upholstered, button-tufted headboard and metal frame with real wood slats

(Image credit: DreamCloud)

Bedsteads aka bed frames, are the classic kind of bed base. As the name suggests they are frames designed to support a mattress and may be constructed from wood, metal and/or other materials. 

They’re made up of several parts, usually including a headboard, footboard, side rails and slats, which you may have to put together yourself. This type of bed base is often a more decorative option than a divan, and there’s huge range of styles available, from a traditional pine, to leather clad, to fairytale four-posters, and beyond.

The pros and cons of a divan

Silentnight Divan Base

The Silentnight Divan Base is available with zero, two or four drawers

(Image credit: Silentnight)

There are many reasons to choose a divan over a bedstead. One is that most divans offer internal storage, either the form of pull-out drawers or as a lift-up ottoman. This can help keep your bedroom tidy and make it easy to find an extra blanket or pillow in the night when you need one.

Divans are also more compact than bedsteads, and have more geometric proportions, so they help you to maximise the available space in your bedroom. Plus they’re more customisable, so you can choose the exact headboard you want to add to your bed (or not), depending on your aesthetic vision. 

Their simple shape makes them very easy to move, transport and assemble, which is handy when you’re moving house or decorating your room. Finally, they’re also generally cheaper than bedsteads.

On the negative side, you will have to move the whole bed when you want to vacuum beneath it, and if the drawers are full of stuff that might not always be easy. Conversely, be aware that some of the cheapest models don’t actually offer storage at all: they’re just a box and that’s it.

The pros and cons of a bedstead

Sleep Design Canterbury 5ft Kingsize Brass Metal Bed Frame

This Canterbury 5ft kingsize brass finish metal bed frame from Sleep Design offers a touch of glamour and elegance

(Image credit: Sleep Design)

The main reason people usually choose bedsteads over divans is for their looks, as a visible frame is much more ornate and attractive than a plain box, however nicely covered. Plus the huge variety of styles available mean that you’re sure to find one that suits you. 

While bedsteads generally take up more room, because you can see between the gaps of the frame, they do often give the illusion of having more space in your room. A bedstead with open sides also encourages the circulation of air, which helps to reduce overheating on warm night, and is better for people who suffer from allergies.

There are other specific reasons you might prefer a bed frame. If you have narrow passageways, doors and/or staircases, you might find it difficult to get the two halves of a divan base into your bedroom. In contrast, a bedstead can be disassembled, making it easier to squeeze into small spaces. The use of slats provides more cushioned support, which some people prefer to the firmer support of a divan. And you can store things in a more visible way underneath your bed, rather than being hidden away in the drawers of a divan. 

On the negative side, some bedsteads are generally more expensive than divans. Assembling a bedstead can be hard work, and once you've done so, they’re more difficult to move around the room than divans. Finally, storing items under your bed can end up looking messy and chaotic if you don’t stay disciplined.

Tom May
Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and author of the book, Great Ted Talks: Creativity. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.