The ancient Germans lay on the floor on beds of leaves covered with skins, or in a kind of shallow chest filled with leaves and moss. In the early Middle Ages they laid carpets on the floor or on a bench against the wall, placed upon them mattresses stuffed with feathers, wool or hair, and used skins as a covering. In the 13th century luxury increased, and bedsteads were made of wood much decorated with inlaid, carved and painted ornament. They also used folding beds, which served as couches by day and had cushions covered with silk laid upon leather. At night a linen sheet was spread and pillows placed, while silk-covered skins served as coverlets. Curtains were hung from the ceiling or from an iron arm projecting from the wall. The Carolingian manuscripts show metal bedsteads much higher at the head than at the feet, and this shape continued in use until the 13th century in France, many cushions being added to raise the body to a sloping position. In the 12th-century manuscripts the bedsteads appear much richer, with inlays, carving and painting, and with embroidered coverlets and mattresses in harmony. Curtains were hung above the bed, and a small hanging lamp is often shown. In the 14th century the woodwork became of less importance, being generally entirely covered by hangings of rich materials. Silk, velvet and even cloth of gold were much used. Inventories from the beginning of the 14th century give details of these hangings lined with fur and richly embroidered. Then it was that the tester bed made its first appearance, the tester being slung from the ceiling or fastened to the walls, a form which developed later into a room within a room, shut in by double curtains, sometimes even so as to exclude all drafts. The space between bed and wall was called the ruelle, and very intimate friends were received there.
In the 15th century beds became very large, reaching to 7 or 8 feet by 6 or 7 feet. The mattresses were often filled with pea-shucks, straw or feathers. At this time great personages were in the habit of carrying most of their property about with them, including beds and bed-hangings, and for this reason the bedsteads were for the most part mere frameworks to be covered up; but about the beginning of the 16th century bedsteads were made lighter and more decorative, since the lords remained in the same place for longer periods.