For the best part of a century, twin beds were not only seen as acceptable but were actually championed as the sign of a modern and forward-thinking couple.

But what lay behind this innovation? And why did so many married couples ultimately abandon the twin bed?

Lancaster University academic Professor Hilary Hinds offers a fascinating insight into the combination of beliefs and practices that made twin beds an ideal sleeping solution.

"A Cultural History of Twin Beds," funded by the Wellcome Trust, challenges ingrained assumptions about intimacy, sexuality, domesticity and hygiene by tracing the rise and fall of twin beds as a popular sleeping arrangement for married couples between 1870 and 1970.


Her key findings reveal that twin beds:

  • Were initially adopted as a health precaution in the late nineteenth century to stop couples passing on germs through exhaled breath.
  • Were seen, by the 1920s, as a desirable, modern and fashionable choice, particularly among the middle classes. 
  • Featured as integral elements of the architectural and design visions of avant-garde Modernists such as Le Corbusier, Peter Behrens and Wells Coates.
  • Were (in the early decades of the 20th century) indicative of forward-thinking married couples, balancing nocturnal 'togetherness' with a continuing commitment to separateness and autonomy. 
  • Never entirely replaced double beds in the households of middle-class couples but, by the 1930s and 1940s, were sufficiently commonplace to be unremarkable.
  • Enjoyed a century-long moment of prominence in British society and, as such, are invaluable indicators of social customs and cultural values relating to health, modernity and marriage.

The backlash against twin beds as indicative of a distant or failing marriage partnership intensified in the 1950s and by the late 1960s few married couples saw them as a desirable choice for the bedroom.

The trigger for the research came while Professor Hinds was researching interwar fiction written by women, when she chanced upon a reference to twin beds.


More information: 'A Cultural History of Twin Beds' is available as open access through the Bloomsbury Open programme on