September 2020

Mattress & bed bases explained

Finding the right mattress or bed base can be tricky. You may have found your dream mattress and then there's the last decision to make. Which bed base should I get to go with my new mattress? Then you realise this decision feels almost as complicated as the mattress selection. This is our guide to help you cut to the chase with your mattress base!

Updated 2020: Once you have established the differences between the mattress base types and what base will suit you it should be relatively straightforward. By knowing what mattress and what type of comfort you’re going for you’ll be able to find the perfect mattress base.

John Ryan Fusion 4 Mattress 1
Drawers on a divan base can provide extra storage for your bedroom.

Types of Mattress & Bed Base

There are 4 types of mattress & bed base. Each bed base has a specific purpose, price point, and benefit. It’s important to know before you start choosing what type of mattress base you require and also what feel you want from the mattress base. There is no getting away from the fact that a cheap base will not last as long as a quality one and will no doubt need tweaking to remove its many drawbacks, such as slats, squeaking and joint movement all of which are covered further on in the article.

Firstly, we do need to quickly address which mattress you are using the base with so you’re not on a wild goose chase.

What Type of Mattress will you use on the Bed Base?

The first thing you need to know before diving into the hundreds if not thousands of bed base options is to fully understand the mattress you are using the base with. There are some fundamental rules you will need to apply. Nearly all mattresses are suitable for all bases but will have vastly different feels, especially if you pair up the wrong style of the base for the feel you want. There are two broad categories of mattresses for bed bases. These are traditional pocket sprung mattresses and then Memory Foam, Latex or Hybrid foam mattresses.

Brown Faux Leather Sprung Base Drawers John Ryan

Pocket Sprung Traditional Mattresses:

These mattresses should be two-sided and have a very heavy content weight, therefore, be paired with a sprung edge or platform top divan. This is because these bases are strong and can take the weight, they are also very consistent, unlike slats, making an ideal surface for these mattress styles.

Latex/Memory Foam Mattresses:

These types of foam mattresses are highly mouldable to the pressure on them, ie the sleeper, and the surface they are put on, meaning they need a flat and consistent sleeping surface. They should be paired up with either a platform top divan, ottoman storage base or sometimes an electric base if the mattress is suitable. One point to note when selecting a latex/foam mattress is that the tension and feel of these mattresses are based/graded on using a solid or platform top base. You can pair it with a sprung edge divan but it will soften the feel of the mattress if so.

Any other mid-range or cheap mattress will no doubt come with the cheapest of bases, being a slatted base, be it wooden, metal or plastic. These bases are lightweight and cheap but offer minimal support for all but the cheapest of mattresses. The gaps in the slats can cause the mattress to 'sag' between them causing lumps and bumps. We always recommend that you board over these slatted bases with some cheap plywood or pegboard to give a more consistent base surface. If not the mattress can end up with lumps and bumps as it falls through the slats
We always recommend that you board over these slatted bases with some cheap plywood or pegboard.

Types of Mattress Base

There are 4 main types of mattress base you will be choosing from

  1. Divan Bases
  2. Slatted Bases, Bedsteads & Bed Frames
  3. Ottoman Bed Bases
  4. Electric Bed Bases

1.Divan Bases

Divan bases are probably the most popular of all bed bases and come in a multitude of fabric colour/finish options. Divan bases are made specifically to take the weight of mattresses and provide an even consistent surface for you to sleep on. Quality divans are sturdy, well constructed, robust and will add storage options in the form of drawers. They hide the issue with ‘what is that under the bed?’ as they sit a mere inch or two above the flooring. The drawers configurations enable storage away from prying eyes and they are neat and tidy to look at.

Purple Chenille Sprung Base Drawers John Ryan

A divan is a wooden box(s) that is then covered with wadding/padding and then upholstered in various fabrics. There are then two options for divan bases which relate to whether you want spring in it or for it to be a platform top. They come in one or two parts and take minimal assembly. Once they have been connected and a headboard added, that’s it job done!

John Ryan Fusion 4 Mattress 4

What is the difference between a sprung edge and a platform top base?

A sprung edge divan, as the name suggests, features a spring unit housed within the base which is then upholstered. It’s almost like a mattress for your mattress and helps even out the strain put on mattresses over time. A platform top divan is a solid top, still upholstered, which doesn’t contain springs or any moving parts.

As a rule of thumb if using a standard high-quality pocket sprung mattress, the following bases would give the following feeling:

Sprung edge divans will soften the overall feel of a mattress slightly, being more forgiving.

Platform top divans will provide a slightly firmer sleeping surface.

Sprung Edge Divan Mattress Bases

Sprung edge bases use a frame within the base which springs are then placed into it’s accepted as the best quality of divan base. These springs can either be a bonnell coil, ie continuous spring or a set of pocket springs. The pocket springs are more responsive but are at a higher price point. Whilst we never advocate the use of cage sprung or open coil springs, the exception to this is a sprung base. This is because the base has a solid frame which prevents the bonnell coil or open coil from moving around as much as it does in a mattress.

Also, you’re not sleeping directly on top of it, and hopefully, the mattress above it has deep layers of fillings and a quality pocket spring unit. This spring unit is more than adequate in these scenarios and this is the only exception for where a cage spring unit is accepted in mattress construction.

Sprung edge base internal components

Pocket sprung edge bases are the highest quality bases you can buy in both their construction, components and overall feel. The pocket springs give the same benefits found in high-end mattresses by giving independent support. These pocket springs are then padded and upholstered to create a luxury base. Some people love the feel of a sprung edge base, and all of our Artisan ranges are paired up with sprung edge bases, where a base is required.

Pink Crush Premium Sprung Base 2 John Ryan

Using a sprung edge base on other mattresses will give a softer feel, especially in latex/foam. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some people don’t notice the difference with a sprung edge base as the difference is quite subtle. If money is no object then a sprung edge base is the best you can get, however, some people don’t like the extra sink with a sprung edge base so a platform top maybe a more effective option to give a slightly firmer feel.

There are 1000 pocket springs (kingsize) in our sprung edge John Ryan sprung edge bases

Artisan Sprung Edge Bases

Our Artisan bases feature the following specifications and are all handmade here in the UK.

Artisan Divan Bases
1000 Pocket Springs 1.6 Gauge (Kingsize)
600GSM Cotton Wool rebound upholstery on top of the base
Fully upholstered in a range of fabric choices / colours
Black cotton backing on the underside
Solid wood frames. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) approved.
Drawers if chosen are 32″ wide, 20″ deep and 9″ high
Fixings for both Shepherd castors and headboard bolts

Platform Top Divan Bases

A platform top divan uses the same construction method as above but doesn’t include a spring unit. Where the spring unit would be, sits a wooden platform top layer which is then padded and upholstered. It gives a firmer feel base and is cheaper than a sprung edge base given the construction method but still has the multiple drawer options.

Care should be given when buying a base that they are made to a high standard. As with mattresses, not all divans are the same. You can pay £100 up to £3000 in some instances for a divan base. The timber, spring unit and construction method should be stated before you part with your cash. View our product descriptions of our bases in our shop if you want to know the kind of detail you should expect.

Origins Platform Top Base

Our Origins platform top base option is our entry-level base handmade here in the UK. We match this base with our Origins range and it is at a competitive price point to match. We offer them in a variety of fabric covers and drawer options.

Origins Divan Bases
Platform top divan - No springs
Polyester padding beneath upholstery
Fully upholstered in a range of fabric choices / colours
Black stitch bond on the underside
Soft wood frames
Drawers if chosen are 32″ wide, 20″ deep and 9″ high
Fixings for both glidea and headboard bolts

Contemporary Platform Top Base

We pair these Artisan Quality platform top bases with our Fusion latex and Hybrid foam ranges. They feature higher quality components and are a midpoint between the Origins and Artisan range, again they are handmade here in the UK.

Contemporary Divan Bases
Platform top divan - No Springs
600GSM Cotton Wool rebound upholstery
Fully upholstered in a range of fabric choices / colours
Hessian backing underneath
Solid wood frames. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) approved.
Drawers if chosen are 32″ wide, 20″ deep and 9″ high
Fixings for both glides and headboard bolts

2.Slatted Bases, Bedsteads & Bed Frames

Bedstead/Bed frame mattress bases cover a wide variety of bed base styles. They can offer a far greater array of designs and styles when compared to divan bases. They are perfect for interior design enthusiasts and people preferring style over bedroom storage.

They cover everything from wooden, metal, ornate bed frames, sleigh beds, roll top bases, antique brass frames etc. They do however all share one defining feature. They are all frames that the mattress sits on and nearly all use slatted bases. The majority of bedstead bases will have some form of footboard and combined headboard. They are usually multi-piece frames that come with a hundred-page leaflet translated into a dozen languages to tell you which of the three hundred bolts and screws you need to set it up. These types can be intensive in terms of assembly.

They do however provide you with the option to go all out on style with your bed base, that is if you’re not tempted to drown it out in sumptuous soft bedding like the super appealing bedstead below!

Wooden bedstead: notice the use of a trunk to hide the underneath of the frame

Bedsteads are usually more ornate than a divan and come with many style configurations. We would argue that some of them are style over substance and you need to bear in mind whether you want a frame that looks incredible but performs poorly or a frame that’s maybe more subtle stylistically but performs correctly with your mattress. A consideration with bedsteads is what to do to hide all the ‘stuff’ that will inevitably get stored under there!

Metal frames are notorious for being fiddly to put together, squeaky and to have really unsuitable slat configurations which can, over time, damage your mattress.

metal bed frame and slats 2
The thin metal slats should be boarded over to prevent sagging

We have already detailed the issues with slats and how to overcome these in our detailed posts here. We must reiterate that a slatted bedstead still requires boarding for optimal usage. If not sagging and dipping can occur.

What’s the best bed frame?

We’ve talked about the issues with cheaper bed frames and bedsteads that have hundreds of screws or parts to put together. In addition to this most bed frames use slats, which given the expensive of a bedframe, is a really poor support choice.

The best type of bed frame is one that uses a fully upholstered base pad in place of the slats. These do cost more but are a far better investment. An upholstered bed frame and base pad will provide years more support to your mattress and prevent the slats from damaging the mattress or causing an uncomfortable nights sleep.

Gatsby bed frame
Our Gatsby Bed Frame features a winged headboard and deep button detailing.

We have designed a range of bed frames with internal upholstered bed pads which are all hand made here in the UK with luxury upholstery. Click here to view them.

Scandi bed frame by John Ryan By Design
Our Scandi bed frame featured an upholstered bed pad and no slats.
A deco bed frame by john ryan
Our Deco luxury bed frame can bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to your bedroom.
Chesterfield bed base john ryan
For a more traditional bed frame, the Chesterfield is stylish in either a traditional or more modern bedroom setting. Our model is hand made with zero slats, using a more advanced upholstered bed pad instead.

Squeaky bed bases and how to fix them

Bedsteads are notorious for turning squeaky after a period of time. This is especially true in the metal bedframe versions. This is because when the bed is first put together all the screws are tight and the frame is held together securely.

Over time, however, the joints loosen and the bed starts to move slightly. This can then lead to squeaks and creaks during the night which can drive you crazy at 3 am. Every move leads to more noise and disturbance. The only way to stop this is to periodically tighten each screw or to install small rubber washers in every joint when you put the frame together for the first time. Alternatively you'll need to tighten them regularly and on a mass produced bed frame there maybe hundreds of screws to contend with. This is the only way to stop a squeaky bed!
You'll need to periodically tighten each screw or to install small rubber washers in every joint when you put the frame together

3.Ottoman storage bases

Ottoman bases offer you the maximum storage capacity in a bed base with the minimal space required. An ottoman base features a hinged lifting lid that allows you to utilise the storage directly under the mattress. We have a detailed post on Ottoman bed frames, what to look out for and the details of these bases.

They are always platform topped so contain no springs, which is a consideration you need to factor in. However, in small rooms or apartments Ottomans can help free up space and increase storage!

Again, there are many cheap low-quality ottomans out there and you need to keep your wits about you to ensure it can lift your mattress and will last.

What to look for in an Ottoman bed base

The 2 things you need to look out for are:

  1. That the base is made robustly to adequately support the mattress
  2. The gas struts are capable of lifting a heavy mattress – you should find out the Newton rating.

John Ryan Ottoman silver hopsack 6

You need to make sure that whatever ottoman you choose the gas struts and construction materials will support the mattress you are using with it. They can be paired up with the same headboards as divans and have quite a neat, smart appeal to them. One great example of ottomans really showing their versatility is in flats or apartments. Where room size may prohibit the use of drawers. It also means you can use the base for say winter clothes storage, spare bedding or even boxes of bits and bobs!

We also have a detailed article on ottoman bed bases and what to look for when buying one here.Aubergine Crush Premium Ottoman Base 2 John Ryan

4.Electric bed bases

Electric bed bases are relative newcomers to the mattress world with more and more varieties being sold now in retailers.  It’s a very murky world at present with electric beds varying from £1500 – £12,000. They allow you to raise and lower parts of the bed base to put you either in a sitting or inclined position when in bed. Think about reading a newspaper in bed, but without using pillows to prop yourself up, you can push a button and raise the head end of the bed. Smart!

However, you need very specific mattresses and motor requirements depending on what you are using the electric bed for. Electric beds usually are marketed to two distinct customer bases.

  1. Healthbeds for people with special needs
  2. Lifestyle beds for people who want an electric bed for comfort/leisure

The customer who is in need of a health bed will have stringent criteria on the construction method of both the mattress and base because it’s more than likely going to be used for longer periods of time than a lifestyle bed which may be only used for extended periods on the weekend.

Healthbeds require higher levels of certification in terms of mattresses which can be washed or cleaned down to hospital standards. This kind of mattress may also require the bed to pivot and have sidebars which a lifestyle electric bed wouldn’t usually have.

Lifestyle electric beds are usually the more common of the two categories, with companies such as Jensen selling lifestyle electric beds for people who want to be able to recline, sit up or be in a non-horizontal position whilst using the bed.  Jensen products are fantastically made which is reflected in the price.

This again is an area of considerable expertise with many companies out there selling you very expensive and sometimes very crudely made units at the lower end of the market. Electric beds must have the correct motor to lift the weight of the mattress and sleeper, they must also have enough pivot points to be adjusted to a variety of users positions. It’s really a whole post on itself and we will link to this once we have finished our reviews on electric beds.

It needs a mention here in case you want to buy an electric base to go with a mattress. Only certain mattresses will work with electric beds, usually solid core latex. If you used say a heavy traditional mattress on one of these you may find the motors are not strong enough to lift it or the mattress isn’t flexible enough to react the to the movement and you can damage your bed.

Mattress Base Drawer Dimensions

Base TypeDepth of BaseDrawer Dimensions / Internal depth
Platform Top12"32″ wide, 20″ deep and 9″ high (Continental drawers 17.5" wide)
Ottoman15"10" internal depth storage
Artisan Sprung (no drawers12"NA
Artisan Sprung (with drawers)12"32″ wide, 20″ deep and 9″ high (Continental drawers 17.5" wide)

Mattress Base Style vs comfort

This is a completely subjective issue but we feel we must give some view on whether comfort or style is your main priority. If you have struggled with your mattress for some time, have ailments or conditions that trouble you, we would always advise that the comfort route is paramount. Whilst a divan base may not be as intricate as that antique silver bed frame, it’s going to be no use if you’re uncomfortable or it squeaks rattles or disturbs your sleep.

If you’re someone who really values the aesthetic value of your furniture, after all, there is nothing to say something can’t be fantastic quality and beautiful at the same time, we advise you consider what tweaks you may need to make. If it’s the metal bed frame with cut glass bed knobs that you want, then maybe considering putting rubber washers on the screws and joints as you construct it.

A braemar bedframe
Our Braemar bed frame brings a touch of opulence to your bedroom with an upholstered bed frame pad.


Never forget to board over slats to remove the issue with dips and sags. Lastly, make sure that whatever bed frame you choose can take the weight of your mattress and sleepers using it. Any discerning retailer or supplier should be able to give a weight tolerance for the mattress.

The image on the left gives probably the best snapshot difference aesthetically between some entry-level divans and bedsteads, granted they are not the quality we would advocate but it’s probably a sight you’re more used to seeing in high street retailers.

Divans vs bedstead bases
Divans vs Bedsteads in a bed retailer

Bed Base Sizes

Base SizeDimensions
Small Single 2’ 6” x 6’3” (80cm x 190cm)
Single 3′ x 6’3″ (90cm x 190cm)
Small Double 4″ x 6’3 (120cm x 190cm)
Double 4’6″ x 6’3″ (135cm x 190cm)
Continental Double 4’7” x 6’6” (140cm x 200cm)
King 5′ x 6’6″ (150cm x 200cm)
Continental King 5’3″ x 6’6″ (160cm x 200cm)
Extra King 6’0 x 6’3 (182cm x 190cm)
Super King 6′ x 6’6″ (180cm x 200cm)
*These dimensions are covered by a tolerance of up to 2cm. Bases are usually slightly wider and longer than their counterpart mattress.

How are Divan bases split?

John Ryan Fabric Choices

We offer a range of fabric choices as shown below. If you would like samples please get in touch with the office on 0161 437 4419 or [email protected] to have them sent out.

Origins Fabrics

Charcoal ChenilleCharcoal Chenille
Cocktail WalnutCocktail walnut
Cream ChenilleCream chenille Fabric

Artisan / Contemporary / Ottoman Fabrics

Taupe Baize
Ivory ChenilleIvory Chenille
Hazel BrackenHazel Bracken
Flint ChenilleFlint Chenille
Charcoal BrackenCharcoal Bracken
Silver Baize
Midnight Hopsackmidnight hopsack
Green ChenilleGreen Chenille
Purple ChenillePurple Chenille
Brown Faux LeatherBrown Pleather
Aubergine Crush PremiumAubergine Crush Premium
Gold Crush PremiumGold Crush Premium
Pink Crush PremiumPink Crush Premium

When looking for a mattress base our first advice would be to check that the base will give you the desired feel with whichever mattress you are pairing it up with. All of our mattress ranges are paired up with the divan base which gives them their ‘true feel’.

Your budget may dictate the kind of base you choose but it’s important to focus on the fact the base must be consistent and if slatted you may need to consider boarding over the slats. Ottomans can provide huge amounts of storage and drawer options on divans can give you places to store bedding, towels etc. The storage options depending on how much you want to store.

Lastly, it’s not all function over form. The style is very important to modern interiors and how the base will look needs consideration. Bear in mind that sometimes it’s better to focus on how the overall bed will look once dressed. It may be better putting more effort into the design of the headboard than say the sides of the mattress which are covered by a duvet!

Our friendly team can offer expert advice on all aspects of mattress bases, so please call them on 0161 437 4419 if you need more assistance.

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