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For many people, the California king bed conjures ideas of opulence and luxury. This concept was reinforced for decades by pop culture and clever furniture salesmen. The recent rise of oversized beds may make the California king seem quaint in comparison. But the origins of the original big bed teach us a lot about bedroom design and decor trends in the last century.

The Big Myth: The California King is NOT bigger than a standard king size bed

The biggest misconception about the California king is that it’s much larger than a regular king size bed. The two are slightly different shapes, and California kings actually have less surface area.

A regular king mattress is 76” wide and 80” long. By contrast, the California king is 72” wide and 84” long. This means they are narrower, longer, and 32 square inches smaller than a standard king.

Black California King Standard Bed - Blog Cut

Why would you want a California King size bed?

The California king bed serves two distinct purposes compared to the standard king. The first is to better accommodate tall people. Because the bed frame is longer, a particularly tall person has more space to stretch out. Though narrower than the regular king mattress, the California king is still wide. 11 inches wider than a queen bed, in fact. So it still works great for most couples. If you and/or your partner could always use a little more leg room, this might be the perfect bed size for you.

The other benefit is more superficial and directly linked to one of its many origin stories.

Straight Outta Hollywood

There are many accounts that exist about where the California king originated. The most well-documented and plausible also gives the bed it’s sun-soaked moniker.

Sometime in the early 1960s, big, extra-long beds started popping up in Los Angeles. Specifically, they were occupying the bedrooms of celebrities, film executives, and professional athletes. Many of them came from a single ambitious local furniture maker. He noticed that these wealthy individuals were building and buying increasingly larger homes. And of course, they would need bigger beds for their huge houses. It didn’t hurt that these people would be able to afford a high-end sleep experience. This bright businessman named the bed after the luxury lifestyles of his clients. The California King was born.

The California king actually pre-dates the now-standardized king size mattress. Interest in larger bed frames made its way east. But most people weren’t living the lavish lifestyle of the Hollywood elite. Other furniture manufacturers revised the dimensions of their big beds. They needed something that was more practical for more people. Most of them extended the width of the California king to 76” and made the bed shorter. The new “Eastern King” bed frame could now support two twin (or “single”) box spring mattresses. This made finding a mattresses easier and cost effective for the average American. And since most people don’t need the extra length of the California king, the new king size bed caught on quickly. Thus, it became the popular version we all know and love today.

The Best Use of Space

This leads us to what may be the most common reason people still turn to the California king today. It simply looks better in their space. After all, this bed was created to fill mega master bedrooms in over-the-top Hollywood mansions. The long and narrow frame strikes a grand and imposing presence when it’s sitting in a huge bedroom. It’s “eastern” counterpart can look squished and insignificant in an oversized room.

Tall Tales

To this day, many unverified alternative origins for the California king bed exist. The most common of which revolves around a California resident with really long legs. As it goes, he was unhappy with his feet dangling off his bed every night, so he built himself the perfect bed frame. Rumor has it his arms were also particularly small, and he wanted to be able to reach out and touch his wife at night. How this custom bed became a popular item among the rich and famous is missing from the rest of this story.

The unconfirmed origins of the California king bed also lend to its allure. These beds are also commonly referenced in racy romance novels. This adds to their mystique and solidifies them as somehow more alluring than a regular old king bed.

Is a California King the bed for you or your space?

California king beds aren’t just a marketing gimmick. They provide many benefits, including:

  • Accommodating tall people
  • Efficiently utilizing space in narrow or very large bedrooms
  • Providing spacious and comfortable sleep for adult couples

If any of this sounds like it would improve your sleep experience, the California king may be the perfect size for you.

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