When deciding on the size of bed that is best for you, many people focus exclusively on one aspect, but numerous factors are important to consider.
In the past, California King beds were uncommon, especially if you were not near the west coast. At that time, everything associated with a California King cost more than a traditional or Eastern King. Now that the popularity of the California King has spread, pricing of the beds and sheets is in line with the prices of a King bed.
The sheet selection has expanded greatly; they no longer come with an upcharge of up to 30%. Although not every retailer that sells King sheet sets offers California King sets, about 90% offer both sizes.
How Big are King and California King beds?
A King mattress measures 76 x 80 which equals 6,080 square inches on top of the mattress.
A California King mattress measures 72 x 84 which equals 6,048 square inches on top of the mattress.
Which one is better Cal King or King?
Several factors determine which size is best for a specific person including preferred sleeping positions, height, room size, and prices.
Your sleeping position makes a difference in which size is best for you. If you sleep cuddled up with your partner, you may not need the width of a King-sized bed. You may even find that you’re further from the edge than you’d prefer to be when you sleep in the middle.
If you and your sleeping partner prefer having plenty of your own space, a King mattress provides more room to spread out.
If you allow your child to sleep in your bed, a King provides more room than a California King which might help you sleep better in a crowded bed.
If you sleep with your sister, a King may be better because it gives you both room to spread out.
If you sleep with your pet, a California King provides room for them to sleep at the foot of the bed so you can get up without disturbing them and you don’t have to worry about rolling onto them when you’re engaged in intimate activities.
A King-sized mattress can be helpful when you go to bed angry with your spouse. Instead of one of you moving to an uncomfortable couch, you can share the bed without touching and continue showing your disdain for their stance on whatever it is you’re arguing about. This is better for pillow talk that can resolve the issue keeping you apart. You can manage it in a California King as long as the mattress has good edge support.
If you’re tall, California King is usually better so you can stretch your legs out all the way without hanging over the end of the mattress.
Room Shape and Size
Most master bedrooms in newer homes have plenty of room for either king size. Apartments and older homes may have smaller rooms. You’ll want a minimum of the following room sizes for a king bed:
King 12’ x 12’
California King 13’ x 12’
You should also consider narrow stairwells when deciding if a mattress will work. A split King (two twin xl mattresses together) will work in hallways where a King is too large.
The size and shape of the room your bed will be used in will influence the utility of the room with the bed in place. For example, in this small King sized room, the King bed leaves room for a dresser between the foot of the bed and the wall but it is a tight fit and could result in the husband stubbing his toes on it if he gets up in the dark and has to navigate between the dresser and the bed. It also doesn’t leave much room between the wife’s side and the wall for a dresser, especially if there is a night table on the side of the bed. The California King bed leaves a more convenient space for a dresser on the same wall as the room’s doorway.
In larger rooms, such as this 12 x 20 master bedroom, the difference is that there is plenty of room at the foot of the King-sized bed for a loveseat while the California King only leaves room for a bench or a dresser between the bed and the wall.
In this 12 x 16 bedroom, placing the bed against the far wall leaves room for a dresser and a loveseat or highboy without overcrowding the bedroom.
In this smaller, 12 x 12 room, the California King leaves room for a small dresser against the far wall while the King-sized bed makes the walls on either side of the bed too tight to comfortably allow for a dresser. In this configuration, a pedestal with drawers could replace a standalone dresser to add storage space.
Consider not only the size of room you currently have, but also the size of rooms you may have in the future, especially if you’re currently renting. You may also want to consider your future partner if you’re buying a bedroom set. If, for example, a single woman prefers tall men and she is buying a bedroom set she hopes to enjoy for many years, she might want to choose a California King and reduce the likelihood that she’ll have to buy a new set to accommodate a future mate.
It was once normal for California King sheet prices to be as much as 1/3 higher than King sheets. A review of twenty sheet sets found small differences, such as $1 – $3, higher differences were a maximum of $19. We also saw examples where the price for both sizes was the same, including the Luxor luxury brand and in one case, the California King was offered for $10 less than the King-sized.
Based on our review, California King and King sheets are easy to find in a variety of colors, fabrics, and their prices are so close that the differences are no longer an important factor in the decision of which size bed to purchase.
Blankets, quilts, and comforters usually don’t differentiate between King and California King sizes.
King blanket sizes are typically between 102” – 108” on one side and 90” – 96” on the other side. These sizes are more than adequate for both California King and King-sized beds. Weighted blankets tend to be smaller, ranging between 80” x 87” and 88” x 104” for king sized versions. However, these sizes are large enough to cover the surface of both size beds.
Since the same blankets can be used effectively on either bed, there are no differences to consider when it comes to blankets.
At one time, California King beds were always more expensive than King-sized versions of the same bed. First, I looked at a high end AICO Michael Amini Bed. The current price was the same for both the King and California King size.
Then I checked out Overstock’s pricing which seemed to depend on the available quantity. Some beds were more costly in the King-size, others were more expensive in the California King, and some were the same price for either size.
At Macy’s, the prices were the same for both sizes. After checking several additional sites, it is apparent that prices can go either way, with King-sized or California King the same, more, or less than the other. Once again, price is no longer an issue when it comes to choosing which bed size you prefer.
Given its smaller size, you would expect the California King to cost less but that is seldom the case. As recently as 2006, a California King mattress was as much as $400 more than the same mattress in King-sized. It didn’t make sense because the King is slightly larger overall than the California King, but it had been that way for decades.
We were pleased to see that that difference has all but disappeared. We looked at the Awara mattress, Nectar, Amerisleep, and Dreamcloud and found that the California King and King-sized mattresses were available at the same price.
As far back as 1947, when phone numbers only had 5 digits, a King-sized mattress meant a mattress measuring 6’ x 7’ in Southern California. Larger homes in California where homes tended to have more land, may have fueled the popularity of the bigger beds. It was called a California King to differentiate it from the Eastern King.
Another important factor was better nutrition. Better nutrition led to taller men and women and, eventually, wider men and women who wouldn’t be comfortable in a bed that only provided the width a crib mattress provides to an infant which is what a full-size affords two sleepers.
Outside California, the King size, which is the width of two Twin XL mattresses was embraced. Older homes in the east often had narrow stairways and a split king box spring could fit.
Now that your sheets, blankets, and mattress are more likely to be ordered online, the California King’s popularity is common across the country. The width of a King is more than most couples need.
In the early 1960s, the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers led campaigns supported by the steel and cotton industries that included “Measure your bed” followed by “Buy Bigger, Sleep Better” campaigns that may be why many people mistakenly believe that King sizes were introduced in the 1960s. According to industry publications, king-sized beds shot up from being less than 1% of the total bedding sales in the US in 1953 to 10% of sales by 1962.
At the time, bedding sizes weren’t standardized across the industry. Much like bunk sizes in today’s RVs, the name for the size didn’t describe the measurements. The Association encouraged mattress manufacturers to standardize the sizes which led to queen mattresses being defined as 60 x 80 and everything larger as a King. They argued that both the King and the California King had their places. We agree.
At the end of WWII, most couples slept in twin beds, as portrayed on early television shows such as the Mary Tyler Moore show. Some slept in full-sized beds, but Queen and King-sized mattresses weren’t readily available. The King sizes were introduced during this era and one has to wonder if the nightmares returning soldiers experienced from their time in the trenches didn’t contribute to couples wanting more room in their beds.
A queen bed leaves each person with 8” less space than they would have in a twin bed. More width means you’re less likely to disturb your partner’s sleep when you roll over or have a nightmare. A larger bed also provides a wider surface for maneuvering during intimate moments when you may not want to think about sliding off the edge of the bed.