defines a bed as: An article of furniture to sleep or rest
on. From the beginning of th
age of enlightenment, man has gone well beyond this simple
definition. The bed has become the most glorious piece of
necessary household furniture in history. There have been
so many elaboration's of the same basic components that it
would make quite a list of designs. Every culture claims at
least one rendition of the "Bed" to be its own. Through the
years, I have had the extreme pleasure of building many different
bed concepts for both lodging establishments, and individuals
around the country. At some point along the way, I decided
to blend some of the best features of several bed styles into
English "poster bed" features four tall corners that are
either turned, tapered, or in some cases, kept square. Sometimes
in these beds the top is resolved as a canopy that is held
up by the four corners. On the other hand, the provincial
style bed features the use of curves in the head and foot
boards as well as in the skirting. Both of these disciplines
will often times incorporate the use of draperies that make
the sleeping spaces very private. Where Provincial styled
pieces are not necessarily elegant, they do have style.
The English renditions are courtly by design, and offer
a lot to choose from when looking for features to elaborate
upon for a new design. My "elegant poster bed" borrows a
little from both of these styles, and at the same time has
many amenities of it's own. This bed is quite simple to
build, and would be an admirable addition to any home.
bed that was decided upon for the purpose of this article
was built for a standard queen sized box spring and mattress.
The length and width of the bed are a specific set of dimensions,
but the height, of course is optional. I decided upon 84"
high which works good in just about any room. Keep in mind
that the cutting list, and dimensions given in this article
may change according to the mattress size, and height that
are chosen. This bed was built of nominal size, (already
surfaced), 4/4 Alder which can be purchased by the board
ft., (random width and length), or pre-dimensioned at the
mill. Any specie can be substituted according to shop capabilities,
material availability, or personal taste.
with any building project we will start with the foundation.
The core of the sleeper base is built as a rectangular plywood
frame with ribs (figure 1). I rip one plywood or composition
3/4" x 4' x 8' panel into six strips that are 7 7/8" wide
by 8' long. This formula allows 1/8" for each saw kerf which
means there will be no remnants or waste. This cutting procedure
will yield enough material to make a base that is 75 1/4"
by 44 1/2". After this has been built a three sided mitered
layer of 3/4" finished plywood is added onto the butt-jointed
base to eliminate any unsightly plywood edges, or screw
heads. The dimensions of the sleeper base will be 7 7/8"
high x 46" wide x 76" long when completed.. This fully assembled
base will support the plywood bottom panels, (two - 3/4"
x 30 3/4"W x 87"L), and leave 8" of overhang on the two
long sides, and the front (figure 2). Incidentally, the
two remnants from the full sheets used for the bottom panels
can be cut down for the outside finished plywood layer of
the sleeper base.
the base has been completed, focus can be turned to the
four corner columns. These columns serve as the structuring
from which all else is suspended. For these parts you should
start with some relatively flat, and straight pieces of
13/16" thick material, (if nominally size hardwood is used).
Cut four pieces that are 5"W. x 83 1/4"L, and four pieces
which are 5 13/16"W. x 83 1/4L.". These eight pieces will
go together in a butt-joint fashion (figure 3) to make the
four corner columns which will later be routed with a traditional
shape to minimize the glue seam.
the parts have been cut, they should be laid out in order
on the bench, and marked for biscuit or dowel jointing (figure
4). The upper outside edges of the columns will have a scrolled
detail which begins 5" down from the top. Because this shape
is typical on both sides of the individual columns, I usually
will cut the detail on one of the smaller parts, (before
assembly), and then use this piece as a template for the
seven remaining parts. This way I am assured that the detail
will be perfectly aligned on all four of the columns (figure
5). A flat bench, or counter top serves as a good strong
back while gluing. Make sure that you use a framing square
on the inside while clamping (figure 6). To correct any
tilting that may occur, just adjust the individual clamp
angle while tightening that area of the post. If this is
done while working from one end to the other, the entire
post will dry square.
the columns have been fabricated, the indent notches can
be cut into all four corners of the plywood platform (figure
7). Note that this is an area of the plywood which overhangs
the sleeper base. The corner columns start at the floor,
and give an independent support to the bed frame which is
separate from the sleeper base. Attached to the plywood
edges with 2" counter sunk screws,
the columns are "tacked" in place while the rest of the
parts are being cut and fit (figure 8). The screw heads
in this area are ultimately covered by either the bottom
plinth blocks, or one of the bottom perimeter trim pieces.
On final installation a hardwood corner block will be attached
to the underside of the notched plywood where it meets the
the next step, the upper skirt boards are fit to the top
of the corner columns. These four perimeter boards have
a many fold purpose. Primarily used to square, and strengthen
the top portion of the bed, they are also a means of tying
the posts together in an aesthetic way. The skirt boards
also serve to support the top canopy frame. At the widest
area of detail the skirt boards are all 6 3/4" wide. The
scroll pattern is a little different according to the two
different lengths, but both patterns begin at 5" wide on
the ends. When designing a pattern of your own, try using
the same approach of drawing, and cutting one quadrant,
and using it as your template for the rest of the parts.
all four boards have been scrolled, and edge sanded, (ready
for routing), the ends can be prepared for biscuit, or dowel
jointing. At this point, the two shorter skirts on the ends,
or width of the bed, can be permanently glued to the corner
columns. The back of the bed which will ultimately become
the headboard, has the top skirt board only to be glued
into place. This can be done by simply separating the two
columns at the top, (which are attached to the plywood base),
just enough to fit the glued board, and its biscuits or
dowels. The front, or foot of the bed, will have two "rails"
to contend with (figure 9). The bottom skirt, which is the
same length as the top skirt, (50 3/4"), is cut 6 1/2" wide.
Because this skirt rests on the plywood bottom between the
two columns, one of the columns will have to be removed
temporarily during the gluing process. The idea here is
that when all is said and done, these assemblies at each
end of the bed will become two completed sections which
can be removed for transporting, and installation purposes.
the two ends of the bed glued, and in place, the top skirt
boards can be fitted. These boards will be approximately
75 1/2" long for this size mattress, but it is a good idea
to measure the distance at the bottom between the posts
just above the plywood, and then cut the top skirts accordingly.
These boards are not glued into place because they must
be removable for transportation. While the clamps are holding
the biscuited, or doweled boards in place, a diagonal screw
is driven in each corner into the posts. The clamps can
then be removed without fear of the boards coming loose.
Now the main structure of the bed is complete.
point we move back to the headboard end of the bed. Remember,
this end has only the top board glued in place, and is tacked
to the plywood at the bottom. A frame can now be built on
the inside of the columns which not only completes the structure,
but is also used to nail the headboard pieces (figure 11).
The height of this back panel is approximately 35" from
the plywood deck. About 20" of that will be covered by the
mattress at the bottom so it is a matter of opinion whether
the finished panel should continue all the way down to the
top of the plywood. I do run mine all of the way down. For
this size mattress width, you will need twelve pieces 5
1/16" wide to complete the panel. For this bed I used a
V-groove and bead treatment where the boards come together
on the edges. I also used a simple pre-stained, loose spline
system so you will never see daylight if the boards expand,
and contract. I always lay the boards out on the bench first
to achieve the exact size that I need before they are installed
(figure 12). Depending upon your equipment, or taste, you
may elect to use another type of headboard treatment such
as a frame, and beveled panel for your bed. I have made
them many different ways, and they all look good.
the headboard complete, it is time to focus on the top frame
and crown skirt. The top frame is made of four pieces that
are 13/16 thick, and 5 3/4" W. This formula allows for about
2 1/2" of overhang on the sides, and front, and still leaves
room to screw the frame down to the top skirts and posts.
For this size bed, the boards are cut to 89 5/8"L, and 56"L.
A simple butt joint with biscuits, or dowels is used for
this frame. Once the boards are ready, the frame can be
clamped and glued together right on top of the bed (figure
13). This will save floor space etc.
crown skirt pieces which occurs under the top frame is applied
during the final installation. This piece will run on the
two sides and front only. These pieces which are 13/16"
X 2 1/4" wide should be edge shaped with a shaper or router.
They are then mitered on the ends where the pieces meet,
(figure 14), and kept square in the back where the bed will
go against the wall. I attach this piece with screws from
the back so that it can be removed if the bed ever has to
be relocated. You may elect to use a different type of crown
skirt, again depending upon your capabilities, and taste.
Remember the piece is a mix of both French provincial, and
English so there is a lot of play in the area of design.
are two side bottom retainer boards which also go on during
the final installation (figure 15). I put a heavy bull nose
on the edges of all three retainer boards due to their precarious
positioning. The front retainer board, which is an important
part of the end frame, is already in place.
all that is left on our bed is the garnishing. I like the
use of boots, or plinths, (also shown in figure 15), on
all four corners of the bed. The headboard section only
requires plinths on each side, but the fronts should have
a two piece mitered plinth which encompasses the whole corner.
These blocks not only cover the screws which hold the columns
to the plywood bottom, but also serve to protect the column
where it meets the floor. All of the plinths should be screwed
on from the back so that they can be easily removed. There
is also a plywood edge on three sides which has to be covered.
For this I use a simple molding which is 1/2" X 13/16".
This piece can be made from some of the downfall edges of
the solid stock. A simple traditional shape should be routed
on both of the edges on this piece.
there you have it! A complete project for all to admire.
The best part is that there is no hardware to contend with.
Regarding the finish, I like to use several coats of oil
base stain, and then paste wax. I personally shy from synthetic
finishes because they tend to mark easily, and a lot of
them will yellow in time. With a paste wax finish, the piece
can be rejuvenated easily, and it always has a nice sheen.
Remember, if you have any questions regarding this project,
or any other, please feel free to contact
me at my web site or feel free to phone me at my studio:
(360) 379-0540. I hope that you enjoyed the project.