The brief was to create a bed that looked as if it had come straight out of an expensive boutique hotel. However it had to be practical too, with as much concealed storage as possible
Our customer had found several desirable beds on the internet. She liked aspects of each one but none in its entirety, and wanted me to produce an amalgam, taking the best of each design and melding it into one.
The first step was to check what sort of mattress would be fitted in the bed – in this case a Tempur foam mattress, so we didn’t need to worry about a sprung base. As about half the depth of the mattress would be housed within the bed base, I took careful measurements of the mattress so I could create a good but not too tight fit.
The second step was the under-bed storage; good drawers at the foot end and doors at the head was the brief. There’s not much point putting expensive drawers at the head end when a bedside cabinet would prevent them from opening, so we decided on a pair of doors to each side so that one door could open in front of the bedside cabinet and the other would then only be opened when absolutely necessary.
For the bottom drawers we would use full-extension undermounted runners. The third step was to decide on a headboard. Ideally she wanted it to be integrated into the bed structure so it would be firm and secure. She wanted some padding but not a fully padded cover, so I decided to go with three smaller panels.
Lastly, the room was quite small, so I suggested that the base should be set back behind the edge of the mattress. This would help to create the effect of the mattress floating above the base; on a more practical note, it would also help to prevent any chance of a stubbed toe!
Starting the build
I decided to use a mix of plywood and mdf for the main construction and melamine-faced mdf for the drawers. A bed like this is going to be heavy (and I mean really heavy), so it was designed to be made up from several individual parts and then assembled on site.
The two base pods are largely identical, and I started out by cutting their parts out from 18mm mdf. The top panels have a 30mm strip of mdf glued to each short edge, photo 1. This will stiffen the top and provide something for the drawers and doors to close against. It will also create some clearance between the doors and drawers and the mattress housing.
The next step was to mark out the bed parts for biscuit location and then to cut the slots. Each base has a vertical divider to add strength and rigidity to the base, photo 2. With a project like this, with a lot of similar parts, it’s vital to mark out the location and orientation of each joint before assembling the pods, photo 3.
The mattress housing
The two bed rails were made from 18mm ply for strength. I screwed and glued a length of 50mm sq softwood onto these, and added a similar piece of softwood to the foot rail. I then screwed two stretchers to the underside of the softwood rails, photo 4, using M6 bolts and captive nuts so they could be easily disassembled.
To make extra strong corner joints at the bottom of the bed, I glued and screwed two large triangular pieces of 18mm ply to the foot rail, and then temporarily fixed this triangular brace to the side rails, again with M6 bolts and captive screws, photo 5. Once this was placed onto the two base pods, photo 6, the project was starting to look like a bed.
Preparing the bed slats
The next job was to cut lengths of softwood for the bed slats and loosely rest them in place. Some mattresses benefit from a sprung slat base; you can buy an inexpensive set of curved beech slats from IKEA, but our mattress didn’t need this.
To add some additional support for when someone sits at the end of the bed, I fitted a double-width slat here, photo 7. I then spaced out the remaining slats evenly along the length of the bed, cut a number of small spacer blocks to be a loose fit between them and glued the blocks to the side rails, photo 8.
It was essential not to get any glue on the slats themselves! To further stiffen the mattress housing, I drilled three slats (including the wider bottom one) for M6 bolts and captive nuts so that they could be fixed in place when the bed is finally assembled. I also fitted countersunk M6 bolts and cross dowels to the bottom corners.
Hiding the plywood
To complete the mattress housing I made up some mdf panels to cover the plywood frame. I used a mitre lock joint to ensure that there would be no rough mdf endgrain visible on the outside face of the bed. The mitres where the sides meet the foot rail were chamfered to create a slight shadow gap. This was primarily to remove the sharp edge created by the mitre. It also has the added advantage that if the joint moves slightly over time, the resulting offset would be a lot less noticeable. At this stage the panels were loosely cramped to the ply housing, photo 9.
Creating the headboard
I started by cutting the headboard shape from a piece of 12mm mdf. Then, using a mitre lock cutter, I made an L-shaped moulding from mdf which I glued and cramped to the top and side edges of the headboard, photo 10.
To simplify fixing the headboard to the bed base, I cut a piece of 12mm mdf to fit across the bottom of the headboard, photo 11. I then glued this in place, photo 12, ensuring that it was flush with the side mouldings. As you can see in photo 13, with the headboard fixed in position, the bed rails are the same (36mm) width as the moulding around the headboard and form a continuous line around the bed.
To fix the headboard to the bed base, I used a pair of D-shaped nuts and M6 bolts at each side of the bed, photo 14.
Adding the padding
Next, I cut three pieces of 12mm mdf to make the headboard panels and temporarily fixed them to the headboard with mdf offcuts as spacers, again using M6 bolts and captive nuts, photo 15. I then removed them, carefully marking the back face of each one with its location and orientation as it was highly unlikely that I’d got the mounting holes in the same place on each panel.
I didn’t think it would look right if the panels were too padded, so I glued three layers of thick cotton curtain interlining (often called ‘bump’) to the front and overlapping the sides, photo 16, before stapling the finish fabric to the back of the panel.
Making up the drawers
To keep the drawers simple I made them from 15mm melamine-faced mdf, photo 17, and jointed the corners with Miller dowels, photo 18.
I’d decided to fit full-extension undermounted runners. As I was fitting false fronts to the drawers, this meant I had to notch out the drawer front to take the locking mechanism, photo 19. Once each drawer was fitted, I could then add its mdf front panel, photo 20.
The final jobs before painting could begin were to make two pairs of doors for the pod at the headboard end of the bed, and to fit 18mm feet to the bottom of both pods. I used melamine-faced mdf for these, and chamfered the edges to allow the bed to slide more easily over the carpet, photo 21.
The painting took quite a while. I used eggshell throughout – white for the inside of the cupboard, light grey for the mattress housing and headboard and a darker shade for the base. When everything had dried, it was time to dismantle things as far as possible and load up the van ready for delivery to the customer.
Assembling the bed
The two base pods are clamped together before being joined with cabinet connector bolts, photo 22. The ply mattress housing was then assembled and fixed to the base pods, photo 23, before the slats were laid in position, photo 24. The headboard was then fixed to the base and the upholstered panels fitted in place, photo 25.
Finally, the painted mdf cladding panels were screwed to the plywood sides of the mattress base from the inside, photo 26, and the doors and drawers were fitted. All that was left was to fit the door and drawer. Hardware, photo 27, lay the mattress in place and make the bed.