Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to upholster a bed....aka how I made a new bed (with some help!)

In January I decided it was time for a new mattress.
It turns out that this (seemingly) simple thought was the 'if you give a mouse a cookie' of decorating. Because I figured if I was getting a new mattress I might as well upgrade from a double to a queen, and if I was getting a queen sized mattress, I would need a new frame and then it all snowballed from there.
So I've spent a few months doing bed frame research. I've never really shopped for furniture before so it was a very new experience. In all my research I came to two conclusions. First, that I didn't want a bed with storage under it. This would be a first for me-my beds have always had drawers underneath. Second, I only liked beds that were way way out of my price range.
It turned out I was most drawn to upholstered frames, but the ones that were a bit more modern and simple and less tufted and nailhead-y. Then this amazing diy upholstered bed I had seen, and pinned and admired, made with an Ikea frame so I looked at that again. I sent it to my papa (master carpenter and my go to expert in all things house and furniture) and asked if he thought it would be a plausible thing for me ( aka us) to do, and he said yes.
However I didn't like the frames I was seeing so again I went to my papa and asked if he could make a super simple frame that would be covered entirely in upholstery (except the legs) and again he said yes. So I did a bunch of measurements and he made a frame, and then I did more measurements and went to the fabric store. I got batting and muslin and after much debate I chose a beautiful midnight blue velvet (I feel like no one who knows me is surprised this is what I picked)


Upholstery day arrived and we disassembled my old bed and brought up the new frame and the headboard. At this point my original plan changed to include a layer of foam on the headboard. Luckily my old double sized foam mattress pad was the perfect size for my new tall queen sized headboard. Using the headboard as a template, we marked the foam to the right size (see charming picture above) and then cut it down with fabric scissors.


Next we covered the foam in a single layer each of batting and muslin, and began stapling them down on the back of the headboard. We started in the middle on each of the four sides and then worked our way out sort of like wrapping a canvas. One of us would hold the fabric tight and the other would staple. I've heard that one of the fancy compressed air staplers are really nice for a project like this (saves the hands from blisters etc) but we were just using a regular hand stapler and it worked fine. We tried to make all the corners pretty neat, but we also figured that everything would be covered by the final layer of the velvet, so we weren't too concerned with the appearance of the back of the headboard, just with making sure the front and edges were uniformly tight and smooth.

You can see in the picture below that we had to get a little creative working around the three brace pieces at the bottom that would later be used to attach the headboard to the frame. We cut the muslin on either side of the brace to fit around it and stapled it tight. Again because this part was going to be covered by velvet, and would be on the back and not showing, we weren't too worried about how it looked.

Then we flipped the headboard around and took a look. We went back and added more staples where we thought it could be a bit tighter to be more even, and then we moved the headboard off to the side. I think it was really nice to do the muslin layer on the headboard first as we could really figure out what worked and refine our methods.


Here you can see the utter chaos that was my room with all the parts of my old bed (a captains bed with giant drawers) stacked on one side to make room for the upholstering, and poor Peggy the dress form looking on with disdain.

After we got the headboard covered with muslin we moved on to the frame itself. Since there was no foam on the sides we decided to do two layers of batting and one layer of muslin. We cut the batting down into long strips that were three inches wider than the side of the bed (so as to wrap around the sides and foot of the bed) and then we ripped the muslin down so that it was an inch wider than the batting (so that there would be no raw batting hanging out). We went around and did a quick staple of the batting just to hold in in place, and then went back over with the muslin first on the top of the frame, and then we flipped it over so that the legs were all up in the air, and pulled the muslin tight and stapled it all down from the bottom. Again we started in the middle of each side and worked our way to the corners. For the corners, we found that cutting out a triangle of excess batting and muslin and then folding them sort of like wrapping a package we were able to get a pretty clean corner so that it was padded but still sharp and corner-y.

You can see above a finished corner above, and below, the frame with the batting and muslin layer complete.
With the first step done, and a bit more confident in our upholstery teamwork abilities, it was time to break out the velvet. First we laid out the fabric to see where the grain was (velvet has a grain or nap to it and I wanted to make sure that it was going the same direction across the whole frame) We marked and cut the large piece for the headboard and set it aside. We decided that we would do the two sides of the bed first, and then the foot of the bed last. We ripped the velvet down into three strips the same width as the muslin and we started stapling. We did both sides of the bed with the frame up, then we flipped it over and finished the bottom. Like with the muslin layer we started in the middle and worked our way out. And because of the muslin layer, the velvet went on smooth and easy. We didn't have to pull on it very much before stapling because the muslin was already tight as a drum and provided a perfect clean base layer for the velvet to go over. It also meant any lumps from the batting were already smoothed out.

After we had stapled all the velvet on the two sides and the foot of the bed, we went back over and checked to make sure everything was smooth and all the staples were holding. We had to switch to longer staples in the corners because there were so many folded layers of batting, muslin and velvet, and we actually went back with a hammer as well to make sure they were really going all the way through the layers.

Then we flipped the bed back over and fit all the slats in. The slats were cut from a sheet of birch plywood and went across the width of the bed. We screwed them into the both sides and the middle support bar as we went so that it would all be extra sturdy. Then we lifted the frame up and leaned it against the wall to get it out of the way so that we would have room to do the final layer of velvet on the headboard.

The velvet on the headboard was done just like the frame of the bed, And just like the frame, the muslin provided a clean base which made adding the velvet super easy. We went slowly and made sure everything was tight and even, and all the corners were clean and looked perfect from the front, but was pretty quick to finish. Here too we stuck with out method of stapling first in the middle of each side, and then working our way towards the corners evenly. We finished the corners sort of like you would fold hospital style sheet corners, which made a crisp edge and a nice looking corner when viewed from the front. We checked from the front as we worked to make sure we didn't need to add any staples, and we went over all the corners to make sure everything was holding through all the layers.


Then it was just a matter of screwing the headboard to the back of the bed frame, vacuuming up all manner of velvet bits and batting fluff and sawdust, laying down the rug pad and rug (it would have been a lot harder to do this after the mattress was on and the bed was all made up) and then adding the mattress and making the bed.



There's still a bit to do for the bedroom to be finished (some sort of bedside table, artwork, sorting out what I want the bedding to be like) and I am actually more of a loose duvet kind of bed maker, but for the sake of seeing all of the beautiful frame I tucked everything in all tight. And that's about it.

Now for the time and cost breakdown. My papa made the frame so I'm including the cost of his materials here, but I do feel like this could be done to any wood frame bed with slats, even something from Ikea, and it's pretty easy to have a piece of plywood cut down at Home Depot or Lowes for a headboard. The batting, muslin and gorgeous velvet were all from Fabric Outlet in the mission and I can't recommend them high enough, in fact I never go anywhere else for fabric. I got six yards each of batting, muslin and velvet however I had a bunch leftover. I probably could have gotten away with five yards, or five and a quarter but I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of extra so I rounded up. The foam for the headboard was a 'memory foam mattress pad' that I bought for cheap on Amazon. I imagine I could have used a twin size an it would have been wide enough, however I happened to have this double size one from my old bed and just cut it down to fit. We used approximately one box of staples and it took the two of us under five hours (including a break for tacos) to do the whole thing so we were able to complete it in one day.

frame............................................... $130
batting .............................................$14


Actually we did this a few weeks ago and I wanted to spend a bit of time with it first to make sure it had all worked out. You know, just in case the bottom fell out of the middle of the bed, or all the fabric fell off or something equally drastic. Over the last two weeks I have been sleeping better than I have in years, and I have to think it's due mostly to a more comfortable sleeping situation.
Oh also the mattress was from Tuft & Needle, they ship a made in the USA mattress to your door, and you take it out of the box and watch it expand when you remove the plastic. It's lots of fun (like a deflating inner tube or something but in reverse) and very comfortable. I got it partly because they have a generous return policy but I have no intention of returning now because it has turned out to be great mattress and I am very happy I tried it out.
So that's about it. If you have any questions I would love to answer them. I tried to be as clear as possible here but honestly I feel like it sounds more intimidating and or confusing written out than it is in person. In person, it's just like wrapping some odd shaped packages. I will say that I think it's much easier to do with two people than one, though I'm sure that it's totally doable working solo. It made for a great joint project. I also have to say that I am eternally grateful to the most handy papa ever for helping me make my dream bed a total reality. I think this project is even more special to me because I got to collaborate with him to create something one of a kind.
And now, time for a nap!

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