The Story Of A Bed

When Chris and I first got married, we had a double bed. It was the same bed Chris had before I came into the picture, and we decided to try it out to see how long it would work for us. Um, it didn’t. If you can picture this, many nights of our newly married life started with us literally fighting over who was on who’s side of the bed. Because it was August. In Haiti. It was hot, we were cranky and the bed was not big enough. I still clearly remember the day were were in Port au Prince to do some other errands and I asked Chris what was on the list. When he told me he thought maybe we should go buy a bed you would have thought he’d given me some expensive gift. I remember sitting on every queen sized bed in that small mattress depot on Delmas and agreeing on the one that didn’t fold in half when we sat on it. When we got it home and set up we laid on it and it felt so HUGE!

Sadly, the glorious bed wasn’t glorious for very long. It was made here in Haiti, and was what we could afford at the time, but it wasn’t the best mattress, if you know what I mean. over time it started to sag and give me back aches. We decided to try out a memory foam mattress in 2010, which was good until mid way through last year. Memory foam is not good in hot climates because it breaks down faster and doesn’t support like it does when it’s new. We were starting to have back issues again, so we put our old top mattress back on the box spring.

And sleeping hasn’t been good since then.

We’d talked about getting a new bed and tossed around the idea of getting a King size because we both felt cramped. Then we stayed in our friends hotel on Valentines Day and slept on a good bed and realized that when our mattress doesn’t sag in the middle there’s actually a lot of space in the bed! So then it became about finding a good, new, affordable bed. We talked about it as something that would happen “someday” when we’d explored all our options. We knew we didn’t want to get a mattress from the same place as before, well, because that didn’t really turn out well. But, the alternatives weren’t great – either we got another questionable mattress, or we spent an arm and a leg for one here in country.

I had dropped the idea in conversation, but kept thinking about it, until a period of a few backbreaking nights when I just finally told Chris we needed to find a solution. He admitted that he had wanted to get a new bed for my birthday present this year, and had been looking around at options on the sly. He realized that it was something that we really needed to do together, so that morning we talked about options and agreed to look at things and do some sleuthing.

We also agreed that part of the equation for us, both for money savings and for comfort, was to move from having a bed with a box spring to a platform style where we didn’t need one. It was obvious that we wouldn’t be buying a new bed, but that I would build one.

Chris would have been fine with some legs slapped on a platform.

Me? Nope.

If I was going to be building something that I was going to live with for the indefinite future, it was not only going to be practical, but a decent piece of furniture.

I had looked at bed plans a while ago on and knew the general style that I wanted. Thankfully because Chris isn’t interested in esthetics he pretty much left the design stuff up to me. His only requests were that it was a bit higher than our old bed, and that there wasn’t a foot board on it. Both things I agreed with. I looked around for inspiration and finally settled on a bed I loved:

pottery barn bed

This is from Pottery Barn, and was actually the inspiration for the Farmhouse Bed on the Ana White site, but the bed on there was too country for me. I decided I wanted to build a very close knock off to the Pottery Barn one because I loved almost everything about it. I even watched the video and fell more in love because of the craftsmanship. I knew my options were to build with pine, not mahogany like the PB bed, but I wanted to get as close as I could with my own tweaks.

For some perspective, I think you should first see our old bed…


It served us well for a long time. The headboard was made from some random wood thing we found around the property that I stained and had Chris attach to the bed frame. Don’t you love the duct tape on the box spring to tightly hold the mattress protector on so Chris didn’t have to deal with allergy stuff? That’s how we roll here…

Sooo, back to the new bed. Ryan and I went and got wood last week and he became my assistant. I challenged myself to go slow with this one and to be very deliberate about doing things (mostly) the right way. As in, when I wanted to cut corners I didn’t let myself. I was SO grateful for Ryan’s help with getting all my cuts done, and once I learned a valuable trick to doing straighter cuts with a skill saw things started to come together better.

It was a big project because unlike most of the bed plans I had looked at, I couldn’t just attach the platform support to the sides of the bed. Chris has acid reflux and the doctor recommended we elevate the head of our bed an inch or so to help with that. In a metal frame that’s easy because it’s designed to move and shift, so if you lift one end the wheels still sit flat. I knew that wouldn’t be the case with a fully assembled wood bed, so I had to essentially build the bed frame, then build a separate platform that would sit on supports inside the frame sides, which would be set at the right levels. You can’t really tell by looking at the bed, but we know the difference.

Another challenge? We live on the second floor, AND we know in the next couple of years we’ll be moving. SO, the bed had to come apart to be assembled in the room, taken apart to move, and then reassembled at the new house.

BUT, I did it.

Yesterday Ryan helped me do the finishing touches on the platform and then the guys moved the bed up and Ryan and I assembled it. For the record, this thing is solid. If I had to guess what the frame weighed, without the platform, I would guess in the range of about 300-400 lbs. The platform is another story. As we were screwing 2×4’s together Ryan commented on the fact that it’s like a little wall, which it is. Instead of having drywall attached it has 3/4 inch plywood, the only thickness they had at the hardware store in St. Marc. To say it’s heavy is an understatement. It took 3 guys to bring it upstairs.

So, here’s the finished product:




I came in the room mid-assembly to find an extra assistant lending a hand.

I came in the room mid-assembly to find an extra assistant lending a hand.

And then he realized Mom was watching, with the camera out!

And then he realized Mom was watching, with the camera out. We call this the “Grandpa smile” because he looks so much like Chris’ dad when he does it. This was also the most helpful Alex was through the entire process…

How did I do?

I used one of my favorite stain colors – Moorish Teak. One coat gives wood this dark espresso type color where you can still see a lot of the grain, and I wanted something more uniform and closer to the darker stain on the PB bed. I did rub it a bit more in some places to give it a bit of an aged look, but an aged look like the thing has been around for a while and been aged by light, not by wear. I finished it with a rub on satin finish polyurethane varnish. That was interesting to work with. I like it a lot. Not a super shiny finish, but durable.

I honestly don’t think that the pictures do it any justice. It’s so much nicer in person!

Yesterday after I got the bed all made up we literally spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on it. And last night we noticed the bed felt way more roomy than before. Same top mattress, but apparently our box spring was horrible and contributing to the bed sag. We had no idea until the mattress was on a flat surface. Chris slept way better last night. I still have back pain but that will be remedied when our new mattress arrives, which will be a whole other post when it arrives (it’s SO cool!!!)

Chris laughed at me last night when I said that I felt more like a grown up now. He thought it was funny since we’ve been grown ups for a while. I just thought that it felt different now that we have a grown up style bed, and not a bed with duct tape on it! :)


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About Leslie

I'm Leslie. Wife. Mother. Missionary. In the day to day my husband and I are responsible for running Clean Water for Haiti, a humanitarian mission that builds and distributes water filters to Haitian families. Living in Haiti full time provides lots of stories, and as I tell my husband, our grandkids probably won't believe most of them. Maybe writing them down will give me some credibility.

13 thoughts on “The Story Of A Bed

  1. you did VERY well Leslie! Hope the new mattress arrives soon and gives you great sleep! After a couple of years on a horrible mattress in our part of the world (the metal springs were actually sticking out) we were able to get a pillow-top queen mattress brought over in a nother person’s container. Best.decision.ever!

    • Every.Single.Night I keep thinking “There’s a new mattress on it’s way, there’s a new mattress on it’s way. Just hang on a little longer.” I’m thinking that it’s going to be such a vast improvement that I’ll want to sleep for a week to catch up on all the lost zzzz’s. I’m feeling like I’m beaten up every morning right now.

  2. Are you sure you don’t want to become a carpenter? That is downright impressive! Absolutely beautiful!!! And since the PB bed was your inspiration you know how much they cost and they are not cheap!! I love it!

    • Thanks! I told Yonese how much the one in the picture cost and she said she looks in magazines and now she’ll know that I can build things for way less money! I told Chris last night that the wood, stain etc was probably about $140 US all together. One of our guys was raking the yard while I was finishing things on the deck downstairs and he said, “Madame Chris, ou fo! Ou bezwen ven sa ou fe!” (For non-Creole speakers, he told me I was “strong” as in good at what I did, and that I should sell what I make). I told him I don’t have time to build things to sell :)

  3. Oh and I completely forgot to comment about your little assistant!! Oh too cute! I think he looks just like Chris! I love that smile!

    • You should have seen him when I was building. He kept stealing my tools and trying to “work”. At one point when I was trying to attach the legs of the footboard he took my clamps and hung them on the long strip of wood that I was using as a shim, stepped back and started clapping and laughing because they were just hanging there – like he was amazing for getting them to stay. It was super funny :) The not funny part is knowing that I probably spent half a day just baby wrangling while I was trying to build… :)

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