How to Convert a Platform Bed for a Box Spring

Remember when I showed you how I built a knock-off West Elm headboard? I promised that I'd show you how we got a new, classy bed frame fo' freezy but then I left you high and dry for 2 months! Alas, life imitates art. I finished building my headboard months before I actually got to enjoy it on the wall (leaning against the wall beside the bed doesn't count). I'd look at it sitting on the floor every morning and think, "Someday you'll get promoted, kid"... its fate was in limbo til I could find the right bed frame.

The frame needed to be modern, on legs, without a headboard or footboard, and it needed to accommodate a boxspring without making the bed 4 feet tall. In case you didn’t guess from the italic-bold-combo, that last one was the kicker. I quickly learned in my search that platform beds (so named because they provide a wooden platform for the mattress to lie on) are now officially “the rage.” Apparently that box-spring that cost me extra was now being deemed by the bed-sellers of the world as redundant. Ugh.  

I love my box spring. They've come a long way from the days of hard metal coils – it's far better at evenly supporting my mattress than any platform, and I sleep easier knowing I'm not invalidating a warranty on a pretty expensive mattress. This trend toward platform beds is problematic for box-spring devotees like myself because we’re forced to either throw out the ‘spring, stay married to the bed skirt, buy a new "low-profile" boxspring or sleep like “Princess & the Pea” 10 feet in the air (obviously hyperbole – my ceilings are only 8 ft). I give you Exhibit A, in which I try on a cheap metal platform bed for size:

Super tall bed when using platform, boxspring, and mattress

Bahaha. Nope. Not pictured is my ceiling fan hanging a mere 3 feet above the bed – I can see the headlines now: "Girl Wakes to Biggest Nightmare, Beheaded by Ceiling Fan." That meant this simple option I liked from West Elm was out of the question – 8" too tall and, even still, the $399 price tag was hard to swallow.

That is, until Eli sent me a Craigslist curb alert for this exact frame. YAHTZEE. That, my friends, is what we call freakish luck, but i-dont-hate-it. I wasn’t gonna spend $400 on a frame that didn’t fit my needs, but I'd happily take it for $Free.99 to try our hand at reconfiguring it. Worst case scenario, we'd totally ruin it and be back to where we started. I was fairly convinced that's exactly what would happen, and I didn't really want photographic evidence if it did, so I was a bad blogger and left the camera in its case. Tsk, tsk. You could say I was pleasantly surprised when it worked, and I'm kicking myself for not taking photos. We've been sleeping on it for 6 months now and are well-rested enough to tell the tale. I think there's a lesson here about doubt and faith and bootstraps – lemme know if you find it. 

All this is to say that I have illustrated the process like an Ikea manual so you too can make amends with your boxspring and stick it to the man. Platform beds be damned! (Unless that's what you want...nothing wrong with 'em if you don't want a box spring or don't mind a taller bed) I recommend trolling Craigslist for a wooden platform frame or start fresh with raw lumber – Ana White has some guides for building a bed from scratch.

What we used from the West Elm Modern frame for this DIY

Step 1: With the frame disassembled, carefully remove the wood strip (colored light gray here) from the inside of the main frame using a screwdriver and a crowbar. The goal is to preserve the wood strip (and the frame) so you can re-attach it lower down – that means don't Hulk out and break it to bits! This took some doing on Eli's part because the strip was secured using both screws & wood glue (yay – quality carpentry). Much of the veneer chipped off in the process, but we weren't too concerned since no one well ever see it (except I'm showing the whole world at the end of the shame). On a platform bed, this strip is usually an inch or two from the top of the frame and is used to hold the platform for a mattress. We'll be moving it as far down as we can to make room for a boxspring.

Move the supportive strip to be flush with the bottom edge of the frame

Step 2: Sand the chipped edge of the strip to smooth it out and then use wood glue and the screws you previously removed to re-attach it flush with the bottom edge of the frame. Lining it up with the bottom edge ensured the strip would be level and even on all sides when we reassembled the frame. Depending on the depth of your edges, you can potentially gain a lot of room for the boxspring this way. Our 'spring is 8.75" deep, the outer edge of our frame is 5" deep, and after relocating the strips we had 4 inches within the frame for the 'spring to sit in. That means 4.75" of the boxspring are still peeking out above the frame, but we take what we can get. If your edges are really shallow, these first three steps probably aren't worth the effort and you should skip to step 4. 

Step 3: The bed's legs had notched tops that the edges rest on. This notch also provided two pre-drilled holes for securing the leg to the edges. We measured and cut down the notches so the tops would be flush with the wood strips we had just lowered. This provides one flat, level surface for the box spring to rest on. In cutting down the top, we lost the top hole for securing the legs & edges, which would have compromised the stability of the entire frame had we not also shortened the legs. 

Cut the legs to 6 inches, or your desired height

Step 4: At this point, we've bought ourselves 2.5 extra inches, but you may remember I said we needed more like 8. Gulp. To get us the rest of the way, we cut about 6 inches off the bottom of each leg using our circular saw. This was a little nerve-wracking because we didn't want to end up with 4 legs at slightly different heights (and a lopsided bed) – granted, my nerves were a little more wracked than Eli's ; ] We carefully measured and marked our cut on all four sides of the leg, made the cuts, and then used the palm sander to even out any small discrepancies, giving us 4 equally tall legs. Phew! Cutting the legs down by about half compensated for the stability lost when we shortened the top notches. Less length = less torque, so our bed feels as sturdy and clocks in at 11 inches – an ideal height for our boxspring/mattress duo.

Step 5: Reassemble! We used the pre-drilled holes from the manufacturer to put everything back together. The edges are screwed together with pocket hole screws (we used the drill to widen the pocket holes so our screwdriver could reach further in). Then we set the outer frame up on the legs and used the wooden braces that came with the bed to secure everything. There are 3 drilled-thru holes in each brace – one for each adjoining edge and a third for the leg. These braces are really what's holding everything together – without them the frame would be a wobbly mess and we'd be knockin' on heaven's door every time we got into bed.

Re-assembling the bed frame after lowering ledge and shortening legs

We nixed the center beam that provides a 5th leg in the middle of the bed. You need this leg if you have a king size bed, but after checking online I found that the center support wasn't really necessary for a queen or a full. If we ever decide to add it back, we'd just need to cut the height of the 5th leg and secure the beam to the wood strips with metal brackets. We haven't done that because 6 months in the box spring still seems sturdy without it. Use your discretion :]

The whole project took a few hours and cost less than $5 (we picked up some new screws). It's just what we were looking for! Now I don't have to worry about breaking a hip climbing into bed or getting my head chopped off by the ceiling fan, and my headboard finally got its rightful spot on the wall. I can rest easy now!

Enough sketches. How about some real live photos? Eli helped me remove the mattress and boxspring yesterday so you can see the gritty details (when I say gritty, I mean griiiiiitttaaaaaayyyyy)! 

The finished frame and headboard without the mattress and boxspring
Corner of the frame – you can see the mess we made of the veneer by moving the wood strip.
Top view of one corner, showing how the brace holds the leg and edges together

The inside is scary – like a tiger sharpened its claws here – but the outer appearance is perfectly serene. I'm really happy with the finished product and now there are just a couple finishing touches left. I want to find or make a boxspring cover (since half of it is still exposed), get a duvet cover that will be easier to throw in the wash, and upgrade the pillow situation ... ours are getting worn out and I love the look of Euro shams. 

One corner of the finished frame with boxspring and mattress 

The new wood frame is an upgrade in many ways from the metal frame + bedskirt situation we had going on before, but the main reason I switched was to make the room look and feel airier. Being able to see under the bed – or any large piece of furniture, for that matter – adds visual breathing room. I try to keep this in mind any time I'm choosing furniture for our little house. 

So there you have it. Am I the only person still using a box spring?! Has anyone had luck with their platform bed or thinking about reconfiguring their current setup? 

Happy Fourth of July – Let There Be Light!

I hope y'all are having a crazy fun holiday! (or recovering from all the excitement if it's now Monday) Last week I shared how I built a knock-off West Elm headboard and I didn't even mention my bed's fancy new earrings. The nerve!

My new accordion sconce light fixture is the perfect bedside night light

They’re new, made by Kenroy Home, and I’m so happy they’re here. Especially since this is what we were rockin' before:

The master bedroom before we installed a headboard or bedside sconces

Those mismatched lamps have been traveling with me from apartment to apartment since college, but their ramblin’ days are over. And that white conehead on the right is a sunrise simulator to peel me out of bed in the dark winter mornings. Thank God it's now summer, the sun is shining, that ugly monstrosity is stashed out of sight, and I got me some bedside bling!

Accordion bedside sconces

Bedside sconces are a great option for small bedrooms because they don't take up any real estate. They're like a top-notch waiter at a really nice restaurant – so good you almost forget they're there (except magically your water glass is full, the crumbs on the table have disappeared, and you feel like royalty). Yes, sconces are just like that. If you don't have space for a big nightstand (or any nightstand at all), you can hang a stylish light fixture and save room for other nighttime necessities. No fumbling under a big lamp shade to turn them on and off, either – just function and polish. 

Speaking of lampshades and polish, I picked up this pro-tip from Emily Henderson when E & I were working on set for the Suite Style Contest: fabric shades are preferable to metal ones in the bedroom because they diffuse light for a relaxing ambience, whereas metal creates a very directional light that's better for reading. By this time my light fixtures had already been sitting in my living room for, oh, 2 months. No matter. It makes total sense and you can put that tip to good use but it was too late for me – I'm a lost cause who is (gratefully) still happy with my metal accordion lights. Here are some other sconces I was considering:

Some of my favorite options for bedside sconces.

1. West Elm Accordion  |  2. Etsy Brass Scissor Sconce  |  3. West Elm Lens Sconce  |  4. Crate & Barrel Jax White Sconce  |  5. Vivianne Gold Brass  |  6. Addison Pharmacy Swing Arm Lamp

Installing these lights was a super quick update – we knocked it out in less than an hour and still had time to catch the season finale of GOT before bed. There are just four steps: Position, Secure, Cover and Plug. 

1. Position that puppy

We decided where we wanted them by taking turns holding them up on the wall. Very scientific – I know. They needed to be high enough to provide some reading light, easy to reach from bed, and centered over our nightstands. Once we found the spot, I marked it on the wall with a pencil and we moved on to step 2.

Step 1: Position the mounting plate for your accordion sconces

2. Secure it to the wall

The mounting hardware included with our light was a circular plate with two screws. I positioned it so the screws would be level and marked the holes we'd need to drill. The headboard was hogging all the studs, so we had to use drywall anchors for these guys. We drilled pilot holes, placed the anchors and came back with the wood screws included in the packaging. Before tightening them down all the way, we busted out the level again to check our work. The mounting plate gave us some wiggle room to adjust once the screws were in – love good product design. Then we tightened down the screws, slide the fixture onto the plate, and fastened it with two ball bearings. 

Step 2: Secure the accordion sconce to the wall

3. Cut  Cover the cord

There's nothing like a jankity plastic cord to ruin a good thing. Our sconces came with cord covers (not all do), which are essentially two tunnel-like strips that fit together like a Russian doll. One piece attaches to the wall, the cord lays inside the tunnel, and the second piece slides over the first to hide it all. You can always pick these up at Lowes or Home Depot for a couple bucks if they didn’t come with your light, and I imagine you could spray paint them to mimic whatever finish you’ve got goin’ on. To make sure these were perpendicular to the nightstand, parallel to the headboard, and centered under the light, we enclosed the cord with the two covers before attaching anything to the wall. Then we got the level out again and did all of our positioning & marking before drilling any holes. Once we had our mark, we removed the front cover, moved the cord aside and screwed the base in. Tada. 

Step 3: Use the level to position the cord cover perpendicular to the floor and screw it in

4. Light it up!

We have a conveniently located outlet behind the bed, which was already home to a power strip for plugging in our phones. We added these guys to the electrical party and shared an epic, across-the-bed, slow-motion hi-five. BAM!

Going to bed feels so much more luxurious when you're not banging your shins on the corner of the bedframe. 

Getting into bed feels so much more luxurious with these accordion bedside sconces

How to Build a West Elm Knock-Off Upholstered Headboard

How to build a West Elm knock-off Upholstered headboard with decorative nailhead trim

When I started telling my friends that we bought a house, the most common reaction was, “Whoa – you guys are grown ups now.” Nay, friends! I didn't become a grown up until I got a real headboard and solid wood bed frame (that you can look under and not find my old ballet shoes and Pink Floyd tees).

I’d been eying this beauty from West Elm for a while, but like I said – I wasn’t quite a grown up (or fabulously wealthy) yet so I just didn't feel OK forking out $600 for a headboard or $350 for this bed frame. It's no wonder my generation still uses metal bed frames that you have to hide under a bedskirt. You can pay a grand after taxes to get the bed of your dreams, or you can pay $10 to the grad student on Craigslist for a bed that serves the same purpose! 

What is a bed frame & headboard other than some wood screwed together, really?! (I learned it’s a little more than that ... foreshadowing ... ) So I decided we'd build that dream bed for less than $200, or my name isn’t Chloe Joy. I took to Pinterest, which is in no short supply of upholstered headboard tutorials – the hard part is choosing which one to follow. They all look something like this: 

1. Cut wood ,   2. Cover with something cushiony ,    3. Add fabric

Other things to consider include: desired shape, cushion material (foam or batting, or foam + batting), type of fabric, decorative details (like tufts or nailhead trim), and installation method.

Here's what I used:

• 1 sheet of MDF – 4 ft. x 8ft. x 5/8" thick board cut to 63 inches wide x 40 inches tall – $35
• 2 in. x 4 in. x 6 ft. – $3
• 1.5 in. wood screws – $7
• 3 in. wood screws – $9
• 10 yards of polyester batting – $15
• 2 yards of duck canvas fabric – $14
• Staple gun & staples – $21
• 15 yards of nailhead trim (in antique gold finish) – $45
• Rubber mallet (or a jerry-rigged version – more on that later)

Step 1: Tape your desired shape on the wall

Step 1: Use tape to decide on final dimensions for your DIY headboard

The West Elm headboard I chose is a simple rectangle – hardly a coincidence. I knew it would make my life easier when building it, and it had the added bonuses of being a little more masculine and unlikely to go out of style any time soon. Even with a simple silhouette, it helped to outline the shape on the wall above my bed with painters tape. This allowed me to fiddle with the dimensions by moving the tape up or down until I felt like the proportions were right. I relied on the West Elm specifications for queen-sized headboards to determine it should be 63 inches wide, which leaves an inch or so of overhang on either side of your mattress. As for the height, Eli and I took turns sitting on the bed and pretending to lean back on our "headboard" to make sure it was a comfortable height for both tall and not so tall persons to rest their heads. 

Step 2: Create the frame

I picked up a 4 ft. x 8 ft. sheet of MDF from Home Depot and had them cut it to be 63 in. wide. If I'd been smarter I would have written down both the width AND height and had the guys cut it to spec. Alas, I had to pull out the circular saw and sawhorses to finish my cuts when I got home. From the leftovers, I cut 4 additional pieces – one for each edge of the frame – that I then screwed to the main board with 1.5 in. wood screws, making the outside edges flush. This gives the illusion of a thicker, more substantial hunk o' wood when you catch a side view of the headboard but it doesn't add much extra weight or $$.

Step 2: Create a frame for your upholstered headboard and add a French cleat

Step 3: Prep your hanging mechanism

A French cleat is attached to hang the DIY upholstered headboard

I decided we would hang this headboard on the wall with a French cleat instead of trying to attach it to the bed frame. Gotta come clean here – I had no idea what a french cleat was before this project. Turns out it's a rudimentary way to hang heavy things, like cabinets or headboards. We cut a 2 x 4 x 6 down to 5 ft. long – a few inches shy of our headboard's width – and then halved it longways at a 45 degree angle. Our circular saw has an adjustable blade that can be tilted to make cuts on an angle. We carefully cut this angle down the entire length of the board. This gives us two long pieces of wood that fit together like a puzzle....or like a french cleat. We attached one half to the back of the frame (same side as the other scrap pieces) and the other half would be attached to the wall later. Notice that the 2 x 4 comes out further than edge pieces of MDF. If you decide you want to make your headboard much thicker than mine,  just make sure that the 2 x 4 will reach the wall before the back of the headboard does when you go to hang it. Our MDF was 5/8 in. thick, so we used 1.5 in. long wood screws and made sure that the pizza slice edge pointed down and away from the frame. I tried to make sure this board was level, but it was tricky because the 2 x 4 wasn't perfectly straight to begin with and I knew I could make small adjustments when positioning the other piece on the wall.

Step 4: Add batting

Many tutorials suggest using foam for cushion, which is certainly the higher quality choice, but I was going for cost effectiveness here. A big piece of thick, high quality foam could have cost anywhere from $60 to $160, whereas this large roll of batting only cost me $15. To compensate, I used six layers of it. You heard me right – SIX! I rolled the first layer out on a clean rug, laid the frame facing down, and wrapped the batting around the edges, stapling it to the back. It gets harder with each subsequent layer to find space to staple...and harder to staple through all the batting into the actual frame. Hindsight is 20/20, so I suggest stapling your first layer pretty close to the frame's edge (meaning there's very little overlap on the back), trimming the excess, and making each additional layer reach a little further than the last, with a slightly bigger overlap on the back of the frame. Make sure the batting is pulled taut across the front of the frame to create a smooth surface – check the front occasionally for bunching.

Corners get especially bogged down with batting on the back, so I ended up cutting into them at a 45 degree angle to thin most of it out. 

Step 4: Attach batting to your headboard frame to create a comfortable base
I used Soft n Crafty batting for the upholstered headboard 

Step 5: Attach your fabric

The West Elm headboard is in a really beautiful dark gray linen weave. I chose a much cheaper, readily available alternative: duck canvas. I only needed 2 yards and it was on sale for $6.99/yd at Joanns. This was my first attempt at making a headboard, so the durability and affordability of the fabric gave me piece of mind that if I totally botched it I could start over without wasting a ton of money. It all worked out, though and I'm still perfectly happy with how the canvas looks and feels.

The rug I'd been using as my work surface was clean, but I layered a freshly laundered sheet over it to feel 100% confident I wouldn't be getting shmutz on my new headboard. Then I laid out the canvas and actually ironed it on the floor. You really don't want to be looking at the same wrinkle above your bed for the rest of eternity. 

Step 5: Attach the fabric to the upholstered headboard with a staple gun

I followed the same process for attaching the fabric that I did with the batting – lay the frame facing down, pull the fabric around the edges and staple to the back. That makes it sound easy, so let me clear my conscience here and tell you it was NOT. Eli had gone out of town by this time, and I was too impatient and cocky to wait for him – figuring I was plenty strong and skilled to do it on my own. Luckily I was right (Girl Power!) but it was not as easy as the tutorials made it sound. You really have to be careful on this step – making sure to keep your fabric straight and pull it really taut, so that you don't get wrinkles or bagginess. I struggled to pull the fabric hard with one hand, lift the headboard with the other to check all was well and good on the front side, lay it down again without messing it up, keep pulling the fabric with that one hand and fire the staple gun with the other. Sure, it's fun to impress yourself, but it's more fun to have a friend help so you don't have to shout obscenities to an empty room.

I started by stapling in the middle of one edge, then hopping over to the opposite (parallel) edge to pull the canvas taut and staple in the middle again. Then I'd work my way out from the middle on those two sides, hopping back and forth, before repeating the process on the remaining sides. 

When I got to a corner, I stapled one edge completely smooth, trimmed the excess and then carefully folded the other side over it to create a nice smooth appearance from the front, top and side. Luckily no one will see the hack job on the back ;) 

Step 5: Pay extra attention to the corners when attaching fabric to your upholstered headboard
Step 5: The corner looks pretty bad on the back side, but is smooth and folded on the front.

Step 6: Install nailhead trim

If you want, you could stop here and have a totally acceptable upholstered headboard. I would have if West Elm's geometric nailhead trim hadn't hypnotized me. I ventured ever so slightly from their pattern, sketching my own on paper before laying it out on the headboard. 

Step 6: Lay out the nailhead trim for your upholstered headboard in the design you want to achieve
I used Dritz Home nailhead trim in "antique gold" purchased on Amazon.
Instead of buying a rubber mallet, I jerry-rigged a hammer using batting, canvas and a rubber band

I ordered 15 yards of Dritz Home nailhead trim in antique gold off Amazon, but only used 12 or so. This stuff is amazing, because as you can see in the top picture, it's just a long strand of metal that looks like individual nailheads. In reality, you only have to bang in a decorative nail every 6th one or so. I'm all for things that look more complex than they are. It's highly recommended that you use a rubber mallet for the banging, so you don't dent or scratch your pretty nailheads. I, however, did not see a rubber mallet at my local store and was still feeling antsy/impatient/cheap. Instead I just jerry-rigged a "gentle hammer" by stuffing a big wad of batting on the head, covering it with a canvas scrap and tying it together with a rubber band. #MacGyver

I really made a rookie mistake on this step (but I later forgave myself since I was in fact a rookie). I started hammering in the nailhead trim along the top edge first. Do yourself a favor and start somewhere that will be covered by your mattress or pillows or pretty much anywhere except the most visible spot. It took me a while to get the hang of the trim, so my lines were wobbly to begin with. I considered removing them and starting over, but that would have damaged the fabric so I just forged ahead. I didn't get the factory-straight lines I was hoping for, but I just try to ignore and/or embrace the imperfections.  

Step 7: Hang the headboard

To hang the headboard level, we taped the second half of the cleat to the first half and held the headboard up to the height we'd marked with our tape. One of us (Eli) kept holding it in place while the other (me) marked where the cleat should go on the wall. We did it this way because of the less-than-perfectly-straight nature of the 2 x 4. We didn't want to hang the board level and then find the headboard was all wonky.

Step 8: Attach the other half of the French cleat to the wall to hang your upholstered headboard
Step 8: Use a level to make sure you hang the headboard correctly

We marked our studs, drilled pilot holes through the 2 x 4, and then secured it with 3 in. wood screws. Our studs are 16" apart and our 2 x 4 was 60" long, so we were able to attach it to 3 studs. Feeling confident in that sturdiness, we hung the headboard on the cleat, et voila!

We are very happy with our new headboard!  Especially since it only cost us about $150 and approximately 12 hours.

DIY tutorial for building a West Elm knock-off upholstered headboard with decorative nailhead trim

You guys know I'm always gonna keep it real with you. When I finished hammering the last nail, my arms were tired, my back was sore, my fingers were raw, and I realized why it costs several hundred dollars to buy this from a store. $600 still feels very steep to me, but now I could see myself paying $350 or so for an intricate headboard with perfectly straight lines. That being said, it would have taken me another year or so to pull the trigger and my bedroom is feelin' much more sophisticated now. In a future post, I'll finish the bed saga and show you how we got a solid wood bed frame for $FREE.99 !

Have you ever built an upholstered headboard? Was it easier or harder than you expected? Anything you would have done differently? 

How to build a West Elm knock-off upholstered headboard with decorative nailhead trim