Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Turning a Bed into a Bench

Last fall my mom came up with the idea of turning my old twin sized bed (headboard and footboard) into a bench. She wanted it to go in the front hallway of her apartment so people could sit there to put on/take off their shoes. Since she saw the idea on some television show (she like me is addicted to decorating and DIY shows) and didn’t remember which one, I scoured the internet to find something similar.    I pinned this…


…and made this (minus the stained front piece – thanks to the magic of photo editing you can see what the finished seat will look like):


Here’s what I started with:

*I’m going to apologize for the messy pictures now – the front room has horrible lighting and there was a TON of stuff in my way since contractors are working on installing a door to my mom’s new deck from this room. I tried to adjust lighting using a photo editing tool but it can only do so much.*


As I mentioned, this was the headboard and footboard from the twin-sized bed I had growing up. It is a nice antique but before I could begin I had to reinforce all joints of each piece with wood glue to ensure it held up to all of my modifications.

The first step was to cut the footboard in half so that each half would make up one side of the bench. I used a circular saw for the bottom piece and a hack saw for the curvy bar since it was just easier that way.


Here’s where we had to adjust things a bit. Notice how low the bottom bar is from the ground – originally I wanted to put the seat slats on that bottom bar since it was flat and would make a better base for a seat, but you would practically be sitting on the ground if I did so. So, after cutting the footboard in half, I decided to flip them upside down so the straight bar was now the top bar and the curvy bar was the bottom. Make sense?

By doing that, the top, rounded edges of the footboard had to be sanded down so that it was flat. No one wants to sit on a wobbly bench! Here’s the start of the sanding process:


I probably could have cut it with the saw (and if I had my compound miter saw, that is exactly what I would have done), but since I was using my mom’s tools, I had to make do with what I had and there was no way I was trusting that old circular saw to do this step. Looking back now, I wish I had used the hack saw to cut off the entire ball at the end (so, I would have cut it at that first line near my finger in the picture above). Ahh, hindsight.

Once your sides are ready, you need to attach them to the headboard. I drilled three holes for each side – one in the cut end of the curvy bottom bar and two in the flat bar.


I then measured the headboard, made the same holes, then added 5/16” dowels with some wood glue to hold them tightly in place.


It was then as easy as adding glue to the dowels and slipping the side pieces onto the dowels. Let me tell you, though – there was a lot of swearing and tossing about of the tools since I broke one dowel when pounding it in with the rubber mallet (and then had to drill it out), the drill bit I had wasn’t the right size so I had to improvise, and I was just overly hot and frustrated. Don’t attempt this on your last day of vacation.  If you are lucky, you will end up with a  frame that looks like this.


Now let me mention at this point that I was not happy with how high the bars ended up being but Mom insisted that she was happy with the height. The only way I could have fixed it would have been to sand/cut off more of the bottom before attaching the side pieces to the headboard (back) piece.  As I mentioned above, I realized after I was done that I could have cut off the ball at the bottom of each side piece and it would have made the height a little better in my opinion but I didn’t think about it at the time since I wanted to keep the lines on the side as even with the line on the headboard as I could – I don’t remember my logic now but it made sense at the time.

Anyway, back to the assembly! The next step was to cut my 1x6” boards (I bought three of them) so that they could lie across each side piece. Each bench will be different but mine were around 48” if I remember correctly.  I simply screwed them into the side boards (two screws on each side of each board). Then to add extra support, I attached L-brackets to the underside of each board so that the brackets were attached to the 1x6 and the side support bar. (sorry, no pic of that step)


Once the seat is secured, I added an apron to the front of the bench (between the two front legs) to add more support and to ‘finish’ the seat a bit. This was simply a 1x3” cut down to size and attached to the 1x6 using four L-brackets.


And that’s as far as I got. Mom needs to stain the wood and add a cushion but I put it into place next to the front door (and added a quilt to give it some color) so she could start using it.




Mom was right – it is the perfect place to sit down to remove your shoes. Again, if I were to do this again, I would have cut off a bit from the side legs so that the bench was a tad lower (thus making the apron line up with the bottom bar on the back piece rather than lining up with the top bar) but it is still comfortable for a 5’4” person to use so people taller than me won’t have a problem with it.


Who knows – maybe when I’m home in December I’ll adjust the height since you know I love tweaking things…or maybe not since that bench was a pain in the ass to make.  (I kid, I kid – kind of)


  1. I am so totally going to do this with a full size bed that belonged to my oldest brother when he was growing up. It was passed down to me and now I have it in my home. I have been wanting to take it down since it is not really used much any more and this is the perfect idea for it. Thank you for the step by step pictorial. This is perfect!!!

    Marilyn C.

  2. Good luck, Marilyn! I hope the instructions will help and you end up with a charming bench!


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