Saturday, May 31, 2014

4-Poster Bed

Since moving into our historic home, so much time has been spent on the physical structure that very little has been devoted to furnishing it (we still have a couple empty rooms).  Our bedroom has a hand-me-down dresser from a college friend that is packed full of our necessities, a solitary night stand from a recycling yard and a metal bed frame sourced from Craigslist.  Rather sparse for a modern bedroom yet my wife has been content (at least that's what I thought).

After two-plus years, my wife had enough.  Her birthday was arriving and when I asked for her preference, instead of the usual textile items, she blurts out FURNITURE!  My wife's wish for her birthday was a piece of furniture for our bedroom.  Having looked through sample sales of period furniture, she gave me a limit of $3,000 (as my wife and I share approval in our expenses, we do not make purchases without the other's approval).  She said that it was time we got something and whatever it was, it had to be for our bedroom.  

We sat there each night scouring EBay and other sites for authentic period pieces.  For decent period pieces, even at our limit, it was just a little out of reach.  Not to mention fears of potential leaded paint and, along the same lines, protecting an $8,000 dresser from a hyper toddler.  We decided to shy away from true antiques.

We moved on to our bed frame.  A year or so prior, our bed and box spring sat directly on the floor.  It was a habit from our former days of apartment living when buying furniture for a year-long rental wasn't needed.  Also, our cat loved clawing the underside of the box spring (even climbing inside).  Then, however, our cat matured and as being on the floor invited spiders crawling over us at night (ew), we purchased a basic metal frame and elevated our bed away from the arachnids.  Now, it was time to have a formal bed frame, no more low-rider beds in cahoots with spiders and manic cats.  It's time for a mommy and daddy bed.

$3,000 is a lot of money for most people (it's a lot of money for us as well).   I realize that we do not live centuries in the past, but I would like to stay true to the appearance of the past and there is an associated cost with that level of quality.  There really isn't any sense in owning an 18th century American home and filling it with modern Japanese art (like our previous owner).  In my opinion, for a home that a person owns, their furniture should compliment it.

In a prior post, I commented on D.R. Dimes.  Though beautiful furniture, their pricing was just out of reach.  So I searched online through various vendors for reproduction furniture.  I came across quite a few and many having the same prices close to D.R. Dimes or of mass produced varieties that just look too "modern" for our home.  I finally came across a furniture maker who's pricing is much less than that of D.R. Dimes, but still of a quality equal to the of the famous maker.

Out in Lancaster County, PA, is a furniture maker with an impressive inventory of reproduction pieces.  Their site,, shows off their collection of period pieces for every room of a historic home.  They are not IKEA-like furniture with particle board components.  Like with many things, authenticity and quality do not come from low-cost chains.  I ventured to their site, found their bedroom furniture and noted a little highlighted blurb about discounts being available.  I submitted a questionnaire through their site and soon received a call... that's when I met Michael Rice.

Michael was patient with me.  I was flopping back and forth with choosing between the available tiger maple or cherry wood construction (trivial:  both were the same price, another differential from D.R. Dimes).  In the end, I settled on the tiger maple with a canopy shipped to my living room.  Pricing was great.  Michael described to me that the discount applied to their current inventory only and returns were not possible.  They had a tiger maple king size canopy bed in stock at 10% off their regular pricing.  Shipping was through an outside delivery service for an extra fee.  All together, $2,990.50 was charged to my credit card.  Within two weeks, the bed was in my home and I came in under our budget.

It took roughly 2 hours to assemble as each part was nicely wrapped heavily in bubble-wrap.  Unwrapping the parts was time consuming.  Once all exposed, assembly went quickly.  It's easier with two people (per the directions), but with the other able-bodied person caring for our little one, this was a one-person job.  Besides, it was her birthday...

All the parts came wrapped in bubble wrap, held together with tape.

Each bundle was labeled making it easier to grab the right part during assembly, eliminating the guess work.
Unwrapped headboard and corner posts.  I used the bubble wrap as padding.
Bolts that secure the posts to the rails.  They came with a tool to aide in installation.
Final assembly of the parts.  I had to use books to support the rails during the "two-person" stage while attaching the bolts.

The partially assembled bed.  I couldn't place the canopy on top because the finials that attach the bars are too tall for our room.

Being in an old home with (plus or minus) 7-foot ceilings, a four poster bed with 7'-4" posts was not going to fit.  Discussing the height issue with Michael, I learned that the finials can be easily trimmed.  They are basically a decorative peg about 6 to 8 inches in height that support the canopy.  No screws, no bolts; just a solid piece of maple, turned on a lathe.  I measured the clearance that the finial needed for installation above the canopy.  It's simply the length of the peg from the bottom of the finial.  That distance was measured on the top of the finial.  I drilled a hole into a price of squared scrap wood to hold the finial.  I then used a miter hand saw to cut off just enough from the finials to fit our ceilings.  The final appearance is more sedate than the original form, I actually like it better.

Removing the top of the maple finial using a common hand miter saw.

A cut finial compared to it's former size.  The removed top allows just enough room for the installation and it's appearance actually looks quite attractive.
I am very pleased with the bed frame from Great Windsor Chairs.  The quality is impressive.  It is solid maple and the "tiger" finish is absolutely gorgeous.  The bed as a whole is not 100% hand-made.  It's a hybrid of machine and hand tooling.  Considering the much greater expense with a completely hand made piece (and with a toddler around), I'm OK with a hybrid approach to the construction.  Having said that, what really is quite exciting are the details that a lay-person may over look.  On the flat surfaces such as the head board and even the canopy frame are the tool marks from the hand plane used to flatten the components!  I realize that reads a bit dorky, but those "imperfections" just add to the quality of this piece.  It truly is an heirloom to pass down and money well spent.  It also satisfied my wife.  Take a look at some of the details below:

Photographing very fine details in wood is harder than I thought.  The light has to be just right to reflect the undulations for the camera lens to capture.  Above, the bottom bar of the canopy support show the marks left by the hand plane.  Simply awesome.

Finial installed a top a corner post with canopy bars.  I think it looks great!

Lamb's Ear detail of the corner post.

Bolt cover detail.  Some manufacturers offer metal covers for an added expense, these were included and pre-installed.

Rope hole detail.  For an added touch of authenticity, a large diameter rope can be added to mimic a rope bed.  

Headboard closeup.

The king size canopy bed from  With the cost of the bed being what it was, there was no more room left in the budget for a quilted colonial blanket.

Disclaimer:  I have not been reimbursed by Great Windsor Chairs, nor by Michael, for writing this entry.  I have received a 10% discount which is readily available to any consumer when Great Windsor Chairs advertises a sale.