1,250, actually. That’s how many staples I mercilessly shot into my poor IKEA FJELLSE bed frame, who’s feeling a little sexier these days because of it. I PROMISE all my posts won’t be this wordy, but this one’s important. Settle in, party people.
Usually when we buy new furniture, we do so because we like it. We can imagine it so clearly in our homes, making our tokhes more comfortable or garnering compliments with its good looks. But when Ikea decides to go and sell the plainest pine bed ever for the sweet, sweet price of $49.99, then we just buy it because it’s cheap.
To review, here’s what she looked like before.
Unfortunately for FJELLSE, I really like upholstered beds. They’re awesome. I needed one. Only problem? Damn, they’re pricey. I searched high and low. Even the moderately priced offerings from CB2, West Elm and Ikea were more than I was really willing to pay, but more importantly not what I wanted to sleep on. Sleeping’s a very important activity for me. And I can daydream all I want about the beds I actually like, but that’s not going to get them into my apartment any faster than it’ll get Oprah to come over for dinner. And I’ve been dreaming about that one for years.
So I realized pretty quickly that, barring an impressive lottery win, I’d be DIYin’ it. Once that epiphany registered, I scrambled my way to the internet looking for something cheap that I could immediately destroy without feeling guilty. My only requirement was that it be fairly solidly made and have decent looking legs. Incidentally, this is also my criteria for friends. Then, bingo. FJELLSE. Cheap, solid pine, with not-unattractive angle-cut legs. I went to the store, looked at it for about 10 seconds, kicked it lightly to test the sturdiness, and added the aisle and bin number to the list. Easy-peesy.
Little did I realize at the time, upholstery fabric is very, very expensive. I’ve recently been loving anything and everything upholstered in wooly, fibery felt, so that’s what I wanted. I had clear, inflexible ideas in mind. Dark charcoal grey felt. Yes. I went to a big fabric store in Chinatown and found the most beautiful, thick charcoal wool fabric you or I have ever seen. It was perfect. It was even organic. Of course, it was also $60 a yard. At 54″ wide, I needed four yards. This was absolutely crushing. Fabric store after fabric store, that actually ended up being the least expensive. My cheap and easy DIY bed was turning into a massively expensive shit show and I was pissed.
So I did more research. I exhausted Ebay and the online fabric shops. Knoll felt is actually surprisingly well-priced (I mean, it’s Knoll) at $36 a yard, so since I was feeling desperate I trekked down to Chelsea to the Knoll Showroom to see it in person.
Man, that place was fucked up. There’s no signage anywhere, so you just have to know it’s there. It’s on the 11th floor of a building that you need a visitor’s security pass to get into. Once upstairs, there’s a front desk where the incredibly kind receptionist calls a sales associate by picking up the phone and saying shit like, “There’s a gentleman here requiring assistance with Knoll Textiles for use on furniture by another manufacturer.” I think if I had mentioned Ikea, they might have shattered a perfectly good Noguchi Cyclone table and fashioned one of those metal rods into a switch. Oh, and the felt was kind of a huge let-down.
Then, whilst moping, I realized: blankets. Wool blankets. And who makes the best, cheapest wool blankets around? The US of A Army, that’s who. God bless America.
So I hauled it to Kaufman’s Army & Navy Surplus in Midtown. I had my doubts about what would happen when my skinny-jeaned, child-sized frame entered such an establishment. Would I be greeted by a spirited, crew-cutted Hoo-WAH and then tackled to the ground for a testosterone injection? When the employee would inevitably ask me what in hell I wanted with a wool blanket in the middle of July, my plan was to lean over the counter, look him in the eyes, and clearly state “I want to cut it into little pieces.” I don’t like liars.
In reality, they were more than friendly. I found the blanket immediately, it seemed nice enough, and it was $25. P-E-R-F-E-C-T. When I signed the receipt and the cashier noticed I’m left-handed, he gave me a left-handed Kaufman’s pencil. No, seriously, the writing on the pencil reads correctly when held by lefties. Then he gave me a right-handed one too, “so people would believe me.” Good call, dude.
Here are the collected fabrics. The dreamy organic wool swatch is laying on top of the blanket. I know, it looks exactly the same. Cue happy dance.
Now, I learned a lot about wool through this, so I know there are a couple big differences between the super nice stuff that would have cost $240 and my $25 blanket. Firstly, the blanket is 30% synthetic. I don’t really care. More importantly, the nicer fabric is pressed wool, which I gather means it’s been pressurized to the point the the fibers magically bond to each other. The blanket, however, is woven, so when it’s pulled tight like I did, it does develop more of a texture. I actually quite like the texture though.
So here’s how the construction went down:
The original FJELLSE design has a shorter headboard than I really wanted, so I went to Home Depot and got a piece of 1/2″ plywood cut to be 4.5 inches higher than the original headboard. This was done by the same asswipe who cut my desktop, and I still don’t like him. Then I just screwed it onto the front of the headboard with four screws on either side and a few along the top and bottom. Yes, my computer’s open to my own blog. Subliminal messaging, duh.
Since I wanted the depth to look consistent from the side, I rigged this shoddy-ass structure out of cut 1.25″ square trim from New York Paint and Hardware and little L-brackets I had lying around. Good enough for me. Then I stained the legs (after testing a few options on one of the soon-to-be-covered rails).
Then cut the tops of the legs at the end of the bed down to the level of the rails. I should have done this before batting, but I didn’t think about it.
Cover the whole thing in batting, except the legs. I used fairly thick stuff from Joanne’s. I did three layers on the headboard and two on the rails. I wanted the bed to be cushy, but not so stuffed that it would lose its shape. The best advice I can give is to buy an automatic staple gun. Mine was $25 at Home Depot, which was only $5 more than the manual one. Seriously, do yourself a favor. Unless you like bruised and blistered palms. I also used 1/4″ staples, in case you’re curious.
Sorry I’m super messy and make no effort to clean up for pictures. Cutting the blanket was really easy, I just cut three 10″ strips length-wise (they’re about 85″) and used the rest for the headboard. Upholstery can be pretty simple, but it’s important to go in with a good plan to make sure there won’t be any exposed staples when you get to that final piece of fabric and realize you’ve done it all in the wrong order. Write it out. Figure out how to get it done without having to pick up a needle and thread. My plans were on sticky notes, which I subsequently spilled water on and then lost, but try to keep your plan handy and organized if you can. Or just read this.
Next comes the front piece. I wanted the front piece to be continuous, but I was okay with having seams on the front ends of the sides.
Of course I forgot to take a picture, but staple the backside of the fabric to the front corner, butting up against the edge of the underlying leg (this might be more clear in the final pictures). Then pull the loose end tight and staple onto the back. Then just go along the sides, stapling the fabric on the inside of the rails. Apologies for the woefully confusing wording, I should have taken more pictures but it’s really not too complicated.
I decided to leave the back open, which saved fabric and gives me the option of adding tufting later on. I like it just fine without it, but who knows when I might find awesome buttons. And that was it! Pretty easy, totally doable in a day, endlessly customizable. And one entire box of staples.
Here’s a pretty good view of how the corners are finished. I don’t mind mixing wood tones, so I used Minwax Fruitwood 241 since I thought it looked the best with the fabric and the rug.
Oh, and don’t forget. Wool fabric does shed, but I vacuumed the whole thing and it seems to have stopped.
So how much did all this nonsense cost? Here’s the materials breakdown:
1/2″ Plywood: $17.50
6 Yards of Batting: $36
1.25″ wood trim for frame: $9
Minwax stain: $6.50
But I try to keep it real, so remember I also bought an electric staple gun ($25) and a box of staples ($5).
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a naptime appointment I really can’t reschedule. Have a good weekend, y’all.