When they're no longer suitable for sleeping in, old or antique beds can be reconfigured to make benches or settees. The process is quick and easy, especially if the bed you are converting is in good shape. You will need a headboard and footboard, and if wood rails are part of the package, all the better. Any size bed will work. You can fashion a wooden seat from boards or plywood or build a frame to hold a cushion.
Remove any rails that are attached and set them aside. Measure the footboard and mark the centre. Cut the footboard in half from top to bottom. Lightly sand the cut edges.
Place the new end you just made (the cut edge) of the footboard to the headboard at a right angle, forming the arm of the bench. The footboard piece will be now be perpendicular to the headboard. Mark the position, making sure the legs of the footboard are on the same plane as the legs of the headboard, so your bench sits level. Screw the two pieces together from the backside of the headboard. Repeat with the other side. Your bench should stand up now in an inverted U shape.
Measure the inside space between the newly-formed sides or arms. Cut one of the side rails to fit. This board will form the front of your bench. If you do not have side rails to use, cut a one-by-six.
Join the front board to the arm pieces of your bench by drilling holes and inserting dowels into the ends of the board. Glue the dowels in place, letting them protrude 1 inch. Drill corresponding holes in the ends of the arm pieces. To attach the front board you will need to unscrew one of the arm pieces from the headboard so there's enough space for the protruding dowels to be inserted. Glue dowel fittings in the holes of the attached arm piece first and then into the detached arm. Tap the joint lightly with a hammer to ease the dowels into place. Reattach the arm piece you removed. (Use L-brackets to attach the front board to the sides instead of dowels if you prefer.)
Cut two two-by-twos to fit between the arm pieces, the length of the seat portion of the frame. Screw one two-by-two along the inside of the front board and the other along the lower portion of the headboard. Make sure the tops of the two-by-twos are level with each other. This will support the slats that hold the cushion. Each bed frame will be different, so keep normal seat height (about 18 inches) in mind.
Measure the depth of the inside of the frame and cut slats to fit. Slats will rest atop the two-by-twos and do not have to be screwed in.
Fill screw holes with wood filler or dowel caps. Touch up the wood with stain or paint the whole bench. Cover the foam, add a bolster and pillows and have a seat.
The depth of your bench is determined by the size of the bed. A full-size footboard will make a deeper bench than a twin-size footboard. A bolster pillow at the back of the seat will decrease the depth for sitting and add comfort.
Bed frames that are mostly spindles are more difficult to work with than those with solid portions of wood.
Tips and warnings
- The depth of your bench is determined by the size of the bed. A full-size footboard will make a deeper bench than a twin-size footboard. A bolster pillow at the back of the seat will decrease the depth for sitting and add comfort.
- Bed frames that are mostly spindles are more difficult to work with than those with solid portions of wood.