There may be a piece of architectural millwork in your home that you don’t want to part with, but it doesn’t fit into your current life style. Think about repurposing that piece into something that will fit into your changing taste in décor.
I was lucky enough to come across a beautiful old colonel mantel that sat very prominently in an old Georgetown home. It has historic value, but doesn’t fit very well in today’s modern décor. The simple solution is to change its’ purpose. My creative wife did just that. When I showed her the piece, she immediately envisioned it as a headboard for a new bed.
The first problem that had to be solved was how to construct the bed so it could be moved when it became necessary. The simplest solution was to attach the fireplace mantelpiece to the wall independently of the bed. That was accomplished by simply attaching two cleats to the wall that would correspond to two cleats that I installed on the back of the mantel. These cleats held the mantel firmly to the wall simply by lifting the mantel, positioning it above the cleats, then letting the weight of the mantel slide gently down the wall and settle on the floor. When the mantel reached the floor, the cleats held it firmly in place without any other mechanical fasteners. When the time comes to move the bed, all that will be required is to lift he mantel up and away from the wall. Then unscrew the cleats from the wall leaving only the screw holes that were necessary to attach the cleats.
To close the hole that the firebox occupied when the mantel was a working fireplace we cut out a piece of ¼” plywood ½” smaller then the width of the opening. We calculated the dimension for the height of the ¼” plywood by figuring out how much clearance we would need for the bed frame to fit under the plywood. This had to be far enough to come to rest 2 inches from the plywood when the bed frame was positioned in front of the soon to be new headboard. We allowed 1inch clearance from the top of the bed frame to the bottom of the ¼” plywood headboard, and ¼” of clearance from the top of the ¼” plywood to the top of the hole that the firebox used to occupy on the mantel.
This piece of ¼” plywood was covered with 2” dense foam cut the same size as the ¼” plywood. We then glued it to the plywood with a 3M product made specifically for the purpose. After the foam was attached to the plywood, we cut pieces of batting material approximately 4inches larger then the plywood and the laid that on top of the foam. We then wrapped the edges of the batting around the foam pulling it snuggly and stapled it to the backside of the plywood. This gave us a solid structure that we could now cover with a piece of material we had selected.
We wanted to cover the headboard so that it would create a soft upholstered finish. We cut the material approximately the same size as the batting. Then we placed that over the batting and pulled it tightly around the batting and foam. We were careful to stretch it evenly so it would create a smooth, even edge on all four sides of the plywood. We stapled it to the ¼” plywood on the back of the new headboard.
We attached the upholstered ¼” plywood to the mantel using the same technique we used to attach the mantel to the wall. I cut two pieces of maple ¾” thick, 5inches wide and 12 inches longer then the width of the opening in the mantel. In my case this was 78 inches long. I set my table saw blade at a 45-degree angle, and then ripped both 5-inch pieces of ¾” maple. We now have 4 pieces. Each piece was 78 inches long with a 45-degree angle down the length of one side of each board. I secured two pieces of the ¾” x 78” x 2 ½” maple cleats to the back of the opening in the mantel. I over-lapped the opening by about six inches on either side. I positioned the cleats so that the point of the 45-degree angle was facing up with the longest side of the 78” board facing out toward the bed frame and mattress. This left the 45-degree angle cut sloping down and toward the wall when the mantel was mounted on the wall. I placed the first cleat horizontally about 9” inches down from the top of the opening and a second cleat 18” inches below the top cleat in the same manner as the first and parallel to it. After these cleats were attached to the mantel, I hung the mantel on the wall where we wanted to place the bed.
The next step was to attach the two remaining mounting cleats to the back of the ¼” plywood. This step can be completed before you upholster the headboard. Placing the cleats on the headboard is critical. There must be ¼” of clearance around the top and sides of the headboard when it’s installed. This clearance will be required to allow the upholstery to fit snuggly in the opening. It is also the minimum clearance you need to mount the headboard on the cleats you have already installed on the back of the mantel.
Now mount the cleats on the back of the ¼” plywood. These cleats need to be cut about 6 inches shorter then the width of the ¼” plywood panel. Glue and screw these cleats to the back of this panel. The point of the 45-degree angle is pointing toward the floor when the headboard is mounted on the mantel.
When you fix these cleats to the plywood, it is critical to remember to put the glue on the short side of the 45-degree angle. The 45-degree angle must slope down and away from the back of the headboard. When the headboard is mounted to the mantel, the long point of the 45-degree angle will be pointing down toward the floor. The long side of the cleat will be closest to the wall. When mounting these cleats, position them as described so that the ends are 3 inches from both sides, left and right. They should be located so when they come to rest against the cleats mounted on the mantel, the headboard will be located in the center of the opening ¼” inch down from the top of the opening in the mantel.
After you have fixed all the cleats firmly to both the headboard and the mantel, the installation is relatively easy and it requires no mechanical fasteners like screws or nails. The cleats are designed to hold everything in place with gravity alone. To install the headboard simply position the top of the headboard in the uppermost opening above the top cleat mounted on the mantel. Have the upholstered side facing out and angled toward the ceiling at about a 45-degree angle. Reach behind the ¼” plywood panel from underneath the bottom of the panel. Feel for the pointed top of the cleat mounted on the mantel. Pull the ¼” plywood panel down until you can feel the two cleats align with each other. Make sure they are aligned but still above one another. Now push the bottom of the panel against the bottom cleat. The cleats will still be above one another. Grab the top of the bottom cleat mounted in the ¼” plywood panel with the hand that is reaching behind the panel from underneath and pull down hard. The cleats should all align and the downward motion will force the upholstered padding at the top of the opening past the mantel. The panel will snap into position. You may need to adjust the panel left or right to get an equal reveal on both sides of the headboard. Assemble a bed frame and mattress and place it on the floor in front of the mantel. Now you have your new bed.