Custom platform beds: a contemporary interpretation of an historic furniture design

Given that the average person spends 1/3 of his or her life sleeping, a bed is probably the most important piece of furniture you will ever purchase. Mattresses aside, the design and construction of the bed frame itself determines whether it will withstand the test of time. Will you still like it in 30 years? Will it be one of the pieces of heirloom furniture that is so beautiful and solid that your family will pass it down from generation to generation?

What began in the 12th century as raised wooden bedsteads heavy and ornately carved, became much simpler wood frames by the 14th century for several reasons. First, draperies were added which covered up the frame, as a demonstration of wealth and luxury. Those added layers of fabric also provided a practical element against the cold. An additional influence was the ease of transport, as the wealthy brought all these belongings with them during their travels. Styles in the 17th and 18thcenturies returned to more elaborate, ornate designs reflecting the style of the day and the importance of bedchambers as a place to receive visitors. Can you imagine?

Regardless of style, the construction of those early hardwood bedsteads involved mortise and tenon bedframes that carried the mattress via ropes woven into the side rails. (Those ropes regularly required tightening, reflected in the “sleep tight” expression still used today.) It wasn’t until the invention of the box spring in the mid 1800’s that rope-style support became less common.

So, what historical influences are seen in a Hawkridge Furniture bed?

Cherry Pencil Post Bed Handmade in VermontHawkridge Furniture has chosen to feature a unique blend of the ancient and the recent in its collection of shaker inspired platform beds. I use the construction techniques of the oldest historical examples with designs that reflect the simple construction of the 1300s and Shaker design from the early 1800s. The simple, clean lines of a Hawkridge bed will simply not go out of style. At any time, bed linens and other décor can bring an ornate sensibility if desired.

Construction Details

Walnut Wooden Post BedAll of our designs make use of the traditional – and most durable – mortise and tenon construction technique. The wood for the posts and rails is significantly more substantial than commercial products, yet retains an elegant line. We begin with six-quarter wood for the side rails and end quarter for end rails. I place 6-7 inch bed bolts through the mortised post and into the tenon of the bed rail. The nut goes into the post and covered with a matching escutcheon. (The bolts, from Horton Brasses, are also beautiful enough to leave exposed if desired.) The connection is so secure that you could dance on the bed; it will last well beyond your lifetime.

Compare this construction to any commercially made bed. Their thinner stock bed rails, metal hooks where tenons should be, thin metal mortised to the post, and end-grain side or foot rails may not withstand even your own use, let alone a next generation’s. The sheer stress of the design and thinner wood will simply not hold up over time.

So, what about the platform itself?

Custom Cherry Wood Platform BedPlatform beds describe a bed frame with a solid surface that requires only a mattress. The best-known examples of early wood platform beds have been found in Egyptian burial tombs, including those of King Tutankhamun. Platform beds today often feature particleboard; for an upgrade, you can sometimes select a plywood board. Although technically not “platform”, slatted supports are also sometimes used in lieu of a boxspring and marketed as “platform” beds. However, slats don’t fasten well to the frame, and are prone to breakage.

My platform is constructed out of maple slats positioned vertically between two pieces of 5/8″ thick Baltic Birch. This “honeycomb” construction is the strongest platform construction you will find. Each bed’s platform comes in three equal-sized “plywood sandwiches” for easy assembly and transport.

Can I still use a Box Spring?

Box springs are fading like dinosaurs, but if you plan to use one, the height of the headboard has to be adjusted. In general, the height from floor to bottom of the rails is 8 – 9 inches.  The space from rails to headboard will then be determined by the mattress and/or box spring. In addition, king size beds and California kings often need an additional foot at the center of the platform.

Why invest in a Hawkridge bed?

  • Solid construction that can last for generations
  • Design that reflects the function you need
  • Style that will meet the test of time

Most orders involve some level of customization, so let’s chat about creating the perfect bed for you. You can reach me at 802.595.1444 or paul@hawkridgefurniture.com

 

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