The Great American Trundle Bed Race – Part I

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Trundle BedOur house is a three bedroom two bath beach house, and with the girls grown and living in New York City, we’ve made the middle bedroom our office and the back bedroom the guest room.  Until last Christmas, this third bedroom had a comfortable queen bed in it.  Let me be more precise.  Until two weeks before last Christmas, the queen bed was in there.

On that fourteenth day before the upcoming festive holiday and a visit from the two young ladies, my lovely wife Ann made a proclamation.  “That sleigh bed is comfortable to sleep in,” she said, “but it totally fills the room and it’s impossible to move around it.” She held up a color printout from a website she’d just visited.  “We are going to order this trundle bed,” she announced.  “It will sleep two at night, but make a nice sitting room in the daytime!”  She was annoyingly optimistic about the happy outcome of “our” new and, by the way, expensive plan.

Now I am old enough to know better, but I opened my mouth anyway.  And these words came out: “Why buy a ready-made trundle bed that’s bound to be poorly put together and made from low quality materials?” I asked.  And incredibly, my face continued talking as I listened to myself in horror.  “Let me look at that picture – I’ll bet I can come up with plans for a better bed than that one.”

I’m a smart man, I swear it.  I plead temporary insanity.

The Trundle Bed Race was on.

The Countdown Begins

The next day, “we” had the queen bed stripped, dismantled, and ready for relocation to the already overcrowded garage.  And I was looking online for plans for a trundle bed.  Problem?  Time pressure?  Ha!  I could do this thing!

For those of you unfamiliar with this particular piece of furniture, a trundle bed is like a couch on steroids.  The seat is actually a twin mattress.  The sides are tall enough to support a stack of pillows at night.  And the whole piece of furniture is high enough off the ground to allow for a low-wheeled box holding a second twin mattress – the trundle – to slide all the way underneath.  It’s kind of a bed within a bed – the furniture equivalent of Aliens.  And 50% more work than “just” a bed or “just” a couch.

It’s All In The Details

So now for the details.  Detail Number 1: How high to make this thing?  Well, the more comfort you want, the higher the mattress must be.  The higher the mattress, the taller the trundle and the upper level.  No worries, “we” had the measurements that the mattress salesman had supplied to my wife.  Check.

So on to Detail Number 2: Plans.  For the next three days – that’s Christmas minus days 13, 12, and 11 – I scoured the internet for some good trundle bed plans.  “No worries,” says my wife.  “We have plenty of time!”  We? Where exactly was the we in this picture?  And why is it that everyone thinks that any project involving wood can be done in no time at all, while electricians and plumbers can come up with all kinds of excuses and take their own sweet time?… But I digress.

I found some great plans on day minus 11 – not identical to the picture that “we” had printed out with such optimism, but close enough to give the same look and able to be modified without too much hassle.

cabinet doors Baker house
cabinet doors, Baker house
Detail Number 3 was next: paint or stain?  This is an age old battle, and most people’s first choice would be stained wood.  But you’ve got to ask yourself, “Will that actually look good?”  You’ve been in your buddy’s house with oak floors, the new pair of French doors left natural VGDF, the pine bookcases with oak stain… you get the mismatched picture.  Better to consider the house you’re in and pick a design and finish that fits the decor – modern, early American, too many remodels to tell?  In our case, our house has a combination of small-bone face frame cabinetry along with Shaker style doors and beaded panels in other parts of the house, all painted shades of white.  We decided to paint our trundle bed white.

beaded paneling on trundle bed
beaded paneling on trundle bed

Now it was day minus 10 and I had to decide on Detail Number 4: what modifications I needed.  To match the design of our house, I decided to use beaded paneling.  And to make sure I could get the finished bed into the room, I had to make it as a knock down, to be carried into the room in pieces and assembled where it would stand.  Note to all do-it-yourselfers – Before making any furniture for a room, make sure you don’t have to remodel the door opening in order to get it into the room!  But I digress again…

Into Production

Nine days to go and I ordered materials.

At eight days to go I started cutting.

At seven days to go, I had yet to see the “we” factor in “our” plan for the trundle bed and I could see the clock starting to spin faster and faster.  I made another modification.  The original design called for finished sides and back, but since this trundle bed was going to be placed against the wall, no need to finish the back side.  Who would ever see it, know, or care?

Coming next time – Part 2: Pressure mounts, sweat flows, and “we” race to the finish line.

Photo of author

About Brad

Brad Baker is Vice President of Operations at Miller Woodworking in the Los Angeles area, designers and builders of custom cabinetry and interior millwork for the rich and famous. They make the impossible, and their work has been featured in fancy schmantsy architectural glossies more than a few times. All that high end creative stuff aside, he maintains a strong spiritual belief that the real sign of a good woodworker is all 10 fingers. He and his wife Ann Baker co-write for HomeFixated. Ann is CEO of Publicity Pros, a firm that provides “All Things Publicity” services and training for small businesses. She’s a hopeless nerd who revels in anything and everything having to do with the technology of attracting attention. And, no joke, she loves to bake.

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2 thoughts on “The Great American Trundle Bed Race – Part I”

  1. I’m currently building a trundle bed, and would love to see your plans or pictures of trundle frame. In particular the wheel casters.

  2. I love the story. That’s exactly how I got a wall of built-in bookcases in my home office. My wife mentioned that she wanted them, and the hole under my nose just kept going. 5 months of 2 kids under 5 naptime later, and it was finished. At the very least, I now understand that I don’t want to be a pro trim carpenter.


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