Designer’s Notebook: Scandinavian-style platform bedBlending the traditional four-post bed design with that of the modern platform bed, Peter Lutz designed an elegant bed with an elevated base, angled headboard, and turned legs set in from the corners.
Synopsis: Blending the traditional four-post bed design with that of the modern platform bed, Peter Lutz designed an elegant bed with an elevated base, angled headboard, and turned legs set in from the corners. The headboard, designed to be comfortable to rest against while sitting up, incorporates panels of woven Danish cord. The hardware is knockdown for easy disassembly and is visible, as is typical of mid-century Scandinavian furniture.
I love limitations. At the heart of any good design is creative problem-solving in response to constraints. I started this project by determining a set of aesthetic and construction limitations that guided my decisions throughout the process: I wanted a platform bed with an angled headboard, comfortable for sitting up against. The bed also had to come apart for moving. Finally, it had to look elegant and be built to last generations.
Consider the leg placement
When scouring the internet (and FineWoodworking.com), I found that most bed construction falls into one of two categories. There’s traditional construction, which consists of four corner posts with hardware connections at the posts. And there is the modern platform bed, essentially a box that sits on the floor with the mattress on top of it. I decided to blend the two.
Many modern platform beds have an overhang that provides visual lift, but the base is almost always a heavy box. I wanted something lighter, with the bed elevated on legs. Putting legs at the corners would have given it a more traditional look; I wanted the legs set in from the corners, giving the bed the illusion of floating. But that created a structural dilemma.
My solution was to create a beefy understructure to support the mattress while allowing the legs to be placed away from the corners. That structure is a frame made of 3-1/2-in.-wide by 1-1/2-in.-thick pieces of hardwood, oriented horizontally and connected with half-laps at each corner. The half-laps are fitted with T-nuts and cinched with furniture bolts. The turned legs are connected to the frame with through-mortises and wedged for extra strength.
The frame has a middle stretcher that runs the length of the bed. It is half-lapped at the ends but just drops in, no bolts needed. There is a fifth leg at the center of the bed that gets tenoned into the middle stretcher but is left unglued for easier disassembly.
The L-shaped sides of the bed are made from quartersawn ash. I wanted the grain of the sides to be continuous, so I joined the two parts of the L with a large miter, which is reinforced with long floating tenons. The grain of the wood follows the angle of the sides for a seamless look. The L-shaped sides are glued to the side rails of the support frame using biscuits for registration.
Headboard angled for comfort
One of the most important features to me was that this bed have a headboard that was comfortable to sit against. Instead of having a hard, rigid headboard at 90°, I angled it back and incorporated panels of woven Danish cord. The structure of the headboard is basically a stretcher frame, and it is held in place by furniture bolts that go through the L-shaped sides and connect to cross-dowels inserted in the headboard frame from the back. Stub tenons on the headboard frame fit into shallow mortises in the sides to aid in assembly.
Visible knockdown hardware is typical of mid-century Scandinavian furniture, because it was more efficient to ship unassembled pieces overseas. I used visible brass furniture bolts and pinned the tenons of the headboard frame with brass rod to echo the brass hardware.
The footboard and the lower headboard panel connect the bed’s L-shaped sides together like rails. The footboard has a rounded step-down that relates to the rounded elements elsewhere in the piece.
This is a platform bed, so there is no box spring. To support the mattress I made slats that span from the side rails of the support frame to the center stretcher. The slats are connected with webbing, making it easy to just roll them up when it comes time to disassemble the bed and simple to keep the spacing consistent when you unroll them. I made two sets of slats, and they lie side by side. The end slats have holes drilled in them to drop onto pegs fastened to the support frame.
With the structure of the bed complete, the final step was weaving the Danish cord in a 4-by-2 basket-weave pattern. The cord is wrapped around the headboard frame and secured in back with L-pins.
Peter Lutz is a furniture maker in Providence, R.I.
Drawings: John Tetreault
From Fine Woodworking #285