We had family at the house this weekend to celebrate an ‘early Thanksgiving’, and needed more proper sleeping options for everyone, so last weekend, we bought a bed off of Craiglist. Despite the great finds on Craigslist NYC, in 16 yrs I’ve never taken the leap and bought anything. Figures than when I finally do, it’s Craigslist Albany.

The bed is full-sized, shabby chic (read: painted white), with metal rails connecting the wood headboard and footboard. The detailing at the headboard is lovely – sort of a lattice look. Cons: it had dirt and finger print stains all over, it was missing slats to hold up a mattress, and the metal rails had a dark faux-wood design that needed to be painted. Still, it was nothing a little DIY couldn’t pretty up, and a steal at $100.

With the bed in the back of the car, we stopped by our local lumberyard to buy wood for the slats. This was the same place we bought the trim for our living room/dining room/upstairs, and since the summer, they had been bought out. ‘Oh no!’ Our knee-jerk liberal imaginations went wild: ‘the little guy was forced out! What’s next, Starbucks?!’ The staff wouldn’t have it. They were happy about the new ownership. They said the stock was much better and the company that bought them was another local lumberyard with a handful of locations in the Berkshires. We needed 3 10-foot pieces cut to size, so I called my Dad for suggestions and he said we needed a hardwood, not something soft (and cheap) like pine. That meant oak or poplar, and the oak was an insane $3+ a foot: there was no way we were spending over $200 on slats (at IKEA the strong ones are wood glued and about $50-70), so we ended buying poplar, which my Dad says is used as treads on stairs. We had the guys cut the wood down (they remembered us from our visit last winter) to six 55-inch slats.

Next we hit the hardware store for spray paint, thinking it would be easy to apply and cover both the metal and the wood surfaces. I’d been harboring a fantasy of transforming a piece of furniture with spray paint since seeing it done to great effect in magazines and on Apartment Therapy. We bought 2 cans of Ace brand white matte and a 1 can of primer. The bed was now running about $150. Still a steal.

We got home and things immediately started to go wrong. We laid the six new slats over the rails to find they were about an inch too short. Unbelievable. First lesson in measuring/cutting wood: go for more than you need. After a burst of mild expletives, Anuj trekked back to the lumberyard and laid down another $40 for 3 more 10-foot pieces of poplar. Meanwhile, I was back home ‘priming’ the metal rails with spray paint. It was a disaster. Not only did it drip everywhere leaving Pollack-esque splotches all over the rails, it stank. I closed off the basement and let it dry for 2 hours. I figured it would look fine once I got 2 coats of the regular white spray paint on. Anuj came home and I held my breath as we slid the new slats into the rails: success! Phew. I went back downstairs and applied the first coat of regular spray paint. Same problem. It stank and was dripping everywhere. I even had the rails going vertically this time, and it was still splotchy. I don’t think it was the metal that was the problem. It was the paint. I was standing in a toxic cloud of god knows what, cursing my fantasy. This stuff was so toxic, the smell permeated the entire house for 24 hours, even with windows open and fans running. The top it off, it looked terrible. Thank god I had the sense not to use that crap on the headboard and footboard. The next morning after some brainstorming, we decided to finish the job by painting the headboard and footboard with some of the remaining paint we had used on the trim in our upstairs Jack-n-Jill bath. It’s a sort of dusty white (Old Prairie – BM) that has some age to its look. I ran a coat over the rails, and it covered the splotchy spray paint beautifully. I thought latex wouldn’t wouldn’t stick to metal, maybe the spray paint acted as a primer…then I ran a coat over the headboard and footboard. It looked gorgeous: the finish was nice (semi-gloss), and the color was much more elegant than the Ace white.

Me painting the footboard in the final stages of the bed project.


Dirty headboard and proper sized slats.


Spray-painted side rails…yuch!


The bed all set for the fam.  Anuj implored me to mention that the art is temporary.


The fantasy is realized for $190.