Working with an antique bed frame

I love my antique bed. It has been in our family for over a hundred years. My grandfather slept in it, my mother slept in it, I slept in it, and now my daughter sleeps in it. I don’t know why a bed, such a mundane item of furniture, should hold my affections so firmly, but for some reason it does. I remember a long long time ago in Sunday School they were asking us littles about what we would be most sad to lose in a fire. I had no thought of the clothing, toys or other childhood treasures. For me, it was the bed. Even at that young age I had been captured in the spell of history, antiques and family treasures.

As a kid, I liked to crawl under the bed and look at the support structure, wondering about all the people who had slept on it. The supports of the bed originally consisted of five 2×4 slats that rest on small footers, a framed spring, and then the mattress. The top of the mattress was lower than the top of the footboard and it had a lovely sleigh bed profile. But, since that support structure was worn out and very old, my parents had a new box spring and mattress built. Of course, it is a non-standard size, so it had to be custom built. With the addition of the box spring, the top of the mattress became higher than the top of the footboard and for a while I was upset. I felt it spoiled the look of my bed. :-) We retained the slats to disperse the weight of the mattresses.

As an adult I learned about bed skirts. Particularly for an antique bed, which usually has a 12″-15″ opening below the bed, these are a great way to hide anything you store under the bed, or just give it a softer look. Since my bed has been modified from it’s original structure over the years, this project does not damage it any further. If your antique bed is in its original condition, think about whether you plan to take it on Antiques Roadshow before making alterations.

Because of the slats under my bed and the large box spring, I can’t simply lay the bed skirt over the box spring and leave it at that, so I had to devise a way to attach the skirt. First I tried a system of rails that lay over the slats, but I still had to remove the mattress (heavy) and box spring (insanely heavy) to install and remove the skirt. The other day I came up with the simplest of all methods: velcro.

Slats, underside of the bed

Slats, underside of the bed

Here you can see the slats and a bit of the underside of the bed. I apologize for how terrible these images are, but have you ever tried to take a picture of the underside of a bed? It’s not easy, haha.


Velcro placement

I used adhesive backed velcro and placed it right on the edge of the inside underside of the bed frame.


Velcro placement on the skirt

Next, I cut the center out of the bedskirt so that I had one long ruffle. I placed the other side of the velcro along the seam of the ruffle. Do not cut on the ruffle side of the skirt – I left about 2″ of the center portion as a buffer, just in case my measurement of the drop was off. I broke the velcro into three sections – side, foot and side – making sure to allow room to go around large corner posts. First, place the velcro on the bed frame. Then place the velcro on the skirt. The measurement should match up exactly. With this particular bed, I used a queen sized skirt because the bed is not a twin and not a full. I took a large pleat in the center of the foot section to make up for the overage. Continue along the other side until the skirt is placed.


Completed bed

The finished bed looks lovely! Since my black cat likes to go under the bed to hide, it will now be much easier to remove and wash the skirt to remove her hair that sticks to the skirt. If I decide to change the skirt for some reason, I will leave the velcro in place on the bed frame, and just reuse the pieces on the skirt. Keep in mind that the adhesive may wear out over time and you may need to baste the velcro onto the skirt.

Good luck with your antique bed, just remember to work with it, not against it!



4 thoughts on “Working with an antique bed frame

  1. That looks so pretty! Great job and the velcro on the inside of the rails is an inspiration! Might have to borrow that myself…

  2. Thank you for your detailed description. After looking at dozens of instructions, none of which would have worked for me, I found your site. I appreciate your details and pictures.

    • I really hope this works for you – I’d love to hear back if it does or doesn’t. Regardless, I”m glad you were able to get some ideas!

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