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Wooden Crate Headboard

posted by Matt Pierce on November 04, 2010

Bedrooms in my house are very, very small. A queen-sized bed fits – but without much room on either side for nightstands or storage. I had a small nightstand, but after piling a large alarm clock and lamp and anything else on it and it looked ridiculous. After pouring over ideas, I thought about making a built-in solution. Now I have a huge shelf to stack my junk, extra books, lamps, blankets, trinkets, whatever! Also, figured if I was building it, why not give it some doors and use it for extra blanket/pillow/sleeping bag storage? This works great for me, and maybe it would for you too.

Plans are based on my build, but you can surely adapt them for any configuration. For facing boards, I used cedar fence planks, mainly because they are readily available and inexpensive. I would have loved to have built this with some reclaimed Fir, but I was impatient and started building and couldn't find what I wanted to finish the job over the weekend. If you want antique wood, search some out before beginning your project – however here's my plan based on 8ft x 5.5in x .5in cedar planks.

First step: Measure your space and sketch it out. I always recommend a sketch for built-in projects. If you plan this part correctly you'll limit the amount of lumber you use and have less cuts to make. As I built, my plan kind-of adapted, and I had more cuts to make, but I'll give you hints to avoid this. Things to remember: 2x4s are actually 1.5 x 3.5 inches - so note actual lumber size when formulating.

Build the facing frame: If you have uneven walls like mine, measure and cut your floor-length board first. Measure and cut your verticals, and make sure they are close enough together for decent support - no further than 18" apart. I cut five verticals, 24.5" each. Lay your verticals on the floor, then screw your floor-facing board to them with your screws. Once assembled, set your frame in place, and measure and cut your top board. Because my walls bow, it was important to cut this board to it's location height. If you have plumb walls, you can completely built out the frame and set in place. Before screwing the ends of the top boards, level your frame and screw the end boards into the wall. Make sure you're anchoring to a stud, because this is your main support/anchor points. I chose to not screw the frame into my floors, and the wall mounts were secure enough to accomplish this. After your facing fame is in place, I attached 2x4s to the back wall as supports for my top doors. Make these even height with your top frame board. I left space between boards to feed electrical cords behind the doors easily. Then for added strength, I attached the facing frame to the back wall with a 2x4. This board also helps support the door tops, which will rest on the facing frame top and the back wall boards.

Facing boards: Now your frame is complete and secure, you can begin the facing. My cedar fence boards are VERY rough, so I sanded the harsh surface with an orbital sander and heavy grit paper. This left them still rough in a rustic way, but not splintery. After sanding, sweep off the sawdust. Between the boards and the frame, I attached heavy plastic, so when I stored things inside, they wouldn't catch on the board surface. This is just an option if you use rough boards and don't want to snag anything that might rest against them. Then nail your boards over the plastic covered front frame. I used small finish nails that would be easily hidden. Make sure your boards are level and then nail them in place. If you've measured correctly, your top facing board should come above your frame top by 1" so your doors will be counter sunk. (I did not make this important calculation before-hand, so I had to attach a cut trim piece to take up the gap.)

Top doors: Once your facing boards are in place, you can measure you top door depth. Again, my walls are un-even, so each one is different and cut accordingly. Don't make them too snug either, mine each have a small gap at the back, so I can easily feed my lamp/clock electrical cords though. The top boards are just made with the fence planks, two support boards each, glued and attached with small screws. For handles, I drilled holes and used scrap leather strips, fed through and knotted. You could use drawer handles, rope, large finger holes, whatever you like.

Finishing: You can finish your facing boards and doors before attaching, but I finished in place. I used water based stain to darken the boards, let dry and then coated with water-based poly. I used water based products since I'll be sleeping in here, and the fumes are way less noxious. Because the boards are very coarse, I used three coats of poly with a vigorous hand sanding in between. It was more about building up a thick finish to prevent splinters than creating a smooth topcoat for me. After a day or two drying, I could place move everything back in place. 



Aunt Miki on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

What a great way to incorporate some of the great things you have learned from owning vintage houses. I love it and will check back often.

Michelle on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

thats genius and looks sexy as hell. nice!

jenn on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

What a great project — I am always eyeing wood crates, but am never sure quite how to use them. Thanks for the awesome idea!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Thanks Dan, appreciate it coming from a fellow builder!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Thanks Miki, glad you found it!

Dan @ Manhattan Nest on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Wow, this is great! What a simple, pretty solution— and the room looks great, besides!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Great, I’m happy to hear you want to build your own! That bed frame is the good ol’ Ikea Malm. I went to the ‘as-is’ section and bought a damaged footboard part and used it to replace my tall headboard. I bet you could build a whole bed from ‘as-is’ parts if you tried…

Sarah on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

So, I want to do this is our new apartment in Seattle. What can you tell me about the actual bed frame? Thank you! Super excited.

Manu on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Nice and clean! Good job Matt.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

I’d think if you had enough fruit crates to stack them wall-to-wall, that’d be really cool. That might be the only shortcut… I know pallets are usually pretty gnarly and large, so that’d be a bigger cutting and dismantling job in my opinion. I say try the fruit-crate idea, and if you do I want to see pics!

Miranda on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

I don’t have the skills or materials to build this but this is exactly what I want/need. Any suggestions on how to “cheat” and make it a bit easier for those of us who aren’t as handy? Some sort of fruit crate thing, maybe? Palettes?

sunny on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

wow. what a gorgeous room! great job!!!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Ha, no problem! Glad you like how it turned out and thanks for reading.

Joel on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

sorry, I only read one half of the article. fore head slap

Joel on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Well done ! I love this, it’s simple and clean looking, but the wood texture gives it character while the dark color makes it look “rich”

How did you color the cedar planks? Is it a stain, and how did you apply the coloring?

Nikkel on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Oooh man….. I also started making mine past weekend !! Not sure it will be as good looking as yours… ^^

Your blog is so…… inspiring ! Just spent one hour to read all your articles, admire your pictures, and go to ebay looking for a Barbour ;o)

Continue, continue, continue….

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

Thanks Frank, and good job on some improvisation! I bet it looks cool.

Frank on November 14 2014 at 10:16AM

I threw two pallets I found and cleaned (definitely clean, lots of things crawl around pallets) as a headboard for my double bed and connected them with a bracket. Although there’s no storage component, it does have the same overall appeal (and it’s practically free!). The right pallets can give a great look, attach a construction light on for reading there and it’s pretty radd.

Matt, great headboard, I plan to graduate from pallets to this handsome piece over the next month or so. Just found your site, and as a fellow Portlander, I’m already a big fan. Look forward to reading more!

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