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Ethan’s Big Boy Bed Makeover

2014 April 15
by Becky

I decided many months ago that it was high time Ethan had a real big boy bed, and it needed to be two things:

1. Antique
2. Yellow

We converted his crib right before my back surgery more out of necessity than anything…I wasn’t going to be able to lift him in and out (and wasn’t supposed to even before surgery, oops) so BOOM, he was in a side-less crib. And it all went well! No issues at all, I guess he was ready.

Anyway, his crib was kind of falling apart from being taken apart and moved across the country twice—it was clear we needed an upgrade. So what did I do? Spent many spare moments rushing into consignment and antique stores scanning for beds—I’m fast. I scoured Craiglist for weeks. Waiting to find something perfect was excruciating. I’m just not very patient.

But on my monthly visit to one of my favorite shops, Quintessential, I found this:

Painted Antique Metal Bed - Before

Rusty and scratched but nearly dent-less and very sturdy, I knew this was our bed. Except it was missing side rails. I asked the shop owners how I could handle this…was making new rails possible? They’d need to be this nifty little button system, something I’d never seen before but apparently is pretty common in old iron beds. They passed along the name of a local welding company and gave me the weekend to figure things out.

Long story short, the welding company said “No problem, give us a week” and I bought the bed. The price? Free. Ok, it was really $55 but I had an old crystal light fixture to trade, one that had been in our foyer and just didn’t work in the space, so no money was exchanged. The new rails set me back about $60.

Next up, it was time to sand.

Painted Antique Metal Bed - Before

Getting the pieces into my garage, I realized exactly how rough they were. Paint chipped everywhere, rust on every inch. I headed in with my electric sander for hours. I of course did a lead paint test first, and even though it came up negative, I wore a respirator. There was so much sanding dust flying up in the air and this bed was pretty old…I thought I’d err on the safe side.


Lemme tell you, wearing these masks with glasses is just a treat. That is, unless you actually need to see what you are doing. Foggy glass was an issue.

I sanded until all the paint-chip pock-marks and the rust were gone. After a good coat of primer, I used Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover in Glossy “Sun Yellow”. After everything had a couple coats, I used a regular old Poly to seal everything.

Painted Antique Metal Bed - Spray Paint

Many nap times were spent in the garage sanding and painting—good thing our video monitor reaches! I wanted plenty of paint on every surface so I went through about four cans of spray paint. The bed started looking very good, very quick.

Amazing what paint can do.

Painted Antique Metal Bed - Primed and Paint

There was one spot on the bed I couldn’t ignore, a giant gouged area right smack in the top-middle of the headboard. I used some metal repair compound I found in the putty area of the paint supplies asile at Home Depot. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to use, but I used it and it worked. After applying, I let it dry a day or two and then sanded the crap out of it. It’s not a perfect fix, but looks much better than before.

Painted Antique Metal Bed - Repair

After what seemed like forever (we were also spending weekends renovating the bathroom at this time, see the plywood planks in the background?) I announced the bed was complete. A trip to Mattress Firm for, I think, the most comfortable inexpensive mattress ever, and a trip to the hardware store for some 1×4 bed slats (we cut them down), we were ready to set it up.

Painted Antique Metal Bed - Painted

Out came the old crib and in went the new bed…Ethan was PUMPED!! We made the switch right before nap on a Saturday so he had a chance to try it out before doing the full overnight.

Painted Antique Metal Bed - Complete

Painted Antique Metal Bed - After

Pretty good for free, right? The construction sheets I grabbed at Target almost a year ago work perfectly, the orange and navy going so well with the yellow. No comforter (actually no sheet either) right now because the Peanut prefers no covers at this time.

Don’t get me started, we’ve tried and tried to get him to give them a try.

Painted Antique Metal Bed - After

Painted Antique Metal Bed - Button Bed Rails

There’s the “button” I was talking about. The bed rails needed them welded on to slide into the head and footboard slots. The welding company had all the pieces to make sure it was a really tight fit…no wobbling here.

Painted Antique Metal Bed - DIY Bed Slats

A look underneath shows our DIY slats. I may have hit up Ikea for a set of these if possible, but buying them cheap and cutting them down was a cinch. I’ll be working up a velcro system to keep them in place during sheet changes (with potty training, there have been quite a few). 

Painted Antique Metal Bed - First Nap

Ethan LOVES his new bed.

He’s fallen out a couple times but recovered beautifully, just mumbling, “I fell out of my bed” when we ran in to check. The kids sleeps with like 7 miniature vehicles plus Sharky (a GIANT stuffed shark) every night so it’s no wonder things get a little crowded sometimes.

We realized there was no need for his giant orange chair anymore, as we read all his books laying in bed. Suddenly the baby items that have been a part of his room for three years are disappearing. The changing pad, crib, rocking chair, cloth diaper supplies…all gone.

I’m a little shocked by how cute this bed turned out, and even more shocked at how flippin’ comfortable it is!! Reading a story to him at nap almost does me in every day.

If you haven’t been, check out Quintessential when they are open, the first through the seventh of every month.  Always different and the prices are quite nice.

Where do you find the best consignment/antiques? 

8 Responses
  1. April 16, 2014

    Love the yellow bed!!! Can’t believe the orange chair is gone! The curtains are still my favorite!!!! Super job.

  2. April 16, 2014

    Girl, you work hard!
    Julie recently posted..16/52My Profile

  3. Linda Johnson permalink
    April 16, 2014

    Great job on the bed. I too love it!!
    I am looking for an iron headboard and frame for my guest room. Finally got a new bed and it’s so hard to find and old iron bed for a queen set. So for now no headboard until I find exactly what I want.

  4. Lauren G permalink
    April 16, 2014

    I bought a bed in kindergarten that also required a welder to make the changes to the side rails you described. To this day I have the bed and still love it… But my mom had the guy sand blast it before painting it with spray paint. This post totally reminds me of it.

    As soon as we get a house I’ll be goingo the The Junk Guy over by Cherokee.

    • Becky permalink*
      April 22, 2014

      Why is it I can totally picture you as a kindergartner walking into a store and haggling over a bed? Then project managing the weldors? (Since you said “I” bought a bed…this is what went through my head) :)

  5. April 17, 2014

    Wow. You go lady. I am so in awe of your construction skillz!
    Jen recently posted..Letter P 3-part cardsMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      April 22, 2014

      Thanks!! It clearly looks harder than it was, just a little time consuming :)

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