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Bed Frame by Night, Room Divider by Day?

Hi,  I need a place for a guest to sleep, but there's no room in my very small place to leave a guest bed set up during the day. There is no wall or closet big enough for a Murphy bed, nor space enough for a sleeper loveseat sofa or a daybed. (This place is really little, what some would call "very efficient", so every piece of furniture is multi-functional)  My cat will destroy a high-sided inflatable Aero bed in no time (ask me how I know!) but I can easily deflate a regular air mattress and store it in a drawer with bed linens during the day. But I don't want my guests to sleep on a mattress on the floor, and we need the walk space during the day!


So I'm thinking of building a wooden bed frame that will raise a standard, full/double-width air mattress (54"x75"x6") off the floor, with legs about 12" high.  I know there are lots of platform bed designs out there, but I need something foldable or stand-up-able, so it's out of the way but in view during the day. (No closet to hide it in.) I'd like to use the frame as a tall free-standing screen or room divider when it's not needed for a bed, so it needs to be reasonably light weight but attractive, and can quickly be transformed to either use. 


The base that the air mattress rests on doesn't need to be hard surface. It could be strong canvas drawn taut on all 4 edges like a big cot (and I could paint the canvas for a decorative room divider when it's standing upright) or else I know how to weave it with strong cord in a decorative pattern, like a traditional charpoy bed in India. With a good air mattress and pad on top it will be comfortable and lightweight. I slept on a charpoy + air mattress every night for more than 2 years!  The air mattress seems to distribute weight well over the woven cord base, so it doesn't sag in the middle like an ordinary canvas camp cot does.


So I'd like your advice on these questions, please:

 1. What can I use (wood or pipe) to make a sturdy yet attractive 54x75 frame with detachable or fold-up legs, using basically a couple of pull saws, a drill, and the usual hand tools? I'm pretty good at DIY but I don't have many power tools any more. I've looked at turned wooden legs, closet pole, galv pipe.... What would be strong enough to keep the canvas or woven cords from bowing in at the sides? Pipes are easy to connect together, but the joints aren't so attractive, so wood would be preferred for aesthetics and also lighter weight. if I can use wood, how fat would the sides of the frame need to be, and what would be a good way to join them at the corners? I've thought about cubes of 4x4 (rounding the corners) with holes drilled for fat poles. and pegged tight with dowels. I don't think I have the skill for precision mortise and tenon joints.


2.If I can use wood, do you have any suggestions for making the legs removable or foldable? Then I could stand it up against the wall during the day, or leave 2 legs in place for stability as a room divider. I was thinking of using some sturdy turned wood legs I saw in my local Home Depot, but I don't know how to make them foldable or easily detachable without sacrificing stability or strength.


I know this is a long explanation of what I'm trying to do. I hope you can help me work out a plan. Thanks very much for any advice you can offer. 



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Posted 2012-03-16T23:09:36+0000  by k24 k24

I don't have time for a drawing right now, so I'll just describe an idea I had while reading your post. For your frame, you could use galvanized plumbing pipe and paracord. The pipe would give you the rigidity you'll need to string up your paracord for the base for the mattress. To make it all a bit more attractive, use pipe clamps to mount a wood fascade around the pipe.


While this pipe clamp is PVC, they are available in metal in the pipe and fittings aisle. It should give you the idea of what I'm talking about.


As for the legs, maybe something like a lid hinge would be able to lock the leg down for the bed and folded for the divider application.

Rockler (click for a link to possible solutions) also has some Posi-Lock folding leg brackets that are a definite possibility depending on the size of the leg desired. I think they're mainly used for tables, but maybe beefing up the size of the might just do the trick.


Hope this helps, I'm off to bed.

Posted 2012-03-17T05:24:42+0000  by Paul
Hi Paul, Thanks for your great suggestions! I know this is an unusual (loony?) project, and I appreciate your input. Galv pipe and a wood facade is a very good idea, and the clamps will make it easy to do the facade. I wonder if it could be made a little lighter in weight if I use angle iron and wood facade instead of pipe? Either way, the facade will be an excellent aesthetic improvement. It also occurs to me that I could sheath the galv pipe in PVC, scuffed up and stained to look like wood poles. That might cut the weight a little. Either way, the frame will be completely covered with cord when I weave the base, except (maybe) at the very corners, which I can wrap with cord for the sake of appearance -- and a little shin protection! I'm a little concerned about inward deflection on the long sides, since there won't be any slats across the frame to prevent this, and the woven base will be quite tight. Would angle iron or galv pipe be better in that regard? I'll be putting an air mattress on top of the woven base, which should help distribute the person's weight, but I'm not sure about the sides warping inward, being under constant tension from the cords. The locking hinges are brilliant, Paul! I've used them before to make a lift-up shelf. They'll work fine to make folding legs if I can drill and tap the pipe to screw them onto the frame. I've never tried drilling into pipe before. (Or I can just bolt them on if I use angle iron with the holes in it instead of pipe.) Then attach the other side of each hinge to a sturdy wood leg with long screws. I'll probably use 6 legs, 3 on each long side of the frame. Two of the legs can be left open to stabilize it on one end for use as a room divider or screen. I'm no good at all with SketchUp yet, but I'll make some drawings on paper and let you know what I come up with. Any other comments or suggestions will be very much appreciated. Thank you again! Katie
Posted 2012-03-17T21:22:10+0000  by k24
Sorry about no paragraph breaks in my post just now. I know it makes it hard to read, and I don't know why they didn't show in my post as they did while I was composing it. Katie
Posted 2012-03-17T21:26:28+0000  by k24

Hi Katie I think you and Paul have hit upon a great solution here.  If you're using galvanized pipe or angle iron I don't think inward bowing from the canvas will be a problem.  The pipe (running the length of an air mattress) should be more than strong enough, as you said in your original post this is essentially a large cot structure. As long as the weave allows for breaks for the wood facing you should be golden.


A thought that does occur to me is that if you plan on leaving a set of legs locked into place for stability, make it the set at the "head" of the frame. If you use galvanized pipe for the construction it would be simple use a tee at the frame head to create a low headboard. This working with the stationary feet would give you a much more secure footing for when the frame is in room divider mode.


Paul's great with sketchup so I'd try to see if he can plot a model of his idea. Also if you have any examples of this woven canvas technique you plan to use I'd love to see them.


All and all this sounds like a great project, best of luck to you.




Posted 2012-03-18T14:29:05+0000  by Chris_HD_ATL
Hi, ChrisFixit, Thanks so much for your suggestions! Since you asked, below are a couple of links to some examples of what I'm hoping to make. I want to make mine with removable or hinge-able legs on the foot end, so I can stand it upright during the day for a screen or room divider. I agree, adding posts or a headboard will make it much more stable when standing on end. Good idea, Chris! Thank you! This link shows a few pix of how the simplest weave pattern is done, but they can be much more complex than this: I know how to do several other patterns of more decorative weaving for the bed surface. I think it could look nice as a room divider AND be a functional bed if I can just figure out an attractive frame that's strong enough for a full/double bed size. I've never seen a charpoy that's wider than a twin bed, and I think that's why the frames can be made with relatively small dimension wood. I'd stil very much like to make mine from wood rather than galv pipe if possible, since pipe is so heavy. I've tried cutting and drilling angle iron before, and it seems almost impossible with ordinary tools. If I really must use metal, I may try it with a steel bed frame and attach a wood facade, as Paul suggested. Do you think a wood closet pole would be strong enough for the 75" side rails? I think Home Depot used to sell bigger diameter full round than I can find in my local store now. Or maybe oak stair rail? Or PVC with rebar inside it? I could sand & stain the PVC to look like wood if the rebar inside it would be rigid enough. Thank you for helping me brainstorm this project! Katie
Posted 2012-03-18T20:21:11+0000  by k24

Why not use the perforated angle that is commonly used to hang a garage door opener? It should give you the rigidity that you need, be light weight and give options to weave an attractive pattern with your paracord. The holes would also lend themselves to allowing 1x or 2x stock to be through bolted (either all the way through with nuts and washers or with threaded inserts or t-nuts into the wood). If you used a 2x4 for the sides, a 1x4 or 1x6 could be used along the bottom side to frame it out. This would provide something looking like a face frame and additional mounting area for legs.


Something similar to this:



I think rebar is going to flex too much for what you're wanting to do.

Posted 2012-03-21T02:08:07+0000  by Paul
Hi Paul, Thanks for your suggestion about the angle iron, and the drawing. I wish I had your SketchUp skills! I agree, angle iron is a very good idea. I'veseen it many times in the store and thought of several projects I could use it for. Here's my first opportunity! Perf'd angle will be easy to assemble and face with wood, also quite strong. I haven't seen it longer than 6 ft in my local Home Depot, but if I can find it longer (for the sides), can it be cut with an ordinary hacksaw, a little oil, and some patience? And will 1" x 1" (or so) angle iron be strong enough, or do I need the wider one? Thanks again for your good advice. Katie
Posted 2012-03-21T17:58:09+0000  by k24

I would just use the same perforated angle that's used for the garage door openers. As for the length, that's easily accomplished by over lapping up a couple of pieces and bolting them together (you will probably have to use a bit smaller bolt because of the alignment of the holes. figure at least three bolts for the overlap). If you want to create a center support bar, simply back two pieces together and through bolt with some nuts and washers.


Here is a bit more detail of what I'm referring to:




Adding the frame idea from above. You'll notice there are a couple of dowels in the one piece of 2x4. Here's why, screwing into end grain of wood is not very strong. By boring a hole and inserting a piece of dowel, your lag or screw is now driving into cross grain and will hold much better. If you really wanted to, you could use bed bolts to tie it all together.

Either way will work, just depends on what you can find.


As for cutting the metal, a hack saw will do just fine, just a bit of work. If you have access to a jig saw, it will be much easier and quicker.

Posted 2012-03-21T22:15:15+0000  by Paul

As for Sketchup, there are plenty of tutorials out there, even specific to wood working. Here's a post I made awhile back talking about a quick workflow tutorial by Sketchup guru, Dave Richards: Utilizing Sketchup


Like with a lot of things we try to master, the more you use Sketchup, the harder it gets! You learn some basics and then need to learn something else to accomplish you knew goals... and the cycle continues. :smileylol:

Posted 2012-03-21T22:30:01+0000  by Paul
Hey, thanks, Paul, you're really helpful! I'm heading over to Home Depot today, so I'll check out the materials you suggested. I do have a jigsaw, so I'll get some metal-cutting blades for it. The drawings you made are very useful. I think you have captured just what I'm trying to accomplish. Thanks! When I get it done I'll try to post a photo. May be a while, with so many other "just moved here" projects already in the works, but I'm eager to get this one started soon. I appreciate your help and advice. I had no idea I could get this much help so quickly and easily! Thanks again. Katie
Posted 2012-03-23T14:59:48+0000  by k24
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