How to Build A West Elm Inspired Day Bed


Inside: Step-by-step instructions for how to build your own modern day bed. This is a simple DIY that uses a Kreg Jig and pocket hole screws.

Y’all, I don’t want to brag. But COME ON. This project is basically the best thing since sliced bread and it’s one of my favourite DIYs of all time. I have wanted a day bed for so long – like ever since I was a little girl. I couldn’t find one that would ship to our area – but I was able to find a day bed that we could build – yes, build – for a fraction of the cost. 

Today, I am passing the reins of this blog over to my beloved husband, Dan – who generally handles the back end workings of our blog… but who today has decided to teach us all how to build a DIY West Elm Inspired Day Bed.

Dan here. Full disclosure.  Two months ago Erin came to me and said: “Will you build me a bed?” before passing on a set of plans that detailed How to Build A West Elm Inspired Day Bed. Which I did. And it’s awesome. And we’re happy. And it’s perfect in its new home in the blog office.

Of course, none of this happened before I had to ask “What’s West Elm?” and before a brief freakout because this was above and beyond any sort of wordworking project I’d ever attempted. My first thought was decidedly “there’s no way in heck that I can build this.”

Buuut, as I said, I had this set of plans from Ana White for guidance, and I also got a table saw for Christmas… so there was no excuse for making excuses.

To be honest, the plans were a bit of trouble, but I couldn’t have done anything without them. Plus, they’re completely free, which is amazing. The other great thing? This bed is largely built from construction-grade lumber, which means it’s relatively inexpensive. Certainly cheaper than the $600 plus tax and delivery price tag it carries in-store.

First up, the supplies and tools… (These are a tweaked version of the shopping list provided by Ana White.)

I want to save you this trouble.  You wanna build this bed? Read on…

Plan on breaking this project into four stages: 1) cutting, 2) assembling the rectangles 3) assembling the frame, and 4) finishing.

So the first step was to set aside a couple of hours and make all the cuts on the table saw. The nice thing about this project was that it was all straight cuts. No fuss. Just measure, draw the cut line, cut, and repeat.

When all is said and done, you’re left with a big pile of sawdust, and all your wood.  If you’re like me, take the time to align them neatly into like stacks and admire.

At this point, it’s a really good idea to get out the power sander, (we have this one) and do a  pass with 120 grit sandpaper to smooth out those 2x3s and 2x2s, because they are construction grade and likely rough around the edges. Because I purchased finished 1x2s, I didn’t need to worry about these at this stage.

I should say that I DIDN’T do this until after assembly, which made for tricky business. Which is why I’m telling you: sand what you can now! There’s still going to be some final finishing later, but if you do the rough stuff at this stage before assembling and creating zillions of tight angles, you’ll find it much faster.  So get sanding, sonny boy. Sand.

Next, the real work begins, as you begin constructing the rectangles. I used our kreg jig to make pocket holes on the 1x2s, and then started building “H” shapes. 9 of ’em. Hs were joined together by connecting 1x2s using glue and 1 1/2″ screws.

Here I found the plans a little unclear, as they state that you need to use 2 1/4″ screws. I found that I needed to set the jig at a 1 1/4″ setting for drilling, and use 1 1/2″ screws, not 2 1/4″, as the screws were simply too long. #kregjigproblems.

There’s a lot of gluing, drilling, and checking for square, but gradually the back and sides of the bed begin to take shape as the Hs were connected. I had a few occasions where I had to stop and redo certain steps as my rectangles weren’t aligned level with one another.. so it’s worth the fuss to slow down, and double triple check that everything is square, and get this part right.

Once connected together, the Hs become rectangles, and get capped off on the ends with Ts (1/13 of your way through the alphabet!) All told, you’ll have 12 connected rectangles. 6 across what will be the back of the bed, and 3 on each side.

Now, the next part isn’t clearly explained in the plans. You’ve reached step 4, and are about to start step 5, but you also need to cut some 1×2 into 24 separate 2 1/4″ lengths, which aren’t on the original cut list. These are essentially spacers, which allow you to affix the rectangles to the top and bottom of the frame. If  you’re using the kreg-jig, you’ll also have to drill two opposite facing pocket holes.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here’s one of the sides standing on it’s end. The arrows are pointing to the spacers. You’ll need to cut all of ’em. Which you’ll already have done if you use the cut list I provide above!

So by this point I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. That is until realizing that one of my sides was twisted warp factor 9. See the 2×3 on the left, below? It’s warped, unusable. Consequently, it was pulling my rectangles off square, and looked terrible. Somehow, I’d missed this when choosing my lumber, and later cutting this piece.

I had to disassemble the side, head back to the hardware store, scour the racks for another near-perfect 2×3, and start again. Until finally, I had two warp-free sides, and one warp-free back.

We were nearly complete! You’ll notice that I’d brought it upstairs for final assembly, a) to get a sense of its scale within the room and b) because once it’s assembled it’s pretty unwieldy.

With the legs went on, I connected sides to back, and the bed finally started to take shape.

Final assembly involved adding additional supports to the base of the frame, and then attaching slats for the mattress to rest on.

Now, here’s another tip. Don’t do what I did and attach the slats, yet. Because there is a final stage to this whole thing, and that’s finishing and priming/painting.

Use 220+ grit sandpaper and go to town smoothing out the whole thing. It’ll take a while, but like most things, the attention to detail is worth the effort. We slapped on a coat of primer and PARA paint in High Tea*, and were able to finish up the whole thing in an afternoon.

But back to the slats for a moment… attach them AFTER final sanding and painting of the frame, otherwise you can’t reach to paint the front-face of the back of the bed without standing behind the whole thing and bending over its top.. Erin and I spent two hours hunched over like Quasimodo trying to paint the back because I’d got a little too drill-happy, and failed to think the process through.

Still, in the end, it was worth the time.

I’m really happy with how it turned out. All told, I spread this out over 6 weeks and picked away at it in small steps, so as not to rush it.

It’s a great piece for that room, as it offers us an additional guest bed, and more importantly, a space for Erin’s Sacred Weekend Naps.

What do you think? Want to give it a go for yourself? DO IT!!

A huge thank you is owed to for sharing the plans, as I never would have otherwise tried and learned about building something of this scale. I may balk a bit about specifics, but really, it’s simply a great resource to have. I’m already trawling the archive for my next challenge!

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