Are you looking to restore a Jenny Lind bed but not sure how to start? The restoration process of a bed is very similar to other furniture flips but comes with some unique challenges. For instance, many antique beds are not the standard size of twin/full/queen/king. Many also miss side rails and parts. And removing old finishes from spindles can be a huge pain. In this blog post, I will share tips and tricks for tackling these challenges, and my own DIY experience. Let’s dive right in!
More than one year after refinishing, this 100-year-old bed still works and looks great.
|Skill Level||Material Cost||Time|
|Beginner||Less than $100||One weekend|
Finding the Perfect Jenny Lind Bed
Here are a few of my favorite Jenny Lind beds on the market. Crates and Barrel’s Jenny Lind Kids Maple Wood Spindle bed has the most classic style. The handmade English farmhouse spindle bed is absolutely gorgeous, can be an heirloom piece.
When looking for my own, I tried search terms such as “spool bed”, “spindle bed” or “antique bed”. Since this design is so popular, it didn’t take me long to find a full-size one for $75 in a nearby city. It had some wear and tear, but nothing unfixable (more on that in the next section).
Look at the details of this headboard. Aren’t they charming?
Often when you search for a Jenny Lind bed, you will notice the description mentions something like a 3/4 size. It’s a big gotcha with antique beds. The three-quarter size (3/4) is usually 48” wide, 70”-75” long, slightly larger than the modern twin size, but smaller than a full-size bed. Finding the right mattress to fit is tricky (see what this Facebook Marketplace ad says). You may need a new mattress (like this RV mattress). Or use a bed frame converter that adjusts the width of the headboard and footboard. Not entirely impossible, but something to think about.
Preparing the bed for refinishing
The antique bed I got was painted once, then stripped down and re-stained to a light oak color. The bed had nail holes, a broken footboard, a large crack on the side rail and was missing support for the mattress. Sounds bad. But the aesthetic issues are mostly hidden. So I wasn’t too worried about it. What I needed to figure out was the structural issue — how to add mattress support to the bed frame, since it had none.
The basic structure of a bed is simple. If you only have a headboard and a footboard, make new side rails with 1x6s pine board, and add bed brackets to the 4 corners of the bed to connect the whole piece together (like this blog post on THE PAINTED HIVE). Using screws also works (example), though they don’t look as nice as brackets.
The previous owner of my Jenny Lind bed used metal frame inside the wood frame and basically used the bed as decoration. To fix the problem, I bought 2×2 select pine, glued and screwed them to the side rails to form the cleats. Then added bed slats made of 1×3 boards (such as these premade ones). That’s it. Easiest DIY ever!
The box spring and mattress fit like a glove.
If you have a full-size bed, I recommend attaching a middle support to the slats with legs underneath to evenly distribute the weight. You can do that with 2×2 or whatever materials you have on hand and cut them to size.
How to deal with rusty hardware
If your vintage bed has rusty hardware, there are several ways to restore the metal to its original shine.
- For light rust, apply baking soda mixed with a bit of water, let sit for at least an hour for the mixture to work its magic. Then rinse off with water and a towel.
- For heavy rust, try rust dissolver.
- To polish metal, use cleaners such as Bar Keeper’s Friend liquid cleaner, The Pink Stuff or other cleaning products.
- A rust-removing cloth or fine grit steel wool could work too.
If you’re painting the bed though, it is a good idea to patch the holes with wood filler or Bondo, so you have a smooth finish to paint on.
Refinishing Jenny Lind bed
Moving on to refinishing the bed. The steps for refinishing any furniture are straightforward. I won’t cover the details in this post. Check out this painted IKEA dresser on how to prime, paint and seal a piece.
I want to talk about something special with a Jenny Lind bed. The spindles.
Yes, they’re beautiful. Removing the protective topcoat or the old wood stain is not the easiest or most enjoyable job.
If you want to re-stain the bed, but don’t have a detail sander, you will need a lot of patience. Be prepared to have sore arms, tired eyes, slightly altered mental state (just kidding!). Here is a trick that will make the process less painful: cut sandpaper into long strips, wrap it around the spindle, move from side to side to sand off the finish. Similar to polishing shoes. Watch this video to see how this technique does wonders.
It can cut down sanding time significantly.
After sanding, remove the dust and use lint-free cloth or an old T-shirt to apply stain and sealer. You can fix paint runs and drips a lot better this way. 2-3 coats of sealer is all it takes.
All finished and styled
After all the hard work, it’s finally time to decorate and style the bedroom. There are so many different ways to decorate this versatile piece. I love layering on a pinched pleat comforter and some decorative pillows.
If you need more inspiration, I recommend checking out these blog posts.
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