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Antiques-loving teen scores beauty from the Island of Misfit Beds

$100 bed.jpg

Julia Rutledge reads Homer’s second major epic poem, “The Odyssey,” on her classic Victorian, $100 antique bed.


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, April 28, 2018

My 16-year-old daughter, Julia, got the dark-wood, Victorian antique bed she wanted, and it set her dad back only $100 and five days’ hard labor.

Julia shares her grandfather’s and her father’s affinity for fine antiques. I wrote here a few weeks ago about her need to upgrade in bedroom furniture and how she prefers classic antiques ahead of anything recently assembled in China.

Smart girl. But quality antique beds are few and far between inside today’s antiques malls.One bedless dealer allowed that most people just do not want older beds these days. The lower demand, she said, does not mix well with the floor space that beds require in those tiny booths that most dealers occupy inside antiques malls.

Just the same, Julia and I spent two weekends searching high and low before finally locating the bed of her dreams in Bristol, Tenn. Walnut and mahogany with decorative walnut burl panels, it was love at first sight.

The bed was not assembled, and there was no price tag. I was sure that meant it was outside of our budget, but I inquired just for kicks.

The lady at the desk called the owner for the price and hung up, visually stunned by what she’d learned.

“I don’t believe this,” she said, “but the price is $150 if you buy today.”

There had to be a catch, and there was. When we tried setting up the bed to ensure that everything functioned correctly, it didn’t. The walnut rails appeared to go with the bed, but their hardware did not line up with the receiving ends at the headboard and footboard.

We called the owner again to see if perhaps the correct rails were available. No, he said, but if we still wanted the bed, he would let it go for $100.


I knew the connecting hardware would have to be replaced, and I knew that I had access to the tools and brothers-in-law needed to get the job done.

Brother-in-law Kevin Hall has a beautiful woodworking shop next to his home. About a year ago, he asked if I had any interest in setting up a shop of my own. He had acquired a bulk of pre-owned woodworking machines at a bargain price.

“You would have just about everything you need,” Kevin urged.

I explained that I have everything I need in a woodworking shop already. It just happens to be next to my brother-in-law’s house.

Kevin built his own kitchen and bathroom cabinets in his shop. I most recently built a footstool in junior high school shop class.

Another woodworking brother-in-law, Andy Taylor, helped me get started with the chiseling and shaving and blood and tears required for retrofitting the old bed with new connecting hardware. Kevin later lent me a handheld router, which shortened the project from five weekends to three.

I finished the job three splinters, one minor scratch and only two fingers glued together. But what a bed!

I’d be tempted to carry it into a taping of “Antiques Roadshow,” but they’d probably say I’ve devalued it by retrofitting the hardware.

What do they know about $100 beds?

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.