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Making Good on an Idea: DIY Industrial Bedroom

July 10, 2012
Personal Finance
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During my college years, my greatest passion was building racecars. Constructing an open-wheel formula car from scratch was no small task, and for our novice team of 15 students, we spent a great deal of time in the shop: grinding, welding, eating, and sleeping. The long days were hard work, but enjoyable given our group of eccentric engineers. Senior year, the shop became a second home to me, which is around the same time I came up with the idea that I wanted to create a garage bedroom.

I used to describe my idea to friends: I wanted to have a bedroom that was sourced exclusively from Home Depot and Sears: my bed would be built out of pipe, a workbench would serve as a desk, my dresser a tool chest. I never committed to the idea, probably because the unpleasant looks I would receive, especially from women, who almost uniformly replied: “I would never step foot in that room.” That somewhat goes against the priorities of an early-20s male. The idea was shelved for a while, but never forgotten.

Five years later, I found myself living alone in a small studio working at a financial web start-up in San Francisco. I started doing research into building a bed our of industrial pipe fittings. There are plenty of plans available online, so that gave me a basis for getting creative and customizing the design. I chose finished mahogany to accentuate the headboard and footboard, locating an artist on Etsy to help me with the woodwork and fabrication (I no longer had access to a full shop).

To join the headboard and footboard, I chose galvanized pipe cut to length and joined with Kee Klamps from Simplified Building Concepts. While this does not exactly match the other pipe fittings, the support structure is hidden once bedding is in place, and were substantially cheaper and easier than using pipe fittings. I laid several pieces of wood on top of the crossbeams to support the mattress. The end result is an incredibly sturdy bed that looks great.

With the bed complete, it was time to build the rest of the room around it. Instead of sourcing a shop workbench for a desk, I worked with my Etsy artist to create a matching pipe desk. The theme of the bedroom was evolving towards “industrial,” but the mahogany gave the pieces a warmer feeling than aluminum or other materials. Additionally, the desk really tied together the elements of the bed.

I love shopping Craftsman at Sears. It’s like my personal toy store. Tool cabinets have great utility, so it was actually quite natural to use one as a dresser. Not only does the cabinet organize my clothes better than my dresser, it was actually a lot cheaper then what you might spend on a modern piece of furniture. The best aspect of using a tool cabinet as a dresser? If I ever transition to more traditional bedroom furniture, my cabinet can find a new home in my garage!

At this point the room is almost complete. The studio had two 40-inch-square “cubbies” in the wall that served as closets and storage. I wanted to cover these with pop-art that could be hinged for doors. Despite having no artistic ability of my own, I did have some ideas. Turning again to Etsy, I found an artist who does custom canvas prints. Although he specializes in weddings, I liked his style and contacted him. He was excited about my subject for the two pieces, and the end result is as epic as the subjects themselves. I have always been a huge fan of classic movie monsters, so I chose original prints of Godzilla and King Kong as the basis of the pop-art. Not only do the prints make the room bolder, but they also work great to hide the storage areas while still providing access.

Creating this bedroom was not only an idea five years in the making; it was also a lot of fun! It was cheaper then buying a full bedroom set elsewhere, and anything I could not create/build myself was easily outsourced through Etsy. Living in San Francisco does not enable you to have much personal space, and it is great to have a place that reflects me and feels like home. My future plans? Well, I would love to find a warehouse to build out, or someday have a garage with a house attached.