Measure Twice, Buy Once

A few Saturdays ago, just before closing time at the downtown Salvation Army, I found three interesting bed frames. This was my lucky day, because I’ve been wanting a bed frame for my guestroom; something more fancy than my current metal Hollywood frame.

One was a curved maple number that I knew was a twin day bed. Another was a big wide thing with horizontal slats, which I figured must be a king size, because the third one – a really cute four-poster bed frame – was smaller than the king, so it must be a queen.

That queen bed frame would be absolutely perfect. It’s bugged me that my guestroom queen bed lacked a proper bed frame. This sweet bed at the Salvation Army was HEAVY, even for me, who works out with weights. But it was so cute. It needed work, but it was all cosmetic. Sold!

While I was there, I also bought a little espresso machine for $9.99. Save the receipt, the clerk said, in case it doesn’t work, so you can return it Monday. Will do, I said.

Having no truck, I arranged some help from sister Shelly and her roomy Element – which she uses as a truck – to pick up the bed on Monday, since the Salvation Army is closed on Sundays. Shelly said sure, and man, you always get the best deals. I should do a better job of shopping thrift stores, she said. You’re right, I said, slightly smugly.

Over the weekend I cleaned the little espresso machine, plugged it in, and it didn’t work. Oh well. I had the receipt. I could return it.

Monday at the Salvation Army, the clerk said no cash refund, just a store credit. What? Hey! Oh well. So I passed on my $9.99 credit to Shelly who found a cool raku hand-thrown bowl and a set of white stacked dessert plates, and a tiny bride-and-groom figurine for my granddaughter, for her box of fragile collectibles.

I schlepped the foot board and side rails to the front of the store. But I heaved and struggled with the headboard, a beast in size and weight. Two men walked by and commented that it sure looked heavy. (I KNOW that if either of my grown sons were in that situation, they would have offered to help. That’s the way I raised them.) Another customer, a friendly, petite woman named Tina, who Shelly recognized from art class, offered to help me carry the headboard to the front. We did it. She said she used to lift weights. I believe it. (Thank you, Tina.)

Outside, a nice gentleman named Richard volunteered to help us load the heavy-ass bed into the car, and in return, Shelly gave him fresh chicken eggs as a thank-you. The eggs Shelly gave Richard she’d just gotten from Rosa in Happy Valley, who took Shelly’s rooster, Laddie, because roosters aren’t allowed in Redding city limits.  Richard was happy. I was happy. Shelly was happy. That’s what I call a win, win, win situation.

Once home my sister and I unloaded the heavy bed outside in my courtyard under the patio cover, a place that’s been my official painting station since I bought this house in July.

The next day I cleaned the bed frame and sanded it and painted it a pretty celery color -“oops” paint I’d saved for a project exactly like this. Twenty-four hours later I brought in the dried bed frame, mostly by dragging the headboard using a floor mat to slide it through the house and inside the guestroom. I’m resourceful that way.

But first I took apart the former queen bed, including the heavy mattresses, which I leaned against the wall — sheets, blankets and all — because I was just going to flop them down into place in their new frame and make up the new bed in no time.

I could picture exactly how it would look. It’s an inborn knack I’m blessed to possess. My always-churning imagination is what drives me to do these kinds of projects. The work is so worth the awesome outcome.

I removed the Hollywood frame to clear space for my new queen bedroom set.

Oh, but wait, I said to myself. I really should do this right (for once). Get bed slats, so there’s no risk of the box spring coming off the rails, especially being as though it’s a guestroom. So I stopped everything, went out in the driving rain and drove to a hardware store where I know one of the guys there and asked he could pretty please cut three fence boards for me – 60 and 3/4 inches exactly.  He did. (Thank you, Richard.)

At this point Patrick Buckley, who owns the furniture store where I’ve bought my beds and couches for many years, will see the problem that I wouldn’t realize until hours later.

I assembled the bed, which was no small feat to get the metal prongs of those bed rails to fit firmly, perfectly, super snugly into the accompanying slits in the head and foot boards. I used one of those rubber mallets to bang, bang, bang those side rails into place. They were stubborn, but I was stronger!

Nailed it.

I laughed to myself at the thought of when I’d ever dismantle that bed again. Oh gosh, probably never! Or probably after I’m a very old lady and I die in this house and am carried out feet first. After that my kids will hold an estate sale, and all I can say is I pity the poor soul who buys this celery-colored queen-sized bed and has to take it apart. LOL.

I can hear my kids now.

“Mom was so strong then that she probably used a hammer to pound those rails into place. No wonder we can’t get them apart! Ha ha ha!”

Everything was set. The rails were eternally bonded with the head and foot boards. Next, the bed slats ($5 each) extended over the expanse of the rails, ready for the box spring.

As I said, ready for the box spring. I’d just push it over and it would fall into place, followed by the mattress, still dressed in bedding. I wished I had an audience, because this was going to be so cool. I should have set up my phone to do a video. It would probably go viral.

I gave the box spring a little nudge. Go ahead. Fall into place. But the box spring didn’t fall over. Instead, it was stopped by the headboard. I got out a tape measure, something I should have done days earlier. The mattresses were too big for my bed. How could that be?

Well, it could be that my Salvation Army bed frame wasn’t a queen, but a full-sized frame, which is exactly what a little piece of paper said that was glued to the inside of one of the rails. Full.

Not queen.

I had to disassemble the entire #$&*!@ bed. It took me more than 30 minutes JUST to detach the stupid, super-well secured rails from the head and foot board. At one point, in the middle of the cussing and the rubber-mallet pounding, I channeled my inner Nancy Kerrigan. WHY ME?!

My guestroom was left with a Hollywood frame that somehow was all out of whack and slightly crooked from when I hastily hauled it out of the room and somehow lost some hardware, so it looked as if it had scoliosis.

And because of that, I couldn’t just flop the box spring on the frame. Not by myself, at least.

My celery-colored bed was out in the living room, waiting for someone to buy it.

Impulsivity is my enemy. I carry a tape measure in my purse at all times. Did it occur to me to measure the bed frame at the Salvation Army? Not for a second. Why? Because it just looked like a queen set. I pride myself on my dimensional super powers. In fact, my sense of dimension is so acute that my ex-husband, a furniture-maker and contractor, used to marvel at how I could tell if something was even 1/32 of an inch off.

In retrospect, perhaps marvel isn’t quite the right word.

Anyway, I sold the celery bed on Facebook in no time and rushed to the Salvation Army to get the remaining, bigger bed, since obviously, because it was bigger than the full that I bought by mistake, it must be a queen. I bought it. I made arrangements with a friend with a truck to meet me at the Salvation Army to pick up.

When my friend arrived, the woman at the Salvation Army commented at what a fine king-sized bed I’d bought. I corrected her and informed her it was a queen. Gosh, I get so tired of having to educate people about everything.

She brought out a tape measure. It was a king. I couldn’t get a refund, because the Salvation Army doesn’t do refunds, even for something bought just five minutes earlier for merchandise that’s never left the store. It’s their policy. I got a $45 credit.

Across town, at another thrift store, I found a pine sleigh-style bed that I liked a lot. Normally, I’d be tempted to paint the raw wood, but I liked the rustic look of the bed. I bought it. I paid to have it delivered. I’m running out of people with trucks, or cars that act as trucks.

Once home, the guy who delivered the bed assembled it for me. I didn’t protest. I was exhausted. To my horror, the bed hogged up pretty much the entire room. This meant I could only invite extremely thin guests to spend the night, and even then they would need to suck in and crab-walk to reach the side of the bed near the south-west wall, which, if it’s not the best according to feng shui, then I don’t want to hear it.

This bed is a queen, technically. But it hogs up a room like a king.

I have posted this bed for sale. Meanwhile, I’m thinking of just getting a headboard, skipping the idea of an entire queen frame and just going back to the metal Hollywood frame. (If I can get it back together.)

I seem to remember seeing a queen headboard at another thrift store last week. At least I think it was a queen.

In the meantime, my guestroom still has the giant pine sleigh bed monopolizing all the space, waiting to be sold. The box spring and mattress are still leaning against the wall. The room has also turned into a cluttered place where I stash things, like tools and empty boxes. Frankly, it’s kind of a mess.

I’m just not feeling the love for that room anymore. Maybe it would help if I tried to find a queen headboard.

And absolutely, next time I’m not just bringing my tape measure, but I’ll use it.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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39 Responses

  1. Avatar Bob says:

    You gave me my morning cheer! Robert Burns said – “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

  2. At least the rats are gone and spring has sprung. And I am not worried about the store credit. Keep up the good work, even if some is duplicated.

  3. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    We just ordered a platform bed for our queen mattress. Six good looking under-bed oak drawers to replace the plastic storage boxes that would fit only if the bed frame was on risers. And now the dreaded bed skirt will be gone along with the risers and bed frame. Anyone need three under-bed storage boxes?

  4. Avatar Tom says:

    I miss you, what a hoot.

  5. Avatar conservative says:

    Zillow forecasts Redding real estate will increase 5.7% in 2018. Looks good for your investment. I wonder what a real estate agent would say your house is worth today.

    • Oh gosh, I DO know a good realtor (son Joshua Domke), but I cannot imagine how rosy Redding real estate would have to get for me to consider selling, and – gasp – moving! Right now, I see myself in this house for a very long time. Besides, I’m not done. I have so much left to do, especially outside, which is a blank slate of weeds and dirt, sans fencing, that backs up to a rutted alley.

  6. Avatar Patricia Bay says:

    Still smiling… 🙂

  7. Avatar Karen C says:

    Oh my Doni, what a lot of work. I almost worked up a sweat reading what you had to go through. Enjoy that new bed!

  8. Avatar Sue K says:

    Thanks for the laughter.

  9. Avatar Tammy says:

    Have you considered just having a full size be in the guest room?

    • Actually, I DID consider that, especially after I discovered the celery-colored bed was a full. But I have a really nice, orthopedic queen mattress set for the guestroom. But the room is pretty small. (This started out as a two-bedroom, one-bath house, and my guestroom was the second – kids’ – bedroom. The original owners/builders had a boy and a girl. The third bedroom was added on in 1950, probably around the time the kids were getting older, and couldn’t share a room.)

      The other thing is that a full mattress is pretty small for a couple.

  10. Avatar Ginny says:

    Great tale, Doni.

    I remember a number of years ago friends had a beautiful antique double bed frame. They went to a bed store and bought extenders so the mattress was able to fit on the bed. Wasn’t noticeable that the mattress was wider than the frame. But, alas, you don’t have that problem any longer! For small room, just a headboard is the way to go. I had to do that……

    One thing about your bed story also is think of all the exercise you were able to get without feeling as though you were doing push ups. (smile)

  11. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    This sort of thing is why I have a hard time drumming up enthusiasm for home-improvement projects. I aways start out believing I just need to think the project through, make a list, and make one trip to the hardware store. Three trips to the hardware store later….

    • Oh yeah. I hear you. Some people would say that in my attempt to get a good deal (come on … $45 for a solid wood four-poster bed frame … that I sold for $80?), I should have just spent the money to go to Pat’s store and buy a proper queen frame and have it delivered, considering all the back and forth and borrowing trucks and all the buying and selling of the wrong beds … and on and on.

      I must enjoy it, or I wouldn’t keep doing it, right? (Unless we want to trot out that definition – probably incorrectly attributed to Einstein – of insanity/stupidity … doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)

      But in the end, I get a good story out of it, and I learn something (hopefully).

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        That’s it……you clearly enjoy shopping more than I do. I like the project work if it involves building, planting, or sometimes even fixing something. (Assembling pre-made furniture, not so much.)

        But the shopping part, I can’t stand. I sometimes walk into Lowe’s or Home Depot and immediately forget what I’m after—I rely on checklists on my iPhone to an embarrassing degree. And even with a checklist, I’ll end up guessing at something or other being just what I need, and I’ll be wrong……thus the repeated trips.

        • YOU nailed it: I do love shopping. I can almost go in any retail establishment – hardware store, feed store, etc. — and have fun looking at stuff, with the exception of an auto parts store. And thrift stores and garage sales are especially fun because it’s all about the hunt for something cool or valuable amid all that junk.
          But interesting enough, I HATE HATE HATE malls (unless it’s an antique mall, like Oregon St. Antique Mall, where, full disclosure, my twin and I have a booth.)
          So, go figure.

  12. Avatar Leslie says:

    Doni, I laughed out loud at work. Good luck on the continued hunt!

    • 🙂 Thank you. (See the comment below, from Patrick Buckley. I think I’ll stop the bleeding and go see what he has in a queen headboard. I should have done that in the first place.)

  13. Avatar AJ says:

    “. . But I get a good story out of it . . “ . Ahhhh, Doni . .. guess that proves that you are, through and through, ever the writer. Getting a good story can justify any means to whatever end. Me? I just claim stupidity and laziness. L:OL LOL!!!

  14. Avatar Patrick Buckley says:

    I like the idea of a Queen headboard and the metal frame you already have. Call me or stop by if you have any questions or need any help with your out of square metal frame. A hook-on queen conversion rail would have done the trick with the celery-colored full bed!

    • Oh, man! I should have called you! I loved that celery-colored bed. (It’s gone. Sold.) I will never make that mistake again!

      I will stop by soon and see what you have. (The Hollywood frame I bought from you, too. 🙂

      I’m curious: When you were reading this did you know as soon as I gave the measurements that it was a full bed?

      Thanks, Pat!

  15. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Oh my gosh…thank you for the laugh. I have a stubborn streak about my ability to remember and gauge things like size and color. Slowly but surely, with adventures like yours, I’ve learned that in my memory I’ll remember red for blue and vice versa and even if I remembered the right color I won’t come close to the right shade. The size of things in my head depends upon how important I think they are and what they were next to when I performed my amazing mental measurement trick. Great story Doni.

    I love repairing things (this week a space heater and an outdoor chair) and I love finding a treasure at a second hand store. The trick for this “hunter gatherer” is to enjoy finding treasures without necessarily bringing them home. Again, thank you for a great article.

  16. Avatar Carol Cowee says:

    When you are ready to plan/plant your outside, come get all the free plants you want from my garden! Lots of plants to share. Bulbs and camelias in full bloom! Stop by…

  17. Avatar Brandon says:

    Ha ha ha ha! This is why we love reading your work, Doni. LOL ing all the way. 🙂

  18. Avatar Kathleen Gilman says:

    Oh Doni, I loved your story, I kept saying “Oh, no!” out loud (in my quiet house) as your tale progressed to different treasures and problems. Your green bed was so cute, I wish it would have worked out for you! And you got me thinking, maybe I should put a queen size bed in the guest room that we are changing around. But I’ll be sure to measure first and consider just a headboard!

    • Well, I wish that green bed could have worked out, too. (Duly noted, thanks to Patrick Buckley, that I could have adapted the green bed to work. Oh well.)

      One thing, if your guest room is large enough, is you might consider something like is done in Europe, where you have two long twin beds, which can be pushed together for one king bed. I did a little research and was surprised to learn that a single twin bed has more room – width-wise – than what a half a queen-sized bed would provide (considering two people in one bed).

      You’re a good measurer. I have no doubt you wouldn’t have made my rookie mistake.