Wednesday, February 1, 2012


It's very sixties, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. It goes with pot, headbands and the Beatles. It is also comfortable, perhaps a trifle dusty, and probably unhygienic.

Years ago we dumped our mattress on the floor and went looking for a new bed. Our old one – a couple of hundred dollars worth of kitset pine – had become creaky and bent. Sleeping on the floor was a distinct improvement and we wanted a bed that would give us the same conditions: a level surface, absolute solidity and none of that dreaded roll-together.

Even ignoring all the fat, wobbly, pink and blue inner-sprung mattresses on their fat, wobbly matching inner-sprung bases, and concentrating on the clean lines of the Japanese-style wooden beds, the range was bewildering. We wandered through several shops before coming to a huge specialist bed emporium and met James. He was eager to please and followed us about, even when we said that we were just looking, we'd manage, we'd ask if we had any questions.

If he heard us mention "mattress" he rushed over to a mattress and explained that it was made of latex and springs and wool. He prodded it and showed us a diagram of its insides, as proudly as though he'd made it himself. If we murmured "slats" he would abandon mattresses, and show us the slats they were resting on, demonstrating their flexibility. And every time we settled down to discuss the merits of this one or that, we'd find helpful James sitting on the next bed, listening and watching. Really, salesmen should back off and give customers a chance to discuss matters which are none of their business.

We wanted a straightforward sturdy frame with strong wooden slats. At last we thought we'd found one, in black wrought iron, although the frame, with its fancy ironwork, was a little tacky. But we were getting tired, and assumed that iron would be strong and not give when anyone sat on the edge.

So yes, we'd have it but in glossy white paint please. James was delighted and rushed off to do the paperwork. I sat on the side of the bed and it groaned and sank several millimetres. When James came back we had to tell him we had changed our minds. Before leaving we gave the black iron bed a last glance. In white? said James hopefully. No thanks, though we might be back, we said, knowing that we wouldn't.

At home we took another look at the el cheapo bed. We flipped it over and decided that all it needed was a couple of extra screws, a brace under the middle from headboard to the foot, an extra leg halfway down each side and another one right in the middle (yes, that's seven legs altogether) and a fresh coat of paint. We saved ourselves a couple of thousand dollars and made ourselves a bed that was exactly what we wanted: just like sleeping on the floor.

Painting: Sunset at low tide (2009)


  1. We went through a similar odyssey, but actually bought the bed. The slats all curved upward, and were supposed to go flat when you lay on them. Instead, they gave me sciatica. So we made a similar compromise -- unclicked the slats, threw them away, and replaced them with sturdy battens from the timber store. Now it's just like sleeping on the floor! But you didn't mention the mattress, except in passing ...

  2. We decided to use the mattress we had left on the floor!