Miller: From trashy sights to starry nights |

Miller: From trashy sights to starry nights

This outdoor bedframe and headboard was made using deck boards salvaged from 30 year old decks. The added bright colors (old, leftover paints) help the bed stand out against its natural backdrop. The outdoor bed has enriched lives greatly by providing a comfortable spot to rest, chat, and sleep peacefully surrounded by nature.
Submitted by Erin Miller |

I admit it, I have been known to salvage stuff, save old building materials, and store odds and ends for an eternity because someday I might get creative with them.

I particularly like to “up-cycle” items by transforming what could be (or was) discarded into something beautiful and useful once more.

So for my husband’s birthday this year, I bought a king-size bed for our back patio, and I turned an unsightly pile of scrap wood into a beautiful bed platform and headboard.

My husband and I both love the feel of sleeping outdoors, under the stars, but we don’t like the feel of any portable mattresses or sleeping pads.

Our new “starry nights bed” has given my husband and I a restful retreat we adore more than I can express.

Now we sleep outdoors with all of the benefits — in complete comfort.

It is within a large. fenced area and the bed sits on our concrete patio so I don’t feel too nervous about wild animals.

Bugs don’t seem to be out at night in our area. And, a half bath is just inside, a few yards away.

It has changed our lives by giving us a great night’s sleep.

Even during the hottest weather, there is a cooling breeze. And we find we laze in bed looking at stars and chatting much longer.

In the morning, the cool air is refreshing and the singing birds make us feel as if we are on vacation.

To create our comfy outdoor bed, I consulted with Betty at Foothill Mattress Center in Grass Valley.

She previously helped us find a bed type (for our indoor bedroom) that has eliminated much of my soreness and persistent back and neck pain. She has also helped many of my clients.

So I certainly trusted her to help me with this special project. I asked for an inexpensive mattress that would not waste too much money if we ended up not using it much.

She ordered a firm, plain-style spring mattress without any bells or whistles. It was meant for a platform so no box spring was needed.

I encased this mattress in a zippered, waterproof mattress encasement.

Over the top of that, I added a 3-inch memory foam mattress pad (to make the inexpensive mattress feel more comfortable).

Over the top of that, I put on a waterproof mattress pad (the second layer of waterproofing). Over the top of that, I added our sheets, duvet, etc.

Every morning, to protect all of our bedding from sun, dust, and any surprise showers, we drape a bed cover over everything which I made from outdoor water-repellent, fade-resistant fabric.

With this fabric, it is very unlikely any water would ever seep through.

But when there is a chance of rain, we take a couple minutes to place a tarp over all of the fabrics.

The second part of my gift to my husband was the bed platform and headboard I created.

The gift is partly the finished product, but also, that I used up unsightly stacks of old deck materials we had been storing for years and years.

The secret is redwood ­­­— an amazing natural resource.

I can understand why decks need to be replaced if they are not safe or the wood is structurally unstable, but old redwood boards can often be used for other, non-structural items like raised planters, accessory furniture, storage boxes, and — headboards for outdoor beds.

If you cut into an old piece of redwood, generally you will find that only the outside is grayed and soft —maybe 1/16 of an inch is bad.

The interior often seems just as orange, vibrant and healthy as brand new boards.

For me, old redwood deck boards were the perfect material for the outdoor bed frame.

The platform is made up of the longer boards I found, (often ugly ones, but it is all covered by the mattress).

The headboard is built with the more interesting pieces I found.

Each board was scrubbed, brushed with a wire brush, and then sanded to get it clean, but not pristine.

I assembled the headboard like a fence. It has a lower and upper horizontal rail and then my chosen boards are attached vertically, with about 1/4 inch between them.

Once I had all the materials in place, I traced a headboard shape onto the boards and then cut each board with a jigsaw.

The cut ends were sanded and rounded a bit to eliminate splinters.

Deciding on a finish was difficult. Of course, redwood boards can survive outside, without a finish.

But I wanted bright color so the traditional lines of the headboard would stand out against the surrounding greenery.

I chose to use lots of leftover paints in orange, rust and red tones. I slopped it on and sort of scrubbed and sanded some bits off.

On a few boards, I layered colors on top of one another. When I was done, I coated the knot holes with a lime green paint to make them pop.

It is exactly as I wished — perfectly imperfect with the wood grain and imperfections showing through.

It will fade and flake, but I’m pretty sure it will look better as it ages, or I can easily recoat sections.

I’m happy with my creation. But mostly, as I have said many times before, it’s not about the house, it’s not about the stuff we have at home.

It’s about the people we love and experiences we share.

Our new “starry nights bed” has given my husband and I a restful retreat we adore more than I can express.

Peace and happiness with my husband is the best gift ever.

Erin Miller is the owner of Erin Miller Designs in Grass Valley. She can be reached at 530-477-1401, or at

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