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A Custom Daybed Story + Shop Decor

We are making more and more custom pieces of furniture for clients (or myself). While it looks like a really simple, fast process where we just show a cute, hipster furniture builder a photo from a magazine and say “Hey, Wilson, can you make this but smaller, bluer, and deeper?” it is actually so much work. Every single tiny detail has to be specified, not just width, height, and depth. You have to think about the joints, the finish, the dimensions of each piece in every way, how those pieces are put together, what direction the grain or fabric should run and of course ensuring that it is the most functional, comfortable as well as stylish possible. Going “custom” isn’t cost-effective or time-saving, no, but what you get is exactly what YOU want and something that should be unique and perfect for your space.

Daybed Construction Target Weekend Makeover Kids Playroom BEFORE

We needed a seating area in this playroom and while a sofa in that niche would have been fine, a wall-to-wall custom daybed would maximize the function of the space which was for reading and cuddling. Plus, I had serious canopy and pillow styling dreams that needed a daybed to be fulfilled.

First step was finding inspiration. Melanie and I (Mel was the project manager and design lead on this job) scoured Pinterest for our favorite low slouchy built-in daybeds.

Daybed Construction Target Weekend Makeover Kids Playroom Inspiration Grid
1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I knew that simple would be better both stylistically, budget-wise, and to help maximize the space. We wanted it to feel chunky, heavy, and solid. I loved all of the above for different reasons. I showed them to my builder and he said all were doable for roughly the same price. I ultimately decided on doing a version of #1 (design by Alexander Design and Build) because it felt the most right stylistically. The feet felt too “furniture-y” and I really wanted it to feel permanent. The fourth one (plywood on both sides) felt to scandy and minimal for the house. So I was down to #1 and #3. One thing that I thought they would want is a ledge to hold drinks. It was mom-to-mom advice as I know that I’m always struggling for a safe place to put my coffee or wine in the family room out of reach of those Go-Go-Disaster-Arm children. So I thought I could do a version of #3 that had a ledge on top.

Option #1 was based on that first inspiration pic with some changes – no back, cute bolsters instead, etc.

Daybed Construction Target Weekend Makeover Kids Playroom Plan Option 1

Here are some things you probably didn’t know you needed to think about – if you say 4″ cushion that probably means a total of 6″ height because the cushions are higher in the middle. I’ve gotten that wrong before and the cushion has been too high. Also foam and feather/down also affect the height so make sure to specify that as well.

This option allowed for the drink ledge that I secretly want:

Daybed Construction Target Weekend Makeover Kids Playroom Plan Option 2

Ultimately I thought that the first option was so much prettier and I was worried that the drink ledge would look REALLY stupid. I realized that putting a back on the daybed would potentially decrease the comfort as the height of the back could hit in the wrong spot on your back or neck. Ultimately, the second rendering was a way worse design. I think it could have been tweaked and salvaged but we all loved #1 so we moved forward with that.

Custom Daybed Design Wood and Red Emily Henderson Kids Playroom

The next step was getting quotes on building that bad boy. Our budget was decent (I prioritized this piece into the budget) but timing-wise we were on a rush and needed it within 10 days. So I found Colin who quoted us $1600 for all materials, labor, delivery, and install. If you think that is a lot of money, you are right. If you think that is over priced, you are wrong. Hiring skilled people who maintain a shop, who will source materials, build, perfect, finish/stain, load up, transfer, install, and sign off on a piece is a hefty price tag. Now this piece is simple and I think that many of you could make it yourself – maybe not as beautifully, but if you can then you should. I couldn’t so we had to pay for it.

Custom Daybed Design Wood and Red Emily Henderson Kids Playroom 2

Of course the daybed also needed that cushion which wasn’t included (I KNOW).

We had to source the fabric. Mel went sourcing downtown for a couple of hours and we chose this super cute, poppy coral. The original plan was gray – something quiet so the pillows could pop, but at the last-minute we shifted gears and went coral. After doing this daybed I advise that one should always shift gears to go coral.

Once the fabric was chosen we had to specify how it was going to be sewn. There are too many seam, stitching, tufting, welting and thread options out there.

Again, the drawing:

Daybed Construction Target Weekend Makeover Kids Playroom Plan Option 1

We wanted a boxed cushion but no boxing on the front, which sounds weird but it’s what my sectional has and it’s a new trend in upholstery. It’s like a waterfall on front but on the sides its boxy and firm (not a knife-edge).

That drawing isn’t to scale so I kept thinking that the legs were too close together or the frame was too high (see how the frame says 3″ which is about the same size as the 6″ on the legs?) If it had been for a paying client, we would have rendered them up properly for their ultimate sign off and approval, but I could see past these issues and we moved forward (plus we were in a huge hurry).

All in all, the daybed took a lot of man hours to spec, draw, design, coordinate, and install. But once it was done, it truly was perfect. Lets talk numbers:

Daybed construction and materials from furniture builder: $1600

Fabric: $251.79 (10 yards I believe)

Cushion materials and labor: $380

Total: $2231.79

Type of wood: cab pine. Colin gave us some options but we loved how it looked and it was relatively affordable.

Daybed Construction Target Weekend Makeover Kids Playroom Pink Red Wallpaper Canopy 3

Who would have thought that something so simple would be so time-consuming and expensive? Answer: all designers. Custom work costs money for good reason. I’m really big on valuing skilled labor, which you would think would be a common thing, but it’s not. Because mass retailers manufacture sofas for $1500 doesn’t mean that a one-off should cost the same. It shouldn’t. A small artisan operation should charge more than the manufacturer that makes 25 or 2500 of the same piece. Now that I’ve written this post I’m sure that there will be many-a-less-expensive mass retailer imitation of this piece (hopefully), but when you are producing one thing with specific measurements and materials, it’s custom, special, and expensive but worth it.  Daybed Construction Target Weekend Makeover Kids Playroom Pink Red Wallpaper Canopy 1

In case you missed the whole playroom reveal, go here.

Let me in on what you are thinking. Are you SHOCKED that something so simple is $2200 or after I broke it down does it start to make sense? I think there is absolutely a way to do your own version of this on a budget but we didn’t have the time to experiment nor the manpower to do that. Thoughts?


Yellow Polka Dot PillowWooden Architectural Blocks | White Flower Applique Flower PillowDip Dye Bed CanopyPom Pom Pillow | Panda Head Throw Pillow | Pink Book Shelf | Pink Stripe Area Rug | Multicolored Tassel Throw Pillow | Corduroy Bean Bag Chair | Flower Bear Throw Pillow | Ice Cream Cone Throw PillowHooray Throw Pillow | Flamingo Throw PillowOh Joy Tassel Pillow | Party Hedgehog Figurine | Crosby Swing Arm SconceMy House Charcoal Wallpaper

Liked this post? Check out these others: Sara Updates Her Childhood Bedroom – The Reveal, Playroom Makeover With PillowFort,  The Easiest Guest Room Makeover Ever,  Brady’s DIY Peel and Stick Kitchen Flooring (For Under $50), A DIY Kitchen Redo Under $400, Who Pays For Design Mistakes,  How To Layout A Narrow Living Room, New Kitchen Project and Design Plan.

*Photo by Tessa Neustadt

For more Pillowfort Makeovers: Blogger Challenge: 3 Playroom Makeovers | The Playroom 


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60 thoughts on “A Custom Daybed Story + Shop Decor

  1. My husband and I have this fabulous little landing at the top of our stairs and it’s BEGGING to have this daybed! Luckily my husband is an upholsterer and I am a woodworker, so I think we’ll add this to the list. The area is TOTALLY neglected right now…we have a 10 month old, I work full time (as does my husband) AND he’s in nursing school full time. SOME DAY we will finish that space!! Thanks for the inspiration:).

  2. this daybed is ten thumbs up! after searching for a sofa/daybed option for a home office (most of which were not that much less expensive than $2200, especially the ones that are not the type of eyesores we used in our college dorms), i so wish that mass retailers had already been creating something like this. futons/daybeds/sleepers are getting so much more innovative and prettier these days! beautiful work on this space!

    1. It’s true and one thing I forgot to add is that its practically the depth of a twin mattress so if they needed to someone could crash …

  3. I believe it costs that much. There is a lot of skilled work going in to such a piece and ultimately it is better made than something you can click and order. There are some things to click and order and some things really should be custom…the expense is worth it. I do a lot of DIY and enlist my dad ( a great carpenter) to help when the skill set is beyond me. We just put up a craftsman style fence around my backyard and ripped and cut each board by hand. We screwed each board in rather than nailing it and then stained the whole thing with 15 year stain. It was a ton of work and cost about $500 more than the nearest fence quote I received for pre-made slab fencing. In the end it is so much better and people stop on the sidewalk or in the car and take pictures of our fence. The full run down will go up on my blog soon. I say…custom all the way.

    If the job is beyond your skill set I say, go custom rather than purchase in a brick and mortar or online. 🙂

  4. I could see how many could be shocked at this price for something like this but I’m not. My husband works in custom cabinetry but his boss actually started in custom furniture. However, he doesn’t get by on furniture alone because it is so darn expensive to make. Only select people (in our area, anyway) can afford it and very few people can understand why it is so pricey. The planning, ordering, spec-ing materials, building, sanding, staining, loading, delivering, installing (I’m sure I’m missing many steps) adds up to many, many man hours. But in the end, you get a fantastic piece such as your daybed that is custom to your home. I finally have the wisdom (and age?) but perhaps not the bank account to understand why one would do this. Great job, Emily and team!

  5. Great post, Emily. I think that you paid a very reasonable price for the focal point of the room that is exactly what you and the homeowner wanted. And the coral was absolutely the right choice! I love the detail of the no-seam on the front of the cushion. A great and inviting look.

  6. sounds about right in price to me. I especially like that you included your design sketches into the post, and that the tradespeople could translate your ideas into a great, practical and well designed piece. So much better for the space than trying to fit an existing twin mattress or couch there. Good craftsmanship is hard to find, and well worth rewarding. Well done!

  7. I’m not shocked at the price. I’ve always been aware that people spend good money on good custom work. My reaction to that number is one I resigned myself to a long time ago: general dismay that we’ll never be able to afford really nice things. I’m ok with it, and of course how we spend our money is a matter of personal priorities. It just sometimes makes posts like these hard to relate to. But! They are nonetheless fascinating and enjoyable. Thanks Emily!

    1. Luckily there are really good readymade options out there – none perfect for this but 20 years ago we had way LESS options, for sure. Hopefully someone is mass manufacturing this now! x

  8. I think one thing that helps understand cost is being able to do (some, similar) work yourself.

    If you look at it and say, yeah, last time I built something the wood cost about 500$ (cedar, for outdoors), plus the labour took 15 hours (at 50$/hour minimum, to make overhead costs, and if you say skilled people should work for minimum wage to suit your budget then NO), plus delivery (truck maintenance, gas, licensing, etc), plus installation (a good hour or two, depending on set-up and configuration, minimum) … then, yeah, that’s the cost you get.

    Project management breakdown skills make things more understandable… if not necessarily easy to fit in a budget.

    1. Another common saying in project management: You can have it Good, Fast, and Cheap — pick two. (“Good” means “exactly what you want” — if you pick fast and cheap, it doesn’t necessarily mean sloppy or bad quality, but you may compromise on some feature or function — exact color, exact size, etc.)

      So the team opted for Good and Fast here — and chose to spend $$. Not surprising at all.

  9. I love this post. I’m as frugal as they come, but when it comes to WELL MADE stuff, husband and I are always all in. Actually this point was driven hone for us when he recently made a daybed with drawers for our son. We didn’t want to pay 600-900 for a sub par bed, so opted to buy plans and have him make it. Materials alone were 500+! Labor was free…whew….but we really understood at that point why it’s pricey to get the good stuff!

  10. I’m not shocked at the price, but I’m certain I would never pay it. I might pay that for an actual bed frame and headboard, but not a simple daybed for a playroom. I’m actually in the market for a daybed and I’m hoping to come across one on Craigslist or at a thrift store and pay to recover it. We have a great local upholstery fabric store where I can always find something fabulous for so little money.

  11. Yes, you’re speaking my language! My husband and I are building a custom couch and figuring out the details – joinery, the height of the seat, the angle of the back – has taken forever. We’re in the home stretch now (after a serious fiasco where I tried to make my own down-wrapped cushions), and it has been totally worth it, but has also given me a deep appreciation for people who are experts in their field!

  12. I’m wondering a couple of things:
    1. Does the daybed price include the cost of your labor (or Mel’s) as a designer? You must have put a lot of hours into this, as well.
    2. Are you getting to the point in your business where it might make sense to have a carpenter on staff to handle these kinds of projects? Maybe a hunky faux-lumberjack type with an undercut and a neatly kept beard?
    3. This may not be something you want to share, but I’m really curious about how the money works when you do a sponsored project like this. Does the client pay you? Do they pay for the materials? Does Target pay for the materials, and pay your client for appearing in the ad? You tend to be very open abut money stuff, so if you can answer I’d love to know.

    1. HIya! good questions:
      1. No. that does not include Mel’s time which was probably 3 -4 hours drawing and coordinating.
      2. YES. I think about that everyday. Do you know any? Literally yesterday I was ready to put out an ad ..
      3. Every project is different. Normally the sponsor covers most of the cost (a few thousand outside of the product/production budget) simply because it makes things go so much faster and easier for me. If its the clients money then, decisions take so much more time and they need/want more options. This way I say ‘you get everything for free but I get free reign and we move fast! and they all sign up for it. The first couple Weekend Makeovers were the clients budget (besides product). Often we goes over the free budget and they chip in if its something they really want. It’s all different and while I don’t really need to write that in the post, I totally respect the curiosity and wanted to answer your questions. Thanks for asking them. xx

  13. I love this post since I just asked in another comment section about daybeds! Building one on our own is something I am considering for our guest room.

  14. I’m not surprised by the cost and I love the result. Thanks for sharing the drawings too. I do wish there were more daybed options on the market as I’ve been looking for one for a while that is modern and crisp, well made, and the size of a twin mattress so it can be a guest bed in a pinch. I might break down and buy the Lawndale from CB2, but there’s something about it that reminds me of a car seat.

  15. It’s beautiful, and after hearing your account I do think the cost is justified. But yes, I’m a little shocked! Do you think some of it is LA? Like you have a higher labor cost for your builder and upholster because of the higher cost of living in LA? Or would that not make a big difference?

  16. Emily that’s an unusual and possibly for many an insightful post.

    As you say, mass-market furniture creates a culture where it’s ok to pay £900-£1500 for a sofa that’s been factory-made the other side of the world but many years experience goes into all elements of the design and at the end of the day we all need to take home a wage. I’ve just installed £145,000 bespoke joinery in a finished property for a client in a three bedroom flat who wanted fitted bunk beds, shelves, bars and storage ( and that’s after the kitchen, vanities and wardrobes were finished) so it mounts up. Thanks for an awareness-building post!

  17. Thank you for writing these types of posts! I think it’s important to give customers realistic expectations and stick up for craftsmen (craftspeople?) who make a living sharing their skills. I think HGTV has done a good job giving the general public exposure to design, but as a designer I have always given my psa about how misleading their shows can be when it comes to the costs and time needed to do things right. I don’t want to scare people off, but making them think projects can happen magically with no time or budget and a free team of labor is not helping.

    1. Agreed. I often find the total lying about pricing offensive. I, too, fell for it and was so shocked when every bid for my master bathroom was around $12k – $15k. The BS bums us all out and I really wish it would stop. There. 🙂

  18. It is so fun to see the things you pin on Pintrest show up in your work weeks or month later. Not to sound too voyeuristic, but I recently noted that you’ve pinned a couple Tudor remodels, and I’m hopeful that means we’ll get to see what you do to a Tudor home?

    1. HA. I was dreaming/house shopping. BUT I am starting a craftsman soon, which will be VERY fun. Super dark wood, lots of original character but for a modern family of 5. So excited.

  19. It turned out fabulous. And yes it seems expensive but the cost is pretty comparable to the sofa you would have purchased anyway.

  20. First off, I need Woody in my life. Secondly- I realize most ppl don’t care about this butttt where did you source the cushion from and do you have a good/reasonable seamstress in LA ? I have an outdoor chair that I got at the rose bowl that need a big ol’ cushion

    1. Usually a stand-alone shop that sells outdoor furniture will make custom cushions. I’ve had it done and they came out perfectly.

  21. I’m not surprised but it is discouraging for those of us who can’t afford custom work.

    1. There is so much good affordable readymade furniture out there. In fact we are doing another roundup of best sofas under $1k and there are so many. There are options, I promise 🙂

  22. The daybed looks perfect. I am so glad you pointed out that the front edge is not boxed, because it looks fabulous and I don’t think I would have thought about it without you mentioning it.

    I did not expect the base to be quite that expensive, but it makes sense. I like these types of posts because it helps me understand why certain things cost so much and helps me appreciate the effort that goes into making them. 10 days seems like a very fast turnaround!

  23. I love the honesty. I’m still baffled when I have clients who are blown away by the price of custom items. There is a huge difference of quality between store bought and custom. For those things that really matter, custom all the way!

    Also, coral always win in my book too.

  24. Thank you for this post! I am a small, independent furniture designer and make everything in the US. I make a few items in my studio, but mainly work with small makers and skilled craftsmen to produce my pieces. While I have a standard assortment of pieces, I work with a lot of interior designers to customize my pieces or create original designs for them. It is expensive to produce furniture in the US to begin with, and customization can tack on so any additional costs very quickly. I pay my craftsmen well because they do great work, and I also need to be compensated for the time it takes me to make the drawings, get client approval, and work with the craftsman to specify everything. In the end, most designers understand because they have made custom items before, but this is great for raising awareness for those who may not have had a custom piece made before. Thanks!

  25. I cant help myself (haha) Im going to ask this… why is the cushion on the day bed higher in the middle?
    The playroom is beautiful!! Really enjoy your blog, love your style, and just to let you know, your book is
    sitting on my coffee table..

  26. My husband made me a dining table because he didn’t want to pay RH prices… since then (from word of mouth and a little facebook presence), he made several tables, including 4 for a local restaurant, a coffee table for a high end local furniture store a couple states away (which just sold as a custom order so now we need to make another), an arbor for a wedding, and custom car bed (like a toddler bed) out of solid wood, in addition to a few other projects. This month, I finally decided to actually start the LLC (please don’t judge!). I worked out the cost of materials for each project and once you add in his labor – it is insane the close profit margins! This is his side gig, obviously, but we are going to need to raise prices if we want to cover any overhead costs and turn a profit.

    I’m really proud of him and his work, and though he took a furniture making carpentry class several years ago, he is pretty self-taught so it is hard for him to get past the mental block of thinking he’s not a professional and realize that we need to raise prices (if that makes sense). Anyway – thank you for the post on custom carpentry! It’s something that’s on my mind a lot and very interesting to me 🙂

  27. Not shocked at all, but my husband is a cabinet maker specialising in made-to-measure kitchens, bathroom furnitures, closets, radiator covers, etc. No one project is the same.

    When doing a renovation, the phrase, “Time, budget, or quality – pick two” rings true. We’re happy to have our renovation being over a few years, but then get a tailour-made kitchen, closets, etc.

  28. I’m a little surprised, but thr true cost of things always surprises me. Several times I’ve gone the cheaper route only to be not quite satisfied with the result. Probably best to do the research and go for it. Why is the expensive way so often cheaper after all?

  29. Amazing! Always wonder what it takes to design things. You just revealed what is behind the doors. Thank you!

  30. “Man” hours may not translate well into Human Hours aka “labor”…

    >All in all, the daybed took a lot of man hours to spec,
    >draw, design, coordinate, and install.

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