Becky and Matt Cattani had a pet deli and boutique in Santa Cruz; when they moved to Nevada City, Calif., they opened Moon Doggies Motel and began making vintage-style pet beds from salvaged chairs. Buy from their stock or supply your own chair. For DIYers, the project is pretty straightforward, they say. It just requires some planning along with basic woodworking tools and a sewing machine. Start with a wooden chair, maybe one with a pressed or carved back, and certainly not a valuable antique. 

A collection of old chairs.

A collection of old chairs.

The Process

1. DISASSEMBLY

Remove the chair seat: Some can simply be unscrewed, but removal may require sawing through the wooden supports between the chair legs to get the seat to completely separate. If the chair has a cushioned or jute seat, remove it from the frame by unscrewing it, and remove any foam with pliers and a screwdriver. Jute may be cut away with a razor knife and scissors. Be sure to remove any remaining nails or staples to avoid later injuring the dog.

Next, remove the chair back. Shorten it to create a headboard by measuring from the top of the chair down to the desired height on each side, then cutting through the back with a hand saw. Conserve decorative detailing such as scrollwork, carving, and cutouts to retain the chair’s vintage charm.

Unusual old chairs (and sometimes pairs) become dog beds for any size pet.

Unusual old chairs (and sometimes pairs) become dog beds for any size pet.

Cut off the back legs flush with the bottom rails of the chair seat, leaving enough structure to attach the chair back as a headboard. Predrill and then use 3" wood screws, being careful not to split the wood. If you didn’t need to cut down the back, you can just flip the seat over, screw the seat into the back though existing holes, and cut the back legs slightly longer for feet below the bottom of the seat base.

2. REPURPOSING

For larger dog beds, use two chairs to make a double headboard. Make your own bed rails out of matching wood, attaching them with Rockler’s locking bed-rail brackets [rockler.com].

Bedposts are made from the front legs of the chair by measuring an equal distance on each leg and cutting them down. Rough edges are sanded after the legs are cut. Retain decorative turnings and details as much as possible.

Becky Cattani, the seamstress, with two family members.

Becky Cattani, the seamstress, with two family members.

3. REFINISHING

Now that you have the basic bed—the seat frame, seat base, and back of the chair as headboard—sand down any rough spots with 120 sandpaper, following with 220 grit. The piece may then be stained or painted. Spray-painting is easy and quick. After it dries, put the bed together and add your custom cushion!

"A dog is man’s best friend.”

Just where did that proverb come from? King Frederick of Prussia named dogs “man’s best friend” in 1789. Its modern use has been traced to Senator George Graham Vest of Missouri, who in 1870 was the plaintiff’s lawyer in the case of Burden v. Hornsby. Charles Burden’s favorite dog, Old Drum, was fatally shot by the nephew of neighbor Leonidas Hornsby when the unsuspecting pet wandered onto Hornsby’s property. Enraged, Burden sued Hornsby, and the case eventually reached the Missouri Supreme Court. Future senator Vest delivered the words, “The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world . . . is his dog.”

To the delight of dog lovers everywhere, Burden was awarded $50 in damages. The local Chamber of Commerce erected a statue of Old Drum on the lawn of the Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg.

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