A Gallery client needed two special purpose Bunk Bed sets. They had to be strong and of certain dimensions to cater for a special requirement. The beds became a challenge in terms of time and physical energy, taking almost a year to complete.
This project suited my philosophy of using solid timber. There are many Australian Standards for safety for bunk beds, it really is very constrained. And there was a lower height requirement that compressed the design. Wide timber made it much easier. It was the right thing and the only way to go, but “my gosh it’s a lot of timber,” and it was my best Silver Ash that came from Geoff Hannah who had acquired it in the 90s.
Looking back, if I was going to do it again and weight was a consideration, I could use Hoop Pine, a plantation timber. In terms of sustainability, using rare timbers, practicality over vanity, and so on, I would use Radiata Pine even if only for the nonstructural elements. If I had to go to an unrefined timber it would be Red Gum, because its available, but terribly heavy stuff that twists and go’s crazy. Looking back, there was no other way to go unless I did what everyone else did and used one-inch timber, but neither the client nor I wanted that.
The ovalising of the elements made everything soft. You couldn’t hurt yourself, no edges, you could cuddle it and the round posts were cool, and I liked the little red rings around it. The bed slats were ovalised and dropped in to the rails, all those things were pleasing outcomes.
Weight was definitely an issue and I contemplated slitting the side rails down the middle, hollowing out the centres and joining it back together. Now with CNC you could take out material like that to reduce weight but at considerable cost.
The beds were very successful for the client and much admired when displayed briefly in the Gallery. In the end, they were stunning and resolved, there were no regrets, but it felt like building a house. Just the scale of the things, they are monumental and reflective of the client’s dedication, love and care for her grandchildren. And the kids play with them, the top round things are not glued in and can be turned around like a steering wheel, so it was playful as well. And perhaps it may well be my last commissioned piece.
Excerpt from conversations between David Mac Laren and Stan d’Argeavel.