One day I was in the store cataloging and arranging a new shipment or iron beds that I had just gotten in. It actually had some of the prettiest beds I’d seen in a number of years. Antique iron beds were starting to dry up at an alarming rate . So to get a shipment with as many beautiful , never before seen beds , was a real pleasure.
A woman walked into the store and and proceeded to look through the stacks of beds I had just gotten in. She stopped in front of one of the best beds I’ve had the pleasure of getting in. It had been painted, by the previous owner, a hot “pink”. I knew that if I’d ever have any hope of selling one of the best beds I’d ever seen, I’d first have to have that “hot pink” sandblasted off. The woman stood there for a few minutes looking and inspecting the bed. I should first give you a little bit of a description of the woman. It was difficult to guess her age…..late 20’s, early 30’s….. No make-up, something in Los Angeles that is very common. Torn and tattered blue jeans and a white “T” shirt that had paint on it…not in a Chic kind of way either. She had on $10. rubber flip flops. If you were to see her on the street, you may offer her a $1. for a cup of coffee. Not to say we all haven’t looked like that at some time or another.
I introduced myself and asked if I could be of some help. She said she liked the “hot pink” bed, I’d just gotten in. But didn’t like the color. She then pointed to a very plain Austere bed I’d also just gotten in that was setting right along side of the “hot pink” one. The Austere bed happened to have an old weathered black iron look to it……like it had been around for a couple of hundred years . But was well taken care and not left outside to rust……like many other beds I’d get in.
“If you can make that pink bed look like this blackish one, I’ll buy it” she said. I honestly didn’t think she was in a position to be buying a bed of that caliber. “That happens to be one of the better ones I’ve ever had. It’s going to be around $7000.” I told her.
“Well if you can make it look like the blackish bed, I’ll buy it”. I told her we didn’t currently have a finish like the black Austere bed, but that I’d certainly give it a shot. “I’ll be back in a few days. If you can do it I’ll get it”and she walked out.
I never really expected to see her again. The total conversation we had last no more than 5 minutes.
I went back to cataloging the shipment I’d just gotten in and forgot about the pink bed and my conversation with the women.
The following day I was moving beds around in the store and stopped to look at the two beds the lady and I had been discussing. I decided the “hot pink” bed would never sell, looking the way it currently did. So I decided to experiment with some paint and see if I could achieve the finish that was on the blackish Austere bed. After many many try’s and multiple combination’s of acrylics and rubbing technics, I finally came upon a combination of steps that looked incredibly similar, if not exact, to the blackish Austere iron bed. Surprisingly….. the Austere bed sold the following day because of the finish. As simple a bed as it was, the beautiful aged finish made it quite appealing.
I put the new sample of the blackish finish I’d come up with, in with our other finish samples. Never expecting to see the lady that had prompted me into motion to develop it.
A few days later I was talking with a customer when the lady came back into the store……..looking pretty much like she did the first time.
I said hello and thanked her for suggesting I try and create a finish like the blackish bed.
She asked to see the sample and I excused myself from my other customer and got it for her to see. “You did a great job” she said. “I’ll take it”. I was a little taken back at her remark and asked her what she meant. “I’ll take the pink bed”. I asked her if she was aware of the price. She said she was and that her husband would be in to pay for it and that he was parking the car. She said she’d be right back and that she was going to walk up the street to the local Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. I actually thought this was her “exit line” and that I’d probably never see her again.
A few minutes later as I was writing up an order for the lady that had been looking at beds earlier, when I saw someone walk in the front of the store. I hollered up to the front “I’ll be with you in just a minute”. He said fine and I finished with my previous customer. I walked her to the front of the store and said goodbye. I then turned to the man who had walked in and was looking at beds and said “Can I help you?” he turned around and it was the tennis player John McEnroe.
I asked if he was in the market for a bed. He said no but that his wife was and that she’d been in and saw a one she wanted and that he was there to pay for it. I still hadn’t put two and two together and said I wasn’t aware of a bed she might have been thinking about. Right about then the “pink bed” lady walked back in………it was his wife. Her name was Patty Smyth, lead singer in the band Scandal and former wife of Eddie Van Halen of the group Van Halen.
She showed John the pink bed and then the sample finish I’d come up with. After they bought the bed and left, I thought it appropriate that I name the new finish…..Black Smyth.
From that point on, it has become the most popular finish we do . I’ve actually seen a number of other bed dealers, especially reproduction bed companies try and duplicate it…..unsuccessfully I might add.
It is a finish that really brings an bed to life.
I hope you’ve found this blog informative . I invite you to revisit my website
to answer any and all questions you might have about antique iron beds.
I also invite you to take a look at the multiple “Before & After” photo’s on our company Facebook at