This cottager builds magical mushroom headboards out of salvaged wood

Published: February 12, 2021

Jim Curtis laying on a bed and reading a Cottage Life magazine in front of his mushroom and birch headboard project Photo by Andrea Curtis

I have to confess when I heard my father, a retired doctor and amateur woodworker, was making mushroom-inspired headboards for one of the cottage bedrooms, I feared the kitschy worst. Although he’s spent a solid chunk of his retirement lovingly restoring wooden boats and making practical, meticulously constructed furniture, it’s unlikely he would be mistaken for an artiste. 

But inspired by the extraordinary variety of fungi that proliferate on our Georgian Bay island each fall, my dad’s woodworking turned decidedly playful, producing a headboard for the kids’ bedroom that puts the fun back in functional. 

He began by researching mushrooms online; there are thousands of varieties. Some are basic brown, but he was particularly drawn to the colourful ones, like the hallucinogenic red-and-white Amanita muscaria. He soon decided to leave authenticity to the mycologists and go with magical mushrooms of his own design. 

red and white painted mushrooms on cottager project bedpost
Photo by Andrea Curtis and Jim Curtis

Salvaged plywood from the seats of a 1952 Duke motorboat that he restored was perfect for the headboard base, which he decorated with spalted birch and ironwood rounds that he glued with PL Fast Grab and screwed on to the board. He found birch logs at a friend’s woodlot to use as bedposts, attaching them to the plywood using mortise-and-tenon joints and a bit of epoxy for good measure. 

For his pièce de résistance, he rough-cut the fungus-shaped bed knobs out of cedar and pine with a bandsaw, chiselling and sanding them into shape before painting each with dollar-store acrylics. 

blue mushroom on cottager project bedpost
Photo by Andrea Curtis and Jim Curtis

The best part of the project—other than the delightful surprise of seeing this quirky side of my 80-year-old dad—is the embedded magnets that keep the mushrooms on the posts. With eight unique mushrooms for four bedposts, the kids can mix and match. It’s a choose your own adventure, a new chapter every night—something my father apparently knows much more about than I realized.

Show and tell
Jim Curtis, an active cottage putterer, has piles of wood that he plans to repurpose.

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