Introduction: Compact, Modular Living Loft

Picture of Compact, Modular Living Loft

I'm a big fan of design and I also like to conserve everything I can from materials to time to space. One day, while looking around online, I was inspired by an all-in-one piece of furniture that someone had created and decided that I would like to design and build my own compact, all-in-one loft bed for a project that all seniors at my school must complete for graduation. I'm going to college soon and I knew that it would be useful there, but I also designed it for people that live in large, urban cities where real estate is costly and sometimes you have to settle for a small space. I believe that you can fit a lot of function into a small space and this is my attempt at that.

Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • Drill
  • Table Saw or Circular Saw
  • Router
  • Jigsaw


  • 10 x 3/4"x4'x8' sheets of plywood I recommend buying quality wood that is faced on both sides because I used some that was only faced on one side and it caused me a lot of problems with bowing and chipping
  • 3 x 1"x6"x8' boards
  • 7 x 1"x8"x4' boards
  • 1 x 3/8"x4'x8' sheet of plywood
  • #6 1-1/4" construction screws
  • #8 1-1/2" stainless steel screws (optional) I used these for any screws that showed on the outside just for looks because the construction screws I had were a brass color
  • 14 frameless cabinet hinges
  • 15 x 5/16" dowels
  • 5 x 16" standard drawer slide sets
  • 1 x 16" ball bearing drawer slide set
  • 1 x 12" piano hinge
  • 2 x 3/4"x48" black pipe
  • 1 x 3/4"x24" black pipe
  • 2 x3/4"x6" black pipe
  • 2 x 3/4" metal elbow joints for the black pipe
  • 6 x 3/4" metal flange for the black pipe
  • 2 x 2" pivoting casters
  • 2 x 2" fixed casters
  • 8 x 1/4"x1-1/2" machine screws
  • 8 x 1/4"x1-1/4" machine screws
  • 16 x #10 3/4" wood screws

Step 2: Bed Frame

Picture of Bed Frame

Using the 1x6" boards, cut 2 pieces at 93" and 2 at 39". Assemble these 4 pieces so that the 39" lengths are inside of the 93" lengths. Then rip 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood to 1" wide at a length of 91-1/2" and 2 at a length of 37-1/2". These pieces will be attached to the inside of the bed frame at the bottom to hold the slats you will cut next. Cut each of the 1x8" boards to 38-15/16" and rest them on the rails of the bed frame.

Step 3: Closet Unit

Picture of Closet Unit

Cut two 39-3/4"x60-1/2" pieces from 3/4" plywood. These are the sides of the closet. Then cut a 29-1/2"x60-1/2" piece. This is the back. Assemble the 3 walls with the back in between the sides. Next, you will cut the closet door. Its dimensions are 32-7/8"x59-5/8". The door is shorter than the walls to allow a 1/8" gap in between the top of the door and the bed frame and a 3/4" gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. Once the door is cut, you will need to router out 4 spots along the back side of the door for the hinges. Make them just as deep as you need to for the hinges to fit in snugly and make sure that you have one fairly close to the top, one close to the bottom and then evenly space out the other two in the middle of the door. After you have routed the hinge slots, screw the hinges into the door and then into the side of the closet. The last step for the structure of the closet is tying the bottom sides of the closet together to prevent them from moving away or towards each other. This is accomplished by taking the flat strip of metal, bending it on each end, and screwing it in to each side. The point of this piece is to make the closet square so the piece should be 29-1/2" long after the ends of the metal have been bent.

Now the rolling closet cart. First, cut two 15"x30" pieces of plywood. Second, screw the pipes together as the appear in the pictures, except leave only put one flange on each of the short pipes for now. Place the short pipes with the flange centered on the short length of the board and leave a gap of 1/2" between the end of the flange and the end of the board. Drill four holes through the board where the holes are in the flange. Take the 1-1/4" machine screws and nuts and secure the flange to the board. Repeat the alignment and drilling process for the top shelf and place the screws through the holes so that they are sticking out the bottom. Now you screw on the flange to the top of each of the short pipes, align them with the screws sticking out the bottom of the shelf and secure the pieces together with nuts. Lastly, flip the cart on its side and attach the casters so that the two pivoting wheels are on the same end and the two fixed ones are on the same end.

Step 4: Desk Unit

Picture of Desk Unit

Start with the basic frame. You will need two sides that are 16-5/8"x60-1/2" and a back the same size as the back for the closet (29-1/2"x60-1/2"). Assemble these three pieces with the back in between the sides once again. Now you will need to cut five identical shelf pieces that are 15-7/8"x29-1/2". Screw in one shelf to the very top and one to the very bottom. One should be mounted so that the bottom of the board is 12-1/2" from the very top. Another should be mounted so that the top of it is 18" from the bottom of the last piece. The last one is mounted so that the top of it is 5-1/4" below the previous piece. Now the desk drawer. Start by cutting the frame of the drawer. This consists of two 16"x4-1/2" pieces and two 27"x4-1/2" pieces. The bottom of the drawer is cut from the 3/8" sheet. Its dimensions are 27-1/4"x14-3/4". To attach these five pieces together use either a router table or a 3/8" dado blade on your table saw and cut 1/8" deep strips 1/4" from the bottom of each of the side pieces of the drawer. To put it together make sure the 27-1/4" pieces are inside the 16" pieces, fit the bottom into the grooves that you cut, and screw it together. The desk top to the drawer is split in to two pieces. The first is a 3" strip the same width as the drawer. The second is about 12-7/8" long with the same width as the drawer. Mount the 3" strip to the very back edge and attach the 12" piano hinge to the center. Then attach the 12-7/8" piece to the hinge and fold it down to create a nice desk top. The last piece of the drawer is the face which is a 5"x30-7/8" piece that gets mounted on the center of the front of the drawer. Once the drawer is built attach the ball bearing slides and mount it in the space as seen in the photos. The last step is to cut doors for both above and below the desk. The height of the doors should be the exact measurement between shelf pieces and the width should be 13-3/8". Cut out a handle like I did or add hardware so that you can open and close them.

Step 5: Drawer Unit

Picture of Drawer Unit

Start out with the same side walls and back panel as the desk. Cut out two shelves identical to the ones cut for the desk as well. One gets mounted to the very top and the other should be mounted 10" from the top. Next, follow the same procedures for making drawers as you did for the desk drawer with different dimensions. The drawer frame is 6" tall, two of the pieces 16" long and two 27-7/8". The bottom is the same size. You will need five drawers so cut five sets of pieces. Attach the frame pieces and then cut the face of the drawer at 10"x31". Mount the face center on the front of the drawer so that the bottom of the face is flush with the bottom of the drawer. Attach the basic drawer rollers to each side of each drawer and mount the other part to the sides of the frame. Mount the bottom one first and then measure to the bottom of the low shelf and divide by 4 to determine what the distance from the first slide to the second is. When they have all been mounted, slide the drawers in.

Step 6: Tie It Together With Dowels

Picture of Tie It Together With Dowels

If you have made it to this step, you now have each of the four essential pieces built. Now it is time to put them all together to make the final product. Drill holes into each of the front corners of each of the upright pieces and corresponding holes into the bottom of the bed frame. Since the desk and drawer units do not extend all the way to the back of the bed frame, you will need to cut two 31"x60-1/2" pieces to support that corner. When all of your dowel holes are complete, stick a dowel into each hole and lower the bed frame down on top of the 3 units. The loft is designed to be placed in a corner of a room, so the dowels allow you to interchange units depending on which corner of the room you would like to place the loft or just to suit your own preferences. Add a mattress and a ladder and you have yourself an all-in-one loft bed that will save plenty of space in small living areas.


JocelynS12 (author)2016-07-05

Oh my word! This is the EXACT thing i have been scouring instructables to find! yay, great job on it.

powerfulparadox (author)2015-07-17

I like. If/When I build one, I'll make the desk top hinged from the front, so I can hang it at an angle and have a drafting/drawing surface. Great work.

buck2217 (author)2015-07-01

Great idea well done

FranklinNewhart (author)2015-03-18

It is really to bad you didn't get back to me sooner. When I posted concerning units for Ward Hunt Island was 9 Months ago. If you had gotten back to me then you would have had a contract for 15 units. Alas we went with other plans and now we are back home from the North. It was a much too warm summer on Ward Hunt Island this year and we actually went swimming in the fresh water lake on the most northerly Island in the world. Yes Elsmere Island extends three Kilometers farther North than Ward Hunt but Ward Hunt is still the most northerly Island because it sits north of the coast of Elsmere in the mouth of a Fiord.

Franklin, Next time you or any of your associates are planning a field trip ;-) let me know and we will work it out...

FranklinNewhart (author)2014-05-25

Could this be built light enough and in an Ikea style kit form so it could be shipped to a place like Ward Hunt Island at the farthest place north and be put together by dumb arse scientist guys like me to improve our accomadation in the Quansit hut we got there. We are planning a new hut. We stay there from June to the end of August. Scientists are neither rich or very good or smart at the things they don't do regularly. Like Carpentry.

Franklin Newhart,

Let me know if you still want this unit and what is the real total? Its easily done with some substantial improvements.

If you have built or do build this in the future I'd really like to see how yours comes out.

when I do it I will make sure we talk and share pics...

It has to fit into a DC 3 cargo plane and we need at least ten units.

acurto (author)2014-05-25

I have to say, there are all kinds of amazing things on this site but this is hands down one of the most amazing. It's utterly gorgeous! I have a few questions: 1) How much did everything total cost? 2) Do you make things like this professionally? 3) What is the total height of the "living loft"? 4) Would it be possible to make this just a little wider to fit a full sized mattress? 5) If you do make things like this professionally (I can't see how you wouldn't with your expertise), do you sell them, and if you do, is it possible to buy one from you?

If I were you I would work for a woodworking company such a Wood-U or have my own business making these kinds of things. I've no doubt that many, many people would pay for such craftsmanship. Hell, I'd even suggest starting a website with various things you've made and can make for sale.

morganmurdock (author)acurto2014-05-25

I really appreciate all of your compliments, but I am not a professional. I am 18 and made this for a senior project at my school, so I don't really have the time or funds to mass produce these. The total cost ended up being about $800 and it is 5'6" to the top edge of the bed frame. I'm going to college to study industrial design and would love to have my own business someday , but for now it is just a really cool project of mine.

TallTrav (author)morganmurdock2014-05-28

If this is your HS project and you're going to school for industrial design, then you, sir, are going places. We'll look back and say we knew you when you were just a Good luck!

shortone (author)2014-05-28

Awesome project, nice work! I'd love to see some photos of it with the bed on it/clothes hung in the closet to get a better sense of scale... I'm having a hard time picturing exactly how big it is, even with dimensions. Really great job though, looking forward to seeing your next projects! ;)

nvarga (author)2014-05-26

This is awesome! It would be great to make one for a queen size bed.

kidharris (author)2014-05-25

Nice design & good workmanship, especially for your age.

Not trying to pick it apart, but there are some structural improvements that could be made.

The back plywood support wall will bow & sag because there are no vertical or horizontal stiffeners. Making it like a separate cabinet with some narrow horizontal shelves, on one or both sides, would cure this and add some more handy storage. If you add a bed to the top then I would recommend 2x4 or larger verticals, perhaps dadoed into the plywood to hide the edge and provide more strength and a more finished look. Great idea to store and hide a bike.


The shelves on the bottom of the clothes rack suffer the same problem, no stiffeners, and will eventually sag, even if you don't add any weight on top of them. 1x2 or 2x2 glued & screwed would work, could also be dadoed to hide the edges of the plywood. In addition I could not tell from the pictures which direction the grain of the plywood runs, hope it is the long way. Most plywood is stronger in the direction of the grain and much weaker across the grain. Wafer board is cheaper and uglier, but is unidirectional in strength which is one of the reasons it is used so much in construction today. Scrap can be better utilized regardless of dimensions. I use it a lot where looks are unimportant, but it needs to be sanded before finishing. Neither plywood nor wafer board holds screws well in the edge and it is better to pre-drill them, thicker is better.

kidharris (author)kidharris2014-05-25


Adding a hinged "ladder door" with a lock to the bike compartment would be a great way to lock up your bike.

chuckyd (author)2014-05-25

This is a great device, but I don't believe it's a loft. I believe a better name would be something like wardrobe or chiffarobe, or even storage/sleeping unit.

oilitright (author)2014-05-25

I can see where this or something like it could lend itself very well to those of us who have or will be doing conversions of buses, step vans, cube trucks etc. into motor homes.

Well done!

Andersonnieswald (author)2014-05-25

Caramba, muito legal, me inspirou amigo, vou fazer um projeto aqui em casa. parabéns pelo projeto!!

mhaas2 (author)2014-05-24

do you think I could modify this to use a fullsize mattress or do you think the weight would be too much?

morganmurdock (author)mhaas22014-05-25

If you're looking for a loft for a full bed then I would suggest finding a different design. I mean, you could make a full bed frame to put on top and put 4x4 posts on those corners not supported by the units, but you'd be wasting a lot of space underneath the bed.

Viali Jones (author)2014-05-25

This is so cool!! Maybe I'll build one with Grandpa when I move to New York someday ;)

spiralbound (author)2014-05-25

I really like this design, except for the closet. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something about it that feels like it is wasting space somehow, that it's larger than it needed to be. Plus the large door for it also feels like a missed opportunity. The desk, drawers, and bed sections are all great - I even like the storage nook behind the desk, but that closet keeps nagging at my subconscious... maybe if the closet were one the other side and didn't include the space to the right of the hanging bar? I don't know. Like I said, it's just a gut feeling that the design could be tighter somehow.

The closet has to be as wide as the desk and drawer sections. When shirts are hung on the rack, there won't be as much open space, it just looks like that right now. Depending on how much more space there is, I might put a shelf or some hooks or something along the right side of the closet.

Sembazuru (author)2014-05-25

Nice job, and good use of space. I would have liked to see it finished, but that doesn't matter to do with the fundamental design. Unfortunately most colleges/universities won't allow you to use this for liability reasons. They either only allow students to bunk the existing beds, or use a pre-approved design. The college you are going to may be an exception so certainly ask, but expect a "no" answer. They will certainly not hire an engineer to certify your design as safe. It would be great for apartment living off-campus, particularly in cities where space is a premium.

luckylulujoe13 (author)2014-05-25

If it's in a tight space, how do you get the bike around the corner?

prickly vegan (author)2014-05-25

I love it! What a great project. Great use of space and making things multifunctional. Extra points for thinking about bike storage. :)

BrianJewett (author)2014-05-25

The roll out clothes rack for the closet is brilliant. My only comment would be that if you made it's base bigger to fit the compartment, people wouldn't be able to say you were wasting space. ;-) I know that once it's filled with clothes there won't be any extra room in that compartment.

Great job btw, I hope you'll be studying in some design field in college. Don't let anyone try to steer you into being a (shudder) salesman. ;-)

Redjeep0 (author)2014-05-25

Awesome! I hope it fits in your dorm room! Good luck at college. BTW, was there a ladder or steps somewhere that I missed? How do you get to the bed?

jlvking (author)Redjeep02014-05-25

I think I saw something at the end about "just add a ladder and a mattress" :)

jlvking (author)2014-05-25

Someone asked about the possibility of a double bed. I would think that you could do that by adding 4x4 posts at each free corner and the center of the edge for support. You could probably even incorporate a bookshelf between two of the posts,

blainebrown (author)2014-05-22

Looks awesome! I'd really enjoy a short video showing this in action.

Mielameri (author)2014-05-21

Brilliant! Love these clever modular designs :)

craftclarity (author)2014-05-21

This is gorgeous! Any chance of seeing dimensions or drawings? Beautiful work.

I will try and update it with some drawings with dimensions in the next week or two. I had to post it as is for now for a due date.

nic nak (author)2014-05-21

Fantastic. I love the bike storage!

cerene (author)2014-05-21

Wow, beautiful and practical. I love it. :)

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