Instructables
My daughter has always had her own room, but envies her brothers' bunk bed. So I built her a loft bed that look likes a floating cloud, which made her happy and created a little more space in her room. It uses some of the design principles of the one-legged bunk bed I posted previously - namely using the walls as part of the frame. However, this one has a heavy duty combination ladder/bookshelf for support, rather than a single leg. It's built using simple joinery out of construction lumber (2x4 and 2x6) and plywood, it's incredibly solid, and it only cost about $150 to build.

And pretty much as soon as I'd built that one, my eldest son moved into a room of his own... and wanted a loft bed, too. His incorporates a second bookshelf, a desk, and a secret compartment, and is designed for someone with longer legs, more books, and who isn't fussed about sleeping on a cloud...

Step 1: Design: loft bed #1

One end of the cloud loft bed (from here on in, #1) is a combination ladder/bookshelf. It's angled at a 4:1 ratio, which equals 14º away from vertical. It has six steps and six shelves, and can hold nearly three linear meters (10') of books. The bed is about as high off the ground as it can be and still retain head room above, with 8' ceilings (important so the occupant can sit up in bed).

The side of one of the beds is a stylized cloud. It's pretty cute for an eight-year old, but I have no illusions that a teenager will necessarily think it's just as cool, so I anticipate removing it and replacing it at some stage with some other design. The ladder and bookcase are pretty future-proof, I hope - it's quite comfortable for an adult to climb, and we all need storage for books.

Click on the icon below to download the SketchUp 3D design file for this loft bed, and use it as a starting point to design your own.

Step 2: Design: loft bed #2

Picture of Design: loft bed #2
The other loft bed (#2) has a mitered railing instead of a cloud, and because it's going in a bigger room, has space for a desk and another bookshelf alongside the bed. It's also covering a redundant fireplace, which gives the opportunity for adding a secret compartment. NO ONE is too old or too cool for a secret compartment, unless they're dead inside.

Other design differences: it has 5 steps instead of 6, as my son is over 5' tall at age 10, and will probably be 6'5" before leaving home (uh-oh...). Wood strips instead of plywood backing for ladder bookshelf - just enough to stop the books falling off the back. No bottom shelf. Dowel running underneath bed, so the space can be used as a wardrobe. The bed frame is notched into only the wall side of the bookshelf ladder - it is lag screwed into the inside of the outside leg. This allows the 2x6 on the outside to look seamless (the other bed didn't need this, because the plywood cloud performs that role).

Click on the icon below to download the SketchUp 3D design file for this loft bed, and use it as a starting point to design your own. 

Step 3: Tools and materials

This project will be easier if you have access to a miter saw, but you could do the whole thing with a circular saw if you have a good guide. I also used an orbital sander, jigsaw, router, tape measure, square, level, studfinder and a cordless drill.

You need (for each bed):

3-4 pieces of 10' 2x6 construction lumber (carefully selected)
3-4 pieces of 10' 2x4 construction lumber (carefully selected)
3" deck screws
1/4" plywood, about half a sheet
5/8" plywood, construction grade, one sheet
5/8" plywood, sanded one side, one sheet
4 1/4"x6" lag screws with washers
Wood filler
Paint

For the additional bookcase for #2 - I used three 10' 2x10s. You need some more 2x4 for the legs and sides of the desk and a small piece of plywood (5/8" or thicker) for the desktop.

Price is a little hard to judge, because I had some materials already. I'd ballpark $150 for each bed - the extra plywood for the cloud bed was compensated for by the extra wood for the additional bookcase/desk for the other bed. If you need extra plywood to cover up a fireplace like I did, that will add another $50.

Step 4: Cut boards

Saw the 2x6 to the following lengths. Note: construction lumber is far from perfect. You're better off to buy too much lumber and cut out the worst bits (knots, damaged areas) - the offcuts are good for firewood, and you'll have a nicer loft bed.

Cut these 11 pieces with square ends:
5 x 400 mm, 5 x 486 mm,1 x 962 mm

Cut these 3 pieces with parallel ends at 14 degrees:
1 x 1900 mm, 2 x 1462 mm

Saw the 2x4 to the following lengths, all with square ends:
2 x 2032 mm, 1 x 1200 mm, 2 x 964 mm, 1 x 362 mm, 1 x 162 mm

Cut six pieces of 1/4" plywood to 250 x 486 mm, and cut some of the good 5/8" plywood into six strips 20 x 486 mm. Fill all the holes and imperfections in the lumber with wood filler, and sand. You're ready to assemble the frames.

Note: check these dimensions will fit your mattress! The design could accommodate a bigger mattress (double, queen, king) no problem, but you might like to use 2x6s in place of the 2x4s in the frame. Bonus: you'd get a much wider bookcase! There are slight design changes for the loft bed #2, but from here on I'll just describe the cloud bed (#1), for simplicity's sake. The construction is also exactly the same for both. Check the plans for the details.

Step 5: Assemble ladder/bookcase

Mark the angled 2x6 boards with the steps/shelves every 250 mm. That's a good height for a step for a kid, and high enough for most paperback books. Mark them parallel to the bottom angled piece, i.e. at 14º. Drill three holes for each step, and assemble as in the pictures with deck screws, using your handy cordless drill.

Make cut-outs (using jigsaw or saw + chisel) for the 2x4 frame in the back of the 2x6, 55 mm deep at its deepest point, at the underside of the top step.

 Add the strips of 5/8" plywood to the underside of the 486 mm long pieces so you can support the backs of the shelves; 55 mm back from the rear of each shelf. Attach with wood glue and brad nailer. The backs of the shelves are made from 1/4" plywood, and can be fixed in place, nailing into the back of each 2x6 and into the plywood strip from the front.

Fill the screw holes, nail holes, and any other imperfections with wood filler, and sand smooth.

Step 7: Paint

Paint or polyurethane everything. We painted the ladder/shelves the same color as the walls of my daughter's room, so they'd blend in and add to the "floating cloud" effect. We just polyurethaned the other one.

Step 8: Install

Get someone to help with this step - I did it myself with the help of a 6' length of 2x8 and a one-handed clamp, but it was unnecessarily awkward. You're going to attach the frame to the walls of the room using lag screws. Mark the studs - you want to attach it twice at the head and twice on the side. Get the frame the right height and level in both directions. Drill a hole through the frame deep into the wall with a long bit, then put in the lag screw (use a washer). Repeat for the other holes. Use angled deck screws to ensure the frame can't slide out of the brackets you cut for it in the bookcase/ladder.

Measure the plywood base for the mattress and cut to fit. Screw it to the frame.

Step 9: Clouds (or railing)

Loft beds generally have a railing to remind the occupant that rolling out is a bad idea. Here, we decided to use plywood cut into cloud shapes (who doesn't want to sleep on a cloud?). We mocked it up first in cardboard, then cut the shape with a jigsaw, sanded smooth, rounded the edges with a router, painted it, and screwed it to the frame.

The other bed has a piece of 2x4 that joined up to the other bookcase. Utilitarian, but easy and with a nice miter and rounded edges (I used a roundover bit in my router), it looks good.

Step 10: Side bookcase and desk

The extra bookcase for loft bed #2 was made with 2x10s to accommodate bigger books. It's super easy to make - it went together so quickly that I forgot to take any in-progress photos. All simple butt joints joined with deck screws. The desk was made from a piece of plywood, and some 2x2 for legs/crossbraces and 1x3s for the sides to stiffen it - I used a very similar construction method here as for my door table. The 1x3s are mitered to make it look a bit slicker.

Step 11: Clothes rail

What can you use the space for under the bed? Well, it's good for general storage, but in the case of my son's room, he doesn't have a wardrobe. So I added a clothes rail so he can hang clothes under the bed. Really easy to do with this design - drill a hole for one end, and drive a screw into the other end of a dowel. I used an old curtain rail for the job. I'll add another one if he needs it.

Step 12: Secret compartment

Who doesn't want a secret space in their room? This one was easy to make, because we were covering up an open fireplace (which is perfectly functional, but which we never use - the room is way too small to justify it). All I had to do was make one of the plywood panels removable. You lift the panel up and over a strip of wood to remove it and reveal the space.

Step 13: Add bedding, books

DSC04450.JPG
pano.jpg
...and happy occupants, and you're done.
 
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burgzt made it!1 month ago

We did it! My son and I spent couple days on that fun project! One day was spent on building and other on assembling. Now the paint job awaits. Meantime we're looking for best color palette and looking forward to loft bed adjustments: rope ladders, swing, etc..

lova01.jpgkrp001.jpg
makendo (author)  burgzt1 month ago

Looks great! Thanks for posting the pictures.

moelhole1 month ago

Did you use any verticals behind the cloud for extra support, or were they unnecessary? Thank you for the information and great design.

makendo (author)  moelhole1 month ago

No, not necessary, though do note the single vertical at the foot of the bed extending up from the leg of the bed.

icmevans2 months ago

Im considering making this for my new apartment room. Im a college student. However the floor is all wood, what would you recommend for the bottoms?

makendo (author)  icmevans2 months ago

I'd just use some rubber from an old bike tire under each leg to protect the floor and prevent the leg from slipping.

icmevans makendo2 months ago

Apperciate the fast response! Any suggestions on incorperating a dresser?

makendo (author)  icmevans2 months ago

Buy one and shove it under there? You could customize the shelves to instead be a set of drawers with increasing depth as you went down, but that would be a lot of work.

ndnfld made it!3 months ago

great instruction. I used the idea but changed it.
My son really loves it and he is very proud of it.

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makendo (author)  ndnfld3 months ago

Nice, thanks for posting the picture. I'm enjoying how everyone is building these slightly differently!

ibowen5 months ago

Would this be as sturdy if it was for a full bed? What is the weight capacity?

makendo (author)  ibowen5 months ago

Yes. Add another 2x4 crossmember under the plywood if you're in the least bit concerned. It is massively overengineered compared to most commercial bunk/loftbeds; it's built more like a deck than a bed.

ibowen makendo5 months ago

Thanks for responding so quickly!

ChiDoug9 months ago

First, I'll echo previous opinions that you are a freakin' stud Makendo -- thanks for posting your design. Here is a pic of my rendition of your loft -- I may add bookshelfs later. I used wood salvaged from a demolished mansion in Detroit. The bedroom door forced me to change ladder angle to 10 degrees, and bevel the left leg. My son loves it - thanks again!

before2.JPG
makendo (author)  ChiDoug9 months ago

Great work - it looks really different & I like how you tied it in to the look of the room.

yuravgjoe9 months ago
Finished the bed and my daughter loves it. Thanks for the great plans and fun project. I added a secret compartment at the head of the bed and it is a hit. Added shelves below the bed too. If I can figure out how I will post a pic.
bed.jpg
makendo (author)  yuravgjoe9 months ago
Hey, fantastic! Looks great. Very cool to see it built.
yuravgjoe10 months ago
I'll be making your #2 bed and bookshelf over Christmas break for my 10 year old daughter. Thanks for the plans and the photographs. I downloaded SketchUp and had lots more fun with that than I should have.

The studs in my wall on the short side of the bed are so far apart I will have to extend the 2x4 frame for the head of the bed into the bookcase, which won't be bad, as I will have more anchor for that bookshelf to the wall. The wife says she doesn't want 2x10 shelves, so I may use regular shelves with a 1x2 facing and shelf hardware on all but the top and bottom bookshelf cross pieces and the center shelf which will sit atop the aforementioned 2x4 attached to the wall. I hope this will leave the bookshelf enough support.

Looking forward to the task. Hopefully it will be picture worthy. Thanks again for the instructions!

I had the same question about screwing in the steps on two sides of the middle support, so I'm glad you answered the comment below.
sinnomeiyu11 months ago
Hello again. Thank you for your prompt reply. The metric measurements are very useful for me as I live in Paris where people are not familiar with feet and inches. I've some more questions:

1) Is spruce wood OK (not too soft) for the construction of your loft bed?

2) Would you please give me the ground length of the bed (from the wall to the ladder)? Because I intend to get built this bed for my son along a wall where there is a door. If the ladder depass the door, would you advise us to reduce the degree of the inclination of the ladder and book shelf so that it'll be less long on the ground even though it won't be as practical to climb up and down the ladder.
3) There is another wall in the room of my son where the bookshelf will fall on where the gas heater is. Do you think we can reduce the width of the bookshelf so that we can still screw the bed to the wall, but then one of the end corners won't have ground support.
4) I don't know how I could screw the inner ends of steps and shelves as they share the same vertical lumber and each step and shelf are aligned? Would you kindly explain?
Many thanks.
makendo (author)  sinnomeiyu11 months ago
1. Spruce is fine (that's what the beds shown are made of)
2. The ladder makes the bed about 0.5 m longer. However, I strongly encourage you to download Sketchup and the file posted, and you can take all the dimensions off that plan (and change it according to your needs).
3. I don't quite understand what you mean, but you should check out my one-legged bunk bed, which shows how you only need ground support in one of 4 corners. Your walls are good for the rest.
4. Sure. I drilled holes at a slight angle so that they started just under the bookshelf and emerged into the middle of the step.
sinnomeiyu11 months ago
Hello Makendo. You're a genie. The loft beds look magnificent. They are so different and much better-looking than those we see in the commerce. Just one question: Are the sizes of lumber 2x6, 2x4 all in inch please? Thank you in advance for your answer.
makendo (author)  sinnomeiyu11 months ago
Thanks. Yes, but these are nominal dimensions - the actual measurements are substantially less than 2" and 4". For example, a "2x4" is actually 38 x 88 mm. You can extract the exact values from the Sketchup file.
grendel5411 months ago
great design...wish it was not attached to the wall, then i might try it myself. Any thoughts on making it free standing?
makendo (author)  grendel5411 months ago
Just add some 2x4 legs at the head end and some 45° braces to stop the wobbling.
Having said that - attaching it to the wall makes it rock solid and only leaves a few 1/4" holes when it's removed.... not much of a down side.
oatnshake1 year ago
About how long does it take too build ?
makendo (author)  oatnshake1 year ago
Both beds were weekend projects. If you have a miter saw, these beds are pretty easy to make.
sfsavage1 year ago
great and practical idea ,,thanks for the scheme!
i don't know whether my son or i love it more
20130828_BUNK.jpg
makendo (author)  sfsavage1 year ago
Nice job, looks great... I guess your son is not prone to rolling out of bed... :)
Thanks, he requested the 'bounce up' mounting option over the rail :)
And I modified his old Captains twin bed to queen size and grandma donated her old mattress ..it acts as a safety net
makendo (author)  sfsavage1 year ago
It's a great idea, I like it.
I think I am going to make one for my three year old. He has been asking for a new bed and my wife likes the look of this one. I don't think I'm gonna make it as high maybe 4ft.
And also add an entertainment center instead of a desk.
avillarama1 year ago
When I read that I thought of someone using the secret compartment to hold dead bodies... XD
makendo (author)  avillarama1 year ago
yeah... not the mental image I was trying to conjure up...
uncblueguy1 year ago
Built this loft with some modifications over the summer. Turned out great!!
makendo (author)  uncblueguy1 year ago
good stuff, glad to hear it
dana-dxb1 year ago
wish id seen this just a few days ago we billed a loft bed for my girls and its kinda waid abut 9 feats and length 6 coz its thats how the room is and now im having a hard time balancing it we add 4 legs on 4 corners but !! still ?
makendo (author)  dana-dxb1 year ago
Yeah, that is one gigantic bed you built, for sure. If you screw it to wall studs in a couple of places that ought to make it pretty rock solid, though.
thanx thats a good tip ill do that
swimberly1 year ago
Love it! I am in the planning stages for my daughter's tween room and I have a question...I noticed that you put a 1x6 on bed2 to finish the outer bed rail - How did you add that and still have the ladder rail flush?
Thanks
makendo (author)  swimberly1 year ago
It's actually a 2x6. For bed #2, there is no notch cut in the ladder rail, the 2x4 platform is just screwed to the inside of the rail. That allows the 2x6 horizontal rail to just be screwed to the side of the platform, flush with the ladder 2x6. Good luck with the build!
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