Introduction: Loft Beds With Bookshelf Ladders

Picture of Loft Beds With Bookshelf Ladders

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...

Note: $250 wooden commercial loft beds can be found, but they look pretty flimsy and won't have any storage. Metal ones are cheaper but also look a bit wobbly. Fancier ones can cost thousands.

Step 1: Design: Loft Bed #1

Picture of 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

Picture of 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" x 6" lag screws with washers
Wood filler

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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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 6: Assemble Bed Frame

Picture of Assemble Bed Frame

Assemble the 2x4 frame as shown, again with three deck screws per joint. The positions of the cross-pieces are not critical.

Step 7: Paint

Picture of 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

Picture of 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)

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of Add Bedding, Books

...and happy occupants, and you're done.

Step 14: Builds

Picture of Builds

Happily, lots of people have made beds according to these plans, and nearly all of them who were kind enough to provide photos made slight changes. Check them out for further inspiration. Many thanks to benjamin.burton.9887, burgzt, ChiDoug, instructablesdstark, mitch.duke, ndnfld, sfsavage, yuravgjoe, AndreasM3, GregV9 and MarcelS9 for posting photos.


AlessandroP47 (author)2016-05-11

is it possible to accomodate this project for a 3mt x 1.13 mt very small room? :\

It could well be possible to make a loft bed for such a room that
would help maximise space. If you used Makendo's design you'd have to
modify it a bit, or there are other designs around too, including on

3 x 1.13 metres (9'10" x 3'8") is small, but as long as
the door is at the end of the room and any window can be accommodated
safely, a loft bed could be a boon, as you could double up on some of
the floor space (at a cost of decreased headroom under the bed, of
course). You have to decide if that's worth it, but I've just made
loft beds for my daughters and it's really increased floor space for
them to play on. And they don’t need much headroom!

I’ll try to describe the kind of thing you might do – at
your own responsibility.

- If it's for a child who's still not very tall (e.g. a child
under 10), it could be worth considering a shorter mattress, e.g. 5'
or 1.5 metres, so you can make the bed a bit shorter and leave more
of the room with full headroom.

- I would suggest the bed platform going across the whole 1.13
metres width, which gives a bit of extra space to put things at the
side of the bed, and maybe have some bookshelves on the wall next to
the bed.

- You could simply use 4x1 inch timbers (or 4x2 if you prefer) on
all 4 sides, fixed securely onto the wall on 3 sides. If the wall is
brick, use big rawl plugs or frame screws. For stud walls, find where
the studs are and screw through into them. You want probably want at
least 3 inches of the screw in the wall in that case. Make sure your
fixings are adequate! Ask someone if need be.

- I suggest you use a sheet of 3/4" (19mm) plywood for the
base. It’s really strong, and will give strength to the structure.
If you don't have a suitable power saw, you could get your

merchant to cut it to size for you, but check the angles
first. (Just remember to leave an inch or so (2.5cm) of spare space
all round the mattress, otherwise it'll be a bit tight putting the
bedlinen on.)

Simply place the ply on top of the timbers you’ve
screwed to the wall, and I suggest you then screw and glue the
plywood to the supporting timbers.

- For the 4th side, i.e. the open end which isn’t against a
wall, screw and glue the timber across the end of the ply wood. I
suggest doing this one on top of the ply, or fixed on the edge of the
ply and projecting upwards, to increase headroom and hold the
mattress in. This timber doesn't need to be

attached to the
other side timbers if you use the plywood I suggested. (If you like
you could screw and glue a piece of 2x2 under the ply, then fix a
wider plank (e.g. 7-9 inches) across the end, with 2 inches
projecting below the ply and 4-6 inches above.)

- You could make a ladder like Makendo's, but at most only half
the width of the bed, because you need a wide enough opening to walk
through to get into the space under the bed - so just a ladder, not
bookshelves too.

- The ladder could be angled or vertical - see Makendo's answer to
a question about that. His ladder is pretty substantial, but 4x2
timbers should be ample.

- You could add another cross timber half way along the bed, like
in Makendo's design, to help keep the plywood flat. Screw and glue it
to the bottom of the ply. 2x2 or 3x2 ought to do it, I guess?

- That's about it! Finish by sanding, to smooth and to round sharp
edges, and then oil, varnish or paint. Add a desk, floor cushions or
whatever underneath, and probably a light or two. I do recommend
doing a Google image search for "loft bed" or something, to
get ideas. Makendo's design is a great reference, though. I found it
helpful to check out my plans for my daughters’ beds with a friend
who’s more knowledgeable than me, and he made some very useful

makendo (author)AlessandroP472016-05-11

That sounds more like a closet. I think it would be tough - it would pretty much fill the room...

AlessandroP47 (author)2016-05-11

is it possible to accomodate this project for a 3mt x 1.13 mt very small room? :\

See my response above

MarcelS9 made it! (author)2017-01-14

I fell in love with this design the moment I saw it. Great idea! Until I finally built it for my daughter it took a few months, though. I managed to finish it right before Christmas and the new owner and her little sister both love it. Hanging thick blankets from the top gives them a nice "cave" to hide and play.I used Arolla Pine / Swiss Stone Pine (Pinus cembra), a fantastically smelling wood. As it is fairly soft and thus scratches easily I enforced the front of the steps with beech.

makendo (author)MarcelS92017-01-14

Superb! Great finish quality, love the dados and the contrasting beech fronts. Awesome job, thanks for posting the pictures!

Jack of Some Trades (author)2016-09-15

Do you think that this design will be able to accommodate a double bed? Obviously I would have to change the dimensions, but do you think that the design could support the change in weight?

Oh yes, no problem. See step 5 for recommendations. This bed is massively overengineered. Double bed gets you more shelving, too!

JennE9 made it! (author)2016-07-06

Thank you so much for the plans. We had so much fun building this and then adding a few things to make it our own. My 5 year old is in love.

makendo (author)JennE92016-07-13

Very cool! Love the slide and climbing wall. Awesome job

JennE9 made it! (author)2016-07-11

Here's a few more pictures of the finished project. I lowered the height of the bed to 48" to accommodate the slide and the top of the windowsill. The slide platform sits on the windowsill, edge of the bed and one post. I might put a rail along the side for safety but so far it hasn't been an issue. I made the rock wall myself, as I had all the materials (I built one in my basement). In all, super fun, great instructions and it's been a hit.

JennE9 (author)2016-07-05

This is so awesome. I am in the process of making this bed (with some additions and alterations). I will post pics when all done!! It is so easy to build. I will be making another one for child #2 shortly afterwards (once again with a few changes to make it her own). Thank you!!

makendo (author)JennE92016-07-05

Great! Look forward to seeing the pictures.

tgal513 (author)2016-03-03

How high would you mount the bed for a 7ft ceiling?

makendo (author)tgal5132016-05-11

About a foot lower, i.e. 4' rather than 5' off the ground

GregV9 made it! (author)2016-02-19

Thanks again! Finished the project today. My daughter is really excited!

makendo (author)GregV92016-02-19

Nice! great job

GregV9 (author)2016-02-15

Thanks so much for posting this! I'm about to start building it for my daughter, but wanted to make sure it fit the room well. The one thing I can't find in the plans is the height on the wall that you attach the bed at. Do you happen to know the height?

Again, thanks so much! --Greg

makendo (author)GregV92016-02-15

You're welcome. About 1450 mm, or a little under 5 ft.

inklesstales (author)2016-01-23

Well done YOU! Brilliant work. Think this could be adapted as a freestanding structure? I'm a renter, in California currently, and they're QUITE strict about building codes: if I were to DARE anchor something to the wall? Uh oh! Lol. Otherwise I can build what I like; it's furniture then. ;-)

FrederickB1 (author)2015-10-08

Wow, I can't believe the comments from "thevaliantx," how obnoxious.

I plan to build two of these loft beds for my kids in the next few weeks and I appreciate the detail you have provided. Thanks and I'll update when they are completed.

makendo (author)FrederickB12015-10-08

I do have to grit my teeth a bit when responding sometimes, but for the most part people realize that this site is about "here's what worked for me - use it as a starting point" rather than "here is the perfect plan, buy it from me!". Good luck with the build and it would be great if you posted photos after you're done.

thevaliantx (author)2015-09-24

How deep are the bookshelves? Most of the plans online give you 6" of space, which is silly. Visit any library and you'll find shelving at least a foot deep.

makendo (author)thevaliantx2015-09-24

They're made from 2x6s, so you guessed it, 6". Plenty enough for most paperbacks. If you need deeper shelves, build them accordingly.

thevaliantx (author)makendo2015-09-24

6" would not be enough room for mpst of my books, and there is a reason why libraries have much deeper shelves. Adapt, my friend, as you seem to be suggesting. Why did you choose to go with such small shelves?

makendo (author)thevaliantx2015-09-25

Because the books you tend to take to bed with you are paperbacks, which fit just fine. If you're looking for shelves to showcase your big books, you should buy (or build) shelves like those you admire at the library.

AndreasM3 (author)2015-09-06

Finally I took some
pictures of the bed I did 2 months ago. Total construction time was about 30h
on two weekends. Although it had been addressed in this manual I made some
mistakes that luckily didn't crash the project.

1st try to get construction
wood. It was twice the price so I decided to go for the one from the hardware
store which I thought I choose carefully. Not! The next time I'll pay the extra
money as the final result would have been nicer.

2nd I used
"chipboard" ?! instead of plywood for the little bit deformed cloud which was marked with black color. I
thought the final white color would cover it up later but even after 15 layers
of color it didn't disappear. So get that color off by sanding before painting!
We had to turn the cloud inside out so it's not seen anymore.

Anything else? We changed
the interconnections of the frame a little bit which you can see in the pictures.
Our room is almost 8 feet high and the bed fits perfect. Mrs. can get in and
out easily and loves the "overhead" window that is decorated with
some colorful lighting.

makendo (author)AndreasM32015-09-07

Great job!

yo_demigods (author)2015-08-21

nice so cool

JosephT17 (author)2015-08-21

cool! i like it!

sarahlouise (author)2015-08-20

Hi there! This looks great. I was looking to make a double loft bed (to fit 140cm wide mattress) do you think this construction would yield enough support? The mattress is quite deep and heavy too.

DebbieR13 (author)2015-07-28

hello, trying to figure out how to attach the steps to the inside vertical board of the ladder, because I can't get the instructions to download. thanks!

makendo (author)DebbieR132015-08-14

The first loft bed uses a notch, which you can see pretty clearly without the download. For the second one, the one closest to the wall is notched and the 2x4 bedframe directly to the inside of the outside ladder leg. I've attached a picture from the rotated SketchUp file which hopefully makes it clearer.

Mysterious_Gal (author)2015-07-19

Oh my gosh, I have been wanting to buy a loft bed and I have a ton of books. This is the busy idea ever.

LD5 (author)2015-07-01

Thank you so much for sharing this project. I've been looking for a way to utilize the space in my son's room for quite a while now and decided to go with a loft bed. But the pricing and overall layout of the beds just didn't work with what he and I were looking for. Plus, they're super pricey. I've never built anything in my life but your instructions give me hope that I can accomplish this task without fail. I do, however, have a few questions that you may have already answered previously. I just didn't see it. #1: Would you please explain what you mean by "Make cutouts...,55 mm deep at its deepest point,..." and #2: Where did you glue the small wedge? Thank you so much.

AndreasM3 (author)LD52015-07-08

The 55 mm cut outs are to actually fix
the bed frame with/into the ladder. Please see images 1 and 2. In the
second image I added the SketchUp dimension which turns out to be 45.7
mm instead of 55 mm. I guess it's up to you how deep you wanne go. Just
make sure your mattress will still fit and not overlap.

The wedges
are glued to the 3 stair posts at the very top. See my third image. You
have to click on "show all 7 images" within Step 5 to see all the
pictures he uploaded. There is the third image I attached which explains
it all. :-)

Btw I just got some new tools to do this bed as my old tools weren't safe anymore. Festool PS 420 and a Metabo KGS 254.

makendo (author)AndreasM32015-07-08

Thanks AndreasM3 - you're quite correct. Apologies to LD5, I've published 3 projects in the last week and this comment must have fallen through the cracks!

Kalambres (author)2015-05-30

Hey this is an awesome project. I've been planning this a while. But now I think I don't have the space to do it. I wanna do it with straight steps, and only 1.20m at it's highest point. I'm doing the four legs boring rectangle not your awesome project, but I wonder if it'll work. And I'm not sure how I should joint the legs and the frame...I'm know... sleeping with company... So i don't want any accidents. Could you please advice? P.D. Thanks a los for your project. I had some great ideas

makendo (author)Kalambres2015-06-01

Vertical steps will be harder to climb, but simpler to build (you don't need to worry about cutting angles than aren't 90°). At 1.2 m, you will need less steps (probably 4 instead of 5).

leahericachung (author)2015-03-22

Is this possible to construct with just hand tools and a power drill? Thanks!

makendo (author)leahericachung2015-03-23

Sure; it will be harder to get perfect joints but structurally it will be just fine.

coral.goodrich (author)2015-03-18

How difficult would this be to disassemble if I needed to move it?

makendo (author)coral.goodrich2015-03-19

It's easy enough to break down into two large pieces: the bed base and the ladder. That just requires unscrewing the 4 lag screws into the wall plus the screws connecting the two parts. They're heavy and bulky but not difficult for 2 people to move. Not really designed for regular moving though - I'd go for something more lightweight.

mitch.duke made it! (author)2015-03-04

Great instruction! I used your design (with a few tweaks) last year when I built my son's bed. He loves his "big boy bed"!

makendo (author)mitch.duke2015-03-04

Great stuff! thanks for posting the photo.

yolanda.torres.7923 (author)2015-02-22

Can I have a queen mattress on?

Sure, see step 4, and read the comments section - other people have done exactly that.

benjamin.burton.9887 made it! (author)2015-02-04

I made it! This is modified to fit a full size bed with a rail, headboard, desk, and bookcase. The headboard has a shelf that lifts up with a storage compartment underneath, and the light is just a strip light with a switch. The desk and bookshelves under the bead are not actually attached by they are a VERY tight fit. It was an awesome project for my daughter's birthday, and she loved it. We sent her to her grandparents for the weekend and did this along with repainting her room and some decorations. It was a hit!

Good stuff. I like the illuminated headboard & many other tweaks you made. Thanks for posting!

About This Instructable




Bio: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture
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