Introduction: Floorbed With a Bookcase (and a Secret Compartment)

About: Dutchman in Cologne.

After I finished the instructable for a dollhouse I made for my daughter, I wanted to make something new. Practically enough, her birthday was coming up and she also was going to need a bigger bed. Combine those two things, with the fact that my wife and I are interested in montessori education and the parenting style that comes with it, a floor bed was the logical result. We decided to use a mattress that was 80 cm wide and 160 cm long

Important: After I build the bed, I found out that a mattress of 70 cm wide and 140 cm long would have been way easier. That is a standard size and is also cheaper when you order it online.

Of course we could just lay the mattress on the floor, but that is just too easy. I wanted to create a very simple (read: cheap) frame that would just interlock using cutouts (edge cross lap joints, to be precise). Turns out my wife had a different idea in mind. She had the wonderful idea to turn the bed in a reading nook. That meant, a small bookcase or shelf needed to be added! Alright, no problem I redid the drawings and made some new calculations. Then a colleague came up with the idea of a secret compartment under the bookcase. By adding hinges of some sort to the bottom that was relatively easy and pretty awesome, so I took that into account too.

Like I said, we went for a mattress that was 80 cm wide and 160 cm long, the bookcase needed to be at least 28 cm deep and 30 cm heigh to make room for even the biggest books. The extra shelf on the headboard did not need to be of a specific depth, as long as it could hold a glass of water it would be alright.

All in all I have spent a bit und 50 EUR on all the wood (that is a bit more than 56 USD). I bought 18 mm spruce furniture boards and I had them directly cut to size at the hardware store (they do that for free). Screws were "for free", because I collect them whenever I can and also the dowels and centering spikes were already in my possession from another project (although I needed to buy another pack of dowels, because I ran out). One tool I used, I borrowed from a friend. It is a guide to drill the holes, don't what to call it exactly, but it made drilling straight, in the right spot and a lot easier!

Of course if you want to recreate this Instructable, you can adjust all the measurements, forget about the book case or or the shelf or just make it completely different! I would propose you use wood you have already lying around, if you have any.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

Tools that where used in the process are:

  • Pencil
  • Ruler and carpenter’s square
  • Drill with appropriate drill bits (Ø 3 mm for the screws & Ø 8 mm for the dowels)
  • Centering spikes for positioning the holes for the dowels
  • Sandpaper and sanding blocks
  • Rubber maller or rubber hammer

Then some hardware was be used to put it all together:

  • Wood glue
  • Dowels, Ø 8 mm, 40 mm long
  • Wood screws (I used countersunk ones with a dimension of 40×4 mm and 30×4 mm for the supports)

As far as material goes, this is what went in to the bed:

  • 5 pine boards, 18×300×800 mm:
    • Board 1: Top of the bookcase
    • Board 2: Headboard
    • Board 3: Sides of the bookcase (300×400 mm, 2 pieces)
    • Board 4: Shelf on the headboard and the footboard under the bookcase (140×800 mm, 160×800 mm)
    • Board 5: Bottom shelf of the bookcase (290×800 mm)
  • 1 pine board, 18×300×2000 mm
    • Side rails (140×1920 mm, 2 pieces)
  • 1 poplar multiplex sheet, 800×522mm — back of the bookcase
  • 4 pine boards, 18×200×800 mm
    • Bed slats (100×800, 8 pieces)
  • 2 slats, XX×XX×1600 mm — bed slats support

The idea of making the bottom of the bookcase into a secret compartment was easily solved. I glued two dowels into the board, left and right, and made the corresponding holes in the sides a bit too big, so they could freely rotate.

Step 2: Prepping the Parts

I got all the boards cut to size at the hardware store, so they where nice, straight and spot on. Plus it was for free and it would save me a ton of work. I had this in mind when I created the bed to spare myself a lot of sawing, swearing, and fixing crooked cuts. Using our trusty Kr8 cargobike I took it all home and layed out all the parts to check if I made any mistakes. Luckily I didn’t!

Using ruler, pencil and carpenter’s square I started drawing out where all the holes for the dowels needed to be. When all was planned and drawn out I could start drilling. At this point I cheated a little and used that little helper I borrowed from a friend for all the drilling. I don’t know how one would call it in English, so I am just going to use the brandname because it is awesome. This thing is called the "Meisterdübler" (lit. master doweler). It makes sure you drill straight down and exactly in the middle of the board. I have done a project without one before and it works without too, but this makes it much easier! You can view its demonstration video on YouTube if you want too...

The Meisterdübler (god, I love that word) works best if you drill the holes in the ends or the sides of the board first, after that you move on to the faces. So I drilled those first, and used the markers to mark the points on the faces, where I needed to drill next.

Make sure you remove all the sawdust from the holes for the dowels so the glue will directly stick to the board and the hole doesn’t get clogged up by the dust. Double check every position before you drill and also check every board afterwards if you have drilled all the neccesary holes. You never know...

Special needs compartment

The holes for the pivot point in the sides of the bookcase and the holes in the bottom need a bit more attention. The bottom board needs to be positioned a bit set off from the back, a bit more than 1 mm to be precies. That little bit of space is needed to have room for it to rotate.

Step 3: Putting This Puzzle Together

The order in which you put this bed together is pretty unimportant. I wanted to build the bookcase and the basis of the bed seperatly first and then join the two together in the end, but that’s just me.

The bookcase

First I took the bottom of the bookcase and glued the two dowels in place that will fungate as the pivot point later on. Then the top of the bookcase got glued in between the two sides and I added the pivoting bottom too. Then I rotated the bottom a bit to prevent the whole construction from collapsing, because next I stacked some vinyl on top of it all to get some nice pressure on all the connections and the glue.

The bed

I started at the headboard and attached one side rail first. Next up was the footboard, on which the bottom of the bookcase will be resting too. As a lest step, the other side rail got glued to it. Let it dry overnight and it is ready to be mated with the bookcase.

In my case I had to make a small modification to make the bed fit in between the wall and the radiator. The little shelf on the headboard needed to be a bit shorter. I measured twice and cut once. Like everything else I drilled the holes in the sides of the shelf first and then in the headboard. Just to be sure I added two small supports under the shelf on the headboard. Just in case my (or any other) kid would have the idea to climb or sit on it.

Finish the construction

This step is easy. Glue the dowels in place and add enough glue on the boards. Stick the bookcase on top of the bed and let it dry. As a final construction element, the bookcase needed to be closed (atleast I want it to be closed)in the back. I had a sheet of plywood cut to size at the hardware store and placed some scraps of wood on the inside of the side rails to give the plywood a place to screw into. If you have a router, you could make nice slots into both sides and slide the plywood in. But I don't, so this would have to do. Using a few round head wood screws I attached the plywood sheet to the scraps of wood.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

Because I had all the cuts done at the hardware store I had some pretty sharp edges all around on the bed. Using sand blocks and sand paper I softened all these edges and made the bed a bit more "kid-friendly".

We wanted to preserve the wood and it’s natural look and make the bed more durable, so I used an acrylic clearcoat on the whole thing. First I sanded everything with a fine grain (200). It is important that you sand in the direction of the grain, that means on the sides: from the headboard to the footboard and vice versa. Then I removed all the dust using a damp towel and added a first basecoat. After the first coat was dry and (more importantly) hardened out, I sanded everything once more, but now with a finer grain (600). I removed the dust and added a second, thicker coat.

It took quite a while before I had all three coats finished. I had to do this all in the livingroom and had to wait for the paint to dry before I could flip the frame over and paint the other sides. All in all, the painting took up most of the time, ha! In the end I added four small pieces of felt to the bottom so the boards wouldn’t scratch the floor or vice versa.

Once it was all dry and hard I measured the thickness of the mattress so I could calculate where the supports for the bed slats needed to be. Using counter sunk screws I fixed the supports to the side rails and layed out the bed slats. Put in the mattress and our daughter had a brand new bed. Including a secret compartment to stash toys, sweets, or anything at all!