Introduction: Modern Bed With Built-In Storage

For all the DIYers and weekend woodworkers out there, here's your guide to building a modern style bed with built in storage! My version of this project was constructed exclusively from 2x4s and plywood, but to save time and effort, you can buy pre-cut lumber, or use a different material entirely for the drawer fronts and headboard.

Feel free to adapt these plans to suit your needs, including changing the slatted "V" pattern of the facing, changing the method of construction for certain parts, and changing the color and style of the finishing.

Materials list:

  • Frame and Drawers (Lumber):
    • 2"x4"x12' (x9)
    • 4'x8'x1/2" Plywood (x5)
    • 4'x8'x1/8" Plywood (x2)
  • Headboard, Footboard, and Drawer Fronts (Lumber)
    • 2"x4"x12' (x15)
    • #10 Wood Biscuits - 125 pack (x1)
  • Hardware/Other
    • 28" Drawer Slides - 2 pack (x4, total of 8 drawer slides)
    • 1 1/4" Coarse Thread Pocket Hole Screws - 100 pack (x1)
    • 1" Wood Screws - 50 pack (x1)
    • 1/2" Brad Nails - 100 pack (x3)
    • Birch Edge Banding
    • Stainable Wood Filler
    • Dark Walnut Wood Stain - 1 Qt. (x1)
    • Weathered Grey Wood Stain - 4 oz. (x1)
    • Clear Brushing Lacquer
    • Lacquer Thinner - 1 gal. (x1)
    • Mineral Spirits - 1qt. (x1)

You will also need access to the following tools:

  • Jointer and Planer (if using 2x4s for facing)
  • Table Saw
  • Dado Stack or Hand Router
  • Circular Saw
  • Brad Nailer
  • Palm Sander
  • Pocket Hole Jig
  • Power Drill
  • Biscuit Joiner

The following tools are recommended, but not required:

  • Miter Saw
  • Band Saw
  • Air-powered Paint Sprayer

Step 1: The Support Frames

This bed is built in 3 major parts: the left half, the right half, and the headboard. In order to support the weight of the structure and tie the left and right halves together, there are three 2x4 support structures. The left and right halves each get their own bottom support frame, and a larger support frame will rest on top of both halves when they are put together.

Begin by cutting your 2x4s according to the following cut list:

  • 79" (x6)
  • 52" (x9)
  • 22.5" (x10)

Next, use your pocket hole jig to drill 2 holes in both ends of each middle slat (52" and 22.5" pieces). Do not drill pocket holes in the 79" pieces.

Finally, using the pocket holes, attach the middle slats to the 79" runners to create two small support frames (5 middle slats each) and one large support frame (9 middle slats). Each slat should be evenly spaced, with about 15 3/8" gap between slats on the smaller frames, and a 5 15/16" gap between slats on the larger frames.

Step 2: Plywood Break-Down

Cut your 3/4", 1/2", and 1/4" plywood according to the following cut list:

  • 3/4" Plywood
    • 44.5" x 54" (x1) (Headboard)
  • 1/2" Plywood
    • 30" x 80"(x4) (Plywood Frame)
    • 30" x 12 1/2" (x6) (Plywood Frame)
    • 37 1/4" x 11 1/2" (x8) (Drawer Sides)
    • 28" x 11 1/2" (x8) (Drawer Sides)
  • 1/8" Plywood
    • 27.5" x 37.75" x 1/8" (x4) (Drawer Bottoms)

For this step, I recommend ripping the plywood into long strips, then using a cross-cut sled to cut each piece to length.

Step 3: Plywood Dados

Next you will cut a set of dados for the plywood frames and drawers.

Using a table saw dado stack or a hand router, cut 3/4" wide 3/8" deep dados along the left edge, right edge, and center of the 30" x 80" plywood pieces. (see picture).

Then, using a normal table saw blade, cut a 1/8" wide 3/8" deep slot about 1/2" from the bottom of each of the drawer side plywood pieces.

Step 4: Drawer/Frame Construction

Next, you will construct the plywood drawer frame and the drawers that will go inside.

Assemble the main plywood frame by gluing and nailing the main plywood frame together. The shorter 30" x 12 1/2" should fit in the dados in the 30" x 80" pieces from the previous step.

Once the frames have dried, screw the smaller support frames to the bottom of each. Do not center the 2x4 frames on the plywood frames, but rather, keep one long edge flush on each, leaving about a 1/2" gap along the other 3 sides. This will allow you to press the two smaller frames directly against each other so they can be attached later.

Once the frames are attached, flip everything upside down so that the 2x4 frames are face-up. Set the frames side-by-side so the edges of the 2x4 frames touch. Alternating from the left frame to the right frame, drill pocket holes at 3 inch intervals such that there are pocket holes every 6 inches in each frame piece. You will use these later to tie the two halves together from the bottom.

The drawers will be constructed using normal butt joints, so it is important to pay attention to the orientation in which the pieces are nailed. Glue and nail the edge of the 37 1/4" long pieces to the face of the 28" long pieces. Before you attach the fourth side, be sure to slide in the 1/8" drawer bottoms into the slots you cut earlier.

Step 5: Drawer Slides

Next, attach the drawers into the frame using the drawer slides. Most drawer slides come with an installation guide, but the technique is the same for most types.

First, separate the slides by extending them to full length. Then, press the plastic tab to release the catch, allowing you to pull the slides fully apart. Place the slides inside the drawer cubbies with about a 1/4" gap at the bottom, and with the face of the slides flush with the face of the cubby. Pre-drill the screw holes using a small drill bit, then drive the screws into place, attaching the first part of each slide to the inside of each cubby.

Next, attach the other half of each slide to the drawers, this time with no bottom gap, but still keeping the front of the slide flush with the front of the drawer. Pre-drill and screw the slides in place.

Finally, test-fit the drawers by re-inserting the slides and pushing the drawers into place.

Step 6: Milling the 2x4 Stock

To construct the 45º pattern drawer fronts, you'll need to cut a number of different pieces and join them edge-to-edge to form panels. Since you are using raw 2x4's instead of pre-cut lumber, you'll need to mill your boards to create 0.5" x 3" stock. You will need to resaw, joint, and plane your boards to create nice, square stock that meet the desired dimensions.

First, joint one side each of 4 2x4s and set aside for the next step, leaving the edges raw.

Next, joint and plane the faces and edges of 2 more 2x4s to create stock which is slightly larger than 1" x 3". Set aside for the next step.

Next, resaw each remaining 2x4s in half using a band saw or table saw.

Once you have the resawn stock, joint and plane each piece to a final dimension of 1/2" x 3".

Step 7: Other Pieces

Apart from the support frame and facing slats, there are a few more pieces that need to be cut and assembled.

First, you will need to glue together two sets of two 2x4s to create two 4x4s. Spread glue along the jointed face of each 2x4 from the previous step, then clamp the surfaces and allow the glue to dry. Once the glue is dry, joint and plane each surface to square the edges to a final dimension of 3"x3". Alternatively, you can just purchase pre-cut 4x4s and cut them to the final size of 3"x3".

Next, you'll also need to cut several 1.5" wide facing strips to cover the raw 2x4 support frames. From your pre-milled 2x4 stock, cut 1/2" x 1.5" x 79" (x4) and 1/2" x 1.5" x 60" (x2) strips. Then, go ahead and glue and nail these pieces to the visible sides of the bottom support frames.

Sand each piece until it is smooth to the touch.

Step 8: Drawer Fronts (Part 1)

Now for the fun part. All of the 0.5" x 3" stock will need to be cut to length and joined edge-to-edge to create panels with a 45º angle pattern.

Start by cutting a 15 1/2" x 40" drawer front template from a scrap piece of plywood. Using a speed square and a straight edge, mark a 45° line on the template 3" away from one of the corners. Repeat this process, measuring 3" away from the previous line until you have covered the entire template. Line up your 1/2" x 3" stock with each section of the template and mark the length you'll need to cut. Be sure to cut 4 of each length to create 4 drawer fronts total.

When cutting each slat, I recommend cutting slightly longer than needed at a 90°, then cutting off the jagged corners later to ensure that the mitered edges line up perfectly.

Step 9: Drawer Fronts (Part 2)

Once you have cut each of the slats, lay them out on the plywood template. Draw several registration marks at 4" intervals on the adjoining edges of each slat. Using your biscuit joiner, cut a slot at each registration mark. Then, working a few slats at a time, glue and clamp the slats together edge-to-edge, being sure to insert wood biscuits into the slots you cut.

Once the glue has dried, you should have four jagged panels. Use your template to mark and cut the panels into rectangles, removing the jagged corners.

Finally, sand all surfaces flush and smooth, using stainable wood filler as needed to fill any gaps.

Step 10: Headboard and Footboard (Part 1)

The headboard and footboard are constructed similarly to the drawer fronts, except this time, the slats can be nailed to a sturdy backing surface, rather than needing to be joined edge-to-edge with biscuits.

First, draw a line down the center of the plywood headboard backing. Using a similar technique to before, draw 45° lines at 3" intervals along the board to create a "V" shaped template. Again, mark and cut the length for each slat out of your 1/2" x 3" stock. For these slats, you will need to pre-cut a 45° angle in one end so that the slats on the left and right will join properly on the center line.

For the foot board, once again mark a set of 45° lines at 3" intervals along the foot of each plywood frame. The angle of each frame should be opposite to that of the other, such that when the frames are set side-by-side, a "V" shaped pattern is formed. Again, mark the length for each slat, but this time, cut each slat about 4" longer than the marked length.

Step 11: Headboard and Footboard (Part 2)

Next, working on the footboard only, glue and nail each of the slats in place along the template lines you drew before. Be sure to arrange the slats so that the 4" excess you cut all sticks up at the top. This will allow you to cut the footboard slightly taller than the frame itself.

Using a circular saw, cut off the jagged edges from the footboard, just like you did before with the drawer fronts. Measure 15 1/2" inches from the bottom so that the final height of the footboard matches the drawer fronts.

Finally, fill any nail holes with the stainable wood filler, then sand away the excess after it dries. Sand the entire surface flush and smooth.

Step 12: Headboard and Footboard (Part 3)

Due to the staining pattern of the headboard, the assembly process is slightly more complicated. Arrange your slats on the template, then set aside every third slat. Glue and nail the remaining slats in place, leaving a gap for the slats you just removed. You may find it helpful to use the removed slats as a spacer, but be sure NOT to nail them in place.

Once these slats are nailed in place, press-fit the remaining slats in place, but again, do not nail or glue them in place. Cut away the jagged edges with a circular saw, then fill and sand any nail holes. Sand the entire surface flush and smooth, then remove the press-fit slats and set aside for staining.

Step 13: Staining

Next, you will stain and finish each piece of the bed.

Create a 50/50 mixture of mineral spirits and dark walnut wood stain. This will allow the stain to absorb more evenly to the irregular surface of your cut 2x4s. For each of the panels, headboard, footboard, and "other pieces" (see Step 7) apply two coats of stain, allowing at least 4 hours to dry between coats. For the drawer front panels, fully stain one side, and only stain about 6 inches in from the edge on the other side, leaving the middle of the board completely unstained. This will provide a solid surface for gluing the panels to the drawers later.

Follow the same procedure for each of the reserved headboard slats, but instead, use a 50/50 mixture of mineral spirits and weathered grey wood stain.

Step 14: Finishing

Before applying the lacquer, glue the grey headboard slats in place using wood glue and weights.

Using a paint sprayer, apply a 50/50 mixture of lacquer thinner and brushing lacquer to each surface. Apply 4 to 6 coats, allowing about 30 minutes to dry between each coat. For a more perfect finish, lightly sand the surface with ah high-grit sand paper between coats.

Step 15: Final Assembly

Finally, it is time to assemble all of the pieces!

First, set the drawer front panels face-down on the ground. Apply a coat of glue to the plywood face of each drawer, then place them face-down on the panels according to the construction document. Place weights inside the drawer to hold the surface down while the glue dries.

Next, flip the bed upside-down and screw together the two bottom frames using the pocket holes you drilled earlier. This should pull the two halves together into one piece.

Flip the bed back right-side-up and lay the larger 2x4 support frame on top. Center it above the two plywood frames, then screw it in place.

For the headboard, use your pocket hole jig to drill 10 holes along the left and right back edges. Align the headboard to the headboard posts, then drive in the pocket-hole screws to attach the pieces.

Set the headboard against the bed frame, then drive several screws out through the plywood frames, attaching the headboard posts to the main frame.

Finally, re-insert the drawers into the main frame, completing the final assembly!

Step 16: Final Thoughts

While I’ve worked on sever small and medium sized woodworking projects, this was the first large scale project I’ve ever taken on. I purposefully chose this project to exercise my skills and learn new techniques, and I wanted to take this time to share my thoughts on the challenges I faced during the process.

The first and most obvious challenge of this project is the sheer scale of it all. There are a huge number of steps and parts to consider, and it’s incredibly easy to make a mistake. I found it helpful to keep paper copies of my diagrams as well as written parts lists on hand to keep track during each step of the process. In addition, it can be very useful to label each piece of wood with a pencil, and label it correspondingly on the paper diagram.

Next, I personally faced the challenge of a major time constraint to finish this project. Due to the space this took up in my school’s workshop, I couldn’t spend more than three or four days total on everything, and this meant that I was perpetually crunched for time throughout the entire process. Unfortunately, this meant that I wasn’t able to take my time and work carefully on the finer details of some parts, but overall, I was able to overcome this challenge by enlisting the help of several friends and family members along the way.

The final challenge that nearly crashed this project was my decision to work almost exclusively with 2x4s. While the milling process seems relatively straightforward, from resawing to jointing to planing, the reality is that it’s incredibly easy to come out with major imperfections such as saw marks or warped boards. This challenge would best be overcome by using pre-cut lumber, but if your desire, like me, is to keep things cheap, I learned a few tips to getting the most out of your 2x4s:

Firstly, only one side of each board needs to be perfect, since only one side will show for the headboard, footboard, and drawer fronts.

Secondly, if your boards are warping after you resaw them, cut them into shorter segments for the jointing/planing process. In addition, he sure to cut the shorter slate from these pieces, since the warp will be less obvious.

And finally, don’t be afraid to discard and start over on any pieces that are really messed up. This will save you a lot of time and frustration overall.

In conclusion, this project can be a lot of fun for anyone looking to exercise their fine woodworking skills. To avoid mistakes and come out with a final product that you can be proud of, just remember to take things slow and pay attention each and every step of the way.

Furniture Contest 2018

Runner Up in the
Furniture Contest 2018