House Shaped Montessori Bed

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This project came about like most projects in my household: my wife came to me with some pictures off Pinterest and said “Do you think you can make this?” This time it was a Montessori Bed in the shape of a house frame for our young daughter. A Montessori Bed, or simply a floor bed, is as the name suggests: a bed on the floor. This allows our daughter to get in and out of the bed without being confined to a crib or falling out of a higher bed and is supposed to promote independence. The child has freedom of movement and can move independently around their (fully childproof) room, so hopefully she stays in bed when she’s sleepy but when she wakes up maybe she can explore and interact with the items in her room rather than just crying that she wants out of the crib.

I searched online and found a lot of plans, I even went as far as putting my email in to forms asking to be sent PDF plans, as well as tons of other marketing materials I’m sure. The plans I found/received were terrible, there were hand sketched notes with incomplete measurements or measurements that simply would not work with the angles used. Working with base plans I put them into SketchUp and 3D modeled out the bed, which instantly showed which measurements were blatantly wrong and also showed other problems with the design that I then fixed.

The end result is here as an instructable with clear steps, plans that work, and the SketchUp file as well so you can make some changes to the design to fit your own needs without the unwanted marketing emails and frustration I went through.

I made video of the build process, there are a few timelapses in it that highlight some of the key steps below. It's embedded in this step, or you can go watch it on YouTube.

Important Notes:

We’ll refer to certain boards through out the instructable, for simplicity I’ve made an image and color coded the boards to differentiate them all, it's one of the images in this step. And, of course, boards are called 2x4s and 1x3s but their actual dimensions are smaller, in SketchUp the dimensions are all the actual sizes.

This bed is going in the corner of the room along a wall the long way, so one side faces a wall, and the other faces outward to the room, because of this on the roof and rafter beams some of the Kreg jig holes are only on the side that faces the wall in order to “hide” them from view, rather than being symmetrical. These holes could be adjusted or moved if your needs are different, just be careful to not move them in such a way that they intersect the other screws or pegs.

Supplies:

Bill of Materials (BOM) available on Github and included in the steps:

Wood:

ItemCountCost Each
2 x 4 x 8-ft Whitewood Stud (Common); 1.5-in x 3.5-in x 8-ft (Actual)103.33
1-3-4 Pine Board151.91

Hardware

ItemCountCost Each
5/16-IN ZINC FLAT WASHER160.13
5/16-in x 3-in Zinc-Plated Coarse Thread Hex Bolt160.30
Hillman 18 x 3/4-in Slotted-Drive Zinc-plated Barrel Nut161.25
Madison Mill 6-Pack 1 x 1 Poplar Wood Button Plugs3 (need 16)2.68
Common Screws 1 5/8"~12On hand
Common Screws 2" (for rafters)12On hand
Common Screws 1" (for slats)~34On hand
Madison Mill 18-Pack Wood Oak Dowel Pins (Actual: 0.375-in x 2-in)122.68
Kreg Paint Grade Wood Plug24 (plugs)5.48

Equipment Used:

  • Circular Saw or Table Saw
  • Drill press
  • Miter saw (angled cuts)
  • Drill
  • Belt Sander
  • Kreg jig

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Step 1: Parts

Here are pictures with the labeled parts used and referenced throughout this instructable.

Step 2: Measure & Cut the Square Boards

First measure out the boards and make all the square cuts. The column boards and roof boards have 45° cuts so pay careful attention to the lengths.

Cut:

  • 2 x 38 3/4” 2x4 boards for the head and foot boards
  • 2 x 76 3/4” 2x4 boards for the base side boards
  • 3 x 76 3/4” 2x4 boards for the roof “rafters”, these will be turned into 2x3s
  • 14 x 39 3/4” 1x3 boards for the bed slats.
  • 4 x 47 1/2” 2x4 boards for the columns these will be turned in to 2x3s and have an 45° angle cut on one end. So we measure 47 1/2" from the square edge to the longest part of the angle cut. See photo if its not clear.
  • 4 x 27 13/32” 2x4 boards for the angled roof peak, these will have 45° angle cuts on both ends. 27 13/32" is the length after the two 45° cuts so maybe start with a slightly longer board before making the 45° cuts.

Step 3: Make the 2x3s

The columns and ”rafters” are more narrow 2x3s to be smaller & lighter. To make this take the 2x4s and cut them with a table saw along “the long way” to make a 2x3.

Cut

  • 4 x 47 1/2” 2x3 column boards.
  • 3 x 76 3/4” 2x3 rafter boards.

Save 2 of the 6’ 1” “scraps”, they will be reused for the slats base later on,since it’ll be under the mattress you can skip sanding these.

Step 4: 45° Angle Cuts

Put a 45° cut on one end of the 4 column support boards.

Put a 45° cut on both ends of the 4 roof peak boards, the angles are (complementary) so angled edges are parallel to each other.

Step 5: Sanding

Sand down all the boards (the slats and slat base can be skipped since they’ll be under the mattress) so that the 2x4s and 2x3s are nice and smooth and have no sharp edges or splinters that could damage a small child’s hands/skin.

I used a belt Sander and did three passes. The first was using a rough sand paper, like 80 grit, to get the big splinters and any unevenness from the table saw cuts out, this also rounded down any cut edges. Note that by rounding and sanding all the edges when the bed is fully assembled the joined edges will not be fully flush and will have some gaps, if you don’t want this result, then leave any contact edges un-sanded and straight.

The second pass was with a mid-grade grit like 240 and was leveling out any bumps from the first pass.

The final pass was with a finishing grit like 400, to make the surface smooth to the touch.

Another option is that if you are going to paint the whole bed then after sanding and assembling, you could use a wood filler and sanding along all the joints to make all the joints flush and even, effectively hiding them when the paint is applied.

Step 6: Drill the Large Plug Holes

Drill the holes for the bolts in the 4 column boards. There will be 2 holes on the short face, and 2 holes on the longer face but it is important that these holes are on the on shorter end of the 45° cut at the top (see labeled SketchUp picture). There will be 16 holes total across the 4 column boards.

It’s critical to start with the larger 1” holes that only go n” deep, the 5/8” hole for the bolt that goes all the way through will be added after. If you do it in reverse order then you’ll have issues trying to keep the spade bit centered and getting a nice clean cut, the bit will want to “dance” around and will cut off chunks making a very uneven hole.

On my drill press I used the depth gauge to get the right depth and when I reached the bottom I had to turn off the drill, rather than releasing the bit back up, because on the way back up there is nothing keeping the bit centered it wanted to catch the edges and ruin the nice hole. There’s an example video embedded or on Youtube showing the wrong way of how coming back out ruins the edge.

Step 7: Drill the Bolt Holes in the Columns

In the center of the 1” peg hole, drill a 5/8” hole the rest of the way through the board for the bolt. There will be 16 of these total.

When drilling all the way through a board, it will "chip out" unless you place another board underneath it. The two photo show examples of this: it not chipping out, and chipping out.

Step 8: Drill the Barrel Nut Holes

The bolts in the columns will thread into barrel nuts located in the base and side boards. The barrel nuts are roughly 15/32” in diameter but drill holes of 1/2” inch diameter in size to give a little wiggle room along the y-axis when assembling, also drill these holes 1 1/8” deep which is a little past center which gives some wiggle room along the x-axis as well. This is all just in case the bolt holes are not centered and true, so that if they are a little off the two can still thread successfully. 16 total, again.

Step 9: Drill the Bolt Holes in the Base and Side Boards.

Drill a 5/16” diameter hole from the edge to our barrel nut holes for the bolts to thread through. It’s recommend to use a drill stop to get it to the correct length. There are 4 per board and 16 total of these as well.

Step 10: Drill the Keg Jig Holes

In the columns, rafters, and angled roof beams were are going to drill Kreg jig holes for the screws. Almost all will be in the standard/recommended location, 1 1/2” from the edge. On the angled roof beams, because of the 45 deg angle cuts we will move the jig closer (photo shows this).

We make a number of holes:

1 in the top of each column on the “inside” edge, opposite of the peg holes.

4 in one face, 2 each end for the rafter beams. Notice which side is “favored” or faces the wall vs the side that faces the room.

2 in the (dark orange) angled roof beams

4 in the (light orange) angled roof beams, note that the hole on the underneath edge is closer (see picture)

Step 11: Drill (almost All) the Peg Holes.

For the roof and rafters there will be a 2” wood oak dowel pins in the center, combined with screws added later, this will give more support in the roof for any shear and strain forces (which could be caused by a child hanging or swinging on the roof/rafter boards, I think it’ll hold, but it is definitely not recommended).

For each peg there will be two holes since the peg is centered between to boards. Drill a hole of 1 1/8” depth, which will be slightly longer than needed in both boards,

For the angled roof beams the hole will be centered in the angled ends, on the column boards it’ll be centered along the angled cut.

For the two side rafter beams the hole will be centered in the rafter board, but will be on strange angle with the side of the column board, to make the rafter flush along the angled roof. The peg will be at 1 3/32", 23/64" on the column board on the side connecting to the rafter board.

See the image for clarification.

For the top rafter the peg hole will be centered in the edge of the rafter board but it will be centered along the seem in the angled roof, skip drilling that hole, it will be added in a later step after the roof is assembled.

Step 12: Drill the Slat Board Holes.

On each of the slat boards there will be a screw positioned 1/2” from the edge. Drill a 7/64” pilot hole for each.

Optionally, you can drill a 1/4” hole, 1/8” deep to sink the screw head and keep it from snagging on the mattress.

To do all this quickly, I made a jig using a board scrap and a vice. I drilled all the pilot holes in rapid succession and then using the depth stop I drilled all the countersink holes, the video shows a timelapse of this.

Step 13: Assemble the Angled Roof

Apply some wood glue to the peg hole on each board and along one edge.

Use a 1” screw in the “peak” hole take care that you don’t go too deep and “break through” the edge.

Use a 1 5/8” screw in the rest.

Put together and if available use a 90° vice to keep it straight and tight, allow plenty of time to dry

Step 14: Drill the Peak Roof Peg Holes

In the dried and set angle roof drill the 1 /18” deep peg hole in the center along the joint edge. Not an ideal location, but hopefully with the glue and screws its a solid spot for the peg to go.

Step 15: Assemble the Frame

Because we used screws, bolts, and barrel nuts you can assemble the bed in the final location or a temporary location as we verify all the pieces go together properly and do the last clean up steps.

To assemble the bed, start with the columns, place barrel nuts in to appropriate holes, bolts and washers into the columns. I used a magnet on a nail to position and orient the barrel nut when trying to thread the bolts.

Attach the angled roof with pegs and 1 5/8” screws.

Attach the rafters with pegs and 2” screws. Either have a helper hold the boards in place until screwed in, or use clamps to keep them in place.

Step 16: Attach the Slats

Using the 1” scrap from making the 2x3s earlier, cut two to a length of 71 3/4”. Position 2 1/2” inches from the edge on the side.

Drill 7/64” pilot holes for the screws to avoid splitting the boards. Attach using 1 5/8” screws.

Using a spacing of 3 1/8” between the boards, attach with 1” screws all the slats. To do this quickly, after setting the first flush with the support edge, I used two pieces of scrap 2x4 and cut it to the spacing length, then I would place the spacer next to the set board and position the next board flush to it, that way I could rapidly set the boards knowing that the spacing was correct and not having to measure each space. The video shows a timelapse of this.

Step 17: Apply Peg Covers

For all the Kreg jig holes and the bolt holes place a peg or plug in each. The pegs I used were a little thick and rather than making the peg holes slightly deeper I opted to use the sander and thin out the circular pegs.

If a plug isn’t staying or is a little loose in the hole, you can apply a mounting putty this will make the plug stay but will not be permanent and the plug can be removed later if need be.

Step 18: Apply Paint, Stain, Polyeruthane, Furniture Oil/Butcher Block Oil

For our bed, we wanted it “natural” looking and didn’t want to expose our kid to any unnecessary chemicals if we didn’t have to, so we opted to use a lemon furniture oil to clean up the wood and “pretty it up” without using a stain. In other projects for my daughter I used butcher block oil which will hydrate and finish the wood but if she holds or puts it in her mouth its a “safe” oil which was intended to come into contact with food and won’t do her harm.

As mentioned previously, if your intent is to paint the whole bed you could apply a wood filler and sand it down to hide all the joints and make everything flush.

Apply whatever finish you choose to use over all the surfaces (except bottom and slates) and peg/hole covers.

Wipe away any excess.

Step 19: Optional: Dissemble and Move to Final Location

I built the bed in my workshop to make sure everything went together properly. To move it to my daughters room I detached the long side board and roof rafters only. That way I had the base with slats, two house shapes, and three rafter boards to move and reattach. Take care moving the base, if not held evenly the slats will want to shear to the sides.

Project went well, Thanks for reading!

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    6 Discussions

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    jessyratfink

    4 weeks ago

    This is fabulous! I want one for myself. All I can think about is running string lights as the "roof" and how nice it would be to read in there :)

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    silkier

    4 weeks ago

    Not sure I can really understand why there is a need for all the construction. What is wrong with a mattress at floor level or a legless frame base to raise the mattress off the floor if there is concern about dampness?
    Fun looking bed though.

    1 reply
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    spacemanlabssilkier

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    It's also house shaped and the roof has some obvious leaking issues ;) You could totally just throw a mattress on the floor, but where's the fun in that? I don't make because I need to, I do it because it's fun, I learn something, it tests my skills and I learn new skills, and in the end I ended up with something that was functional and looks nice as well.

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    Pavlo6666

    4 weeks ago on Step 19

    Nice bed! Your little princess will surely enjoy it for years to come!

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    Uncle Kudzu

    5 weeks ago

    Nice! I hope she loves it.