Loft Beds With Bookshelf Ladders

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About: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture

Intro: 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

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

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" x 6" 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 6: 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

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

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

Step 14: 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, MarcelS9, and GarthM7 for posting photos.

10 People Made This Project!

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158 Discussions

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makendo

5 months ago

Not quite - it means 10 feet long (approximately 3 m), and with unfinished dimensions of 6 inches and 2 inches. This ends up being more like 5.5 inches by 1.5 inches.

Looks great, do you think it would work to mount straight legs on the head end to make the bed free standing. I'm thinking a 2*6 mounted flush under the bed frame or flush on one side and outside on the other.

3 replies

I did exactly that. I used 2x8 and extended them above the bed to create a headboard shelf area. The bed was pretty sturdy without mounting it to the wall, but did have some movement in it, so I ended up mounting it to the wall, though I probably didn't need to mount it as well. I will add a few images also.

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PeteS85benjamin.burton.9887

Reply 6 months ago

I know this is a 3 year old comment, but benjamin.burton.9887, do you happen to have your plans that you used? I am planning on using your headboard idea and incorporate some of my own, but between you and makendo that is a fantastic plan and bed(s)!! I need to make a freestanding bed...I am also going to incorporate a lienear desk (should also help with stability)

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AlessandroP47

2 years ago

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

2 replies
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dragon fllyerAlessandroP47

Reply 6 months ago

Long ago, I built a loft for my daughter in what was intended to be a storage room - but she needed a door way more than a window... It exactly fit a 4 foot sheet of plywood with two feet cut off it, leaving space to open the door into. I built plywood supports for the closed end and the corners. Her mattress left just enough space for a small set of shelves for storage beside the head end. It had a desk, bookcase, and dresser underneath.

I designed it so she could stand upright underneath it, but by the time I got it built she'd outgrown that...

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PiperM4

6 months ago

This bed will fit perfectly in our tiny room if we don't put the ladder/bookshelf at any type of angle. If it would be at any type of angle it would make the closet inaccessible. Do you think I could do this same design but make the bookshelf/ladder 90º/straight up and down. I know it makes it a little harder to climb but my kid is a climbing master so I am not worried about that. But structurally would it still be sturdy without the incline on that side?

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makendoPiperM4

Reply 6 months ago

Oh yeah plenty strong enough, this bed is massively overengineered compared to a commercial bed. And check out the second photo in step 14 - someone else made one with a near-vertical ladder and it works fine. Good luck with the build!

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nickcongemi

Question 6 months ago on Step 6

How did you secure the steps and shelves to the middle 2 x 6 ? Did you screw the steps straight in and have to angle screw in the shelves?

1 more answer
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makendonickcongemi

Answer 6 months ago

Yes, exactly. Angled screws from underneath the steps up into the shelves.

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GarthM7

9 months ago

I know this is an old build, but I did it. I changed the specs to full size and I cut the plywood in half so the gap is in the middle of the mattress. I also had to juggle metrics and standard as I am in the US. I also used some plexiglass to allow light to flow through part of the book shelf.

IMG_20180107_205015475.jpgIMG_20180107_175934969.jpg
2 replies
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makendoGarthM7

Reply 9 months ago

Great work! I like the two clouds

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GarthM7GarthM7

Reply 9 months ago

If I did it again, I would not have created a notch, but would have found another way to connect the bookshelf on the wall side. The other notch was tough but the 2x6 was long enough to keep the top of the notch from breaking.

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AlessandroP47

2 years ago

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

2 replies
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julianwhettamAlessandroP47

Reply 1 year ago

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
instructables.com.

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
timber

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
suggestions.

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makendoAlessandroP47

Reply 2 years ago

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