A GeekDad Builds A Cabin Bed

Geek Culture

Artists impression of the finished bedArtists impression of the finished bed

Artist's impression of the finished bed

I wonder if there is a mathematical formula describing the rate at which children accumulate toys and junk? It seems to grow at an exponential rate round here and when you factor in a small house and bedroom, you soon end up exploding at the seams.

Our little one is fast growing out of her clothes too, necessitating the need for new, and larger, clothing which obviously occupies more volume too. The cot bed is reaching the end of its usable life, the old crib is bulging with soft toys and the stopgap toy chest is falling apart from being overfilled. Something needs to be done, and quickly.

Here on GeekDad, we’ve featured a great way to hack an Ikea bed into something more usable and at least one reader followed the idea, but this time I’ve decided that a cabin style bed is the way forward. Unfortunately, after a great deal of research, I’ve concluded that none of the ones currently on the market tick all the required boxes. Which means it’s time to dust off the power tools and build our own. Woo-hoo!

The first step was to decide the storage options. We’ve ended up going with various drawers from an Italian company called Lazzari – they are available from Colours Ltd and The Great Little Trading Co. here in the UK. They are much more durable than other soft options around, the coated nylon is washable and they’re available is lots of bright colours and patterns. We considered the hard plastic crates, but they’re not as pretty and have a tendency to crack in my experience.

Side elevations of the designSide elevations of the design

Side elevations of the design

The first support will hold 12 of the larger drawers, and now I know their sizes, all the measurements for the bed flow can from there. The second support includes a hanging rail for dressing up costumes and larger spaces to hold shoes and Lego crates.
One element that I’ve borrowed from an existing bed is the steps. Rather than just having a ladder to reach the lofty sleeping area, I’ve made six large steps at one end of the bed, each one containing another storage drawer. The bed section itself is sized to hold a full size single mattress as I want this bed to last as long as possible, until she moves out hopefully!

I’m also planning to use some of the offcuts to make little shelves and storage cubes to be placed around the bed and possibly a fold down desk to span the space between the two supports underneath, but I won’t know for sure how they’ll work until everything is assembled later.

Isometric views of the designIsometric views of the design

Isometric views of the design

After receiving complaints about the ad-hoc nature of my last build (a treehouse), this time around I’ve been a bit more precise with my plans. No more making it up as I go along. So the initial pencil sketches of the plans were transferred into Illustrator on my Mac and laid out with precise measurements. Using Illustrator’s built in 3D tools I was able to create a basic isometric render of the design to help us visualise the finished product.

The biggest advantage of doing it this way was that I could lay the individual pieces out onto scaled 8′x4′ sheets of MDF (I went with 15mm thick sheets) and rearrange them to make the best use of the sheets with minimal waste – I got it down to 10 sheets in the end. Each ‘module’ of the plans is colour coded so I could easily see which piece goes where.

I then printed out these scale plans and took them down to my local timber yard, as they have a large scale saw for cutting sheet materials, knowing exactly the sizes I needed and where the first cut should be. This is much easier for two reasons; you don’t have to transport the full sized sheets (which can be pretty heavy) and you get perfect, straight edges – something that’s pretty much impossible to achieve at home, unless you’re lucky enough to have a table saw in your workshop of course. Obviously, you’ll need to cut the curved edges for yourself. As each piece came off the saw I checked the size and wrote it on the back, then coded them with a letter for easy identification later.

The pieces laid out on 8'x4' sheetsThe pieces laid out on 8'x4' sheets

The pieces laid out on 8'x4' sheets

After three trips for the MDF (I drive a Beetle, so there’s not much room inside) all the materials are ready to go. The last sheet I had to get delivered – it was the sheet for the steps and they wouldn’t let me jigsaw the funny cut in store! I’ve treated myself to a new electric sander and new blades for the jigsaw, a fresh set of brushes and gloss mini rollers. Time to get cracking, look out for part two to see how the assembly goes…

And, if you fancy having a go at building one for your own little geek, please feel free to download my plans and use them. Follow me on twitter @geekDadNath and let me know if you’re gonna have a go!

The plans are provided as a courtesy and for legal reasons I have to say that neither myself, GeekDad, Wired nor Conde Nast can take any responsibility for their accuracy or structural integrity and if you choose to use them, you do so of your own free will and it is up to you to ensure their proper construction.

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