My grand idea

I woke up with The Best Idea Ever.

Remember when we were wondering how to fit our kids more comfortably into their 2 smallish rooms?  We talked about stacking them higher, or building a loft over the bedrooms.  We kicked around the idea of triple or even quadruple bunks, and where to put them.

We even talked about finding a way to fit them all in one room and turning the other into a library, thus freeing up all the space in the rest of the house that is currently cluttered crowded consumed by books.

Here’s what we’re going to do:

The 2 bedrooms are nearly 12×12 each, and each houses 4 children plus assorted pets and a baby.  The beds are, of course, the biggest piece of furniture in each room: bunkbeds with a full on the bottom and a twin on top.

We’re going to build-in a set of shelves that runs the entire length of the room, just behind the door.  They will probably be 24-28″ deep.  It will be over 11 feet long, and 4 levels high.  Each shelf will sleep 2 children, feet-to-feet.  If they enjoy each other’s company and/or want to share a booklight or alarm clock, they could choose to sleep head-to-head.

The beds will be built of wood, probably similar to the storage shelves the girls and I built under the house for hubby’s birthday, though these won’t be hung from the ceiling.  We will buy thick comfy mattress pads to cut down for mattresses.  We have already done a bit of research for this part.  Three king size pads will be more than enough.

We will have 8 beds – or even 9, since 3 small children could sleep on the bottom level – on one side of one bedroom.  The kids love the idea!

We’re still working on other details:

  • Treasure boxes: I hope to leave a 12-18″ space underneath, which will be divided into cubbies for personal possessions.  Right now they each have a large cardboard box under the bed, which we refer to as a “treasure box.”
  • Clothes: Yikes.  We already have some very bad habits, and I have resolved to become a laundry nazi.  We’ll need to thin things severely and learn NOT TO TOSS CLEAN AND DIRTY LAUNDRY INDISCRIMINATELY ON THE FLOOR.  ahem.  Pardon my raised voice.  We will probably build cubbies on the opposite wall for underthings, and heavily thin the hanging clothes.  I would like to see our rundown dressers disappear entirely.
  • How to fund the project? We’re hoping you’ll pay for it, but don’t worry.  We have a very fun idea in mind!

Now, who thinks we’re crazier than ever?  Who wants to see pictures of the project when we start it?  Who wants to see my fundraising idea?


  1. Lori Feldman says:

    I just had to respond to your grand idea. Did you do it? I’m the mother of 9, with #10 on the way, and we live in a single-wide mobile home with 1180 s.f., quite comfortably. I, too, woke up one morning a few years ago with the idea of a loft for the tiny boys’ room (four boys). The only wall without a loft is the one containing the door. The other three walls have a 28″ wide shelf made out of 2×4’s and 5/8″ plywood. The loft (as we call it) is made safe by three levels of 2×4’s running the complete length. The oldest boy can easily sit up and not bump his head. He is now 14 and sleeps on a newly constructed bed (shelf) down below, where the 3 year-old/s crib used to be. The lower bed also acts as storage for about 12 6-gallon grain buckets. The boys have one dresser, and a desk and chair, plus a little floor space. The room looks pretty neat, and the boys’ feel more blessed than the girls who don’t need a loft because they have 2 sets of proper bunkbeds.

    I didn’t know you were the family who was responsible for the printing of Princess Adelina. Thank you so much. I finished reading it aloud a couple of months ago, and it was so beautiful… I cried a lot! We were all encouraged!

    The Lord bless you all! Congratulations on your newest blessing coming very soon!

    Your sister in Jesus,
    Lori Feldman

  2. Any pictures yet?

    • Nope. We’re busy procrastinating and doing other stuff. We kinda need to wait until hubby has time to help lay the subflooring, and this is a very busy time of year for him at work. Once the subflooring is done, the kids and I can do the rest.

  3. I think your bunks are a great idea. I would recommend creating the bottom bunk as a platform bed with a hinge that lifts the platform like a giant trunk. I would also make it three high behind the door and place the other two girls above the closet door and the cubbyholes. This would allow approximately 16″ x 24″ x 12″ of keepsake space under the main bunk for 8 children. The platform also has the added benefit of dust buddy breeding grounds being curbed. Then the head room could be safely increased to 32″ on the main bunk with the oldest children only 6’6″ above the ground. I didn’t include mattress thickness because it could be 2″ to 4″ depending on your foam. The cubbyholes along the opposite wall could reach the average 6’8″ height of the closet door jam. Then by placing 3/4 ” plywood above the door and cubbyholes with proper brackets two more girls will be lifted to rest above the room. What kind of ladder system will you use?
    We love platform beds and have created them in our room and the children’s room. We use them for storage that would not enjoy the humid Texas heat in the garage. It has enabled the family of 7 to part happily with two dressers full of clothes. I am excited about your renovation. I love living with my family under my feet. The elders are soon gone. How will I act as a family of four? sigh

  4. I’m back again! I am the Jennifer who commented earlier, about hitting my head at summer camp. I’m still loving this idea of sleeping all the kids in one room. I had a really cool idea. You mentioned having vaulted ceilings and for some reason it seemed like maybe your walls didn’t touch the ceiling. It would be cool, if you made shelves that spanned from the top of one wall to the top of the one across from it. Like the shelves would rest on the top of the wall. (But of course, bolted down for safety on the beams in the wall.) You could have three or four of these spread across the top of the room! You might want a lower to the ground solution for the children who still fall out sometimes, or railings. Then you have a WHOLE ROOM to do any-other-thing with! Talk about saving space! The shelves wouldn’t have to be as wide as a twin bed, but they would be long enough for teenagers to sleep two toe to toe, and three or even four small children. And even if you stick with the berth/shelf beds for now, its an idea for the future, at least, when you have more children. And you’ll still have your berths for the children who can’t climb yet or fall out a lot!

    • Jennifer,
      Actually this is another idea that we’ve tossed around – building a loft over one or both of the kids’ bedrooms. You’re right – we’ll probably do this in the future. It would take a bit more planning and materials, but is well within our abilities and would certainly create more space.
      I love the idea, and it’s so funny that you came up with the same idea! Great minds think alike, huh?
      BTW, I’m not too worried about the kids hitting their heads…more than once or twice…because I think they’ll quickly get used to the low overhead. It won’t be like you visiting summer camp one week out of the year, you know? Their overhead will be low every day, all the time. And they’re totally ok with not being able to sit upright as long as they have plenty of room to turn over and prop themselves up on elbows – which they will.

  5. Looking at all of these bunks made me think of your idea . . .

  6. I am looking forward to seeing photos, and hey, you’re happy, the kids are happy- what’s not to love? In Japan, it’s traditional to not have beds at all. Instead, each person has a futon, which over there is not dorm room furniture, but instead just a thin, foldable kind of mattress At night, everyone spreads these out, and in the daytime, they are folded up and put away. I think that this is a great idea for large families with little space. You have all the floorspace you could want during the day and at night it’s like a giant slumber party.

  7. Awesome, clever idea! I can’t wait to see photos, and how the plan evolves. :)

  8. Well, at first I was a little put off with some of the “suggestions” and “opinions” that were shared. I felt like they were judging you and I was a bit upset on your behalf (like you needed me to be upset for you, ha!).

    Yet I really do like this suggestion from the Seargeant Family. I really like the idea of trundle beds under the bottom shelf – this will give everyone more room and like was stated, will let you use the shelves for personal space during the day as well (without always having to lay [or is it lie?] down flat).

    Yet really, whatever you decide will be best for your family – only YOU know what will or won’t work for your kids. It’s amazing how easily we all get sucked into the idea that what we do in America today is BEST or NORMAL or RIGHT – when in reality, something outside the box may really be the perfect solution.

    Thanks for helping me see outside the box – and realizing that’s everyone doesn’t have to agree with me to make it *right* for our family!!

    p.s. can’t wait to see some pics!

  9. Your idea sounds like a great one. We actually just visited some friends who have one of their youngest sleeping on a “shelf” right now.

    Being as we have some real life experience with tight quarters and bunks, here’s our family’s input.

    Our fifth wheel trailer is a bunkhouse trailer, which means the one end of the trailer has 2 “bunks” that sleep 4 people built in. Some of the newer bunkhouse trailers have bunks that are hinged that can be folded up above a couch for daytime and folded down at night for sleeping.

    Our trailer bunks have 2 1/2 ft inbetween them, 28 1/2″ wide and 6′ long.

    My girls say that their 30″ is not enough room to be comfortable and that 36′ would be much better, especially for your older/bigger girls. They said that they cannot sit up to read in the 30″ they have without slouching which then causes their backs to ache.

    They have hit their heads on the upper bunk trying to get into their beds. They have hit their heads sitting up to get out of the bed.

    The girls’ suggestion is to put a trundle-pull-out mattress, (utilizing your current twin mattresses?), under the lowest shelf, then divide up the remaining space above for the rest of your shelf beds. This would also give double purpose/duty to their beds during the daytime and they could use them as couches upon which to sit and read comfortably, thereby giving you even MORE usable room throughout the day.

    One other note. We used to have a triple L-shaped bunk unit with trundle under it that slept 4. We had it set up that way for a short while, but Rick was concerned about those on the upper bunks should we have a fire. They would get the brunt of the smoke, which is the first cause of death in a fire. Your vaulted ceilings might help with that concern. The top bunk did not have much room between the child and the ceiling and no one particularly liked that top bunk. We ended up reconfiguring the bed into a single w/trundle and a normal bunk bed unit. They all much preferred that.

    So, there’s our real life input. We look forward to seeing what y’all decide to do!

    The Seargeant Family
    Recording the Faithfulness and Provision of God for Future Generations

  10. I LOVE THIS IDEA! I can’t wait to see pictures. Yes, it will be tight, but it will be like sleeping in an old-fashioned train berth. How cool is that?! You are a genius.

  11. I’m keen to know if this will work out to be practical even though it sounds fun. It’s not a hoax, is it?!

  12. I love you idea! We are actually doing that now. I will be posting pics on our blog when I have time to upload photos etc. We are going with standard twin size mattresses (our oldest-Eva is already 5’4″ at 13y and our next- Noah is 5′ at 11y) they beds will have 28″ between top of mattress and bed above as well as the ceiling (very short ceiling). We will have boys and girls in the same space I am making curtains for privacy and each bed will have a reading light.

    It is so refreshing to see other families staying out of the individual bedroom trap. Our children (we have 7) occasionally catch the green eyed monster when they see others with their own bedrooms/spaces but then they surprise me by saying “Jack” has an xbox in his room, his family must not like him around them very much because now he stays in his room all the time. We also feel that common living spaces trump sleeping quarters.

    I am so grateful to have found your blog (via common room- whom I found doing a google search for “large family small house). I have been reinspired to be content with our small home (20’x40′) and to continue homeschooling our children. Thank You!

    Also, we love the Princess Adelina book!

  13. I think making the custom quilts will be great! Can’t wait to see pictures of this project!

  14. Lydia I hope I didn’t offend you I was making a joke about being scarred for life.

    LoisG you are right not everyone needs a king size bed but everyone does deserve a good nights sleep which I am sure Kim will see to. GEESH!!

  15. I can’t wait to see pictures of your kiddos all snug as bugs in their beds!

  16. Yes, please share pictures!!!

  17. Have you thought about making them like Navy ship bunks? The bed portion lifts up and there is storage underneath the mattress. I don’t know if you can squeeze four levels of Navy style bunks in your room (Be thankful that you don’t have high pressure steam pipes running through the children’s room).

    Modern bunks –

    WWII bunks 4 high and they fold up:

  18. Pictures? Yes. I am envisioning something that looks like a ship’s sleeping quarters – even when our ancestors crossed the big pond. Or perhaps submarine or navy ship bunks. Maybe there’s a theme here. Gotta love your creativity. Before you know it they’ll be heading out on their own, right? Yours will be prepared for college dorms and the real world.

    Good luck with the project. If I were you I would decide what size mattresses or pads are available and decide width based on that. When I was small, we had cots for beds – narrower than a twin, designed for camping or soldiers or something and the family got them from some kind of surplus place. It made all the difference in getting 5 children into one room.

  19. I LOVE Lydia’s reply. Just because twin size beds with sitting up headroom are what we have culturally in the U.S. at this period in time, does not make them physically or morally superior. Large families have many priorities that are above every individual’s supreme physical comfort. The children in this family have decided to make some sacrifices in one area, to gain something in another. Good for them!

    Sounds similar to how we arranged our bunks in college, in order to have more floor space. We loved it. And I spent one summer of my life, when I was 19, sleeping on a cot. It was plenty of space. And my husband and I shared one twin bed for quite a while after we were married. Two people do NOT need a king size bed’s worth of space, and one person does not NEED a twin bed’s worth of space, just because in the U.S. it is available! (It is nice and wonderful for big or tall people, I realize that, but it is NOT a NEED.)

  20. Okay, that sounds crazy and brilliant at the same time! I’d love to see how this turns out. Are you going to put little sides on the “berths” or just leave them open? I lived on a sail boat in my senior year of high school and I would highly recommend adding a raised lip(with dip in the middle to easily get out) so that they will feel secure…just like being on a big sailing boat, only with out the rolling floor 😉

    And of course this gives me wonderful ideas as we consider buying a home and having 3 girls to one room..thinking…

    Can’t wait to see what you do!

    • Sommer,
      Yes, we’re going to put low rails on the beds – just enough to hold the bedding and keep heavy sleepers from rolling out.

      We’ll probably just use throw blankets to begin with, though I’m sure the girls will want to make quilts to fit their own beds and suit their personalities. I plan to use bigger sheets to make slipcovers for the foam pads they’ll be using as mattresses.

  21. While your kids are small, this will probably work out fine. As they get bigger, it might be very uncomfortable. We had bunks like this in the military (Navy ship) and it was definitely effective, but it was miserable! You would be surprised how much the average person tosses and turns in their sleep. It starts to affect your sleep after a while to be so cramped. I’m curious, what are you using for sheets and blankets?

    Do you guys have plans to add on to the house eventually?

  22. Sounds like an absolutly practical/cute/fantastic idea!
    Can’t wait for pics!!
    Don’t forget to embarrass them and take one of them sleeping in them. 😉

  23. Oh fun! I loved the crazy loft beds papa build while I was growing up! There was one in the front room, one in the laundry room, and then 2 in bunk style in the bedroom, and one in the closet. :)
    I don’t know about the cost, but as far as comfort, I once had a “memory foam” thing for my bed-it was about 6″ deep, and came all rolled up-it was very comfortable!

  24. I love it! I can’t wait to see pictures! (I am currently trying to convince my husband to put one of our boys in a closet. So, no, I don’t think you’re crazy!)

  25. Wow! At first I thought you were kidding but after reading all the comments I guess you’re not. Good luck! And yes I want to see pictures.

  26. Maryjo,
    The bunks were the idea of us children. Although I am claustrophobic and I think that any less would be not enough, I do think 24″ is plenty.
    We don’t roll around in our sleep much, we are planning on putting rails on the higher bunks just in case, and we can prop ourselves up on our elbows easily in that much space.
    And we are going to turn the other room into a library! We all love that idea soooo much too.
    I don’t think that any of us will be scarred for life. :)
    Lydia Mae

  27. good idea, I can’t wait to see it!! Before and after pics sound good to me.

  28. I love the idea. Do you have room to do 2 shelves on each side of room for more headroom to sit up?

  29. NinjaPrincess says:

    I’d strongly suggest giving them enough room to sit completely upright. I (as did one of your previous commentors) had a bad experience with low hanging bunk beds at camp. If any of the kids is startled at night, she’ll sit upright without considering what’s above her head. Ouch!

    Have fun with the project!

  30. A thought on the laundry situation – although our family is considerably smaller, (only 5 children so far) we have found that inexpensive wire baskets work well for our children’s clothes. Each child has a set of 3 baskets, one for shirts, one for pants, and one for socks, pjs, and underwear. We keep all of the clothes in one closet, as each set of 3 shelves is stackable, with the hanging clothes in a different closet. We have done this for a year so far, and it has worked out well.

    BTW, I absolutely love the plans for the beds, we may end up taking some tips from you soon!

  31. I neglected to mention that yes, the ceiling over the bedrooms is vaulted. It’s 12 feet high, though I have no intention of building their beds that high!
    We did a trial and discovered that 24″ provides a comfortable amount of space between beds, allowing them to turn over easily and prop themselves up on elbows to read in bed.
    Of course the older girls might prefer to be on the top level where they have nearly unlimited headspace, though the oldest surprised us by asking for a lower bed.
    We will also be putting a low rail on each bed, just enough to keep a heavy sleeper from rolling out but not enough to make it difficult to get in and out of bed.

  32. I guess they will be like cabins or bunks I have seen on train cars and ships.

  33. Please forgive me, but I love you. Thank you for solving my family’s exact same problem. (Including the too many clothes!) Thank you for writing this! My husband read this and said we WILL do this as we have no other ideas. We have even thought of hammocks stacked 4 high like in the military (navy). However, this leaves little for personal things.

    We however are only going three high and doing it on both sides. In the middle we plan their shelf for personal items. Their room isn’t nearly so big as the one you described…it’s 9X9 ish. We expect one child per shelf. We will add curtains for privacy. I will probably sew their mattresses…about an inch thick with foam on top.

    Again thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have been worried about what to do as our family grew and grew and you gave us the answer. Thank you thank you.

  34. I am very curious to see how this will work!

  35. I’ve got to see this! Can’t wait to see some pictures. Love your creativity.

  36. hmmm I personally cannot imagine making my kids sleep like this but I am sure it won’t cause yours any kind of lifetime scaring or anything. Unless of course they are claustrophobic. The thing is your not giving them much headroom at all or much width to move around. I would worry they would fall out and or bang their heads all the time. Be sure to add room for growth like another reader said. Also keep in mind they wont be able to sit up and read they will only be able to lie flat. Oh and I am a stickler for mattresses anything else seems a bit uncomfortable.

  37. Sounds like a winning plan. We really must see pics when you’re done!

  38. Please do photograph and share the entire process!

  39. wow, awesome idea! Please post the before and after pics when it gets done :)

  40. I agree with Celee. I love the idea but how much headroom will they have? I was at summer camp once and had a top bunk in which I bonked my head EVERY NIGHT all week, because the top bunk was just too close to the ceiling.

    Perhaps you will make different shelves different heights and have the children sleep in size order, but even so, I can’t imagine four shelves allowing for any of them to sit, and as you know, they grow fast. I’d need 3.5 feet, and while I’m an adult and no longer growing, I can imagine Deanna is as tall as me, and the others are getting there. So unless you have twelve foot tall ceilings, I’m not sure how you will even fit three shelves there.

    And if you are thinking of this as a temporary solution, just for now until you’ve added more children, you’d have to keep in mind that this is built in to the walls. Right now you have a bunch of littlies and a few older girls. But one day you’ll have a bunch of big kids, and more littlies as well. I really don’t mean to criticize, because I certainly like to do things uniquely and have tried to convince my parents to let me build lots and lots of things that they sadly said no to each time. I’m just thinking there needs to be more headroom.

    There are definite advantages here, of course, you can hang curtains from each shelf, and then the children can close them for privacy. And you can be the only family you know who has shelf beds.

    I really really love the idea. Maybe you have fifteen foot ceilings and forgot to tell us? XD

    And I DEFINITELY want to see pictures.

  41. I like the before AND after pics idea… so we can get the full effect. Not to mention that, if we’re paying for it somehow, we should get the inside scoop :)

  42. Please include before and after pics! I have no doubt that this project will turn out beautifully!

    Bethany W in mid-MO

  43. i think you’re crazy. and i’m sure i’d fall off of a bed only 28 inches wide. but i’m looking forward to watching you pull it off!

  44. That is some serious creativity, and yes please post pics, love the idea! :)

  45. No, not crazy.
    Yes, must have pictures.
    Yes, must hear fundraising ideas.
    thankful for ample space to sleep children, but loving the “girls’ room”/”boys’ room” arrangement
    (3 boys, 2 girls, newbie due 11/09)

  46. Can’t wait to see it, hard to picture in my head! Great idea!

  47. I LOVE the idea and I think it sounds like a kid’s dream. It’ll be like sailors on a ship in their little berths. Yes, I definitely want to see pictures when you start and of course, since I’m paying for it, I’d love to hear more details!

  48. I totally want to see pictures when you get started. I LOVE this idea. If I had more than just two kids, I would totally do it.
    let us know how it goes.

  49. I thin it sounds like a great idea! I’m having trouble with the 4 levels high? How much headroom between shelves? How high are your ceilings? My husband is very handy, so I’d like to see if this is something we might consider in the future. I can’t wait to see how WE’RE going to pay for it!


  1. […] we start the beds.  So please, people, give us a nudge.  Don't YOU want to see us finish our crazy and wonderful bunkbeds?  I'm sure the 4 children currently sleeping on the sofas would be equally […]

  2. […] I posted about my grand idea, I mentioned that we were hoping you would help us pay for […]

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