Sunday, 28 July 2019

Measure twice, cut once ... or How to Build a Loft Bed

Measure your space. My room is 8'x6' almost exactly. There is not a lot of room for error (as you will see later). Make a plan. It doesn't need to be detailed or to scale, so long as you have real measurements for the pieces of wood. Fortunately the rooms in our house at 9' high. I wanted to be able to sit up in bed without feeling cramped or claustrophobic so chose to make the bed 150cm high, not quite high enough to stand up underneath, but with plenty of headroom above. I also wanted space alongside the mattress to have a shelf for tea and books, so the space on the bed is 5' wide by 6' long. 

I based my design on 'The Platform', a play structure I built for the children when they were little. Add up all your legs and side spars and slats, add nails, screws and bolts, and random tools that you don't own and order the whole lot from Wickes. A cordless drill is an absolute necessity (I have had a lot of fun with mine). They may let you down with some bits, but don't worry because the plumbing and building supplies shop round the corner actually has much cheaper wood. Wood comes in pre-cut lengths so you have some built in waste but I tried to minimise this by using left over bits for other jobs. The main frame and legs are made with 2x4, the other bracing pieces and slats are 2x1 and the supports for the slats are 2x2 (some shops sell by metric measurements, others by inches). Compared to the legs of shop bought beds mine is very chunky but I like the fact that it feels *very* solid. I had the basic idea quite firmly in my head but we (that's my sister Claire, who came to visit, and I) did improvise somewhat as we went along.

 So, when you cut your pieces of wood follow one golden rule: measure twice, cut once. Even if you are sure you measured it properly, measure again. 

I made the head and foot of the bed, that is two legs attached together by a cross spar at the top and a thinner bracing piece half way down (positioned to not get in the way of the radiator), then added the side spars. These are all held together with coach bolts. The cross spars on the head and foot are slightly lower to allow for the thickness of slat support spars. This is the basic frame up:

I won't go into the torturous details of how I had not visualised the radiator being in the way when putting the bed together and how we had to bodge the corner leg. The whole thing is literally built into the room, it will have to be taken to pieces if we ever move.
Initially I was only going to have one spar down the length supporting the slats but in the end I used three; feeling secure that high up is important.

Getting up with a stepladder is ok temporarily but proper steps were part of the plan. Again these were mostly in my head and then we had to rethink the whole design when we went to buy more wood. 

Two double frames like this form the basis for the steps with two single steps, one at the bottom and one on top. I did make them all separate but did not make a 'floor' on the upper steps. They are then all screwed together through the battening (but are not screwed to the bed, I decided I might need to move them if something vital fell down the back). The panelling is 2x1 and 3x1, pieces left over from the slats and then some bought extra. The sides that are hidden from view are panelled with MDF from the shelves that I removed from Tish's room and the living room. It was very satisfying to repurpose it.
Upper steps in place, the two lower ones are 88cm by 60cm by 40cm high, the upper one is 44cm by 60cm by 40cm high:

Four steps. I had planned on five but there was not room. This lower step is 44cm by 44cm and is not screwed in place. Tish suggested I leave it movable so it can be a foot rest when I get my chair:

I added a fifth 'leg', not structural but it creates an entrance to the bed and supports the safety rail and the shelf. It is screwed through the main frame and also has a brace piece at the bottom to ensure it does not shift when it is leaned on. This shows the safety rail and step lighting (it is a rechargable LED that is movement sensitive so comes on when I get out of bed in the night) :

The 'fence' that stops things falling off the bedside shelf:

Bedside shelf.  Tea, glasses, books, random stuff that is nice to keep handy. You can also easily access the space under the shelf for a small knitting project.

My big chest of drawers has migrated to the living room as craft storage and I bought two small unfinished pine chests in Ikea, they fit the space perfectly.

 The steps are designed to be storage spaces. The bottom one is open all the way through, the second step has a divider and the two halves open to the front and the side. I am thinking of bright velvet curtains to cover the openings:

 And a word of warning about measuring your space. 
I measured so carefully. I did. 
But ... 

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