This Unexpected, Small Space-Friendly Bed Is Suddenly Trendy Again, and It’s the Definition of Cozy

published Nov 17, 2021
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Every summer growing up, my family and I would do the seven-hour drive up north to my grandpa’s lake house. The views were incredible, but the house was pretty special in that it felt right out of a Wes Anderson movie. The two-story home was completely flannel sheets, and the whole thing was tucked neatly inside a nook. I’d stay on the top bunk, and my younger brother on the bottom. It felt like a little cocoon, and I still think that’s some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten. There’s something about being surrounded on three sides that makes you feel safe and warm.

Credit: Abby Klatsky

In the last few years, many people have spent a lot of time at home nesting, hoping to create that safe and warm feeling in the midst of a global pandemic. When you think about that, built-in bunk beds are about as close to an actual nest as it gets. Knowing this, it shouldn’t have been so surprising when I started to see room after room of incredible built-in bunks on Instagram. Still, I was pleasantly stunned. Today’s bunk beds were just as I remembered the ones at my grandpa’s house just a bit more stylish and streamlined: not the typical camp look but sophisticated, built-for-adults designs. 

This idea is far from new (bunk beds, apparently, date back to medieval times), but I never realized how adaptable they were until recently. They look right at home at a lake house, sure, but depending on the materials and the way they’re styled, they feel on brand in a maximalist guest room or a mid-century kid’s room, too — think bunk beds with shiplap and cool wall art or full beds with lush bedding tucked into the corner of an A-frame attic. Often, you’ll find their frames are now painted in moody colors. You can even remove the bottom bunk entirely and go loft-style instead, adding a desk or lounge area underneath it, as shown below. No matter the setup, whenever I see a modern bunk, I just want to jump in it and take a nap.

Credit: Emma Fiala

If you’re thinking about bedroom built-ins, keep in mind that you don’t have to go with standard twin bunks. Search Instagram or Pinterest, and you’ll come across queens beds in little alcoves or back-to-back single beds on one side of a room. The biggest bonus of using a built-in bed in a bedroom is the ability to save space, particularly in a small bedroom; you can place a bed (or two or three!) into a weird nook or corner, or stack them or group them to add extra beds for when guests stay over.

You also don’t necessarily need to go the pricier, custom furniture route to create a built-in look either. Plenty of IKEA hacks, for example, exist to turn a basic bed into something with a platform or base for extra storage. Push that hacked bed up against the wall in a corner, and it’ll start to look all nestled and bunk-like on the cheap. You can also do what designer Abby Klatsky did by adding a little pony or half wall in between two beds (shown two photos above). The resulting bunk look really is no more than a little bit of simple framing, sheet rock, shiplap, and wooden trim. With that small wall though, you’re basically getting a double-sided headboard and just the right amount of privacy for overnight guests or littles.

My grandpa just sold that house in Vermont this year, so my bunk bed days there are over, but I love the thought that I can recreate that cozy feeling in my own home someday. Even if it’s not in a lake house, I now know there are a million ways to make built-in beds work anywhere — maybe even in my own tiny New York apartment