DIY Loft Bed for the (pre) teenager

Liam, our oldest child had a birthday at the beginning of September. He turned 12 and now thinks he’s a teenager. Truth be told, he probably is more mature than a lot of teens, but he’s still just my little kid. In our family/ religious culture, there are a few kind of big birthdays– 8, 12, 16, 18. I wanted to do something special for him, so I decided to build him a loft bed. I figured he’s getting older and needs a little space for himself.

Here’s how the room looked when we started. This bunkbed is so cool! We loved this and wished we could keep it in a different room. Liam slept on the top bunk and Jude slept on the trundle (sometimes he slept on the top bunk as well). When we got this bed, Liam was a toddler and Jude (and his twin) were infants. It has served us well for many years. The kids just outgrew it. It wasn’t convenient to pull out the trundle every night and put it away every morning. The slide-out desk was never used because then the trundle couldn’t be pulled out. The “cave” in the back behind the ladder, while really awesome for a 2-year-old, became a little cramped for a 9 and 12-year-old. We finally decided to sell it. It ended up in a bunk room at a family’s cabin, so I know it will be well-loved.

I first started brainstorming what features I wanted to include: it needs to be tall enough to be able to hang out underneath, Jude (the brother with whom Liam shares a room) needs to have his own space as well, there needs to be a bookshelf, I don’t want to have to do anything with the window (meaning the loft had to be narrow enough to fit in the corner, to the left of the window).

I drew up some ideas. Originally, I wanted a huge loft that would fit two twin sized mattresses AND some space between. I thought about having a staircase going up through the middle and plenty of room underneath for shelves, drawers, and a desk. (I couldn’t find my original sketches of the huge loft configuration).

I quickly realized that a big loft like this would completely block the light. It would just be too big for this room. It was back to the drawing board. With Liam’s help, we came up with a more aesthetically pleasing configuration. We found that the space between the wall and the window was exactly the right width for his twin sized mattress.

Front view with dresser drawers, ladder, and “floating” bottom bunk

Side view, showing the position of the ladder, the side of the dresser, the bookshelf, and the window
Here’s a computer rendering

The finished loft is actually quite different from these sketches, but at least we had a place to start. Along with building the loft, I knew I wanted to paint a mural on the wall. The boys had picked out this deep turquoise color paint several months ago. I surprised Liam with this mountain/ forest mural.

I began building the loft before actually finishing the mural. It was around this time that school started. Unfortunately, our entire family got sick and had to start school 2 weeks late. After the first week, we felt good enough to get building. Liam helped build the platform for the loft.

I was really proud of the construction of it all. If I’m going to do a project, I really like to do it the right way. I have never built a loft, or really anything that would need to be this sturdy. I also really wanted it to look nice and clean.

After taking so much time and care to notch out the 2×6 joists for the slats, I really wanted to leave those ends exposed. In the end, though, I decided that it looked better to cover them up with trim.

He didn’t sleep up there this night because I wanted to work on the railing. At this point in the process, I was still planning to have the dresser (you can see a sliver of the top of the dresser in the picture above) as part of the loft. I was toying with the idea of incorporating it into a staircase. I thought about positioning it to the right of the front support beam and building it up to look like part of the loft. In the end, I decided that it blocked too much of the mural.

Also at this point, we changed the positioning of the bookshelf on the loft. Liam really wanted to have his mattress in the corner, instead of the bookshelf. We also decided to add a second support beam to separate Jude’s bed space from the rest of the loft. Eventually, we might add another beam against the wall to be able to make a privacy wall/ curtain, or something.

I added a simple railing with just one horizontal board and then decided to add another horizontal board later. I was pretty proud of the construction of the railing as well. I knew that it would be leaned on and needed to be strong. I cut rectangles in the floor (oh yeah, I added a plywood floor at some point) for the vertical boards to sit in. They were then screwed into the 2×6 underneath. It should withstand all the weight that teenage boys may subject it to.

I added trim to cover the cut ends of the slats, which broke my heart a little bit. Now, how would I show off my hard work?! šŸ˜‰ It was at this point that I decided to take the stairs and dresser completely out of the equation. I loved the open space under the loft and wanted to show as much of the mural as possible.

In the middle of the night, on September 4th (and 5th), I built this bookshelf, put bedding on the beds, hung new curtains, and “decorated” so that I could surprise Liam on his actual birthday.

There were several unfinished parts, but I wanted to get it to the point that they could use the room and actually sleep in their beds.

When they were finally able to go to school, I finished the mural.

I also stained the platform and support beams (and trim) with a clear/ natural stain and then painted the railing and bookshelf white. I did add in that last bit of trim when I installed the ladder.

I decided against the stairs and decided to build a simple ladder, which I also painted white.

I really loved this project! It was challenging and ever-changing, but still within my wheelhouse. It was extremely satisfying to figure out solutions to all of the problems along the way. It was really fun to be able to give Liam such a special gift. I have a highlight bubble on my Instagram page, which shows more photos and videos of the process.

What do you think? Would you take on such a big home project?

Would you be interested in seeing HOW I built the loft? I could definitely draw up the plans, if anyone would find that useful. Let me know in the comments.

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