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What No One Tells You About Bunk Beds

Written by Laura Alice Fenton

Photography by Photographed by Zoe Kim

Bunk beds are often purchased as a matter of practicality—a way to fit two kids into one room or to cram more cousins into a lake house. However, in that quest for space-saving beds, there is something the salesmen and even your friends will forget to mention. No one tells you that bunk beds are impossible to make. 

I’m writing this as a bit of an apology, but also to offer help. When I set out to write a whole book about bunk beds, I joked to my publisher that we should publish The Bunk Bed Book with a warning label on the cover. Caution: Bunk beds are much messier in real life than they appear in photos. For all the joy and delight that bunk beds bring, this issue of bed making can be a huge source of frustration for parents. I know because I’ve now made up a few bunks up myself, and I can tell you it is sometimes an act of pure acrobatics. 

As I got deeper into researching The Bunk Bed Book and I became aware of this issue, I grilled designers and everyday parents about their advice for how to make making bunk beds easier. Here are the best tips and tricks I learned.

Consider stairs. A bunk bed with stairs takes up more space in the room (and costs more than one with a ladder), but they will make it much easier to get into the top bunk to make it up or change the sheets.

Embrace minimalism. When it comes to sheets and blankets, the less there is to make, the easier the task will be. If you’re craving decorative flair, a throw pillow or bolster can add another layer of styling without making the actual bed-making any harder.

Duvets are your friend. A fitted sheet and a duvet cover are going to be easier to smooth out than a fitted, flat, and blanket will be. If you typically change to a quilt and flat sheet in the summer, consider a summer- or “tropical” weight duvet instead.

Try this king-quilt trick. Typical twin coverlets often have an excess of fabric to tuck in. Instead, consider buying king-size quilts and splitting them in half: A seamstress can cut the quilt in half and finish the cut edges to match the others. 

Call in the tailor. Another option is to tailor a twin-size coverlet to fit the mattress to cut down on the frustration of tucking in all sides. A local seamstress or even your dry cleaner can sew in seams to create a box shape.

Upsize the pillow. Upgrading to a king-size pillow is smart because it stretches the full length of the bed, and the larger pillow looks tidier than one or two smaller ones. It also gives the sleeper more space to prop herself up for reading.

Invest in specialized bedding. Consider bedding designed specifically for bunks. There are several brands, including Beddys, that make bedding that zips up somewhat like a sleeping bag, making it easy to get the linens into place. 

Embrace a relaxed look. If you’re willing to accept that the bed will never look photo-ready, you might decide to fully embrace a decidedly more bohemian look: Get playful with mismatched patterns for the top and bottom bunk and consider linen or hemp sheets which look absolutely lovely rumpled and mussed.

Photo by Genevieve Garruppo

For more tips from Laura Alice Fenton, pick up her latest, The Bunk Bed Book. You can also read Lauren’s 12 Decluttering Tips For Small Spaces and her inspiring list of Mother Essentials

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