Sadler House

Sadler House

Rockland, Maine

5 Tips for a Dreamy Bunk Room

May 18, 2015 | 5 Comments

If there’s anything people on Pinterest are crazy for, it’s a bunk room.

But, seriously, why not? Bunk rooms are loved by kids and they can be enormously practical – especially in vacation homes where families are rooming together and flexible sleeping arrangements are needed. I’ve seen countless bunk bed photos pinned to boards with titles like “Our future vacation home,” and I was no different before we furnished Sadler House. When we bought our home, we identified the second largest bedroom as our own future bunk room and immediately started planning.

What followed was a series of lessons-learned that should be heeded by any future bunk room decorator, because there were some logistical issues we never anticipated. As a veteran of the bunk room decorating wars, I share these pearls of wisdom so that you may avoid the mistakes we nearly made!

Pay Good Attention to What is Already There

Bunk Room Design - Sadler HouseOur room was under the eaves in a 1900 New Englander, so we decided we’d build cute little beds right up against the wall. As it turned out, baseboard heating made that impossible. There was no way for us to do that without covering up all the heating baseboards.

As a result, we had to go with traditional standing bunks, but the eaves of the ceiling made positioning of more than one bunk bed a real challenge. Luckily, we thought to take measurements and we were able to figure out a configuration for two bunk beds that worked, but the built-in bunks had to be a dream  deferred for us.

Know Who Will Sleep in Your Bunk Room

When I started budgeting for the bunk room, I did a quick internet search and identified a few beds that would be fairly inexpensive and suit my taste. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the fine print. Many bunk beds are actually only sturdy enough to hold a child on the top bunk! Naturally, kids are going to sleep in your bunk room. However, if you want to be flexible enough to sleep adults, you will have to pore over manufacturer specifications and look for beds that hold heavier bodies on top.

In the end, we found a bed that supported 200lbs. on top and 400lbs. on the bottom, but we had to pay much more than we had initially expected in order to get higher quality bunks for people of all ages. When you think about it, that makes sense. You want your bunks to be safe for big and little people. However, you may need to put more money into the beds than you initially planned in order to achieve that goal.

Identify the Bed FIRST: Then Buy the Mattresses

Wow, did we ever nearly screw this one up. We bought all the mattresses for the house at once, which was great for negotiation purposes at the mattress store. However, the salespeople implied that all twin mattresses were fine for bunk beds, and since we were focused on having very comfortable bunks, we ended up buying 9-inch memory foam mattresses for the bunks.


It turns out that many bunk beds can’t have a top bunk mattress thicker than 8-inches. This is because safety guidelines do not permit less than 5 inches of space between the top of the mattress and the top of the guard rail. In fact, some mattresses have to be even thinner (and the cheaper the bunk bed, in my experience, the thinner the mattress has to be). We discovered this only after purchasing four 9-inch mattresses and then freaked out for days searching for beds that could hold one that thick up top while still complying with safety regulations from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

It also came as a surprise to me that not all bunk beds are exactly the same height. Know how tall your ceiling is and read the fine print in the manufacturer specifications in order to determine if your bunks will fit under your ceiling.

In the end, again, the more expensive, sturdier bunks were the answer for us. We now have enormously comfy bunk beds with thick mattresses. I also have a few new gray hairs.

Ladders and Dressers and Fans, Oh MY!

Bunk Room Design - Sadler HouseBunk beds take up a lot of space. Don’t assume you can fit a lot of other furniture or accessories in the room. When you choose a bed, notice the ladder. Does it have to stand out from the bed? Can it be installed on either side? Know what your plan for the room is and consider the ladder as part of the space.

Lack of space will also limit you when it comes to furniture like dressers and bedside tables. The good news is, kids don’t need a lot of furniture and, as a vacation rental owner, you don’t need useless knick-knacks. However, a room with no clothing storage at all will result in a huge pile of children’s clothing on the floor, and that is the exact opposite of what parents want to be taming on their vacation. Make sure you have hooks, baskets, or some other place for kids to put their clothes.

Lastly, let’s talk fans. We had assumed we’d put a small ceiling fan in the bunk room, but it turned out that the fan would have been too close to one of the top bunks. We eventually found one that is inside a (stylish) cage so that nobody can reach the fan blades. If you want to have a fan in the room, consider one with a cage around it, or settle for a standing fan, if your space is limited. Safety first.

Match and Maintain

In the case of bunk rooms, part of the charm is all the beds being identical. Remember that, like matching dining room chairs, it may not be easy to replace one or two sheet sets or quilts out of four identical beds. Whether you’re renting to other families or just sleeping your own hooligans in the bunk room, bedding will get ruined and the more frequently washed sets will fade faster. To avoid having your uniform look fall apart, opt for simple, easily sourced colors that don’t disappear after one season.

Our solution for this has been to have all-white bedding with red comforters from a major retailer. This makes it easy to replace one or two sheets or blankets as-needed, without changing the look of the room.

Personally, I would like to make a pitch for the all-white bunk room, in general. In a bedroom where windows may be blocked by furniture and there’s a lot going on, the white really makes the room feel bright and fresh at all times. A few pops of color are all you need to bring the space to life on a nice, clean palette.

A final word about maintenance…

When I first started making the beds, myself, I was sweating buckets. I smacked my head on the angled ceiling, scraped my hands, and generally uttered quiet curses under my breath. The lightbulb when on when I realized it helps to push the bed out from the wall while you’re making it. However, this constant scooting of the bed on the floor can scratch your hardwoods, if you have them.

An easy fix for this is to get felt furniture pads for the feet of the beds. Not only does this keep your bed from damaging your hardwoods bed change after bed change, but it makes the bed easy to push back and forth.

Less sweating and less cursing. It’s a win.

In the end, taking the time and fore thought to design your dream bunk room is so worth the trouble. The configuration may not end up exactly the way you imagined and you may have to sacrifice things you saw on Pinterest (like individual reading lamps!). However, with a little bit of research and measuring, you can create a cozy space your kids and adult guests will always associate with their fantastic vacation.

…and Pinterest will just have to like it.

Are you furnishing an entire vacation home? See my other advice pieces on choosing furnishings for and decorating your vacation rental.

Follow Sadler House’s board Vacation House Chic on Pinterest.

5 people are talking about “5 Tips for a Dreamy Bunk Room

  1. I was wondering where you purchased your bunk beds? Brand? Thank you! Also, what is the square footage of the room they’re in?

    • Tiffany, we ended up with Atlantic brand bunk beds. You can find them across various outlets, but was the best selection and price at the time I did my shopping. They are very sturdy and have held up beautifully after nearly two years of hosting both children and adults. I can’t tell you the exact size of the room off-hand (we’re not there to measure it this week) but we’re thinking it’s about 11×16. Whatever beds you choose will have dimensions stated on the product info, so you can see how they’ll fit in your own room.

    • Annette, not at all. We got ours from Hayneedle. You can find the same brand of bunkbeds in various outlets, but Hayneedle was the best price at the time. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for all these tips! I went through pretty much the same process when looking for a bunk bed for my sons’ room. I highly recommend Bunk Bed King ( Their prices are really good, and they usually have free shipping. We actually own two of their regular twin beds as well as the Tall Twin Bunk Bed, and I love all of them. They’re very sturdy and look great after several years of use.

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