More than just solutions to large family gatherings, bunk-bed rooms tap into nostalgia

Kim Nicoletti
Bunk rooms are a great solution for large families.
Kimberly Gavin |

“A big part of it is really making it feel like a built-in space, not just a couple of components or furniture put together.” - Forrest Watson, project manager of Beck Building Company in Vail

Mountain homes invite intergenerational gatherings, but within their open floor plans, bunk-bed rooms become kids’ refuges.

“There’s a place in a lot of people’s hearts when they think about going on a ski vacation — you remember the bunk beds,” says Forrest Watson, project manager of Beck Building Company in Vail. “It’s just a fun environment, and I think it really builds a lot of childhood memories.”

More than half of the clients Doug DeChant, president of Shepherd Resources, Inc. AIA Architects, works with, request bunk bed rooms; the trend has been around for a while, and it’s becoming more popular.

“For adults, and even children, they just speak to something from our past,” DeChant says.

He recently completed a high-density bunkroom, with trundle bunks that stack three kids high, in three different locations. In addition to neatly accommodating a lot of kids, the steps of the bunk beds work double-duty as drawers, with each riser containing a hand pull.

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Whether the beds are made of dark stained alder or walnut, whitewashed oak, or pine-beetle kill, they emphasize “true wood craftsmanship,” Watson says. “A lot of bunks tend to be rustic in nature; however, there’s an opportunity to have rustic and refined, with well-sanded, furniture-grade material and unique metalwork with custom pulls and grips.

“These bunk beds become elaborate jewelry boxes,” he says.

Compact storage coves become “secret” hiding spots for kids’ iPods, laptops and even books; a side cove near the mattress can hold small toys, while a television screen can pop up from the foot of the bed.

“It’s a cool little capsule of creativity,” he says.

Curtains allow kids to make their own “forts,” and fabric or wood trim under the beds allow kids to gaze up at something more interesting than just the bottom of a bunk bed.

Other accents, like LED lights installed around the perimeter of beds, emitting a soft glow, tend to take on a life of their own as homeowners infuse their own style into the room. A few people incorporate ski memorabilia into the room or decorate around another favorite sports theme, while others prefer a “straightforward and clean” look. Either way, the wood craftsmanship lends itself to extending the finishes, whether it comes in the form of tongue-and-groove woodwork carried around the room to produce a true feeling of a “built-in” room or simply wainscoting, baseboard or crown molding.

Ladders are also an opportunity to showcase style. One room Watson worked on features wooden stairs, which look like furniture, in the middle of the room; they lead to two top bunks on the right and left.

“A big part of it is really making it feel like a built-in space, not just a couple of components or furniture put together,” he says.

Other ladders, made of metal, slide back and forth.

“The sky’s the limit,” Watson says. “You can get super creative with these spaces.”

“It’s such a broad appeal,” DeChant says. “So many of us have a camp memory … we want to create that retreat sense in our home, (and), of course, it’s great for density, too.”

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