In the late 1990s, a chain email made the rounds among teens and tweens in the form of a survey. (For all I know, it may STILL be making the rounds.) The idea was to send your answers to all your friends in the hope that they’d write back with their own answers. Questions ranged from “What’s the last thing you ate?” to “Have you ever been in love?” My favorite question in the survey was: “What’s under your bed?”
In my case, what was under my bed was a bunch of artwork, including dozens of fake ski area maps I’d drawn, and more often than not my dog. Other answers were “books,” “toys,” “dirty clothes,” and “another bed” (i.e. a trundle). Nobody, not one, claimed to have an empty space there.
I’ve written previously about beds that do double duty, including sofa beds/futons and Murphy beds. The majority of us sleep in traditional beds, raised off the floor for ease of getting in and out (and also for ventilation). That means anywhere from 6 to 20 inches of storage space that’s permanently available and easy to hide. Kids know this right up through college; a lot of adults seem to forget.
If just jamming stuff under there seems yucky, you could invest in some shallow plastic boxes to store out-of-season clothing and extra linens. My bed has built-in drawers underneath; an overhang on all sides hides the storage and gives the bed an appearance of floating. Bedworks in Cambridge, MA offers a beautiful platform bed in a similar style, although it doesn’t come cheap. Captain’s beds, raised higher with drawers below like on a ship, are available in grownup styles from Resource Furniture and IKEA. If you want to keep more things in a small house, under the bed is one place not to ignore.
Mark and I finished the laundry-room counter and the shelf behind it. We took a spare 1×6 tongue-and-groove ceiling board and cut it to make a 5-inch upright, choosing this height so the shelf covers the plumbing boxout for the washer but not the electrical outlet just above. For the shelf itself, we needed 6½ inches of width… so we made it out of TWO spare ceiling boards. Mark ripped a new groove by passing a board edgewise through the table saw a couple times, and then we glued it up, fit it into the tongue of the other board, and clamped it until the glue set. A couple blocks underneath stiffened the shelf and also acted as a guide for the upright.
Once the glue was dry and we confirmed that the pieces fit nicely above the counter, I screwed’n’glued the shelf to the upright. Mark painted the assembly white to match the other trim in the room. The shelf sits on a couple of ledgers on the back wall, with no permanent connection for easy removal and access to the utilities behind.
Counter with shelf, all done!
Elsewhere in Bob’s house, Mark has made tons of progress. It’s pretty exciting to see the upstairs come together as a finished space. Here’s a gallery of the latest details we’ve completed. (Hover for picture captions.)
Baseboard in the master bedroom.
Shower fan and light.
The stairs, painted and revealed.
Next project: the living room floor. Our new floorboards are full of holes, and we have a few neat ideas to fill them in. More on that next time!
If you’d like to free up space in your house, your bed is a good place to start. When you’re sleeping, you’re not working or cooking or entertaining, and vice versa. It follows that wherever your bed is at night, it doesn’t have to stay there during the day.
We’ve looked at the Murphy bed, a system in which the bed disappears into a wall when not in use. A futon takes a different approach: turn the bed into another piece of furniture, namely a sofa. It’s a western spin on the traditional Japanese futon, which is just a mattress (no frame) that rolls up to air out and store during the day. And you can still take the traditional Japanese route, though you might find it uncomfortable and a little too much work. Or you can choose a modern futon, which preserves the shape-shifting aspect of the original and adds a frame that folds into the shape of a couch.
A traditional Japanese futon rolls up like an air mattress. (Flickr – creative commons)
Variations on this concept abound: bifold or trifold, lengthwise or widthwise, twin beds to queens and chaises to three-seater sofas. The mattresses are up to 10 inches thick, and they usually contain layers of wool and foam allowing them to bend. I actually find them more comfortable than coil mattresses, as over time they compress and become more supportive. My most prized piece of furniture is a full-size futon from Bedworks in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The hardwood frame converts from bed to sofa and back again with the push of just two fingers, once you get the hang of it. I kept a foot of clear space between the couch and the wall, so when I converted I didn’t even need to move the frame.
Bedworks futon in bed form.
But no need to take my word… go hunting and find your own versatile sleeping arrangement. And by the way, if you ever happen to open a bed store of your own, I highly recommend naming it “Back to the Futon.”