Ancient Egyptians, Eurorail passengers, sailors, and children all understand the value of bunk beds. These stackable berths allow multiple people to sleep in a small area. They also can ignite imaginary undertakings and harbor secret hideaways. Cape Cod, Mass.–based architect Mark Hutker advises keeping four important design details in mind for all bunk designs. “You need at least 3.5 feet of head space for sitting up,” he says. “Also, some sort of railing detail for enclosure and a solid, comfortable ladder or the top bunk will never get used.” Hutker adds that “privacy is also key, especially as the kids get older or if you want to house adults.”
This ski apartment in Les Ménuires, France, is not quite 600 square feet, but it comfortably sleeps eight people who share twin baths, a kitchen, and two walls of Alpine views. Paris-based H2O Architects presented the clients with an innovative idea about how to live large within the compact footprint. Homeowners and guests sleep, bathe, and cook all within an expansive built-in made from birch and walnut plywood that curves around the inside walls. Asymmetrical cutouts provide storage and are placed to make unpacking and getting into beds feel like climbing a mountain, according to the firm. Architect Antoine Santiard adds that he and his two partners inverted their way of looking at space: “Rather than trying to fit the furniture into the apartment, we decided to fit the apartment into the furniture.”
Reclaimed barn wood milled into sturdy planks and beams supports these four bunks. Plaster walls and heavy wool curtains enhance the rustic look. Thick walls allow for deep window sills and recessed book ledges so each occupant has space for refreshments and reading material. Richly hued blankets and rugs are the only clue that this is the girls’ half of twin bunk rooms in a mountain retreat near Lake Tahoe, Calif. Large drawers beneath the beds and built-in dressers means everything can be put in its place. Interior designer Sally Ward created the rugged look, but imbued it with her usual restraint so the space remains uncluttered and airy.
The guest bedroom that Hutker envisioned for this Martha’s Vineyard vacation house is inspired by the boats docked just outside the window. Pale cream board- and-batten encloses floor-to-ceiling bunks with unlacquered brass portals for peeking out. Subtle details such as high-gloss paint, industrial light fixtures, and a rug that mimics ship’s decking complete the nautical touches. Murphy beds flank the bunks to allow for myriad sleeping configurations. Hutker gives clients a finishing touch for each notoriously hard-to-make bunk bed. “My wife, Carla, invented what we call the taco,” he chuckles. “It’s a flat king-size sheet that’s sewn along the fold so homeowners can leave the fitted sheet on between guests and just wash the taco.”