DIY: How to make an Ikea Hack children’s cabin bed with secret den.
In this step-by-step tutorial, I’ll show you how we made an Ikea Hack children’s cabin bed using Ikea Nordli chests of drawers. Not only did our cabin bed design help to maximise storage space in our daughter’s small bedroom, it also saved us money compared to ready-made cabin beds and mid-sleepers. Even better, we were able to add an extra special feature for our daughter…A hidden den.
Why build an Ikea Hack children’s cabin bed?
In my earlier post (HERE) I explained our daughter, Emily, was growing up fast and needed more room. Her room was relatively small, with a large low window making it tricky to put furniture in front of it. One solution was to raise the bed higher so she could have more drawers underneath the bed, rather than trying to fit even more furniture items into her small bedroom.
We looked at scores of readymade cabin beds and mid-sleepers, but none matched her needs. That’s when we decided to make a cabin / mid-sleeper bed by ‘hacking’ IKEA NORDLI chests into a simple yet stylish cabin bed that would last Emily for years. Designing and making our own mid-sleeper bed meant we could make it to our own specifications and add some special features too.
The best bit of our Ikea Hack children’s cabin bed design is the secret den we created in the ‘dead’ space behind the drawers. The den is the perfect size for her camping mat so it doubles as an extra bed, with bedding, pillows and a string of lights.
Before you start: Alternative Ikea Hack cabin bed instructions.
If you do want to have a go at this Ikea Hack bedroom makeover, let me tell you about another method of building an Ikea Hack cabin bed. This alternative method saves you having to cut MDF to size for the headboard and shelf by hacking more Ikea products. In fact, we’d originally planned to build Emily’s bed using this method, but in the end, I just couldn’t face another long trip to Ikea!
You can build a ‘fully Ikea hacked’ cabin bed using:
1.Ikea Lack Coffee Table top (white) for the headboard (at 1180mm L and 450mm W, the table top is ideal as there would be no need for sawing or painting you just need to make sure the plywood sheets for the bed base are 1180mm wide and not 1150mm wide)
2. Ikea Gnedby Shelving unit (white) for the shelf (laid horizontally on the plywood base against the back wall). Simply cut the shelving unit to the correct length (192cm instead of the original 202cm so it can be butted up against the Ikea Lack coffee table headboard) and have the open side facing the back wall to create a closed shelf. At 20cm high x 17cm deep, it wouldn’t be as high as the MDF shelf I made but it would still be higher than many regular children’s mattresses.
Step-by-step guide: How to build an Ikea Hack cabin bed.
- 3 Ikea Nordli chests of drawers in white (2 x 80cm three drawer chest and 1 x 40cm three drawer chest) – We considered the cheaper Malm drawers but there isn’t a narrow three drawer chest in this range, only a two drawer chest.
- 1 Pax 58mm x 150mm x 236 cm sliding wardrobe with Hasvik doors
- 1 Billy 80cm bookcase with extension unit.
- 1 IKEA BEKVÄM step stool.
For mattress frame:
- Smooth planed timber (T)18mm x (W)168mm x (L)1800/2400mm* for the mattress frame. As you will post likely be building the mattress frame yourselves, you will need enough timber for the 2 x 1900mm sides of the mattress frame and 1 x 970mm end panel. You may prefer a different width of timber e.g. 145mm, depending on the depth of your single mattress.
- L-brackets (or similar) to attach the end of the wooden mattress frame to the two sides and also for fixing the frame to the plywood base.
For an optional slatted base for mattress:
- Smooth planed timber (battens to support bed slats) 2 x 25mm (T) x 25mm (W) x 1900mm (L)
- Smooth planed timber (bed slats) 12 or 13 slats 17mm (T) x 70mm (W) x 900mm (L)
For the support frame:
- 4 x smooth planed timber battens 38mm (T) x 63mm (W) x 665mm (L).
- 2 x smooth planed timber battens 38mm (T) x 63mm (W) x 1800mm (L).
- Smooth planed timber 18mm (T) x 70mm (W) x 1800mm (L). This is to fix the support frame to so that is the same distance from wall as skirting board)
For bed base:
- Plywood 18mm (T) x 1150mm (W) x 2000mm (L) for the bed base. We asked the DIY store to cut it into 1150mm x 1000mm sheets for ease of transport. NB. If you are using a lack coffee table top as a headboard then the plywood base must be cut 1180mm wide.
For shelf and headboard:
- 18mm MDF sheet* – ours measured (T) x 1220mm (W) x 2440mm.
- 2 x smooth planed timber batten 18mm (T) x 44mm (W) x 1500mm (L) (to support shelf where it meets wall and plywood base). Note we didn’t need these to be as long as the shelf to support.
- 3 x L-brackets to fix top shelf to front edge of shelf.
*The 18mm MDF sheet was cut to the correct size at the DIY store as follows: SHELF: shelf top, 162mm (W) x 1900mm (L); shelf front 300mm (H) x 1920mm (L); shelf end 162mm (W) x 300mm (H). HEADBOARD: Front panel, 18mm (T) x 1132mm (W) x 602mm (H); Top panel, 18mm (T) x 1132mm (W) x 80mm (D); Side panel, 18mm (T) 80mm (W) x 620mm (H).
Other tools & materials.
- 80mm (approx 6mm diameter) flathead wood screws
- 20mm flathead wood screws
- 8 wall anchor bolts (type depending on wall construction)
- Wood filler
- 250ml all Surface Quick-Drying Primer & undercoat
- 750ml quick-drying satinwood paint (Brilliant white).
- Synthetic paintbrush 2-inch.
- Mini gloss roller.
- Fine (120 grade) sandpaper
- Tape measure
- Cordless or manual screwdriver
- Countersink drill bit
- Wood or multipurpose drill bit
- Handsaw or electric saw
- We used our daughter’s existing wooden bed frame for this project. If you don’t have a suitable bed frame, you can easily make a frame for the mattress (with or without slats) using 18mm (T) x 144mm (W) timber.
- You don’t have to build the shelf along the back of the mattress frame against the wall. However, the extra width of the plywood base needed for the shelf gave us more space behind the chest of drawers so we could do something very special with it (see later).
Diagrams of the finished Ikea Hack Children’s Cabin bed.
1. Make a wooden frame for your single mattress. For the sides, use two lengths of 18mm planed whitewood timber measuring 168mm (W) x 1900mm (L), and for the foot, use one piece of timber measuring 168mm (W) x 970mm (L).
This frame will suit a standard single bed measuring 900mm (W) x 1900mm (L). Attach the sides and end panel using 20mm screws and L-brackets. Leave the top end of the bed frame open, as this is where you will install the headboard.
Optional step: If you wish to add a slatted base, screw 25mm x 25mm x 1900mm timber battens along the inside of both long sides of the wooden bed frame. These battens will support 900mm wooden bed slats) – you can buy packs of bed slats for single beds on eBay.
2. Position the three NORDLI chests (we chose a wide, narrow, wide configuration) in a row with the back edge of the drawers 710mm from the wall. The drawer fronts should face into the room.
3. Build a ladder-style frame to act as a back support for the bed frame, along with the NORDLI chests in front. Use the two 1800mm long battens as the long sides, connecting them by equally spacing the 665mm wooden battens between them. Screw these four shorter battens in place with 80mm flathead wood screws. Use L-brackets at each corner of the frame to give it extra strength. When completed, the frame will be the same height from the floor as the Nordli drawers.
4. Use anchor bolts to secure the piece of 18mm (T) x 70mm (W) x 1800mm (L) timber to the wall, with its top edge at a height of 750mm from the floor. This support beam should match the depth of the skirting at the bottom of the wall, and will hold the ladder-frame 18mm away from the wall for an even fit.
5. Place the ladder-frame along the back wall, butting it up against the wall where the headboard will rest. Secure the frame along the back wall by screwing it into the skirting board and the support beam, using 80mm flat head wood screws.
6. For the base of the bed, use an 18mm (T) plywood sheet measuring 1150mm (W) x 2000mm (L). We had the sheet pre-cut and had to split it into two 1000mm x 1150mm sheets so they would fit in our car! Lay the plywood onto the drawers and butt it up against the back wall so that it fits flush with the front of the drawer units. NB. If you are using a lack coffee table top as a headboard then the plywood base must be cut 1180mm wide.
7. Use a screwdriver to secure the plywood by screwing it into the ladder-frame and the NORDLI drawers. On each side, use about 8 flat head wood screws, 100mm to 150mm apart.
8. For the headboard and side shelf, cut your 18mm (T) MDF sheet to the following specifications, or you can have it pre-cut at the DIY store. As I mentioned earlier, you can use a Lack coffee table and a Gnedby shelving unit from Ikea instead of having MDF cut to size, if preferred.
For the headboard:
Front panel: 1132mm (W) x 602mm (H)
Top panel: 1132mm (W) x 80 mm (D)
Side panel: 80mm (W) x 620mm (H)
For the shelf:
Top panel: 162mm (W) x 1900 mm (L)
Front panel: 300mm (H) x 1920 mm (L)
End panel: 162mm (W) x 300mm (H)
9. To construct the headboard, screw the top panel to the front panel, along the long side, at a right angle. Remember to countersink five or six holes before screwing the panels together. Attach the side panel where it aligns with the other two panels, also countersinking holes before attaching the panels. The side panel of the headboard will be flush with the fronts of the drawers.
10. Before constructing the shelf, screw one of the smooth planed timber battens 18mm (T) x 44mm (W) x 1500mm (L) to the plywood base of the bed base, making sure that the front edge of the board is 162 mm away from the back wall. Using anchor bolts, attach a second batten flat against the back wall at a height of 280mm above the plywood base of the bed. These battens will support the shelf.
11. Fix the top panel to the front panel as shown in the diagram using 3 L-brackets along its length. Secure the top panel of the shelf to the wall support batten and the side panel of the shelf against the front of the base support batten. Screw the two shelf panels together, making sure that they the ends of the panels are flush against the headboard.Then, attach the end panel of the shelf where the side and front panels meet, making sure all the edges are flush. Be sure to countersink your screws.
12. Lift the bed frame into place and screw it to the headboard and plywood base. Make sure the frame is flush with the front of the NORDLI drawer tops. Secure with additional L-brackets in the corners and flathead screws.
13. Fill and sand the countersunk screw holes. Then, use a 2-inch synthetic paint brush and mini gloss roller to give the completed bed two coats of quick-drying primer/undercoat, followed by two coats of brilliant white quick-dry Satinwood. (I prefer this paint because it’s solvent-free, non-yellowing, and the brushes can be cleaned using water.) Leave the recommended time intervals between additional coats of primer and paint.
14. Put the mattress in place, add an IKEA BEKVÄM step stool, and you are finished!
We added a bookcase and a wardrobe for even more storage.
Once the bed was completed, we added an 80cm wide Billy bookcase and a Pax Wardrobe with Hasvik sliding doors. Again, maximising storage space was one of the main objectives of Emily’s bedroom makeover so we made the most of the vertical space by adding an extension unit to the bookcase and opting for the 236.4cm high Pax wardrobe. We also added four internal drawers to the wardrobe.
The finished bedroom.
The brightly coloured duvet set (now discontinued, I think) and Polarvide throw from Ikea perfectly compliment the colour scheme. I bought an Ikea BEKVÄM step stool to make it easy for Emily to get up on her bed. The hanging storage and Kusiner mesh basket are also from Ikea and are perfect for storing Emily’s vast assortment of cuddly toys.
I used Emily’s old pink Next bean bag as a template and made her a blue beanbag instead, using some great value fabric I bought at Bargain Fabrics in Castle Donington.
Then I made a pair of colourful Pac-Man Ghost cushions to continue the theme, (the cushions will be the subject of a future post).
I found a couple of fantastic framed superhero prints from Homesense.
The best part!
The design of the Ikea Hack children’s cabin bed meant we had some ‘dead’ space behind the row of Nordli drawers. Initially, we’d intended to leave the end of the bed open so we could easily access this space and use it for extra storage. However, thanks to our Pax wardrobes, Billy bookcases and Nordli drawers, we already had plenty of space for clothes and accessories, so we hit upon a much more exciting idea. We decided to create a hidden den for Emily, complete with lighting!
It was an inspired idea because the space behind the drawers was wide enough to fit our Emily’s camping mattress, so she could sleep there if she wanted a change from her cabin bed or just wanted to escape and read her books (or play Mineguidecraft!). If you want enough space for a bed in the den, you’ll need to ensure the plywood bed base is wide enough. Installing a shelf along the back wall like we did is one way to achieve the additional width.
Once we’d fitted the camping mattress and added bedding and some of Emily’s toys, we hung a string of lights around the edge of the den and plugged them into the nearby mains socket.
We’re delighted with the finished hidden den! What do you think?
Ikea Hack children’s cabin bed: The verdict.
Emily loves her new bedroom. Lifting her bed above the drawers has proved to be a much better use of the limited space she has in her small bedroom.
Of course, her favourite bit of the room makeover is the secret den, which she’s slept in many times over the last few months.
Adding the finishing touches.
To complete our daughter’s bedroom makeover, we added some more shelving, a desk and chair, and some additional storage for pens, pencils and toys:
a) DIY Budget Desk.
Our daughter needed a desk but, again, space was limited. Plus, we still needed to be able to access the drawers underneath her bed. We hit on the idea of making a desk on wheels using some of the MDF we had left over from our Ikea Hack cabin bed and a set of 4 Ikea Krille table legs on castors. Check out our custom made DIY desk here : Children’s Ikea Hack bedroom makeover finishing touches: DIY desk.
b) Cube Storage Shelves.
We added some funky cube shelves above her desk: Children’s ‘Ikea Hack’ bedroom makeover finishing touches: Cube shelves.
c) Ikea Hack desk tidy.
Not content with our Ikea Hack cabin bed, we decided to maximise desk space by ‘hacking’ some Ikea Bygel containers (since discontinued and replaced by Ikea Sunnersta containers) to create a hanging desk tidy, here : DIY project: Children’s ‘Ikea Hack’ Desk Tidy
So what do you think?
I am delighted with how the Ikea Hack children’s cabin bed and bedroom makeover turned out and I would love to have your feedback on this project.
What are your favourite bits?
Are there any things we could have done differently?
Are you tempted to have a go at something similar?
Your feedback and comments and shares are greatly appreciated.
P.S. I’m really proud of this makeover so if you like it, please share it via social media and tell your friends! Thank you!
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