Q. To make room for a new baby, our two boys will be sharing a room. To maximize space, I need bunk beds for them. However, our ceilings are only 7 feet high, and the dimensions of the room are small. Where can I find small bunk beds?
A. If you're set on bunk beds, IKEA is a great place to start. Their FJELLDAL bunk bed measures about 61 inches tall, which would give your top bunk a 23-inch clearance to the ceiling. Small bunks are a good quick-fix solution, but if you're thinking long-term, consider that those growing boys of yours (especially the resident of the top bunk) will soon be bumping their heads.
That's why Sherri Blum, interior designer and owner of Baltimore-based Jack and Jill Interiors, recommends you instead consider a trundle bed -- essentially a bed hidden underneath a bed. "Trundle beds don't overwhelm small spaces, and they provide comfortable sleeping for two children," she says. How it works: For sleeping, you simply roll out the trundle from under the higher bed at night. The next morning, you can roll it back under the main bed, and you have instant play space.
A. Designer Abbey Francis, owner of Sassy Sprouts, in St. Louis, recommends some creative arranging. "Pull the furniture away from the walls and have some floating pieces you can use as room dividers," she says. By compartmentalizing the room, you can create conversation spaces in the center of the room for adults and strategically place toys and other kids' stuff behind furniture or in neatly organized niches. "Find things that are tasteful but appeal to kids (like colorful boxes) and pop them in a corner to use for storage," she says.
If you're trying to create a room that welcomes kids into an otherwise adult space, opt for furniture that can store some of their playthings. Francis is a big fan of ottomans with lids that lift, because they keep toys or books within easy reach of kids (plus, it's easy for kids to put their toys away). From leather to wicker, there are lots of stylish ottoman options out there.
End tables with a shelf underneath for a basket of toys, or media units with drawers or hidden nooks, help keep the clutter at bay. Also, look for ways to incorporate shelving units into your living space. Use them in the corner or as room dividers.
If you have a closet in your room, devote it to storing your kids' stuff, Francis recommends. If you can't afford a custom-designed closet storage system, create your own. Install shelves so you can get as much stuff off the floor as possible. Francis likes to stack the shelves with plastic bins -- she even puts pictures on the bins of what goes inside so her toddler knows where things go and can help.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2006.
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