The 9 Best Bunk Beds, According to Parents and Experts
When we set out to launch Cubby last fall, we wanted to help parents live better, more connected lives at home. Each week in the newsletter we bring you ideas for how to eat, live, and play. Today, we launch our very first buying guide, and you can expect them regularly from here out. In our buying guides, we’ll give you in-depth advice about the big-ticket items you might need to purchase for your home. Because from sofas to stoves, there are seemingly a million tiny decisions that go into big home decisions. With our Cubby guides in hand, you should have the confidence to make the purchases that matter.
We’re kicking things off with bunk beds — both because I have just finished writing A. Whole. Book. about bunk beds (out next year!) and because buying bunk beds is intimidating! As soon as I tell another parent that I have written a book about bunk beds, they almost inevitably want to ask me questions. I tell them that the right bunk will depend on the space they have, but there are some good rules of thumb to consider before you purchase bunks. Here’s what you need to know below.
What are the safety considerations for bunk beds?
Let’s start off by saying the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 6 years of age should not sleep in bunk beds (and by this, they mean the top bunk). Roberto Gil, the founder of Casa Kids, a bunk bed company in Brooklyn, agrees. “In my experience, 6 is the right age for an upper bed, but you would be surprised by how many people want to put 3-year-olds in bunk beds,” says Gil. “If they come to our showroom, they immediately realize that 3 years is very young,” he adds.
Beyond the age range limitations, you can put most of your safety concerns aside when purchasing an off-the-shelf bunk bed: If you buy a new bunk bed today, it will have been tested to meet your country’s safety regulations. However, if you’re purchasing a bed for your child secondhand, follow the AAP’s guidelines: Elevated beds of all kinds should have rails or walls on all four sides. However, lower bunks with mattress foundations that are 30 inches or less from the floor do not need guardrails. The tops of the guardrails must be no less than 5 inches above the top of the mattress. The entrance to the bunk should be narrow: In the U.S. it can be no greater than 15 inches; in the U.K. it’s just 11.8 inches (30 centimeters).
Let us also recommend that you create a house rule that bunk beds are not for rough housing. “Accidents happen when they are playing, not sleeping,” says Gil. Put bunks in the corner of the room for extra stability.
You can read more about what an injury researcher said when we asked them about bunk bed safety.
How do you choose the right bunk bed style?
First, think about how you will use the bed. For example, do you have two kids who will sleep there every night or one sibling who rotates between parents’ homes? This may influence what makes most sense. Some families will choose a twin-over-double for a shared children’s room so there is plenty of room for two siblings and a parent to read stories together. Gil also notes that if your kid is used to falling asleep with a parent lying in bed with them, your child may not be happy if that changes (and it’s pretty hard to sneak out of an upper bunk after your kids falls asleep).
Think LONG and hard before buying a themed bed. Bunk beds are an investment. Here at Cubby, we’d recommend getting your princess or fireman theme out in the bedding or other low-ticket decor, not the bed itself.
What height bunk bed should I buy?
The right height bunk will depend on your room’s ceiling height (and to a lesser extent the overall size of the room, since lower bunk beds are less overwhelming in a small space). Bunks typically range from 50 inches tall (for a low style bunk) to about 90 inches (for a stacked triple bunk). You need at least 36 inches between the top of the top mattress and the ceiling, but more space is always better. If your ceilings are anything less than 9 feet, you should probably be looking for a lower bunk bed.
What are the pros and cons between ladders vs. stairs?
Steps versus a ladder is one of the next decisions you’ll need to make when purchasing bunks. The pros of stairs are ease and safety; the cons boil down to space and money: stairs require more of both. “If you can afford the stairs and have space, I would always recommend stairs,” says Gil, who notes that his Casa Kids bunks and many others offer a lot of storage in the steps, which makes up for the extra space they take up, if you can eliminate a dresser.
Most off-the-shelf bunks feature a ladder that cannot be detached (i.e., is integrated). Know that many bunk beds can be ordered or assembled to whichever side you prefer, but not all, so check before you order. Bunks that have the ladder positioned on the short end leave the entire lower bunk open, which can be especially nice for adults and creates a more minimalist look. Angled ladders are less common than a straight ladder. They are slightly easier to climb, especially since they ideally should have a safety rail.
Should I get a twin or an XL twin?
When choosing between a twin and an extra-long twin, Gil notes that twin-sized beds are most comfortable for people who are under 5’10”. If you and your child’s other parent are both tall, you might want an extra-long twin, so they can continue to use it into their teen years. (If your bunks will be used by taller adults, an extra-long twin or even full-sized bunk bed is the way to go.)
What kind of mattress do you need for a bunk bed?
You’ll often see that a bunk bed manufacturer also wants to sell you a mattress. It’s not just upselling: They want you to get the right mattress for their bed — and size matters. Mattress height will impact your overhead space, and in a small space, the difference of a few inches can matter. Include the mattress height when making your calculations and consider a thinner mattress to maximize your space. The tops of the guardrails must be no less than 5 inches above the top of the mattress.
What are non-traditional bunk bed shapes?
“There are many size options when it comes to bunk beds,” says Allison Spampanato, SVP of Product Development for Pottery Barn Kids. “Twin-over-full or a full-over-full bunk are great options to grow with your child. Choosing a loft bed with open space below can also transition with your child. They can use the bottom as a play space when they are little and for a desk or additional bed when they are older.”
A good choice for rooms with low ceilings or for younger kids who might be intimidated by a taller bunk. The disadvantage is that getting into the lower bunk can be hard for adults. Gil points out two more advantages: You can kiss your child goodnight while standing on the floor and they are easier to make.
An L-shaped bunk offers a few advantages. They take up less floor space than two single beds, and in three-bunk models, you can fit in three kids without extra-high ceilings. However, you lose some of your space savings when you opt for an L over a traditional twin-over-twin.
A popular choice for a guest bedroom, this style has a single loft bed overhead running lengthwise along the wall. The lower bed (a regular bed) has its headboard against the wall and the footboard is the center of the room, creating a T-shape.
This is a tricky setup that Gil only recommends when ceilings are very high but floor space is limited. Most stacked three-bunk beds stand about 92 inches tall. For a comfortable clearance on the top bunk you’ll need ceilings of about 10 feet tall or higher.
What extra features should I look for in a bunk bed?
“Storage is key for small spaces,” says Spampanato. “Look for a bunk with extra storage, either drawers under the bed or shelving down below.” It’s a smart strategy for kids’ toys or clothing.
Many manufacturers are building flexibility into their designs with bottom bunks you can add or remove, stacked twins that can be separated later on, and more. One of these might be pricier than a fixed bunk, but it could save you money in the long run when you don’t need to buy additional beds later.
What should I look for when shopping for a bunk bed?
If it’s not possible to see a particular bunk bed in person, at least go look at some bunk beds and bring the kids too (you want to make sure they are comfortable!). Bring along the measurements of the bunk you are considering buying and a tape measure to see if you can get a better sense of the bunk you’re considering: Measuring things like the height of the top bunk to the floor and the top of the lower mattress to bunk overhead can help you visualize a bunk you can’t see. And if there is something you hate about the bunk you see in person, take note. Back at home use blue painter’s tape to mark out a bunk bed’s silhouette in a room. And don’t just mark its position on the floor — mark how high it will go on the wall. Pay attention to how close the bed comes to any fixed features like windows, closets, and doors and make sure you have plenty of clearance to walk around the bed.
Our Expert Picks for the Best Bunk Beds
The best affordable bunk bed: Mydal Bunk Bed
There is no question that IKEA’s Mydal bunk bed is one of the best value bunk beds available on the market today. Unlike other low-cost bunks you may find on sites like Amazon and Wayfair, the Mydal are made from solid wood. For $30 more you can get it in a painted white finish.
The best small-space bunk bed: Camden Low Bunk Bed
This low-slung bunk is a good choice for tight spots like a room with a sloping roof line. It is sturdy enough for a grown-up to climb into the top bunk for story time with the child.
Buy: Camden Low Bunk Bed, $1,299 from Pottery Barn Kids
The best multi-sibling bunk beds: MaxTrix bunk beds
Whether it is triples, quads, or L-shaped two-fers, MaxTrix Kids has ALL the unusual bunk bed options. Hope, a New Jersey mom of three boys who share a triple L-shaped bunk, says, “I feel like my kids will have these through their early teen years at least. It provides a tight-knit siblinghood.”
Buy: MaxTrix Bunk Beds, from $899 from MaxTrix Kids
The decorator favorite: Oeuf Perch Bunk Bed
The Perch bunk bed is beloved by interior designers for a reason: It’s a relatively good value for the price, and it is a style chameleon. The simple design can go more modern or more traditional depending on how you style it. Plus, the top and lower bunks can be separated.
Buy: Oeuf Perch Bunk Bed, $1,980 from 2Modern
The best loft bed: Mid-Century Loft Bed
This full-size loft bed and desk collaboration between West Elm and PB Teen is an investment piece that can truly grow with a child — and frankly would look right at home in a first apartment too! It also checks all the boxes of Fair Trade manufacturing and sustainable materials and finishes.
Buy: Mid-Century Loft Bed, $2,099 from Pottery Barn Teen
The best bunk with stairs: Tena Bunk Bed with Drawers
With high ratings on Wayfar and a very friendly price tag, this bunk offers stairs at an affordable price-point. But assemblers, beware: This one you need to build yourself!
Buy: Tena Bunk Bed with Drawers, $1,266.99 from Wayfair
The best fantasy bunk bed: Treehouse Twin-Over-Twin
While most themed bunk beds are kitschy, one type of pretend-play bunk is open-ended enough to grow with children: house-shaped beds. This one from Pottery Barn Kids is sturdy and could work in many style homes.
Buy: Treehouse Twin-Over-Twin, from $2,999 at Pottery Barn Kids
The architect-approved bunk bed manufacturer: RH Baby & Child
Chicago-based architect Tom Stringer says he almost always specifies custom bunk beds for his projects, but when he does go for an off-the-shelf bunk, he says RH Baby & Child’s bunk beds are the sturdiest he’s seen.
Buy: Bunk Beds, from $3,200 at Restoration Hardware
The best semi-custom bunks: Casa Kids
We tapped Roberto Gil, Casa Kids founder, for this story because there is no other company making custom and semi-custom bunks like Casa Kids.
Buy: Bunk Beds, from $1,600 at Casa Kids