Interior design
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Architecture and Design

Bunk beds can provide more than just extra sleeping space for the young

Bunks free up circulation space that would otherwise be occupied by twin beds

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 April, 2016, 2:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 April, 2016, 2:04pm

If the sole function of bunk beds is to double the sleeping accommodation for children, it’s a wasted opportunity, says designer Clifton Leung Hin-che.

That might well be the primary objective, but a well-designed bunk set can be so much more. Imagine a child’s bedroom – usually one of the smallest rooms in a home – also multitasking as the place where they work, rest and play (willingly, and without the space feeling crowded).

That is what purpose-built bunk furniture can offer.

When space is tight, “you have to move things up”, said Leung, the founder of Clifton Leung Design Workshop. “By doubling the volume, you can squeeze out more space with an extra bed, or storage underneath; it’s essential in Hong Kong.”

By doubling the volume, you can squeeze out more space with an extra bed, or storage underneath; it’s essential in Hong Kong
Clifton Leung

Even if the home has enough bedrooms for all, he has found that siblings seem to prefer to share.

Bunks free up circulation space that would otherwise be occupied by twin beds, thus accommodating a wardrobe, table and shelves as well as room to play. Customised bunks can be individualised to a preferred colour and design.

If space allows – as it did in one Mid-Levels project – using steps, rather than a ladder, makes for an efficient design as well as being easier and safer for a small child to manage. Within the room of about 100 sq ft, the steps double as open shelving; there are bookshelves incorporated within the structure and storage below it as well. A light was installed for bedtime reading, which adds a cabin-like cosiness.

Even a smaller room, which required a ladder instead of steps, can now accommodate three – two siblings and a sleepover friend – thanks to Leung’s double-bunk design with a trundle bed below. In that Mid-Levels project, “we built for the future”, Leung said, pointing to a table fitted within the bay window that will prove useful once the now-toddlers get older.

In another project, in Tai Tam, the parents wanted their child’s bedroom to double as a playroom. Toys were stored below the elevated bunk, and with a curtain to hide behind, it became a cubby house as well.

Parents should consider their children’s preferences, Leung said. Using their favourite colour as a theme, and tailoring the design to their favourite activities, will let the child enjoy their room.

Some parents have grand designs in mind. Leung met a request for a bed with a slide; Adrian McCarroll (of Original Vision) has fashioned bunks as a princess castle. Mostly the result is determined by space. One solution, which still injects a bit of fun, is to add on a fireman’s pole, as Leung has also done on occasion.

Kokoon, a Hong Kong manufacturer of solid wood beds, finds that Hong Kong kids “go crazy” for the novelty bunks in its range, which includes a nautical-themed captain’s bunk, various beds with slides and a castle bed – but parents usually overrule and opt for a more traditional design. They worry that kids will outgrow a theme, preferring a bed with longevity.

“When choosing bunks, the safety aspect is very important,” said Moira Roberts of Kokoon. The structure should be sturdy enough to support robust play, and the angle of steps, and particularly slides, should be not too steep so as to avoid causing injury.

Can adults love bunk beds as well? Not likely, the designers say, with all that clambering involved. Why not, asks Hiddenbed, a Uruguay-based company which distributes its bunk beds worldwide, including Hong Kong. After all, a top bunk is no different to the loft beds seen in the micro apartments of Paris and Tokyo. The brand’s Double Decker is purpose-designed for grown-ups.

“We do sell a lot to students in university dorms. They take advantage of the fact that you can fit two twin beds plus a very large desk in only 2 square metres,” said Cecilia Estrella, Hiddenbed’s chief designer. Newer bunk beds had different types of ladders that could support different weights and climbing comfort, she said.

“With an ever widening array of materials, surfaces and paints to choose from, it’s fairly easy to manufacture and decorate furniture that appeals to all ages,” she said.

Hong Kong-based Anji Connell, of ACID+ (Anji Connell Interior Design+) is using bunks to solve a guest room problem for a client in London. “There was not enough room for a full-sized bed or even a pull-down bed – single bunks were the only option,” Connell said of the room’s conversion from a former kitchen.

The solution enabled the space to double as a study/TV room and include an ensuite bathroom. “I felt it was a fun idea [and] OK for adults for a night or two staying over with their friends,” she said. Apart from that, “I cannot see any reason for using bunks other than as a space-saving exercise.”