My Niece's Bedroom

I Can’t Figure Out How To Build This…

This week, I’ve had two jobs to do.  The first job was to complete my bathroom.  I’ll finish it today, shop for all the little finishing touches and accessories tomorrow, and have the big before and after on Monday.  I’ve got that under control.

The second job was to come up with the building plan and cut list/supplies list for my mom and me to build this bed frame flanked by bookshelves in Yaleana’s bedroom.

built-in bed and shelvesBedroom by Massucco Warner Miller Interior Design

I’m usually pretty good at looking at a picture like that, and just being able to envision how it all goes together.  But y’all, I have stared at that picture so many times this week that I’ve lost count, and for the life of me, I can’t figure it out how to build this thing.  It looks so simple at first glance, but when I start thinking through the actual process, and all of the finishing steps, I get lost.

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I know that my brain is probably way over-complicating this thing.  I have a mental block, and can’t seem to get past it.  So this is my call for help from you DIY builders out there.

The way I generally build a built-in bookcase is to start off by building a very simple box out of plywood or MDF — top, sides, back, and bottom.  (I leave off the bottom if I’m building on top of a countertop, like on the built-ins in the condo, or the open shelves in the bathroom.)  For example, in the bathroom, I built this box out of 5/8″ MDF…

bathroom built-in storage - 9

And then after adding MDF for the shelves, I framed everything out on the front with lumber.  I used 1 x 4’s on the sides, a 1 x 6 on the top, and 1 x 2’s for the shelves…

bathroom built-in storage - 15

I did the same basic structure for the condo living room built-ins.  First build a basic box…

And then frame out the front with lumber…

It’s all just very basic building, and it’s the same way I built the closets in the condo second bedroom, the cubbies above the banquette in the condo breakfast room, and on and on.

But what do I do when one side of the bookcase — where I would normally attach a piece of lumber to the face — is curved and appears to be all one piece?

built-in bed and shelves

I know a lot of master woodworkers can bend wood, but that’s not something I can do.

I thought perhaps it’s built in two pieces –a top bookcase built like normal, and then a bottom part built separately with the curve.  Do you think that’s it? And if so, I still can’t figure out the particulars.

Like I said, I have a major mental block here.  How would you DIYers tackle this?  It’s just those darned curved sides, and how they tie in with the actual structure of the bookcase (where I would normally have something like 1 x 2’s attached to the face), that’s throwing me.  Do you understand the problem I’m having?  I’m sure there’s a simple answer.  If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!!



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52 Comments

  • Reply To This Comment
    Julie @ follow your heart woodworking
    July 16, 2015 at 9:23 am

    I have done this before, not on such a big piece, but same idea. You would join the pieces, as you said, there is no bending of wood involved! You can email me if you like, or use facebook messaging, I would be glad to speak to you in detail..

  • Reply To This Comment
    Bridget
    July 16, 2015 at 9:25 am

    It almost looks like to me that they used a WHOLE sheet of MDF for each side and jigsawed the curve into it. I could be wrong but do you think that would be possible? I hope you can get more advice because I would LOVE to see this in her room, so perfect!

    • Reply To This Comment
      Kristi Linauer
      July 16, 2015 at 9:39 am

      So does the thickness come from using two sheets of 3/4″ MDF glued together? That’s where I’m getting confused. I generally get that thickness by attaching a 1/2 to the face of the bookshelf. But in order to attach the 1×2 to the face of the sides against the bed, the 1×2 would have to curve with the curve of the MDF. Ugh…I’m confusing myself! :-D.

      • Reply To This Comment
        Peggy
        July 16, 2015 at 9:59 am

        I would make only the curved part below the lowest horizontal face frame in double thickness plywood. The part of the side of the bookcase that’s above the horizontal face frame can be single thickness- the face frame will hide the difference.

        • Reply To This Comment
          Peggy
          July 16, 2015 at 10:00 am

          Well, actually not the lowest horizontal (that would be below the curved part).

      • Reply To This Comment
        Mary
        July 16, 2015 at 6:14 pm

        Yes Kristi I think that’s exactly it. The bookcases are built separately, and as you usually would. The sides of the bed are built up from layers of MDF and attached to the bookcases, then puttied and sanded like crazy to look like one unit.

  • Reply To This Comment
    JessB
    July 16, 2015 at 9:37 am

    The side piece is one big piece that they cut the design into and then attached to the other sides of the box.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Lisa E
    July 16, 2015 at 9:38 am

    I think there are couple of ways if you don’t want to venture into kerf cutting. You can build the bookcase with that side using a large sheet to cut the curve in, but it definitely would have to be doubled up on the curve if you didn’t want to cut kerfs to get that same thickness. Or my first inclination would be to build the bookcase and then use a separate piece in front of it, attaching it to the front of the bookcase with the curved section, again it would have to be at least doubled up to match the thickness of the face frame. I’d attach it with something like pocket holes, of course filling in the holes or biscuits. I’m no expert, but that’s my two cents and I hope I explained it so it makes sense. Either way, you got this!!!

  • Reply To This Comment
    Elaine
    July 16, 2015 at 9:39 am

    What about building your carcass as normal then attaching a wave desk top (type used in offices) standing on its edge to create the curve? Like the top of the BEKANT desk in Ikea but much cheaper version!

  • Reply To This Comment
    justynn
    July 16, 2015 at 9:42 am

    It’s probably doubled up MDF with edging tape.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Kasey
    July 16, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I think for the curved sides of the bed, I would use two pieces of MDF sandwiched together for extra support and to give you the thickness that you need. You would just cut with a jigsaw to give you the curved sides. Then you could just cover the raw edges with veneer edging to smooth out the look.Then you could do the other parts of the shelves the way you normally would with single sheets of MDF edged with lumber.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Nick
    July 16, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I’d use hollow core doors. It will give you the thickness you’re looking for. You could then run the wiring through them if you wanted to add the lights. Not sure what to use to fill the edge on the curve once you cut into it.

    • Reply To This Comment
      Mary Kendell
      July 17, 2015 at 9:57 am

      I would use a thin ply to cover the void. But in all honesty I would use MDF that is the width of the bed and use a jigsaw to cut the curve build the bed first then the units around the bed the way you normally would.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Sheila E
    July 16, 2015 at 9:50 am

    They aren’t one piece, there are three. The top and bottom is divided by the drawer. Also the drawer depth is greater than the sides of the bookcase and top where the bed ends begin. Does that help? If the obvious lines where the pieces fit together bother you then I’d suggest using molding to cover it or build that drawer to look slightly wider as well. I don’t think wood putty should be used to make it look like a single sheet. That would make disassembling it very difficult and most likely would result in damage.

    • Reply To This Comment
      Sheila E
      July 16, 2015 at 9:54 am

      BTW, I just went to the site and see the closeup of the drawer area and it does appear as one piece. Maybe they did use a single sheet, but I wouldn’t and I don’t think the design or finished product would suffer if it weren’t either.

      • Reply To This Comment
        Chris
        July 16, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        I just looked at the closeup too, but with the way that Kristi uses wood filler and sands things, you’d never know it wasn’t three pieces by the time she finished building it. 😀

    • Reply To This Comment
      Kristi Linauer
      July 16, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Oh my gosh…THREE SEPARATE PIECES!! That’s the game changer right there. So the top is built like a regular bookcase, faced just like I always do, then the drawer section separates the top from the bottom. The bottom curve is probably two layers of 3/4″ ply or MDF glued together to get the proper thickness.

      I can see it now! 😀

      • Reply To This Comment
        Sheila E
        July 16, 2015 at 10:00 am

        I wish my husband, the woodworker of our family, could understand me as easily as you just did. I design (wish I could draw better) and he builds. However, he does seem to have ADD. lol

        I can’t wait to see your finished project. Make it your own (you have good taste). 😉

  • Reply To This Comment
    Ann Marie @ Twice Lovely
    July 16, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I guess if this is a stumbling block for you, I would ask myself how important the seamless side of the bookshelf into the bed is to your design. Because it seems to me a much, much easier way would be to just do the flanking bookshelves like you’ve always done them in the past and then add the curved sides of the bed attached to the sides of the bookshelves. Once it’s all caulked and painted to match, will the look really be all that different? And you’ll save yourself some headaches for sure!

    • Reply To This Comment
      Karen
      July 16, 2015 at 10:54 am

      that was exactly my thought! Especially considering the perfect sruface look Kristi manages to achieve all the time, this could be done the way you suggested!

  • Reply To This Comment
    Phoebe
    July 16, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Tbh, I wouldn’t make everything as one piece, as in the photo – I would build the bed as a separate piece of furniture, as I’d like to be able to move it out, say to clean better or change the sheet easier, or retrieve something that was lost in tha back of a drawer, or I don’t know, whatever reason. Having a bed build on the wall somehow doesn’t resonate well with me, feels a bit… unsanitary? (then again, I get allergies, so maybe that’s why I want to be able to move the bed if I need to do some deep cleaning).

  • Reply To This Comment
    Darlene
    July 16, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Why not build the bed first, using double mdf for curved sides, put it in place, then build bookcases attached to the bed?

  • Reply To This Comment
    Colleen
    July 16, 2015 at 10:21 am

    I would double up the mdf or whatever you are using for the build to get the thickness needed, that would be about the easiest way to get that curve without having to bend the wood and just cut with a jig saw to get the curve on all the pieces, then fill, sand and paint as usual. Looks like it is going to be a sweet “grown-up” little space for your niece!

  • Reply To This Comment
    Julie @ follow your heart woodworking
    July 16, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Why not use real wood, no taping needed and more durable.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Justin
    July 16, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Wow. So, there are a few ways I can see to deal with it.

    First, I think it’s going to have to be in two pieces length-wise since you probably need to make it more than 8 feet tall (and a sheet of MDF is only 8 feet long). The same might be the case with the depth if the bed needs to be more than 4 feet deep.

    As far as connecting the bookcases to the middle, you have a few options. One is to build the book cases flat like you’d normally do and then make the curved bed side an extension that sticks-out out from the book cases (there’ll be a bunch of wood filler involved in this and maybe a pocket screw jig, I’d imagine, so that it looks like one piece when you’re done). Another option is to have the bed sides actually be separate from the bookcase sides. It won’t look exactly like the photo. It’ll look more like you left a hole between two bookcases for a day bed and slid the bed in there.

    I think what may be stumping you is that you’re trying to look at this as building separate pieces and then putting them in place and screwing them together (like you would with pre-made kitchen cabinets). Perhaps if you look at it as building it in place, it might seem easier. So for example:

    1) Nail/screw a board against each wall to serve as the outside of the book cases.
    2) Mount a cleat (a piece of 1x lumber) to the ceiling and the floor to serve as a stop for the inner-sides of the bookcases. Cut the curved side of the book case and screw/nail it to the floor and ceiling cleats. You’ll hide the cleats with the top and bottom trim anyway.
    3) Build your shelves between the two sides of the book cases you have in place, end-nailing them or using an adjustable shelf pin drilling jig or using small quarter-round cleats or L-brackets. Or, you could possibly end-nail them into the outside board before you put it in place against the wall (think like the letter F).
    4) Build the bottom bed frame to sit on the floor without any real structural support from the sides. You can use 4×4 legs and 2×4’s for the top as if you were building a deck.

    As for the curves, cutting the curve out of the sheet of MDF isn’t a problem with a jigsaw. I imagine what you’re having trouble with is how to make it as thick as the photo and how to put a front-facing trim on it (like a 1×2 board or something). There are a couple of ways I can think of. One is to actually use 2-3 sheets of MDF to make-up that board and glue them together (it’ll be heavy as hell). That gets you thickness and you don’t really need a front face board if you sand it smooth enough. You could also use iron-on veneer to edge the curve if you want it perfect.

    Another option is to sandwich two pieces of 1/4″ MDF or masonite together with blocks in-between to make it appear thick (think like a hollow-core door). You can use 1x trim on the flat parts of the edge and a product like this on the curved part of the edge: http://www.rockler.com/1-4-neatform-bendy-mdf (you can actually make this stuff if you’re really patient and good with a table saw, but it’s probably easier to buy it).

    Those are my thoughts… Good luck!

  • Reply To This Comment
    Genelle McDaniel
    July 16, 2015 at 10:25 am

    You are simply overthinking it. All you have to do is lay down and whole sheet of plywood and draw out the curved sides of the bed. You can both pieces out of one sheet. You will have to cut the curve with a jigsaw. Ther is no bent wood here. Remember that the curved arms of the bed and the insides of the bookcase are all one piece! Make sure the top of the curved ends of the bed continue with tops that are the exact depth you want the bookcases to be. Then you will add the shelves and outside bookcase walls to it. Walk away for just a little while and then look at it again as if it was the first time you’re seeing it. You will see how simple it is. Can’t wait! In my hunble opinion (which is worth nothing) the back of the bed, or headboard, should more resemble the back of a sofa so that it will appear to be a daybed. This high curved headboard is an attempt to make it look more like a regular bed, so it does not offer the immediate invitation to sit on the daybed like a sofa. You’ll do better.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Mis
    July 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I think they finished the lower bookcase with 1×2’s. you just can’t see it in the picture. And the curved arm of the bed, well I bet the whole bed is a separate build.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Justin
    July 16, 2015 at 10:40 am

    One side thought I had about the functionality of the design itself… Your niece is at the age where she might sprout-up in height in just a few years (depending on genetics, of course). Are you sure doing a built-in day bed with sides like that is going to meet her needs long-term? I know a lot of teenagers often hang off the edge of a standard twin bed (which is why most colleges use extra long twins in the dorms). That’s not going to be possible with those side walls.

    If this is a concern, you might consider either using an extra-long twin upfront or building it such that the bed can be removed and replaced with a double bed that sticks-out the long way into the room without removing the side cabinets.

    Just a thought… You know I’m always worried about functionality and future needs. 🙂

    • Reply To This Comment
      Cathy
      July 17, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      I thought of that same thing. I’m not handy at all but Justin seems to be on the right track…

    • Reply To This Comment
      Trish
      July 17, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      I was thinking the same thing, my kids grew out of their twins within a year of getting them and we moved on to a queen & a full, I would suggest using the same look but instead of a twin day bed use a full mattress, it would just stick out further into the room but can be dressed up like a day bed and achieve the same look but she will have room to stretch, not sure on the dimensions but it may give you a bit more room on the sides for wider book shelves.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Susan C
    July 16, 2015 at 10:47 am

    How would you build it if it were square? Take away the curve (mentally)…what would you do?

  • Reply To This Comment
    janpartist
    July 16, 2015 at 10:49 am

    it appears to me that the drawer fronts are purposefully there to cover the seam where the 1×2 stops and the curve begins.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Jessica I
    July 16, 2015 at 11:11 am

    It’s funny that you use this picture for your niece’s room! I have had this picture pinned forever! Pretty soon we are moving into our “forever” home and I am going to scrap it from my memory. The reason being is the same reason another commenter had concerns about. A twin bed is small. My daughter is soon to be 12 and we are already upgrading her bed to a queen size. She is almost as tall as me (5’6) and I slept in a twin until I was 20. I was much more comfortable with a queen size bed when I finally got it. Just my thoughts on the whole thing.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Dawn
    July 16, 2015 at 11:39 am

    You got some excellent advice from your readers, because you can build it in different ways and achieve the same finished product. You could also check https://sawdustgirl.com/ for suggestions or ideas (including also how to cut ceiling trim molding) from Sandra, a licensed carpenter.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Jeanne A.
    July 16, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Regarding whether the twin will be big enough in the future … could you put a double bed in the space later, but with it sticking out into the room, not slid in sideways like the twin is? The headboard, shown against the turquoise wall in the picture, would really be at the top of the double bed.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Micki
    July 16, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I like the bookcases by the bed but I would need a nightstand to place clock, water, etc, on. Maybe the sides of the bed need to be lower and a shelf extending out? Does that make sense? I know when my grandgirls are here, they have everything on the night stand.
    Love the concept.

    • Reply To This Comment
      Justin
      July 16, 2015 at 12:49 pm

      This is another really good functional point. I know I’d be lost without my night stand. I think my daughter would be too (and she’s only 3).

  • Reply To This Comment
    Sue
    July 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Is it possible to build the shelves and the bed separately so the bed slides in between the shelves? It would make cleaning and retrieving lost items much easier. Just a thought

  • Reply To This Comment
    Ellen W.
    July 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Call me crazy, but I’m not so sure that the wood is curved. I used to work in film and photography, and the perspective of something can alter with the length of the lens. If the lens used in that photo is even slightly wide angle, things in the foregound can look a bit curved. I can’t tell from the tight cropping of the photo whether that’s the case for certain, but I can tell you that I looked at it and did not presume that those side pieces were anything but straight!

    • Reply To This Comment
      Julie @ follow your heart woodworking
      July 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      Ellen, it is curved, you can see a closeup if you click on the link below the inspiration photo Kristi posted.

      • Reply To This Comment
        Ellen W.
        July 17, 2015 at 9:07 pm

        Julie, I thought she was talking about something else. I see the curves of the side piece. I thought she meant that the side pieces (in addition to having the curved arm) each had an outward curve (away from the mattress). Which would explain why I couldn’t see it. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment
    Kelsey
    July 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Do you want to build the drawers under the bed as drawers or as a trundle?

    As a wood shop and technical theater teacher, here’s my take:

    Build the bed base first (then bookcases around it later). So from the bottom up, a 2×4 frame incorporating the kick plate, the drawer unit (either individual drawers for storage or a trundle that looks like drawer fronts) attached on top, with a slatted top for mattress support.

    For the curved sides, three options:
    Option 1 – Two pieces of mdf glued together and cut, sanded and otherwise treated as one large piece of stock to create the curved edges, up to the top edge of the curve, then straight back.

    Option 2 – Build the outside pieces of the bed hollow like suggested above using 1/4″ mdf or some other sheet stock, first clamping the two pieces of the exterior shell together while sanding etc to ensure the same curve pattern. Then space the mdf using 1×2 stock and use a strip of 1/8″ thick mdf to cap the curve, securing with glue and nails, and caulk and paint as usual. 1/8″ mdf is quite flexible. With appropriate clamping, this would be feasible.

    Option 3 – Treat the vertical seam between the bookcase and the bed frame almost as a french cleat, aligned vertically instead of horizontally. This allows you to pull the bed out to retrieve fallen items, etc. It would have to be considered in concert with the lower portion of the bookcases.

    Build the bed side so that the mdf side of the bed is two pieces deep on the front but only one thickness where the bed frame meets the bookshelf. Then, the bottom portion of the bookcase is one thickness wide as well, and the bed caps it when pushed back against the wall. The top portion of the bookcase (from the drawer units up, maybe? You’d have to decide where you want to split the pieces) would be built as you’ve done your previous built-ins, either to line up to the width of the lower portion of the bookcases with a second piece of mdf attached to the outside to match the bed, or built 3/4″ wider to match the bed without having to attach the second piece for looks.

    There would be a visible seam at the front edge of the bookcases where the bed meets up, but you could mitre the vertical edges so as to reduce the gap, as you’d do with crown moulding. There would also be a visible seam along the side at either the top or bottom edge of the drawer, depending on where you split the pieces.

    I’d build the headboard as a separate piece, not attached to the bed frame, and secure it to the wall and/or shelves so that the bed could be pulled away easily.

    In total, there would be six pieces of construction (top portion of bookshelf x2, bottom portion of bookshelf x2, bed frame, headboard). Feel free to email me if this needs clarification 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment
    Diane
    July 16, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    I would build as three separate units, two bookcases and a bedframe/couch. 13 year old girls want to rearrange their bedrooms all the time to express their individuality and you are locking her into one arrangement.
    2x12s could be used for the headboard and footboards and the curve can be cut then. It will be heavy whether you use mdf or wood so I would add rollers. I would consider making the bed based on full size bed 54×75 instead of twin. Teenage girls love sleepovers too.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Rachel
    July 16, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Although I love the overall effect of the inspiration room, there’s something slightly claustrophobic about it to me. It reminds me of your first attempt at the built-in closets in the condo that didn’t have enough leeway between the cabinets and the bed. It also looks like it would be hard to get to the bottom shelves with the narrow space between the wall and the ends of the bed. Personally, I think making the bed separate with a platform bed design without the wood jutting out would be more functional. It might not be quite as dramatic, but it seems like the bed would be easier to make and the lower shelves would be more accessible without a headboard and footboard piece sticking out. I also like the idea of some type of bed-side shelf or stand. Without the protruding end pieces, you could add a pull out shelf where the drawers are in the inspiration photo.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Mary Anne Looby
    July 16, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Hi Kristi, I am not a builder but first glance looking at it the curve piece seems to be a separate piece to me. Looks like the bookcase is built and the bed done and the curved pieces added and then everything patched primed and sanded. Just my 2 cents Blessings

  • Reply To This Comment
    Robin
    July 17, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Looks like laminated sheets of MDF cut in a curve. The wood itself is not bent, as near as I can tell. Also, an additional view on the source photo website shows a hint of overlay over the laminated pieces, just a faint ridge, most likely from luan, that makes it appear to be really thick solid wood. The overlay is the same as if you covered the edge of a shelf, like the iron-on kind you see on so many of the particle board furniture pieces.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Robin
    July 17, 2015 at 8:22 am

    If you follow the curve and look closely in the additional photo, you can see just a hint of an overlay strip that follows the curve, and probably hides the two laminated pieces of MDF used to build the side walls.

  • Reply To This Comment
    Lorraine
    July 17, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Hi Kristi… why can’t you just cut the curved side all in one piece and then build like a normal bookcase? Best of luck with this project.. Lorraine

  • Reply To This Comment
    Luke
    July 18, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Hi Kristi,

    I sadly have no advice on your question, but I was wondering if you recovered the chairs in your pics from the condo? If so, would you be willing to share the maker/source of the striped fabric? I’m hunting and gathering for my first condo, and those stripes are almost exactly what I pictured for curtains. Thanks! Your blog is really helpful, I’m planning to try out your faux-grasscloth paint technique my master bedroom and bathroom. (In a very intimating dark brown – opening the sample can made my palms sweat.)

    • Reply To This Comment
      Kristi Linauer
      July 18, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Hi Luke~
      That’s actually the fabric that was on those chairs when I bought them at a garage sale years ago. I tried to find more of it, and didn’t have any luck. It’s a beautiful fabric, but wouldn’t work for curtains. It’s a thick upholstery fabric, and the stripes are actually velvet.

      • Reply To This Comment
        Luke
        July 22, 2015 at 8:31 pm

        Rats. Thank you for letting me know. The search continues….

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