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Old 10-06-2009, 09:42 PM   #1
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Bunk bed dilemma

So I've got a 3/4 size bus and am needing to conserve space. I'm trying to create sleeping quarters for 5 people, while using at least some of the beds for seating during the day. My goal is to not take up any more floor space than a pair of bunk beds would use.

My best idea so far is to make couches on each wall facing each other, that fold out so they meet in the middle, forming a king size bed. The three kids can sleep there. Over these couches will be narrow upper bunk twin beds for the parents. Not very romantic, I know, but with the kids a few feet away what's the point of having the parents together anyway, right? Anyway, this arrangement will help prevent the creation of more kids!

Okay, moving on... Here is my dilemma: Since the lower couch/beds are to be seating during travel, it would be nice if people sitting there could look out the windows. The normal position of upper bunks is pretty much blocking most of the window space, plus it would impede the headroom of the people sitting there and feel very claustrophobic. So I'd like to have the upper bunks rigged so that they can either fold up, or better yet, ascend straight up to the ceiling. Maybe using a pulley or something like that?

I can sort of visualize how I might rig the supports for the two different levels the beds would rest at, but I cannot visualize the process by which they would be raised and lowered. I have back problems, so I don't want to be in a position where I am leaning and lifting manually at the same time. The ends (head and foot) of the beds will likely butt up against solid walls due to other structural elements of the floorplan. The pulley idea is my best idea so far, but it would probably look kind of funky and maybe tangle people up. I don't think folding on a hinge would work because it would block the window.

Any ideas?
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Old 10-06-2009, 10:25 PM   #2
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

Window weights.

Put solid cleats on the end walls to support the weight of the bed frame plus an adult sleeping, put 4 pulleys in the corners above the bunks to raise them, and then put window weights inside pieces of PVC pipe so the weights can go up and down without getting stuck. For smoothness you could use 8 pulleys, 4 above the tubes inside the wall, and 4 above the bed on the outside. Sort of like:
____- - - - - - - - - - ____
|OO|- - - - - - - - - -|OO|
| - -|____________| - - |
[] - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - [] (Ignore the dashes - the server removes spaces and collapses the drawing.)

Even better would be 4 real window sheaves. These are made with a hooded pulley wheel that sits half inside and half outside the wall, and the hood guides the rope. Choose the size and number of weights so that the bed weight is roughly the same as the counterweights, and moving it will be nearly effortless. You can balance it to tend to go up or down when released, your choice. (In the theatre, we would always make the weights slightly heavier, so if a latch failed the lights/scenery would head for the ceiling, and not down onto the actors.) You should devise some sort of latches to secure the bed frame in both the up and down positions, so climbing in and out of the bunk doesn't tip you onto the floor.
Someone said "Making good decisions comes from experience, experience comes from bad decisions." I say there are three kinds of people: those who learn from their mistakes, those who learn from the mistakes of others, and those who never learn.
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Old 10-06-2009, 10:27 PM   #3
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

Do a double hinged bunk setup maybe? of course this was a VERY rough drawing but you get the idea.
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Old 10-07-2009, 03:39 AM   #4
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

I found a 4 post bed that the matress would vanish into the top when you gave it a light push, and would come down either by lightly pulling on the rope or giving a small jerk on the rope and letting the springs do the work... But I cant find it now... I seem to find interesting things then cant find them again... Oh well.

Here is a pic of a hiding bed like what Ramairws601 was talking about...
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Old 10-07-2009, 10:01 AM   #5
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

Cool! Lots of great ideas - thanks guys!

I'm intrigued by the ideas using either weights or springs to raise the bed straight up and down in tracks. Seems like it would be fairly easy to build, durable, and sturdy. It may take up a little more space than the folding up and away option though, but just the space used by the weights. I actually have some weights that will be perfect for this application. I could see the weights getting derailed from the pulleys though, so I couldn't really hide the whole system in a wall for fear of derailment. Plus, the weights might be noisy due to banging around in the channels, because I would have to allow enough space that they wouldn't get jammed. Springs might be less prone to problems, but perhaps harder to achieve the correct spring tension to bed-weight ratio.

The folding up and away option is also appealing in that it may be less prone to problems, but it seems like it wouldn't be quite as stable. Since the weight would be supported by hinges, it seems like the bed would move around when the sleeper tosses/turns. I suppose you could have it fold down to land on a stable structure, but it seems like it would be very difficult to get the geometry just right so that the weight would be on the structural supports rather than the hinges, and also sit flat on the surfaces. Maybe the bottom hinge could be something a little looser than a hinge, and that would provide the wiggle room needed for a smooth landing...
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Old 10-25-2009, 09:16 PM   #6
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

I heard of a family of five (2 adults, 3 kids) in something the size of a short school bus. They had a bed in the back for the adults (could be fold out if you like) and three hamocks that you pull out from one side of the bus to the other. They fold out of the way durring the day and probably much less expensive and complicated to create than bunks.

Check out my conversion at
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Old 10-26-2009, 07:16 PM   #7
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

I ran across this while trying to get ideas for a bunkbed setup. I'm sure with some adjusting to size a homemade version of this would work in a skoolie. also it folds away and gives you more interior space when not in use.
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Old 10-26-2009, 09:23 PM   #8
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

Wow. I like it! Reminds me of a horizontal Murphy's Bed. Same concept, just folds out in a different direction.

Very cool. Thanks for the link.
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Old 10-26-2009, 10:18 PM   #9
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

Back when I was a student I traveled a bit in Europe. This bed reminds me a lot of the sleeper cars you'd find on the night trains. There were dozens of different styles. May be worth looking at for more inspirations if you follow this bed concept.
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Old 10-27-2009, 11:18 AM   #10
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Re: Bunk bed dilemma

Originally Posted by Smitty
That's what I was saying earlier, but let the upper bunk also hinge downward....then you have a sofa as well.
So I guess in this scenario the upper bunk mattress would have to be secured/attached to the bedframe, and probably also be a fairly lightweight material.
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