Ideas for an inexpensive and simple "bed" ?
October 28, 2013 2:25 PM   Subscribe

can you give me some ideas for an inexpensive and minimalist "bed area"?

I am going to be moving and needing a bed soon. I may be moving into a very small room and want to maximize the space. Also, I don't have much money to spend on a bed. I don't mind firm surfaces or sleeping low to the ground; in fact I prefer these things. (but I can't really handle no cushioning at all and I don't want to sleep directly on the floor).

I am looking for ideas on inexpensive and minimalist beds or ideas for "making" a kind of bed like that. If you can point me in the direction of some kind of mattress-type cushion or give me some ideas for materials I can buy to create a sleeping area, that'd be great. I like back support and don't like things like air mattresses. Any ideas are great, whether they are links to things for sale, places to look, or ideas for materials to create a kind of bed or sleeping area.

I know this made sound a little vague so I am happy to answer questions as needed, but I am also open to many kinds of ideas so purposely left the question a little open).

posted by bearette to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I currently just use a futon mattress (no frame) in my small but cheap apartment. I think it's a fancier one with springs inside and not just stuffing, but if I recall it cost less than $300. It's held up for three years here, and I've been pretty rough on it - it's a little soft in the middle now, but still comfy enough. I have it sectioned off from the rest of my room by a dresser and some hangings to make a separate little sleeping area - though my room is much less square than the average, so it might be trickier with a more standard size bedroom.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:32 PM on October 28, 2013

If the space is very small, why not figure out what size is the minimum bed area that will make you comfortable, and then have a futon made to that shape. Then loft that to an appropriate height so you have extra storage or whatever. Basically, sleep on a futon on the "floor" but elevate it to get extra space.
posted by Mngo at 2:33 PM on October 28, 2013

You shouldn't sleep directly on the floor. A good idea might be some pallets and a futon. I once had a "roll-up futon", which was very nice and rollable, also in the sense that I could easily roll it half up and use the roll as a backrest during the day. The pallets stack well.
posted by mumimor at 2:35 PM on October 28, 2013

What is commonly called a "daybed" is a good minimal space bed - usually large enough to be comfy but small/narrow enough to be unobtrusive and double as a couch. Lots have drawers underneath, too. Antique/second-hand is where I'd look, but Ikea seems to have some - Ikea also has odd size mattresses for these kind of things.
posted by gyusan at 2:40 PM on October 28, 2013

You might get some inspiration from looking at photos of kids' "Montessori beds"?

Ikea's loft beds are a nice cheapish option for smaller spaces.
posted by kmennie at 2:41 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might look into shikibutons. They're foam mattresses that fold up, usually into three parts, and usually used on the floor, so at night you sleep on them and during the day you fold them up and have that floor space.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:44 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have a shikibuton-style futon (except mine is all cotton) directly on my carpeted floor and it is in the running for best bed I've ever had. It's crazy comfortable, and cost me about $160 from a local futon-maker in my area. When I looked at them online, they were about $250. Plus, the futon-maker went over exactly what I wanted in detail and let me haggle him down some as well. I highly recommend this method (both the bed and the purchase.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming meagre budget here. You can get a full-size futon mattress from Overstock for around $100. If that's too much, hunt around the internet and stalk Craigslist but geeze, bedbugs... I wouldn't.

You can place that futon pallets, but milk crates are better because they give you precious underbed storage. To provide a firm platform for your bed, you can either really tightly ziptie the milk crated together, or more optionally top with a sheet of plywood or bed slats.

You can also get firm foam (like normal furniture foam, not stupid memory foam) cut to single or double bed size really cheaply, and it will be firm but it will also hold heat and personally I can't deal. YMMV.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:51 PM on October 28, 2013

Yes, shikibuton or actual Japanese-style roll-up futon.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:53 PM on October 28, 2013

Best answer: I've posted about it before on similar threads on the green, but when i had to make the best of a VERY small room i ended up building a home-made loft bed for various reasons. It was very, very cheap. Around $60 for all the materials including a big pack of screws, a drill bit, a $3 saw from daiso japan(of the wood cutting toothed thin straight bladed "japanese saw" variety), and a basic thrift store drill(which was a craftsman, and turned out to actually be decent). On a scale of 1/10 from "microwaving a hot pocket" to "back breaking short handled hoe labor in the fields" i'd say the cutting+assembly process was like... a 6. I got sweaty as fuck and had to take a bunch of breaks. But i'm also a computer nerd whose not in amazing shape and just had a lot of hubris about the whole thing. I did all the chopping outside the front door of the place and all the assembly in the room. Bring a vacuum, sawdust abound with the drilling. I will note that the cost of materials didn't include bed slats, but i recovered those from a free bed frame that was getting trashed.

The end result ruled. The under-bed area became 100% of my storage space, and could have served as any number of other things and was occasionally reconfigured as such. I threw a giant beanbag down there and let friends crash on it, watched tv/hung out in my "fort" down there, aformentioned storage, mini music studio... i kinda regret not just sliding my dresser under the thing, or setting up a desk down there. But i had already come up with solutions for those things. Both at once would have been possible with some clever positioning.

The actual bed itself was the CHEAPEST ikea foam mattress which was their weird proprietary "full" size cut down with an electric turkey carver, and a brandless cheap memory foam topper cut the same way. It was honestly one of the more comfortable beds i've ever slept on and impressed several people who stayed over/crashed on it when i was out of town/etc. It was seriously the $99, or maybe the $149 ikea special. The topper was something hilariously cheap like $25 at some bed/bath/beyond type places clearance area. I cut it down to something slightly larger than a double to fit in a walk in closet i used to use as a "bedroom", and just kept it for over a year after i moved out of that place. I realized that somewhere between a twin/double and a full is the optimal size for one person and for two people if the occasional partner-person stays over and you don't mind being a bit cuddly.

I will note that the resulting bed was definitely towards the firm end of the spectrum, but i like that and you stated you do as well. Don't let the memory foam thing deceive you, that was simply a top layer that added a bit of give to it while the base layer was still quite firm.

I also hung velvet theater curtains from the thrift store around the whole thing in such a way as to make it look like a four-poster bed with the curtains drawn. It looked surprisingly classy inside and out for what it was, although upon opening the curtains you'd notice a bunch of raw-lumber handywork.

I used the cheapest thrift store step-ladder for ingress/egress and stowed it underneath when i wasn't actively sleeping. worked great, and saved on both cost, space wasted and the potential eyesore of having a permanent fixed ladder somewhere on the thing.

As a closing note on the whole thing, i honestly think a loft bed is the only logical option if you have a really small space unless you just don't want to have anything but a bed in there. A bed sitting right on the floor or on a normal bed frame of some sort is really sort of a luxury when it comes to space usage, and fairly serious inefficient use of the space. Seriously consider going up rather than going down, would be my advice. I did it both ways in that room and going up was such a huge improvement in a bajillion ways. The bed stayed cleaner, i didn't have to heat the room as much because the air is always warmer the higher up you go, i was able to tuck a lot more things away and make the room look tidier, i could go on.
posted by emptythought at 3:16 PM on October 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

During a short stint crashing with a friend, I slept on a camping cot plus a doubled over memory foam mattress topper. It's very narrow, but otherwise quite comfortable. It takes up very little space and can be stashed away in a closet easily if needed.
posted by ktkt at 3:21 PM on October 28, 2013

Best answer: Many moons ago I bought a $35 cotton "Brazillian style" hammock on eBay for my dorm room. I slept in that sucker every night for about five years, until my butt literally wore a hole in it. The most brilliant thing about it was that if it was in the way I could simply detach it at one end and roll it up to the wall. It was also eminently portable. I would definitely do it again. Some tips if you go this route:
  • Make sure you get the kind of hammock that does not have spreader bars, and is made from a solid sheet of fabric rather than a woven net. Backyard-style net hammocks with spreader bars are unsuitable for serious sleeping as they are tippy and the net cuts into your skin.
  • Get the biggest hammock you can. The bigger it is, the more you'll be able to stretch out and the flatter you can lie down. Make sure that your room has a dimension that is long enough that you can stretch out the hammock itself though, ideally at least a few feet longer than the hammock is.
  • The best way to mount a hammock indoors is with some big stainless steel eye lags screwed into studs in the wall, a couple of heavy-duty steel carabiners from the hardware store, and some stout rope. The best knots to use are a bowline to secure to the carabiner, and an adjustable taut-line hitch to secure to the hammock's loop. This makes it easy to attach and detach the hammock, and allows you to adjust the tension as needed. Pre-drill your holes for the eye lags, as a 3/8" steel lag can easily split a stud otherwise. When you move out you can just putty and paint over the holes.
  • When you lie down, do so diagonally and scootch yourself backwards a bit so that your head is a little higher than your feet. This will flatten the hammock underneath you and put you at a comfortable angle of repose. The hammock will cradle you and you will never ever fall out. After two or three nights this will feel like a perfectly natural way to sleep.
  • Try to hang your hammock such that it is not too high off the ground, which can make it difficult to get in. You want to be able to just stand up on tiptoes and sort of hook your butt over the edge. Ideally you should be able to sit in the middle with your feet hanging out like a swing and just touch the ground. Keep in mind though that the hammock will of course stretch and sag some when your body is in it. Don't hang it so low that your butt ends up on the floor. (This is where the adjustable taut-line hitch comes in handy, for dialing in the perfect height and tension.)
  • If it gets cold you may want to put a blanket underneath you as well as on top, because a hammock doesn't provide any insulation (unlike a mattress). Alternatively you can get a big blanket and just wrap yourself up like a burrito, or use a sleeping bag.
  • Ideally you want a wall or a piece of heavy furniture within reach so that you can push off of it and swing yourself back and forth. Mmmmmm, relaxing.
  • It is totally possible to screw in a hammock if it's big enough. However, your partner may have to be a little patient the first time around. Also, make sure your hammock is strong and securely mounted.
Hammock sleeping is great for small spaces, small budgets, and people who move a lot. They are cheap and comfortable and long-lasting, and they don't take up any space when you don't need them. Hundreds of millions of people around the world sleep in them every night, so it's perfectly doable. If you ever switch to a bed the hammock can be moved out to the yard for relaxing in good weather. The only potential downside is that you will eventually develop a reputation as that weird lady who sleeps in a hammock instead of a bed.
posted by Scientist at 3:52 PM on October 28, 2013 [27 favorites]

I should have mentioned that my shikibuton is a full, so if you only wanted a twin it would probably be even cheaper.
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:57 PM on October 28, 2013

You're probably not in the UK, but... I slept on two of these (one on top of the other) for a while in the period between moving from a furnished flat to my own house and having enough money saved back up to buy a bed. I guess they're shikibuton by another name. It was comfortable enough; I just prefer to sleep a bit higher up (and on a bed more than two feet wide). The house had a cement floor and I'd only been able to afford carpet tiles; with a suspended wooden floor and properly cushioned floor covering, sleeping on just one would probably have been fine.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:16 PM on October 28, 2013

I have a chair that has a fold out twin foam mattress. very simple, and folds right back up to a comfortable chair.
posted by theora55 at 4:20 PM on October 28, 2013

Seconding a hammock.

They have a bad reputation due to people sleeping in them wrong, and then wanting the spreading bars to help their improper sleeping position, which just makes it worse. People also tend to think you will end up sleeping with your butt hanging down low, like you're a banana, but if you sleep right, you sleep flat. Follow Scientist's advice and hammock's are great. I find I wake up less sore in a hammock.
posted by herox at 5:40 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you are not into building the bed then a simple platform bed can be assembled. I can vouch that the quality is quite good for this bed. Then the cheapest IKEA mattress or you can just get a 4 inch memory foam topper/mattress.
posted by jadepearl at 6:02 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks for all the great ideas! The shikibuton looks great for me! The hammock idea is also intriguing and I may keep that in mind for either now or later. The loft sounds great too, but the room I am looking at has a sloping ceiling so not sure it would fit.

I am still open to specific recommendations or general advice, and thanks again.
posted by bearette at 6:44 PM on October 28, 2013

Whatever you do I highly recommend raising the mattress off the ground at least enough for your feet to fit under it as you're making the bed. You'll also want to position the bed such that you can walk around three sides - again, greatly improves ease of making the bed. Also note that with any protruding wood frame around the bed your shins will pay sooner or later.
posted by Dragonness at 7:21 PM on October 28, 2013

Today I had to throw away my mattress, which was directly on the floor, because my body heat had caused it (and the floor) to sprout mould. Whatever you do, make sure your sleep surface is off the floor.
posted by windykites at 2:01 AM on October 29, 2013

Please don't use pallets, as suggested above. They are sprayed with toxic chemicals to repel bugs (since they are used in shipping and warehouses) and should not be used for furniture.
posted by agregoli at 6:10 AM on October 29, 2013

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