No boys allowed.
February 8, 2007 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Help me turn my bedroom into a sweet fort.

It's my first time sleeping on a lofted bed, and every time I walk in my room I see the bare bones of a potential fort. I am already on a waiting list to get a slide that will attach at the ledge and extend to the floor, and my roommate has kindly agreed to drill a hole in the wall separating our bedrooms in order to thread a string for our tin-can phones.

So now I'm on to details. I never had a fort as a kid, and our neighborhood was equally bereft of tree houses. What do you remember about those spaces that you especially liked, and what can I do to recreate that in a tiny Brooklyn apartment? Any insights or details you can think of to make this feel authentic, or just look awesome? Unfortunately, I don't have a way to upload any pictures of my bedroom, but my loft is twin-sized and under a relatively high ceiling.
posted by zoomorphic to Home & Garden (54 answers total) 113 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A secret hiding place is essential, as is some sort of dumb waiter from the ground to the fort.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on February 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Don't forget the "No Girlz Allowed" sign.
posted by spilon at 9:15 AM on February 8, 2007

Oh, nevermind... didn't see the post title. Doh!
posted by spilon at 9:15 AM on February 8, 2007

Best answer: I predict you're going to get a lot of marriage proposals in this thread. Alas, I'm already taken.


When building forts out of furniture, it's traditional to use couch cushions and blankets for the walls. Cardboard, especially from large boxes, works and also has the advantage that you can draw on it.

For defense purposes, you'll want to keep a stockpile of balled-up socks, a squirt gun, and perhaps a rolled up newspaper.

For entertainment you'll want to keep a flashlight, preferably with a red lens to add an element of eeriness.

Glow-in-the-dark stars should be stuck all over the interior.
posted by bondcliff at 9:19 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You'll probably want to rig some kind of defense system involving concertina wire and claymores. Or at least warning signs. And you need to name your fort and post appropriate signage, e.g. Fortress of Solitude, Fort Blackheart, the Outpost of Doom, etc.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 9:21 AM on February 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

You should have scary gargoyles in addition to a "keep out" sign riddles with fake bulletholes and/or blood. Popples or plastic dinosaurs sharpied to look menacing or fangified with tinfoil do the trick.

You also need a tapedeck. With a microphone. You can make demo tapes for your rockstar future or play tricks on people with it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:23 AM on February 8, 2007

Best answer: A good fort should take design elements from all the different sort of outlaw habitats that have come before it. Here is my short list: trapdoor, moat + drawbridge, some sort of sheet to hang over it with a castle painted on it, crows nest, telescope or binoculars, secret hiding place, pulley system for turning lights on and off, you've got the communication system handled, assloads of pillows, secret lights and switches for same, stickers, porn stash, mosquito netting privacy screen.
posted by jessamyn at 9:27 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Definitely an alarm system. I had a weight that was lowered when the door was opened, ringing one of those hotel-clerk bells.
posted by solotoro at 9:28 AM on February 8, 2007

You'll probably want to post this xkcd cartoon somewhere in there. I also think a ball-pit would be super awesome, even if it was a small one. I'm picturing something the size of a bathtub where you could sit in a pile of colored plastic balls and throw them at your roommate. Put paper or cardboard or something up on the walls so you can graffiti to your heart's content, too. If you can track down a telescope or binoculars, they'd be good to have, especially if you mounted them on the rail of your loft bed with some kind of swivel-action.
posted by vytae at 9:29 AM on February 8, 2007

Best answer: It's awesome that you want to do that. What's even more awesome is you have a roommate willing to help AND communicate via tin can.

You'll want a pulley system so you can open the entrance of the fort from the inside (pull the rope, the door lifts/falls/swings open). It won't really do anything, but it's cool. That's the main point.

I think you need to determine what kind of fort this is. Is it a castle type? Military bunker? In the event of the castle, you need to be able to get outside but above the fort so you can tell your roommate that his father smells of elderberries whenever he passes by your room. You can fling cushions as needed to mimic a cow throwing catapult. If it's a military fort, you need need NEED army soldiers to protect the grounds, and if you've the stomach for them, MREs for those times that you're under siege and can't leave the fort. In any case, silly string is always a good thing, with or without the fort.

Above anything else mentioned in this thread, you're going to have to use your imagination. You're just an adult in a pile of pillows and sheets otherwise, and that is not fun.
posted by sephira at 9:39 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A good fort needs a theme. Pirate Haven? Space Station? Jungle Hut? Pick one and go with it.

I think "Jungle" would be right for you. You can get fake plastic vines at your local craft store to totally camoflage your fort (what's better than a fort? A secret fort.) so that when people walk into your room they see nothing but a large hedge.

Also, you can hunt ducks from your bed, which would be the basis of an exciting new career.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:39 AM on February 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

For added effect you may want to consider having your mom come over around dinner time, stand in the kitchen, and yell "Zoomorphic, what the hell did you do with all my cushions!"
posted by ASM at 9:41 AM on February 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Jolly Roger or some similarly fearsome flag so everyone knows they're dealing with a pro.
posted by sonofslim at 9:42 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Periscope, controversial reading material, and a swing (it sounds like you have the room and you may want to have some fun when the coast is clear).
posted by cocoagirl at 9:42 AM on February 8, 2007

Best answer: You need a stash of comic books!

And flashlights for reading ditto after-hours. Blankets should be draped (from the ceiling?) to 'hide' the light, but mosquito netting will probably create the desired aesthetic, too.

And I'm not trying to crap on this at all -- I think it's a great idea -- but. I spent my childhood whinging at my parents every year (on the arrival of the new Ikea catalogue) for a loft bed.

"You'll grow out of it in no time, think it's for babies, and we'll just have to get you another new bed in no time."

So, in my 20s, I showed them, and got a double loft bed.

And grew out of it in a couple of years...

But, back to the question. The bed-fort should be a self-contained habitat to some extent. Hang things on string from the ceiling and walls -- a pen, flashlight, box of condoms, etc. Put your teevee at bed height. Keep jars of candy up there. (Actually, that's precisely what I thought of when I read "sweet fort.") You should probably stop short of a piss jug, but you get the idea.
posted by kmennie at 9:53 AM on February 8, 2007

Huge bean bag chair underneath.

I just made a bunk bed into a castle with merely a large sheet of plywood with windows and a door cut into it, then painted. (it also has turrets and trim, but they're nonessential). The transformation is amazing.

So yeah, second deciding what theme you want to go with. But if you do cover up the side as I did, you'll want windows (jail bars? curtains? mini-mini-blinds? Arrow loops?) And then since it'll be dark, you'll want really cool lighting (lava lamp? light rope? Chinese lanterns?)
posted by artifarce at 9:56 AM on February 8, 2007

Response by poster: -Comic books: check (though they're heavily outnumbered by graphic novels as I did just turn 23).
-Bookshelf with all my lit, writing utensils, alarm clock, condoms: check
-Chinese lanterns: check, once my friend shows me how to make them (paging mefite: soma lkzx)
-Dumb Waiter! That's the word I was looking for.
-Rope pulley for the door, what a brilliant idea.
-Couch cushions are so very essential: check.

Keep 'em coming!
posted by zoomorphic at 10:07 AM on February 8, 2007

While you probably shouldn't actually steal lumber from building sites to build it, scrap wood should be a prominent building material.
posted by TedW at 10:38 AM on February 8, 2007

Well, if you need plans for a trapdoor anywhere, here are some and here is a weighted counterbalance for the trap door.

If I had known about headlamps when I was a kid, I would definitely have two of those in my fort--one for me and one for a friend. And a swing. And a climbing wall.
posted by jeanmari at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2007

Lighting treatment, I think will be a good thing to think about. For example, you might want to wire up some CCF tubes under the bed frame, shaded so that they only project light down so you get a nice eerie glow.

You can also go with a Spinning Lamp Shade - I found a bunch that are premade, but they belong in a nursery or a grandmother's house. You don't want that. You want to make your own with skulls, warning messages, and other scary things.

Then there's always the laser light show.

Or a couple of police lights wouldn't hurt either. You know, in case there was an emergency.
posted by plinth at 10:51 AM on February 8, 2007

Way cheaper police light here.
posted by plinth at 10:53 AM on February 8, 2007

Every good fort needs a line of defense. I second the suggestion for a periscope. Or rather, a reverse periscope that will let you peek under your loft for friends, intruders, pillagers, scoundrels and buccaneers of sorts. And then you need the heavy artillery. Maybe you could mount a sock slingshot on the edge of the bed?

A tire swing or tarzan rope might be fun, too!

P.S. Can I come over when it's done?
posted by kmtiszen at 10:59 AM on February 8, 2007

I think you should put blacklights in it and then fill it with things that look pretty under blacklights. I also agree with the watergun idea, and maybe some waterballoons to throw at passers-by. I want a fort.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 11:19 AM on February 8, 2007

Best answer: The attraction to a fort isn't the fort iself, it's what it enables. Within it the outside world need not enter. It becomes a stage for the mind and everything it is capable of. Run with that. You'll need drapes (read: sheets) on all sides, including the back wall, various attachments mentioned above, but also the elements for your immagination:

* Glow in the dark stars and a warm blanket for those lonely but amazing nights on Omocron 7
* An AM radio so you can listen to heroic war reports from the front
* Puzzles, games, cookies and crackers to bide away the time while waiting for the nuclear winter to pass
* Clothes! After all, you're backstage preparing to walk out on the runway!


- 14 forts and I still remember them all! Beware the home contructed slingshots, bows, and arrows. That hurt a bit. ;-)
posted by jwells at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Agreeing that you definitely need a flag of some sort, possibly one declaring the sovereignty of the Serene Republic of Zoomorphica. Of course, then you'd have to put up some black-and-white striped sawhorses as a border checkpoint.

You should also come up with a theme song or anthem or fanfare for your fort.

It's my fort and it's the best
I sing my song with a bit of zest
You can enter if you pass this test
What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

posted by Midnight Creeper at 11:35 AM on February 8, 2007

Best answer: My buddy put together a ball pit for $300 or so; it was the size of 2 bathtubs or so, and probably 2x as deep. You can get the balls off of ebay.

NO EATING IN THE BALL PIT (we don't want to power wash balls)
No puking in the ball pit (see above)
Christening the ball pit is only allowed once per roommate.

They're also great for naps.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:38 AM on February 8, 2007 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah, metafilter. You guys have convinced my roommate to build a ball pit. Arguments over the utility bills shall be settled with waterballoons and sling shots. Which is how more things should be settled in this bureaucratic adult world.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:12 PM on February 8, 2007

Can you provide pics of the room as it is now? It's hard to visualize a proper fort without seeing what it looks like at present.
posted by dr_dank at 1:17 PM on February 8, 2007

You need a giant space mural!

And you totally need to invite me over to hang out.
posted by the jam at 2:33 PM on February 8, 2007

Strings of fairy lights.
Ex-boyfriend punching bag
Screaming animal slingshots
posted by BoscosMom at 3:47 PM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think this was mentioned- you need a tiny refrigerator for keeping a refreshing beverage for when you're celebrating victory over invaders.
posted by Area Control at 7:14 PM on February 8, 2007

A small shelf equipped with:
  • Can of beans, dented
  • Candle, 1 stub
  • Comic book, worn
  • Slingshot, with ammo, in case of attack by zombies, pirates or girls.

posted by SPrintF at 7:23 PM on February 8, 2007

My sister and I once tried to rig up a system where we could pull on a piece of string and have our stash of lollies come gliding down to us from their hiding place, since we weren't allowed lollies in bed. Alas, we failed, but maybe you can succeed!
posted by Persimmon at 9:18 PM on February 8, 2007

please post a picture of before and after!

Secret blanket and pillow tunnels in case you're totally overrun or need to get emergency supplies like popcorn or chips.

And don't forget to wire everything. What good would all this protection be, if you can't use your laptop to the outside world.
The cables you wire in? That's a real firewall.
posted by filmgeek at 11:28 PM on February 8, 2007

my favorite feature of my old treehouse was the ladder that could be raised from inside so no one else could come in the trap door. basically it was attached with hinges to the floor (or the side rail in your case) with a rope attached to the bottom rung which then went to a pully and inside the fort. and of course something to tie the rope to for when you pulled it up and a knot in the rope so when it is lowered it does not all go out.

personally i would also get a load of the camo mosquito netting from the army & navy store and surround the whole thing in it.

i had loft beds every year in college and would usually create some sort of fun room underneath, atari 2600, bean bag chairs, lots of teenis to drink.

i think video games are essential, the older school the better.

sounds rad!
posted by annoyance at 6:45 AM on February 9, 2007

When my daughter was little, I made many a fort on sick days for her. Her favorite attraction was that instead of using blankets to hang down and make the tent portion, I used my silk scarves--lots and lots of them pinned with clothespins-- the glitterier the better. The light shining through the scarves was very pretty.

Come to think of it, the effect (what with the velvet cushions and plates of delicate snacks) was more harem then fort.

One thing you need is a good light source (such as a lantern) and material (such as cardboard) to make shadow puppets.

Also, since you are in a loft, you need flying stuff: Boomerangs, balsa airplanes, electronic dirigibles.

You might want stuff to make badges. When I was 10, I belonged to the Boys Are Toads club for a whole day.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:51 AM on February 9, 2007

You could hang one of these above the bed - a friend had one when I was little and I always envied it mightily. Note they also come in other styles, which you can find by searching for "hideaway."
posted by emmastory at 10:49 AM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Marry me.
No boys allowed.

Growing up my brothers had a train track that traveled between the two bedrooms [you gotta cut a couple holes in the walls for the trains]. Think Mr. Roger's Neighborhood Trolley. Good for passing notes.
posted by yeti at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2007

Best answer: Water guns and water balloons, while effective, often cause unacceptable collateral damage, which strategically relegates them to weapons of last resort. If your opponent is similarly armed, you're likely to end up restrained by the doctrine of Mutually Assured Drenching, which has the value of minimizing combat casualties, but simultaneously precludes quick resolution of smaller disputes. A more comprehensive defensive arsenal will include two other weapon types:
  1. Rubber band guns. These have three primary benefits: longer range, inexpensive ammunition, and very precise targeting. Useful as a first line of defense.
  2. Nerf dart guns. The value of these weapons is as much psychological as tactical. The projectiles feature suction cup warheads, allowing for triple use in offensive action, warning shots and small payload delivery (such as peace treaties).
Also: marry me.
posted by gsteff at 2:39 PM on February 9, 2007

What about booby-traps? Sure your fort is impregnable when you are in residence, but how do you keep people from raiding your coveted comic-book/lolly stash when you leave for work?

A multi-layered system of dead-falls, snares and tripwire-triggered Nerf weaponry is probably the way to go. At the very least you should have something to trigger an alarm. Extra points for a trap which marks the intruder such that you can identify them upon your return.
posted by Ritchie at 6:46 PM on February 9, 2007

I built an awesome adult fort one time this summer I got a bit into LSD and mescaline. I have fond memories of that weekend. Hmmmm too bad I have a date tomorrow night, lol.
posted by autodidact at 12:58 AM on February 10, 2007

definitely need a computer hooked up in there so you can have a webcamera security camera keeping watch on the outer perimeter.

the lighting is key.

you should get an assload of thin fabric and staple it to the ceiling so it hangs like persian veils. I second an assload of pillows.

a collection of scary and cheesy movies < very>
whatever the means of entrance to the fort - you need to be able to retract it via pully.

lastly, i strongly recommend tons of hiding places and nooks for life's tiny treasures.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 3:24 AM on February 10, 2007

Best answer: yeti: "Marry me.
No boys allowed.

In my experience, such signs were only usually applicable to the icky boys.

Cool boys could sometimes get a free pass for the odd game of Patients and Nurses.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:39 AM on February 10, 2007

When I was in high school, Shfishp and I along with others built a fort inside a portable thrust stage. The best design elements that I can remember were: A series of ropes and pulleys that would undo the latch that locked the entrance, the latch being inside the fort but unlockable from the outside if you knew the secret location of the opener. The door sat flush against the wall like any good secret passageway. There were also a couple of secret storage spaces in the walls, a peep hole to keep a vigilant lookout (that could be covered by a pallette someone stole from art class), and of course, a painting of a cowboy riding a unicorn. And now I'll say "secret" one more time. Secret.
posted by Ohdemah at 12:16 PM on February 10, 2007

More from xkcd.
posted by epugachev at 12:44 PM on February 10, 2007

Brooklyn, hmm? I hope you live in Fort Greene.

You need a series of tubes. I borrow my nephews' now and then.
posted by moonmilk at 1:59 PM on February 11, 2007

Cardboard robot guards.

Nobody messes with cardboard robot guards.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 2:59 PM on February 11, 2007

Mr. McGroovy's box rivets are indispensible for the fort-making...
posted by sexyrobot at 1:14 AM on February 12, 2007

You need to blog every step of the process. The revenue generated from Adsense will probably more than cover the cost of making the fort.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:59 AM on February 12, 2007

When coming up with ideas for what to put in your fort, I couldn't help but think of the classic example of teacher pulling out the desk drawer to forever expel another item of classroom contraband from the hands of a mischevious prankster. I pictured the drawer to include classics such as; some jacks and a rubber ball, a dirty magazine, a yo-yo, a slingshot, wind-up chattery teeth, a switchblade (or switchblade comb), a whoopie cushion, a cap gun (do they still make those?), x-ray spex, and a frog.

I can't stress enough the importance of loading the entrance up with "keep out," "go away," and "no trespassing" signs. The reason for this is mainly psychological. Visitors will feel truly honored to be welcomed in to such a hostile environment and will be more apt to respect your territory.

Also, my fort is strewn with wacky game mounts. They're awesome.

Homemade weapons are a must. Big sticks sharpened on the sidewalk into spears, big sticks with nails coming out of them...big sticks.

A cool collection will further impress everyone who is going to be so jealous of your awesome fort. Try baseball cards, bottlecaps, or boogers.

For further research be sure to watch Hook, The Sandlot, The Little Rascals, and Lord of the Flies.
posted by Demogorgon at 3:08 PM on February 12, 2007

Slumber party at zoomorphic's house!
posted by deborah at 1:33 PM on February 13, 2007

My bedroom has a hanging Chinese lantern at the center of the ceiling. Radiating out from it are a series of LED Christmas lights intertwined with craft-store fake vines and gauzy maroon fabric. We've also got four or five bunches of craft-store plastic grapes hanging from the vines. Oh, and one Hallmark Spider-Man ornament.

The general effect is one of unending awesomeness. The plus side of a hanging lantern is that the switch is on the cord, so you could control your lighting from your bed. If you're willing to spend a little more, you can find one that's cloth instead of paper -- though I looked around and found one that was only ten bucks because one of the seams was broken.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:00 PM on February 13, 2007

Ours had a trap door (on the floor) that opened to reveal a very large, manmade swamp (mud-hole) in order to instill a sense of fear in potential turn-coats. Also....rotating passwords were a big help. Good luck, you're going to have a blast in your fort and I'm sure most of us here would love to see pictures of the completed project.
posted by winks007 at 7:46 AM on February 14, 2007

Response by poster: Hey guys! I know this was a while ago, but for posterity's sake I'm posting me and my roommate's blog about this process. Pictures aren't up yet, but they're short in coming. Thanks so much for everyone's help!
posted by zoomorphic at 7:41 AM on February 22, 2007

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