This post shares Ramona’s new big girl bed, a DIY toddler house bed frame! I’m using existing plans for a simple house bed frame and modifying them to add a headboard, a footboard, and simple toddler bed railings using 2x4s to keep her safely in bed.
How to Build a Stunning DIY Toddler House Bed Frame
I am so freaking excited to share this project with you guys! I have shared a few peeks on Instagram, but it’s taken me forever to write this post up. And get all of the pics I need. Life, you know? And it’s a long post!
First I am going to talk about the inspiration behind R’s big girl bed and link to a few sources. Then I’ll share the plan I used to build the DIY toddler house bed frame. After that, I’ll chat about how I added a headboard, a footboard, and safety railings to the build. So let’s get to it!
Inspiration for Ramona’s Big Girl Bed
I eyed the Design Confidential’s and Rain and Pine’s house bed plans for a while. I also ventured over to Etsy to check out some plans. The Etsy shop Plan Cue seems to have a decent lock on the house bed plans market, and their plans are really affordable. Here are a few I was eyeing:
- Raised house bed with roof and rails
- Floor house bed with rails
- Raised toddler bed with roof on one side
Ultimately, however, I decided I wanted the bed to be raised off the floor a bit. I really liked the house bed plans from Amy at Her Tool Belt for Remodelaholic. (Amy also has plans for a full-sized version on her blog.) My friend Leigh Anne over at Houseologie also decided to build these plans. I’ve been eyeing this project of hers for years, so it’s fitting to finally be building it. 🙂 Here’s a shot of hers.
I knew I wanted to make some modifications to this plan, though. I wanted to add a headboard, a footboard, and safety rails like the ones on some of the plans linked above. After hopping over to YouTube, I found this video from Land to House. Honestly, it was the approach I was going to take for a while (except raising the bed off the floor).
However, I was stressing a bit about all of the extra work creating the vertical railings. Mike also wasn’t big on the “crib” feeling the vertical slats gave, and since we want to keep her in this bed for a while, I definitely agree.
At Charlotte’s House made a simple bed railing for her son’s bed that I loved. It didn’t have that vertical slatted crib look. This floor bed on Etsy—and this one—both had simple horizontal railings as well. So I ran with that idea!
How I Built Ramona’s Twin-Sized House Bed Frame
First I got to work building the frame using Amy’s plans on Remodelaholic. The thing I like the most about this build is that it uses mostly 2×4 lumber, so that really helps keep costs down! Here’s a full supply list for what I used to build this house bed frame:
- For house bed frame: See Amy’s plans on Remodelaholic
- For headboard, footboard, and safety railings: See steps 5 and 6 of this tutorial
- 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws
- Wood screws
- Assorted sanding discs
- Wood glue
- Measuring tape and pencil
- Safety glasses, gloves, mask
- Wood filler
- Paintable caulk
- Sherwin-Williams paint in Basalt Powder, eggshell finish
- Fairy lights (mine are leftover lights from our Christmas tree)
For more kids projects, check out my dollhouse bookcase build, my modern kids table and chairs, my DIY water play table, Ramona’s awesome DIY dollhouse, my toddler step stool, my DIY rock or sand play box, and Ramona’s nursery!
Step 1: Cut and polish pieces
Mike picked up all of the lumber we needed for the project and did all of the cuts one day while I was at work. Because, bless him. However, there’s a tradeoff with using mostly 2x4s, and that tradeoff is that they require some love to look presentable.
We got to sanding, taking turns with an 80-grit disc on our orbital sander so our hands didn’t fall off. Then we worked all the way down to a 220-grit to polish the pieces up nicely. Any remaining bad spots, knots, cracks, or holes I filled with wood filler and sanded smooth. That slowed us down a bit, but I definitely think it’s worth it for a polished final product.
We did all of this work in the evenings after Ramona went to bed. After all of the pieces were ready to go, I labeled each one, marking which side I wanted to put pocket holes in as we went.
Step 2: Drill pocket holes and assemble “house” sides
I used my cute little Kreg Tool 320 to drill pocket holes as outlined in the plan. We did have to adjust pocket hole placement where the two angled “roof” pieces meet. Instead of the two holes the plan outlines, we did one hole and wood glue and then several reinforcing nails with a nail gun for good measure. 🙂
I recommend using clamps to attach everything together. It can be really difficult to keep things flush, especially with angles, when screwing pieces together. For us, the best solution was me drilling, a clamp, and Mike holding everything steady.
Step 3: Heading upstairs for house bed assembly
My parents took R for the night so we could knock out assembly. Since this piece is so large, it wasn’t could to fit up our stairs. There was just no way. So we carried the house-shaped sides upstairs along with the horizontal pieces to attach everything together to make the frame.
This is definitely a two-person job, but the second person doesn’t have to be terribly handy. They just need to be reasonably strong to hold things up and in place. And they have to take direction. We knocked out assembly pretty quickly. Note that we opted out of the chimney add-on. After a thorough inspection from Henry, we called it a job well done. Except…
House Bed Problem solving…
You know that point in big projects where you’re like, “shit, what have we gotten ourselves into?!” That was us right after we assembled the bed. I had taken measurements and knew where I wanted to put it, but the thickness of the 2x4s, the height of the house-shaped canopy, and the shape of R’s room made the bed look…HUGE.
I immedaitely panicked, actually thinking we’d have to dissassemble the bed and take it to my parents house for their guest bedroom instead. <cries laughing and also cries> But Mike knows me well when I get in these downward spirals. He is the voice of reason. He looked at me and said, “why don’t we just put it in the corner instead?”
Jesus, Mike…why do you have to be so sensible? That’s one of my problems when I’m doing projects. I get an idea stuck in my head, and I can have a hard time deviating from it or problem-solving when things don’t go the way I had my heart set on. I honestly just didn’t ever think about putting it in the corner because I didn’t think it would look good with the blackout curtains. And there’s a vent I didn’t want to cover.
But we tried it out and it looked downright awesome. So we decided to roll with it and just get an attachment for the vent to direct the air out from under her bed. (At this point I was EXTRA happy I’d opted for a raised version instead of a floor bed!)
Step 4: Finishing and Painting the twin-sized house bed frame
Once we’d decided on a spot, I got to work patching any additional areas that needed patched. I also used paintable caulk to fill in some of the joint areas that didn’t look very polished. We opted for the version without a box spring, so we added the rails to support the mattress slats. We decided to use furring strips to save some cash for this. I also added more screws than the plan recommended because I’m paranoid. 🙂
Painting was a breeze. I used a can of paint I had in the garage. It’s the same color on the walls in our downstairs powder room, and we also used it on the murphy bed. Basalt Powder by Sherwin-Williams. It’s an off-white with gray tones, not beige. I think it looks lighter downstairs in the bathroom and on the murphy bed. A bit more of the gray comes out in R’s room, which I love.
I used a brush to get all of the corners and a roller for quick maximum coverage on the majority of the bed. This job required two coats to hide all of the knots. I didn’t use a primer because this paint is a paint and primer in one. A primer probably would have meant I’d only need one coat of paint, but I already had the paint on hand, so why not use that up?
Step 5: Adding the bed frame’s headboard and footboard
The bed frame looked really freaking cute, but I felt it needed some additional support. We picked up some extra 2x4s and cut them as follows:
- Headboard: (2) 35 1/2″ pieces
- Footboard: (1) 35 1/2″ piece
Then we repeated the sanding, pocket hole drilling, patching, and painting. I opted for attaching two to be the headboard and one to be the footboard. Each pieces is attached using two pocket holes on each end.
The headboard is very functional. I read to R in bed a lot, and it’d be impossible without the headboard. It’s up against the wall, but with the frame, the mattress isn’t flush with the wall. So you need something to lean up against. This was a simple and cost-effective solution.
The footboard is more for looks and to further shore up the frame. (Any wiggling makes me paranoid!) It was also to give a more “closed in” feeling and discourage her from climbing out of the bed at the foot of it. I mean, she easily can if she wants to, so that’s why I call it more for looks and only kind of functional.
Step 6: Adding the toddler safety rails
In the beginning of this post, I talked about the inspiration for the frame and the toddler safety rails. What I didn’t note is that we ran out of time before getting R back from my parents, so we couldn’t tackle the safety railings. We decided to order bed bumpers on Amazon.
These nifty things go on top of the mattress under the mattress protector and fitted sheet. Then the kid sleeps between them. (Please note that these are NOT recommend for children under 2 for suffocation-related reasons.) They work pretty well and are no doubt cozy, but we felt that they were just kind of annoying.
They really decreased the amount of space in a twin bed, making it really difficult for me to get in bed and read with her. Actually, they made it impossible. She is still in diapers, too, and we sometimes changes her on the end of her bed. The bumpers made that difficult. I think these would be a great solution for a full-sized bed or for travel.
So what did we go with for the DIY house bed safety railings?
Back to Home Depot we went. We came up with a simple “fence” construction made of 2×4 and 2×2. Here are the measurements we used:
- A piece: (1) 2″ x 4″ x 46″
- B piece: (1) 2″ x 4″ x 77″
- C piece: (1) 2″ x 2″ x 46″
- D piece: (1) 2″ x 2″ x 49 1/2″
For each of these pieces, I used my Kreg Tool 320 to drill two pocket holes on the ends. I made sure to mark the side I wanted to be the “pretty” side so I could drill the holes on the other side.
To construct the railing, we used a level and attached piece B, the long piece, along the inside of the bed. We wanted one side to be completely closed off. As I mentioned with the headboard, the mattress isn’t totally flush up against the wall, so we wanted to prevent her from rolling down between the wall and the mattress.
Then, we measured 46″ from the head of the bed (for pieces A and C) and screwed piece D, the vertical “doorway” piece of 2×2 into place. Once that was securely in place, we added pieces A and C. A, the 2×4, was on top in line with the bottom piece on the headboard. C, the 2×2, filled with gap between piece A and the base of the bed frame.
The finished DIY Toddler House Bed Frame with safety railings
Honestly? I really think the railings add an awesome extra touch. They aren’t even just for safety—they make the bed feel more “fort-like” in addition to keeping R in bed! They also help to further stabilize the entire structure from any wiggling. Like I said, I am paranoid. This thing is a fortress now.
The painted color is perfect, and I love the lavender sheets and cute black and white comforter with everything. I moved her hanging plant to be over the bed and wound the pothos vines around some of the bed frame. It looks lovely.
After Christmas, I threw up some extra Christmas lights just for fun. Not sure if I’ll keep them. For now they are securely in place if you’re wanting to volunteer parenting advice about strangulation hazards. 🙂 And they look magical! Someone on Instagram described it as “fairy-like” with the plants and lights, and I can get on board with that.