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Cosy Box Beds and Bed Nooks are an Amazing Solution for Small Rooms

These bed nook ideas from Instagram will make you want to curl up and get cosy as soon as possible

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By House & Garden | January 24, 2024 | Design

Both supremely inviting and incredibly practical, box beds are the perfect solution for small spaces. We've gathered our favourite design ideas plus advice from the designers who do them best.

It's a common design conundrum: what to do with small bedrooms or box rooms when you want to make them comfortable and inviting for a guest (or a child), but there just doesn't seem to be enough room for the requisites, i.e. a bed plus bedside tables plus storage furniture. As is usually the answer when faced with awkward spaces, the best answer is to opt for built-in furniture rather than freestanding, and once that decision is made, we quickly arrive at a very charming design ideas, the box bed or bed nook.

“I do love a built in bed nook,” says Tiffany Duggan of Studio Duggan, who used one on the top floor of a Chelsea house she recently designed above). “In addition to adding a playful and cocooning feel, they are an excellent tool when it comes to the layout of a small bedroom. We often design storage into built-in beds – drawers below the mattress, little built in bookcases or secret cupboards and wardrobes to the side panels.” Georgina Cave, who designed a smart example for the spare room at her own house, agrees. 'By tucking the bed neatly along the back wall and across the width of the room this design works perfectly for small spaces, utilising every inch in terms of storage and practicality, whilst making the room feel more spacious as well as adding interest to the overall style."

If you're wondering if you have the space to add one at home, most standard beds in the UK are 190cm long, so if your room is around two metres in width, you should be able to squeeze one in. Box beds are particularly handy in attics and spaces with pitched ceilings, as you can build the box out from the ceiling, giving the illusion of more space. Sarah Peake of Studio Peake did this very successfully in a south London project, above, where the ceiling of the child's room had a very severe angle, making it impossible to stand in the lowest part of the room. Her response was to put in a single bed below the window, and build out a nook up to the angle of the ceiling.

A little extra space at the foot or head of the bed for storage, as Georgina has incorporated below, is an excellent bonus, although not an absolute must, as shelving can easily be added on the walls. “We designed this built in bed with full length drawers below and handy lift up cubby holes at its foot to create the required extra clothes and games storage in this bedroom, which was originally destined for my son," explains Georgina. "We incorporated a slatted base for breathability to take a double mattress, adding an upholstered velvet headboard for comfort, characterful vintage brass hardware and shelves in the recess for books and memorabilia.”

In addition to being practical, such beds can be absolutely packed with charm, and when made into a true nook with the addition of wallpaper, fabric and curtains, serve as inviting retreats from the rest of the house. In this respect, the master of the box bed has to be Veere Grenney, who frequently incorporates sumptuous designs in the smaller bedrooms of his projects. Beautiful curtains are the hallmark of his bed designs, made up in exquisite printed fabrics or soft wools. Wall lights and bookshelves adorn the interiors, so that they take on the feel of a room within a room, and fabrics often line the inside walls to intensify that idea.

“Wallpapering or upholstering the inside of the nook – (ceiling too!) is a lovely little touch to make it feel extra cosy,” says Tiffany. "I quite like built in beds to feel a little matchy-matchy either by choosing one small scale print for the walls, headboard and blind, or by running with a limited colour palette. It’s also a great opportunity to match the bed curtains with a blind.”

Adding shelves, lighting and cushions can make the box bed into a self-sufficient world of its own, which will be particularly appealing for children. “A little locally switched wall light to the side of the headboard is also a lovely touch,” adds Tiffany, “and a small shelf with space for a book and a glass of water is very practical, space permitting. In a child’s room it is a good idea to add a headboard against the length of the bed too to transform the space into a secret spot to chat with friends.” Adding a footboard is also a good idea, as our former Decoration Editor Gabby Deeming says, “the foot of a mattress meeting bare wall would look unfinished.” If you don't want to build out the box entirely, or hang curtains, a canopy like the one she created for her Bloomsbury flat (below) is a great idea to bring a sense of enclosure to the bed without building anything new.

At Gabby Deeming's London flat, the box bed has a double headboard and footboard from The Dormy House that are the same height – the symmetry works well with the canopy, and the foot of a mattress meeting bare wall would look unfinished. A canopy in ‘Genevieve’ by Les Indiennes creates a further barrier between the wall and headboard, and has the magical effect of looking as though it is about to set sail. This type of bed is a great excuse to indulge in beautiful textiles. The loose headboard covers are in ‘Janna’ by Namay Samay, just on the visible sides for economy and so they can easily be swapped for a change. The lampshade and cushion are from Susan Deliss.

“I like to position the bed against a window wall if possible,” continues Tiffany, “as I love bringing a window into the nook to create a lovely view from the bed. Gabby Deeming's version above is excellent inspiration for this placement. “Skinny bedrooms are a pain as, inevitably, one side of the bed ends up against a wall,” says Gabby. “I was inspired to put it across the width of the room and against the window by great examples from Katie Ridder and Veere Grenney. This squares off the narrow room and the windowsill provides a bedside table, while the window itself eliminates that claustrophobic feeling.” If you don't have a conveniently placed window, try hanging pictures on the back to break up the expanse of wall.

If you're wondering how on earth to change the sheets in a bed nook, Tiffany notes that this needs to be taken in to account at the planning stage. “One important tip is to make sure you leave enough room around the mattress to easily change the sheets. Also curtains also tend to work better to the outside of the recess where they don’t get mudded up in the bedlinen!"

This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK.

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