If there is one thing that my experience has taught me, it has been that space comes at a premium. That is especially true with storage within an apartment or home.
Organizing my closet space and making use of dressers only went so far. I learned that making use of unused space, like that underneath the bed, helped a lot.
Buying or building under-bed storage can optimize space, keep things more organized, and save you money on other storage options in or outside of your home.
Under-bed storage ideas include using milk crates, using a trundle frame or plywood on casters, building drawers, adding a hinge for raising a platform to access underneath and buying or building a headboard and footboard with shelves and drawers.
Buying Boxes Or Crates
When I moved into my first apartment, I did not have a lot of furniture. I used milk crates to store things under my bed. They were cheap and easy to find.
I also used plastic storage totes. You can get them anywhere, and they can stack securely on top of each other, helping you stay organized.
These work fine for spaces under small beds, but they can move and become hard to reach under large bed frames. I like the storage totes since they work in other areas around the house.
Can you build one yourself?
You can, but why? Honestly, the pre-made options are affordable (you might find some milk crates for free, see more about using milk crates and where to find them in my article here) and designed to stack. Milk crates and plastic tubs offer a variety of storage options to cover any need.
The only people who might want to build this type of storage are woodworkers who like to make things. Designs using butt joinery (typically one board meets another and fastened together) are adequate, as long as you add fasteners to glued edges.
If you want to make some open-topped boxes, use project boards, plywood, or free pallet wood (find free pallets I use at these locations listed in my article).
Sliding Storage Options
Many bed frames have open space beneath the mattress. The head and footboard are the only points of contact with the floor. That leaves open sides that you can use for sliding storage options.
Buying a trundle bed base
When I am short on time, I do not hesitate to buy something that I can build. Several stores and online retailers offer trundle bed bases.
These are smaller frames with wheels that slide beneath your bed frame. They take up most of the room under your bed and hold extra mattresses. In the past, I have used the frame to hold storage boxes and bags.
Remember to buy storage containers that rest on the trundle and clear the bottom of your bed frame. Those vacuum storage bags can save space and protect items like blankets or seasonal clothing you want to store.
You can keep the space beneath the bed uncovered for easy access to the trundle base. A long comforter or bedspread can hang to the floor if you want to keep your storage out of sight. You can read more about trundle beds in my article here.
Can you build one yourself?
Absolutely! Plywood sheeting is a good option here, as you will not have to worry about seasonal wood movement due to fluctuating humidity. Some strips of molding and some caster wheels are the only other materials you will need.
- Start with measurements – Layout the trundle on your plywood sheet. Keep the length and width small enough to fit under the bed with an extra inch or two on all sides.
- Cut the plywood to size – Use a circular saw to dimension the plywood. You can also have someone cut the sheet at the store if you do not have a saw.
- Install molding along the edges – Buy some cheap corner molding made from wood. Cut the molding to size (use mitered edges so that the pieces meet at a 90-degree angle at the corners). Use wood glue or fasteners to hold it in place (it prevents your items from falling off the trundle).
- Drill holes for casters and install – Mark holes and drill them out for bolts to secure the casters. Install one in each corner and add more in the mid-section if you are storing heavy items. Remember to use washers on the top of the plywood and keep the bolt pointing down.
Read my article about how to build a pallet bed here and a minimalist one here.
Trundle storage with added drawers
A twist to the trundle design above is products that include extra sliding doors. These provide a support surface for a mattress with drawers beneath.
The trundle uses a fake drawer front on the outer edge of the mattress storage to help hide it. It provides a solid frame appearance, looking more elegant than an open trundle design.
Hinged Storage Options
Throughout my years of renting, I lived in places with no room. It might be impossible to make use of sliding storage. If that is the case, you can contemplate storage with hinged access.
Hinged bed frame
The only hinged bed frame that you can buy will be a folding bed design. These will not provide hidden storage space, but it shrinks the bed’s footprint when it is not in use.
You can add a hinged-access point on the bed frame. That allows you to store items below the mattress while providing an access point from above. The mattress covers the access point when you are not using it.
Instead, you will have to make a hinged bed frame. You will use a 1/2-inch thick sheet of laminated birch plywood. Two long metal hinges will provide access beneath the panel.
- Dimension the plywood – It needs cut to fit into the metal or wood frame where you place the support slats. You can have gaps around the edges, but the boards must sit on the frame to support the mattress.
- Cut the panel – For single and double bed frames, I would suggest cutting it in half. Queen or king-sized frames are big enough that you might want to cut the plywood into three sections.
- Add hinges – Use metal hinges and install them so that you can swing the panel sections up.
- Add finger holes – Drill a hole large enough to stick a couple of fingers into, and make sure it is near the edge opposite the hinges. You can use these holes to help lift the panel section.
The 1/2-inch plywood is thick enough to support the weight, but you will need the finger holes to lift the panel sections. You can go with 3/8-inch plywood if you think it needs to be lighter, but I would not go with 1/4-inch materials.
If finger holes are uncomfortable, you can always cut a smaller hole, insert a piece of parachute cord, and tie knots on each end to prevent it from slipping through. That provides cord handles to pull panels up.
Experience has taught me that spending a little extra on finished plywood is worth the investment. You get smooth surfaces that will not snag on your mattress, and you do not need to spend time sanding it to get there.
Hinge from top
Another layout uses panel sections running across the bed instead of along it. You can place the hinge in the middle of the panel, or you can add the hinge system near the top of the frame. Keep in mind that the bigger the panel size you are lifting, the more support you need to keep it open (including boards to keep it open while accessing stored items).
Drawer Storage Options
One option you have is adding drawers to the space beneath your mattress. It looks better than a trundle and is easier to access than hinged bed frame designs.
Buying drawers for under-bed storage
Drawer systems for use under the bed frame usually come in one of the following options:
- Bed frames with storage
- Rolling drawer storage
- Stationary drawer storage
Buying a bed frame with built-in drawers is the most expensive. The bed frame is bulky due to the added materials below. You do get a bed and storage system that fits seamlessly and matches, though.
Rolling drawer storage is available for existing bed frames. These are similar to trundle designs, in that it uses caster wheels to move. Drawers are used instead of a flat surface and can store loose items without requiring bins or totes.
You can also buy stationery drawer systems for your bed. It can be a challenge to find a product that matches, though. You also need a drawer system that fits your current frame, which can leave gaps beneath your bed.
Can you build one yourself?
Yes. I would suggest you have some experience before starting this type of project. If you are not a woodworker, look for someone who is and get a quote to see what they will charge to make you a set of drawers for under-bed storage.
Most drawer systems offer a solid wood appearance to a bed, so you will want to use solid drawer faces at a minimum. The exposed frame should also be solid wood or laminated faces if you use sheet goods.
You will want to look for an existing woodworking plan for your project. I have learned the hard way that winging it on this type of project costs time and money.
It would be useless for me to list building steps here. I would recommend that you start by getting the measurements needed for the drawer space. Matching the wood or color is advisable unless you select a contrasting color that looks nice with your existing materials.
Read how to build bunks in my article here.
When I was younger, I had a waterbed frame that included a large headboard. It looked nice and had shelves, but the open space beneath it went unused.
If you have an existing headboard with an open space beneath it, you can modify it to create storage space if it is wide enough. These pieces will often have a shelf that sits just above the frame. You can cut the wood to provide access to the open space below.
- Cut out the shelf – A plunge saw can quickly and effectively remove a section of the shelf. You can use other saws, but it will take more time and be more complex to cut.
- Add support bracketing beneath the shelf – The shelf will need something to sit upon so that it does not fall. Adding strips of wood along the bottom of the remaining headboard provides a lip for the shelf to sit.
- Install hinges – I would suggest two hinges near each end of the board. Install them so that you can lift the shelf.
- Router finger hold – Use a router to plunge a shallow groove into the edge of the shelf. That provides a place for your fingers to grab when lifting.
Before you start, remember that you need to clean up the edges that you cut. That will require you to match the stain, paint, or finish on the headboard. Learn how to build a headboard in my article here.
Another angle to approach under-bed storage is from the foot of the bed frame. If you do not have side access, you can still use some of the ideas previously mentioned at the foot of the bed frame instead.
The only issue here is that you will have less clearance due to bed legs. Sliding containers, trundle frames, hinged doorways, and drawers are all usable along the footboard area.
Using this in combination with side storage access could prove best for bedrooms with limited floor space around a bed frame. It would also keep drawers and sliders shallow. See how to build a Footboard bench here.
Keeping Things In Their Place
Under-bed storage can keep your bedroom organized without having to use up space for dressers or a chest of drawers. Several designs are available for any budget, and you can buy something, have it made, or build it yourself!
Storage in a captian bed information.