Not just for kids, built-in bunk beds offer fun and function in a compact space. Including a bunk room in a house that sees a lot of visitors makes good square-footage sense. "We utilize all of the little niches," says Brian Bosgraaf, president of design/build firm Cottage Home. They can provide a cubby for a suitcase, a reading nook under the eaves, or drawers beneath the beds for extra blankets. But the most important thing to remember, adds builder Brad Howard, is to "buy the mattress before building the bed."

Nighttime Nook

"It's an unconventional, fun room that's great for vacation houses," says Brian Bosgraaf of this bunkroom. Bosgraaf mainly designs and builds homes in the Lake Michigan cottage vernacular, and since he completed this sleeping/lounging space he's been asked to do six more. Three bunks plus a reading nook line each wall of the 9-foot-by-7-foot room. Clear maple trim provides counterpoint to painted white millwork. Shelves in each bunk hold the summer's best-sellers while a low-voltage light illuminates the pages. Bosgraaf encourages carpeting in bunk rooms to deaden sound and soak up spills. Builder/Designer: Cottage Home, Holland, Mich., Photographer: Dan Johnson Photography.

Photo: Bruce Van Inwegen

Suspended Sleep

This Wisconsin lake house was designed by an architect for his extended family. Jim Nagle wanted a simple place that would feel as cozy for two as for 12, so he used built-in bunks as efficient extra sleeping quarters. These four floating beds and their walls were designed as a single piece of cabinetry. Blonde wood encloses the bunks, lending physical support plus privacy. The wood surround stops short of the ceiling while beds and ladders float above the hickory floor, giving the illusion of a larger space. The unit stands within a larger gathering room with its own screened porch. Builder: Design Specialty Builders, Green Lake, Wis.; Architect/owner: James L. Nagle, Nagle Hartray Danker Kagan McKay Penney Architects, Chicago; Photographer: Bruce Van Inwegen.

Beach Bunks

The owners of this Kiawah Island, S.C., vacation home wanted plenty of beds so their college-age kids and friends would feel welcome any time. But they didn't want to expend valuable space on mostly empty bedrooms. A large room with four built-in beds next to a sitting area, built-in desk, and entertainment center serves multiple uses for guests as well as the owners. "Elegant but not overly formal," says builder Brad Howard about the room's style. Painted beadboard to the ceiling fit the décor and "made the room seem more spacious and gave the beds a more built-in feel," Howard says. Building up the ends of the lower bunk shelters sleepers from the adjacent flex area in case one person wants to crash while another watches TV. Howard includes one more thoughtful perk: "An extra 7 or 8 inches at the head of the bed means a guest can comfortably lean back against pillows and read." Builder: Greathouse Construction, Johns Island, S.C.; Architect: Zach Carney, Charleston, S.C.; Photographer: Dickson Dunlap.