How to make boxy bunk beds for your dolls?

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Left, the 3 bunk beds made using a discarded shoebox fit little dolls like Skipper, Stacie and 
Chelsea dolls. Barbie would fit in these beds too but I designed them to be included in a child
bedroom for our dolls. Right, the bunk beds are outfitted with mattress, sheets, pillows.

       The most wonderful thing about this doll bedroom craft is that it may look so very unique based upon who is crafting it. The possibilities are endless and all you really need is a box! In this version of a bunk bed craft I chose to use a shoebox. 

       You might say that crafting doll furniture using shoeboxes is one of the great American child pastimes. I rarely meet a little one who hasn’t made something using a shoebox. Either he or she has made a diorama in school, a postbox for Valentines or a bed for their dolls using this common material. Shoebox crafts are as common to childhood as Playdough or lemonade.

       My modern version of this set of bunk beds includes ”holds” for climbing into the beds instead of old-fashioned ladders and what American kid wouldn’t prefer these? 

Basic supplies include a cardboard box and fabrics.

Supply List:

  • Sculpey for “holds”
  • decorative scrapbook papers
  • white school glue
  • cardboard box 
  • cotton batting
  • fabric for bed linens (felt, flannels etc…)
  • matching threads
  • additional scrap cardboard
  • acrylic paints (for details)
  • lattice flower garden woodcuts (optional, Dollar General Store)
  • hot glue
  • Mod Podge
Left the holds shaped using Sculpey oven-bake clay. Center and Right, the holds are hot-glued
to the places where ladders would ordinarily be included for the dolls to climb into bed. But,
our dolls are interested in rock climbing so I chose to use these interesting brackets instead.


Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Remove the lid from a shoebox, turn it on it’s side and now you have the perfect beginning of a doll’s bunk bed. I chose to make my version here for three dolls. This meant that I would need to measure the length of my shoebox minus one inch, divide that number in half and glue an additional piece of cardboard to fit neatly into the center of the interior of my shoebox. This will give our family dolls three levels for beds: one at the top, one in the middle and one at the bottom.
  2. The “minus one inch” is the allowance I made for the lowest bed’s platform at the bottom of the shoebox. I raised the lowest bed off of the very bottom of the shoebox so that the doll would not be laying directly on the floor. Cut a strip of cardboard measuring one inch wide and glue this into the box so that an additional cardboard bed may rest on top of this raised platform. 
  3. I cut additional narrow strips of cardboard to glue just beneath the second center ”bunk bed” in order to lend it support while it dried and extra strength during play.
  4. The top of the shoebox is the final and third bunk bed. For this bed you will need to cut safety rails so that dolly won’t roll out of bed in the night and break her arm or something worse… My rails for the third bunk on top were cut from cardboard. I did not need to cut railing to wrap around the entire bed; I only cut enough for the one side facing out from our dollhouse walls. 
  5. I built a shallow two inch wall to wrap around one end and the back wall of the top bunk and left one side at the end of the bunk beds open so that a doll could climb up one end into the top bunk. Normally this would be where a real tri-level bunk bed would include it’s longest ladder. However this is where I hot glued my Sculpey holds onto the side of the doll bed for dolls to climb instead of a ladder. 
  6. Hand sculpt small abstract shapes to mimic “holds” for the dolls. Bake these according to the directions on the side of the box, apply when cool with a hot glue gun on the flat side, paint with acrylics and seal with Mod Podge.
  7. Now comes the fun and easy part of the craft, decoupage all of the walls using decorative papers and white school glue or Mod Podge. Do not use large quantities of glue all at once or the box may become warped. The key here is to do this process slowly, allowing the glue to dry on different levels of application before adding more paper. Take your time!
  8. I glued in an additional bedrail to the edges of my doll’s second bunk (center bunk) last. i had to build a shallow wall on the edge measuring 1/2 inch wide to give support to this flower bed rail cut from balsa wood. I glued the wooden rail to the front of the cardboard support. This added detail echoed the floral wall prints on the interiors of the first and second bunk walls. 
  9. After these rails dried, I painted them using acrylics.
  10. The second half of this craft involves to sewing for our bunk beds bedding. I made these doll linens by hand but you may choose to use a sewing machine with parental guidance if you are learning to sew on it. This is an excellent project for 5th and 6th graders to make and learn simple sewing techniques. First, measure the lengths and sides of each bed platform to sew mattresses. Add a 1/4 inch seams to all sides before cutting mattress fabric. If learnin to sew, you may wish to make those seams 1/2 inch instead.
  11. With right sides together, sew a straight stitch around the two longest lengths plus one end only , leaving one of the shorter ends open for stuffing the mattress with cotton batting, after you have turned the right sides out and created a pocket. Use very little stuffing for the mattresses so that by the time you have made bed pillows and blankets there is still room to slide the doll into bed!
  12. The pillows are made in the same way except much smaller. 
  13. Cut blankets from no fray fabrics like felt, flannel so that younger students may complete the bed linens quicker.
Above, I sewed simple canvas mattresses to fit into each bunk bed and then covered them with
flannel striped fabric for doll sheets. Each bunk was also given a sleeping pillow with a pillow 
case and decorative pillows too! Every interior wall was covered in floral papers.

The outside of the boxy bunks was decoupaged using faux wooden paper, white-washed in surface
design for a ‘country look.” The holds were also painted bright colors: teal green, hot pink, yellow
and orange, just as these are in real life.

Each doll is tucked in snug for a good night’s sleep. Center, see the railing is made using lattice
flower bed brackets cut from balsa wood. I purchased these from a Dollar General and painted 
them to match the printed, white-wash wood siding. Right, there are simpler plain rails glued to
the highest bunk bed. 

See Kids Climb Around The House:

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