It’s pretty difficult to imagine sleeping without a bed nowadays. Beds are pretty ubiquitous, and people tend to overlook the comfort they provide after a long day’s work. They envelop your tired body and induce a peaceful night’s slumber. Depending on your preference and needs, several types of beds are currently available. The materials are also pretty varied nowadays, and numerous options can support your medical needs. It’s pretty different from laying down on the cold hard earth, which our ancestors did thousands of years ago.
Then there’s the bunk bed. Homemakers and interior designers appreciate that it provides people the space to hunker down and sleep while maximizing the available space. But, have you ever wondered who came up with the idea? In this article, we’ll trace its history and evolution.
Who invented the bunk bed?
Before we trace the bunk bed’s history and inventor, we need to understand where beds originated. Historians point out that the first beds came out of Egypt. Before the Egyptians made bed frames out of wood and filled them with soft materials such as feathers, wool, or cotton, people would lay down on the ground with a bit of hay as a buffer at night. That couldn’t have been comfortable enough to get a good night’s sleep. However, luxurious beds were made for members of the ruling classes, and the common people had to make do with simpler ones with stuffing such as hay, straw, and other similar materials.
Historians also say that the bunk bed concept may have come from the Egyptians themselves. Although there isn’t any concrete evidence about this particular development, historians surmise that in the cramped quarters of the Egyptian houses, they could have placed two frames atop each other, or they could have carved the beds on their walls.
Most historians agree that the inventor of the bunk bed is hard to pinpoint as no individual could step up and say that they were the one who made it first. However, most historical accounts point to the 1400s to the 1500s as the period when bunk beds began to be more common. The poorer members of society used bunk beds to save space at home. Bunks were placed on top of each other, and each could carry two people. Unfortunately, they made the frames out of wood, and it wasn’t uncommon for the frames to break and cause injury to the person resting underneath.
Some historians also point to the carpenter James Morison as the inventor of the modern bunk bed. They say that Morison made the bunk beds in the early 19th century when he worked for a ship. The carpenter came up with the idea to help sailors sleep securely and keep the lower decks cleared.
According to records, William Stokes filed the patent for the first bunk bed in 1858. Stokes was a carpenter from New York, and some say that his design became the basis for most of the bunk beds that became popular in the US during the time.
Bunk beds became even more popular when the military used them to provide sleeping space for soldiers. It meant they could house twice as many soldiers within the structure. As a result, used military bunk beds were quite popular, and other people copied and innovated the design over the years.
The bunk bed’s key contributors (and evolution)
- EgyptiansAncient Egyptians invented beds
The ancient Egyptians invented beds. They made bedframes out of wood and stuffed them with soft materials such as cotton, wool, or feathers. While the more exquisite beds were reserved for royalty, the commoners also stuffed their beds with hay, straw, and other similar materials. The idea of a bunk bed may have come from the Egyptians themselves.
- Medieval commonersMedieval people used bunk beds to save space at home
During the medieval ages, the poor members of society used bunk beds to save space at home. They used wood to create bedframes and put them atop each other. Unfortunately, it wasn’t uncommon for the beds to break and cause injury to the person sleeping underneath.
- James MorisonMorison created bunk beds for ships
While working for a ship, the carpenter James Morison proposed making a bunk bed to help sailors sleep securely and use the space efficiently.
- William StokesStokes filed the patent for the first bunk bed in 1858
According to records, New York carpenter William Stokes filed a patent for bunk beds. Many believe that his design became the basis for bunk beds that became popular during the time.
- MilitaryMilitary used bunk beds extensively for their soldiers
The military popularized the use of bunk beds when they used them extensively for soldiers. The bunk beds doubled the number of soldiers resting in the facility, thereby saving space.
When was the bunk bed invented?
Historians surmise that the Egyptians made the first beds. They used wooden bed frames and inserted wool, cotton, or feathers to create a soft mattress. The more luxurious beds were reserved for the ruling class. However, the commoners also inserted straw, hay, and other similar materials to create their beds. Historians also say the concept of bunk beds came from the Egyptians.
During medieval times, the commoners used bunk beds made of wood to save space at home. Unfortunately, these bunk beds were relatively unsafe, and it wasn’t uncommon to have the top bunk break and cause injury to the person resting underneath. Fast forward to the 19th century, historians point to James Morison, a carpenter who worked on a ship, as one of the inventors of the bunk bed. He came up with the idea of providing the sailors with secure bunks to sleep in and keeping the lower decks and halls clear.
However, New York carpenter William Stokes filed the first patent for a bunk bed in 1858. Many believe that his design for the bunk bed became the basis for the beds that became popular during the period.
A brief history of the bunk bed
Historians believe that the first beds were created in ancient Egypt. According to them, the Egyptians used a wooden bed frame and inserted materials such as feathers, wool, or cotton to create a buffer. These beds were for the ruling class. The commoners stuffed their beds with hay, straw, or other materials. Historians also believe that the idea for a bunk bed came from the Egyptians.
During the medieval period, commoners used bunk beds to save space at home. They used wood to create their bed frame. It was unsafe, though, and it wasn’t uncommon to have the top bunk break and cause injury to the person resting underneath.
Ship carpenter James Morison was also thought to have come up with the idea for a bunk bed. He created bunk beds for the sailors in the ship he was working on to provide a safe space for them to sleep. It also kept the lower portion of the boat and the halls clear. However, New York-based carpenter William Stokes filed the patent for the first bunk bed in 1858. Many believe that his design inspired the beds that became highly popular during the time.
The military popularized the use of bunk beds when they used them to extensively provide their recruits and soldiers with a place to sleep. In addition, the bunk beds allowed them to house twice as many personnel in their bunkers which meant savings on space and resources.
Several innovations, particularly in the design, materials, and function of bunk beds, came with the advance of time. Today, several types of bunk beds are available in the market, and any homemaker would jump at the opportunity to buy one cheaply because they understand how much space they can save with the bunk beds in use.
The bunk bed timeline
- Ancient timesEgyptians created beds
Ancient Egyptians created the first beds. Historians believe they used wooden bed frames and stuffed them with feathers, wool, or cotton to provide a comfortable buffer. The commoners also used beds but stuffed theirs with straw, hay, or other materials. Historians also surmise that the idea for bunk beds came from the Egyptians.
- Medieval eraCommoners used bunk beds to save space at home
Medieval commoners used bunk beds to save space at home. They used wood to create the bed frame. Unfortunately, it wasn’t uncommon for the top bunk to collapse and cause injury to the person sleeping underneath.
- Early 19<sup>th</sup> centuryJames Morison created bunk beds for sailors
Some historians point to ship carpenter James Morison as an inventor of the bunk bed. They say that Morison created the bunk bed to provide sailors with a secure space to sleep and keep the lower decks and halls clear.
- 1858Stokes patented the first modern bunk bed design
New York-based carpenter William Stokes patented the first modern bunk bed design in 1858. Many believe that his design became the basis for the beds that became popular during the period.
Where was the bunk bed invented?
Historians believe that bunk beds were conceptualized in ancient Egypt. Although there isn’t any concrete evidence to support this, they surmise that Egyptians put together two bed frames to save space, or they could have carved two beds on their walls.
However, the design for the modern bunk bed was patented in New York in 1858 by carpenter William Stokes. Some historians believe that he might have been inspired by James Morison’s work in the early 19th century, as he created bunk beds for sailors that helped make the space underneath the decks more efficient.
The importance of the bunk bed
- The bunk bed saves space.
The bunk bed saves space for homeowners who value the efficient use of space. With two beds atop each other instead of having two separate beds, they maximize the available space in the rooms.
- The bunk bed spurred design innovation.
The bunk bed spurred innovation in design. While the popular bunk beds provided space for two single-type beds, innovators came up with different designs integrating different sized beds atop each other, leading to different bunk bed models available in the market.
- The bunk bed helped usher sleep comfort.
Manufacturers didn’t only innovate on the bunk bed design. They also came up with innovations on the mattresses that they paired with the structure, leading to better sleep comfort.
- The bunk bed innovated functional features
Bunk bed designers innovated the function of the structure as they came up with additional features for the design.
The bunk bed by the numbers
- 75 x 39 x 65 The standard bunk bed size measures 75 inches x 39 inches by 65 inches. Other bunk bed sizes are available depending on your particular needs and preference.
- 50 to 65 The average height of a bunk bed is 50 to 65 inches, although the tallest bunk bed is currently listed at 77 inches high.
- 70 The minimum floor area that can accommodate bunk beds according to the building code is 70 square feet.
- 10 to 15 According to industry experts, bunk beds usually last between 10 to 15 years of regular usage.
Five facts about bunk beds
- Bunk beds are structurally safe.
Bunk beds are technically safe, with various safety features such as handrails and steps.
- Bunk beds come in different styles and sizes.
There are several designs, styles, and sizes of bunk beds available in the market.
- The term bunk comes from bunker.
Bunk is the shortened version of the term bunker, which means sleeping berth in a vessel.
- Bunk beds are safe for kids and adults.
Bunk beds are safe for kids and adults, especially if you choose a bed that can carry up to 500 pounds.
- Bunk beds need periodic inspection.
If you wish to keep your bunk beds structurally safe, you must conduct periodic inspections on the frames, guardrails, and mattress foundations.
FAQs about bunk beds
- Are bunk beds safe?
Bunk beds are relatively safe if you build them correctly. Shoddy construction can lead to bunk beds collapsing and causing injuries to those using them.
- What materials are bunk beds made of?
Bunk beds are usually made of metal, but several bunk bed models are made of oak and other hardwood.
- Are loft beds and bunk beds the same?
Loft beds and bunk beds are different. Loft beds are elevated and usually don’t have a lower bunk. Bunk beds, meanwhile, will always have two beds.
- Is a bunk bed easy to assemble?
Yes. If you follow the instructions carefully, bunk beds are relatively easy to assemble. You can also ask a handyman to build it if you’re unsure about your skills.
- Do bunk beds need to be against a wall?
There aren’t specific rules about it, but conventional wisdom dictates to have one part of the bunk bed parallel a wall for safety purposes.