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What is a Captain's Bed?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A captain's bed is a specialized type of platform bed which integrates storage into the structure of the platform. This style of bed is very popular in homes with limited space, and it may be integrated into various interior design schemes. Numerous companies make captain's beds, and it is also possible to make one from scratch to meet specific requirements, or to use a modular kit to build a captain's bed from various elements which all fit together.

As the name implies, the inspiration for the captain's bed design comes from the beds used on board ships. On a ship, all space is precious, and a standalone bed would be highly impractical. Raising a bed on a platform and including shelving or drawers for storage under the bed makes the bed more practical for the space. Classically, beds were designed as built-ins on ships, for more stability and safety, and to maximize available space.

In a residence, a captain's bed may be a built-in, or a standalone bed. Built-ins provide less flexibility when it comes to room arrangements, but they can be highly stable, and may be more suitable for some kinds of design. For example, in a studio, it may be nice to have a built-in in an alcove which can be closed off for privacy. In a larger home, a standalone piece of furniture which can be moved may be more suitable, allowing people to arrange a bedroom to taste.

The design of shelving and drawers under a captain's bed can vary. Some feature roll-out storage, storage compartments which surround the whole platform, bins, or shelving, while others stick to basic drawers. Some models may have illuminated storage to make it easier to see, and storage can also be built into the headboard and footboard; in the case of a built-in, shelving and storage can wholly enclose the bed. A variant on the basic captain's bed can include a trundle which slides under the bed when not in use.

This type of bed happens to be especially solid and sturdy, in addition to being practical. This can be an advantage for heavier people who may not feel wholly secure in frame beds, and for a bed used in an earthquake-prone area. The ability to modify the design for custom needs can allow people to add features like a shoe bin for shoe storage, or a concealed safe for valuables.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By letshearit — On Sep 05, 2011

One thing you should consider before purchasing a captain's bed is how much weight you are willing to haul around if you need to move. We have a smaller captain's bed for guests and the thing weighs a ton.

I think it is the frame surrounding the platform doors that is the heaviest part of the bed. Plus, it is very awkward to get that frame through a door. Personally, I think that unless you really need the extra storage bed, or plan to stay in your home for a really long time, you should probably forgo the captain's bed.

Captain's beds are great to look at and provide oodles of extra storage, but wow, they are heavy.

By BabaB — On Sep 04, 2011

I haven't seen too many captain's beds. They do sound just perfect for a captain on a ship. I have seen a few in children's rooms and some in magazines. Some of them look like they have oodles of storage space. But they are pretty bulky and look like they would be hard to move.

I've seen more of the trundle style beds, where a second twin-size bed pulls out from under the main bed. My granddaughter has one, and it works great when she has a friend over for a sleep-over.

By manykitties2 — On Sep 03, 2011

When I was growing up I had a captain's bed that I really loved. It was solid oak and I remember that it had a really shiny finish that I could actually see myself in at the right angle. I used to love the doors under my bed because I could store a whole assortment of treasures.

I was actually a pretty organized kid, and my bed had six drawers in the platform. I used to make sure my favorite books, toys and collectibles were tucked away.

I remember my mom bought the bed because my closet was so small. It really made up for that.

By seag47 — On Sep 03, 2011

The storage below a captain’s bed can make a great hiding place. I found this out while playing hide and seek as a seven-year-old.

My cousin waited down the hall in the bathroom while I hid. I opened the drawer under the bed and quietly slid inside. I pushed against the bottom of the mattress to slide the drawer shut.

I could hear her looking all over the room. Once she had searched the whole house, I heard her frantically telling her mother that I had gone missing. Her mother helped her look, and then I heard her say that maybe she should call the cops. That’s when I knew it was time to come out.

I have a daughter now, and if I cannot find her, the first place I look is in the bed storage drawer. I guess she takes after me, because I often find her in there.

By Perdido — On Sep 02, 2011

My mother has a captain’s bed with shelving on the headboard. She used to store her ceramic knickknacks there, but that was before the earthquake.

Her bed is a built-in, so she usually feels pretty secure in it. One night, she was asleep when the house began to shake.

All of her decorative items in the shelving came crashing down on her head. She had a headache for days and bruising for weeks. She did say later that she was glad the bed was attached to the wall, because if it had gone hopping across the floor, she could have been hit by the hard objects over and over.

By shell4life — On Sep 02, 2011

I’m stuck with the arrangement of the furniture in my room, because the house came with a built-in captain’s bed frame. The previous owners took the mattress, so at least I got to choose my own.

The room has plenty of space, so if I get bored with the layout, I can easily move chairs, tables, and shelves around. The bed faces a wall, but I have often thought it would be nice if it faced the window. My room is on the second story, and I would have liked to open the curtain and look at the stars while trying to fall asleep.

I have considered hiring someone to detach it from the wall, but that would make such a big mess. It would probably be expensive, too.

By Oceana — On Sep 01, 2011

My captain’s bed provides me with the perfect place to store my shoes. I have dogs that live in the house, and they always try to steal my shoes and chew on them when I’m not looking. When I store them under the bed in the drawers, they can’t get to them.

For a long time, I kept magazines and books under there. When I mentioned to my husband that I needed a place to keep my shoes where the dogs could not reach them, he told me I should clear out the bed storage area for them.

So, I got a good deal on a bookcase at a yard sale, and my captain’s bed now holds my shoes underneath me while I sleep. It’s great to know that I will no longer wake up to broken laces and soggy leather.

By myharley — On Sep 01, 2011

We have a king captains bed in our master bedroom that we have used for many years. There are several drawers underneath and a large headboard that is decorative and also has storage space.

Since we love to read in bed we really enjoy having a headboard with built in lighting and plenty of space to store our books.

One of the reasons we have held on to this for so long is because we haven't found anything else that we like better.

I have seen some bedroom furniture where I might like the style a little bit better, but would really miss the extra storage I get with the captains bed.

By Mykol — On Sep 01, 2011

Our guest bedroom is very small, but it was important to me to have a place where friends and family could stay if they needed to.

I thought about putting a full captains bed in that room, but went ahead with a queen storage bed. It doesn't leave much room for anything else in the room, but I thought a bigger bed would be more comfortable than extra walking space.

The bed has several drawers and a unique looking headboard which really looks nice in the room. The drawers are good for storing extra sheets and linens. I also love to craft, so use these drawers to store my extra craft supplies in when not in use.

By sunshined — On Aug 31, 2011

My two sons are only 15 months apart and have always shared a room. Their bedroom is not real big so we do everything we can to save space and not let the clutter of their toys and books take over the whole room.

For the sake of space, we thought about a full size captains bed, but realized that each boy really needed their own bed. We went with two single captains beds, and they love having their own bed and own place to store their stuff.

The two beds take up more space than one bed, but each of them has several drawers they can use for their belongings.

Most of the time their things get all piled together anyway, but at least they have places they know they can call their own.

By EdRick — On Aug 31, 2011

A twin captain's bed is great for a kid's room! Kids love them because they're a bit of a novelty. And in my house, the kids' rooms are quite small, so space is at a premium. My daughter is still in her crib (and we got a crib with a storage drawer underneath) but my son needed to fit a desk in his room. We didn't really like the idea of a loft (a friend of mine had one for his daughter and I just wasn't impressed with the quality).

The captain's bed was the perfect solution because it eliminated the need for a dresser. Most of his clothes fit in the drawers under the bed and we installed shelves in part of the closet for the overflow.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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