Using a bed frame is the traditional way to support a mattress in the U.S. However, it's not the only way — and depending on your needs, it might not even be the best way. If you're looking for more storage space, a firmer sleeping surface, or something budget-friendly and portable, a non-traditional option might be right for you. From captain's beds to minimal platforms, here are some of the most common alternatives to the bed frame.
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1. The Simplest Option
The easiest DIY bed alternative is simply a mattress on the floor. Many people choose this option because they like the aesthetic of having a bed without any storage space underneath, and lower beds can also create the impression of higher ceilings. Floor beds fit especially well with minimalist décor.
If you choose to go this route, make sure to lift and air out the mattress every few days. If you live in a damp or humid climate, or if your home is prone to mold, putting a mattress directly on the floor can lead to moisture buildup due to lack of airflow. This alternative is not suitable for memory foam mattresses, which trap moisture more than innerspring and hybrid mattresses, and will almost certainly lead to a mold problem if placed directly on the floor.
2. Platform Beds
If you like the minimalist look of a mattress directly on the floor but want more support and better airflow, consider platform bed frames. These tend to be closer to the ground than traditional bed frames, and they provide a solid, even surface for a mattress, which can be good for those suffering from back pain. While most platform beds don't offer under-bed storage, some include drawers or can be lifted on a hinge, revealing a large storage compartment.
3. Captain’s Beds
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the platform bed is the captain's bed. These are extra-tall, usually wood beds with built-in storage — usually drawers, but sometimes also shelf space, or even a pull-out desk. Captain's beds are often marketed for children because they can make such efficient use of a small space. But they come in many different styles and can work for people of any age. While they tend to be pricier than other types of beds, they can be worth it, since they're essentially a bed and dresser in one.
4. Cinder Blocks
Using cinder blocks as a bed support is a popular money-saving option that looks good in both minimalist and industrial-style rooms. The number of cinder blocks you need as a bed base depends on the size of your bed: Twin beds require at least four; full size, five; queen size, nine; and king size, 13. The more blocks you use, the sturdier your base will be.
If you want extra support, lay wooden slats or a sheet of plywood across the cinder blocks to create an even platform beneath the mattress. To keep the blocks from scratching wooden floors, place a non-slip mat beneath them. Note that cinder blocks aren't the safest option if you live in an area prone to earthquakes, or if you have kids or active dogs. The blocks could shift, causing your mattress to fall or buckle. Keep them on their low setting (horizontal rather than vertical) and don't double them up for greater height.
5. Pallets & Milk Crates
Milk crates or reclaimed wood pallets can also serve as a DIY bed frame. These modern beds can work for a range of styles, from rustic to boho. For a twin bed, you'll need two standard-sized pallets, while a double or queen bed requires four.
It's important to know that pallet beds come with several risks. One is that their rough, unfinished surface can cause scrapes or splinters if you brush your legs against them getting in and out of bed. To minimize this risk, sand down the wood and coat it with varnish or stain. Palettes may also be contaminated, so it's important to know their origins. Some are used to ship hazardous materials, or are treated with strong chemicals (avoid pallets marked "MB," which indicates that they've been treated with toxic methyl bromide fumigation).
Plastic milk crates are another option for a DIY, adjustable bed frame, with less risk. Because they're smaller than palettes, you'll need more of them. Make sure to measure your mattress and compare it against your milk crates of choice to determine how many you will need. Secure crates together with zip ties to prevent them from moving around.