Project #1: Center Bunk / Office

March 16-23, 2016
Dear Friend,

Welcome to Projectland! Just like in any home, projects always exist. When we were younger we thought to ourselves, “The faster we get the projects done, the sooner we’ll be able to enjoy the home”. God had other plans though. As soon as the place was set to our liking, then we had to move and repeat the process all over again.

We now have our new home, the 5th wheel trailer (Blue Ridge 3780 LF). At first glance it was easy to think there would be no projects to complete on it because it was new and even furnished. That bubble popped quickly. Being a family of four that will be living inside the trailer full time, several modifications had to be made.

The first project was to modify the center bunk room into an office/ bunk room. Originally, a bunkbed was lofted above a small hide-a-bed couch that faced a television spot and removable table. In order for the couch to be used, the bed had to be rotated up every time. There was also a risk in the bed falling flat again, crushing the computer monitors underneath it. In addition, the bunk was narrow with no guide rails. I had a motherly concern for the child who tossed around all night. How is he going stay in the bed? The current set-up was not practical if someone was going to sleep there every night and someone else work in the room during the day. We knew there had to be a solution.

We tossed around several options that I was just not quite content with for a couple months. Finally, I thought about my brother’s dorm room in college. Instead of traditionally lofting the beds, they built a deck for a living room area above and then crawled underneath to their beds at night. Likewise, we decided to have the office desk above, remove the couch, and have the sleeping quarters underneath. By doing this, we are able to set up a full sized desk space, have a clearer walking path into the room and no more concerns for the sleeping child.

Having a design concept in mind to work towards, next came the logistics to make it work. We realized the construction and modifications of any space within the trailer can be tricky. The walls consist of a very thin board with a bunch of foam. They flex if lightly touched except in areas where the manufacturer had reinforced for their own design purposes. To make any change work, we had to either use existing reinforced areas or make it freestanding. We also could not exceed the overall weight limitations of the trailer set by the manufacturer. The section containing the desk/ sleeping area is a pullout. This restrained some dimensions to remain on the slide out platform. We couldn’t forget a mattress was going to be placed underneath the desk, so all supports had to be on the perimeter of the desk top. On top of it all, we kept in mind that everything was going to be mobile.

The final solution evolved. We used a butcher block desk top because it was sturdy, pretty, and the weight of this was substituted for the couch and bed. After it was sealed, it was placed on the existing metal bunkbed support rails that we knew supports over 200 lbs. Because my child will sleep underneath it and it is cantilevered with people leaning on the edge, we added two front table legs. Since the longest prefabricated legs were not long enough, we added a wood block to make up for the length and screwed it in. The desk sits higher than normal, but a bar height stool still worked.
Once the main desk was completed, we decided to mount a small shelf on top of the desk. The main purpose was for fire safety since my son is going to be sleeping underneath it every night. This design would not only secure the monitors to the desk, but in a half moment be able to remove one pin, slide the shelf, and open the fire escape window. We also designed it with a second pin to completely remove the monitors straight off the desk.

Of course, the pins for the shelf had to be specially fabricated. We wanted something that would sit low to not block the computer screen view, but yet, had to be able to quickly and securely grab ahold to yank it out. Joel found a metal rod, cut it to length, drilled a hole through the top end, painted it black and finished it off with a simple key chain loop on top. This loop will lay flat, but also provides a quick loop to thread a finger through. This pin now slides down into a shallow hole made into the butcher block surface.

In addition to the desk modification, a couple smaller changes occurred. The original design had a removable table placed right where the chair now sits. We removed the metal brackets, filled the holes in the floor and covered the area with a rug. The rug is instrumental in protecting from wear and tear on a weakened area of the floor as well as provide the back legs of the stool a little more height to level off with the front legs. The television area was reclaimed with Stackubes shelving. These were just the right dimension to fit into that shallow ledge. We screwed them together and into a wall where there was support for hanging a television and into the counter surface. Also, homemade bungee cords run across the insert fronts to secure them during travel. The homemade cords enabled us to have a small plastic hook and yet a longer length than what was found in stores.

The center bunk room was completed. . . I think. Of course, we still toss around the possibility of adding a rolling shelf under the desk and expanding some hanging space along a wall that currently has two hooks. This goes to show there will always be something more to complete, but this room is good enough for now. Many more projects are to come, so keep checking back!

Until we meet again,
Regina

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