When Sam Bramley became pregnant with her first son 11 years ago, she knew the London flat she shared with husband Steve wasn’t ideal for a baby. With family in Nottingham and cheaper property prices, it made sense to relocate to the Midlands.
‘I love London but couldn’t imagine bringing my child up in the city,’ says Sam, who was working as an art director in the film industry, but is now a freelance interior designer and content creator at EclecticStreet.co.uk. ‘It was just after the property crash though, so no-one was putting their home on the market and there wasn’t much to choose from.’
Although she dreamed of a characterful Victorian or Edwardian house, Sam settled for a four-bedroom detached 1930s house that they could gradually renovate. ‘We didn’t do anything for five years while the children were young,’ she admits. ‘It had been nicely decorated in a Laura Ashley style and, although it wasn’t my look, I didn’t mind living with it while we saved up to extend the kitchen.’
When their sons Mason and Jake reached eight and six, Sam and Steve’s thoughts turned towards redecorating their bedrooms. Jake had outgrown the box room and Sam’s double bedroom at the rear needed a refresh.
But the boys had other ideas: they wanted to share a bedroom with bunk beds. ‘Mason’s bedroom was a good-sized double but a boring square with no features,’ says Sam. ‘It needed to accommodate them both without comprising on space. I’m not normally a fan of classic bunk beds so I challenged myself to come up with a design that works for me and them.’
After sketching a design based on an American bedroom she’d seen on Pinterest, Sam’s dad Philip customised some IKEA bunk beds and bought extra wood to create headboards, guard rails and a ladder. ‘It was more cost-effective to do it that way than go completely bespoke,’ says Sam. ‘My dad’s a retired engineer who volunteers at the Newark Air Museum where he mends aircraft, so he can turn his hand to anything.’
Rearranging the beds into an L-formation was the game-changer. ‘It makes good use of the space without making the room feel small,’ says Sam. ‘Mason’s the king of the castle on top while Jake has a den-like space below,’ explains Sam. ‘So, they’ve both got their own individual spaces with plenty of shared floor area.’
When it came to the décor style and colour scheme, Sam struggled to find exactly what she wanted. ‘There’s not a lot of inspiration for boys’ bedrooms,’ she says. ‘And not much choice when it comes to duvet covers and curtains without them being overly themed.’
As the boys had strong ideas, Sam had to steer them towards her vision. ‘Mason likes Chelsea, which means blue, while Jake supports Arsenal, who play in red, and you can’t really marry the two without it looking like a soft play area,’ she says. ‘Instead I opted for a simple, monochrome, Scandi look with light grey walls, so they can inject personality with pictures and characters they like.’
Having been creative since childhood and with a degree in applied arts, Sam was confident about adding crafty homemade touches. As well as painting an existing pine wardrobe and chest of drawers in matt black, she also hand-painted an ’80s inspired pattern on the wall to give a cool individual vibe.
‘I was inspired by the very talented @lisa_laubreaux on Instagram, but decided to replicate something similar with a tester pot,’ she says. ‘I’m really pleased with the look of it – it’s simple but effective.’
A few months after the bedroom was finished, Sam had a lightbulb moment while reading Jake a story on the bottom bunk. ‘I looked up and realised Jake was looking at these horrible slats above,’ she says. ‘So I had a piece of MDF cut to size, covered it in a cloud-design wallpaper and got my dad to fix it to the underside of Mason’s bed.’
Get the look
After posting the new bedroom on Instagram (@eclectic_street), she was amazed when the picture got around 15,000 likes and was shared by countless woodworkers. ‘My dad was proud as Punch,’ she says. ‘I often get asked whether it’s safe. But my dad’s an engineer, so he knows what he’s doing…It’s taken the weight of both my dad and husband, so it’s really strong.’
Looking back, there are only a few things Sam would change. ‘I’d paint from the skirting boards up to the ceiling in the same colour to make the room look taller. I might even paint the bunk beds too. In the next few years, Mason and Jake will probably want their own rooms,’ says Sam. ‘But it works well for now.’
Mydal bunk bed (customised), £115; Langsted low-pile rug (170 x 240cm), £55, is similar; Skurup ceiling track light, £19; Praktklocka grey striped curtains, £17, are similar, all IKEA. Walls painted in Vintage Chandelier, £29.16 per 2.5l, Dulux. Wardrobe and drawers painted in Jack Black, £66 per 2.5l, Little Greene. Leaning ladder desk, £59.99, Sue Ryder online shop, is similar. Hiba metal bedside table, £110, La Redoute. Iso 180 x 130cm bedspread, £39, is similar; Cohen bedside table lamp, £39, both Made.com. Kontsmide warm white LED cherry string lights (80), £19.99, Lighting Direct, is similar. Clip-on white spotlight lamp, £24, Iconic Lights, is similar. Copper 16-light mini peg string lights, £5, Dunelm, is similar. Balloon dog light, £26, Red Candy. Cloud 9 wallpaper, £14 per roll, Graham and Brown. Nothing to see here print (30 x 40cm), £35, Soo-uk. Play & Go drawstring bag, £30, Kidly, is similar. Ceramic plant pot, £12.99, H&M, is similar.