Coffee table project that folds out into a bed

When space is tight, furniture that can serve two purposes can be a big help. A great weekend project, this clever piece gives a whole new meaning to "taking your coffee in bed."

Whether it's a visit from friends or relatives, or a child who wants to host a sleepover, an extra bed can really come in handy. And if space at your house or apartment is at a premium (as it is for most of us), here's a unique way to stow that spare bed.

Opening convertible coffee table

This coffee table conveniently rolls about on casters to wherever you need it. Then, it flips open into a bed that accommodates an average size adult. (If you are over 6' tall, this bed is not for you ... but for the rest of us, it is actually quite cozy.)

Opened convertible coffee table as a bed

Conversion is easy. Just hold the handle, swing the top open 180°, and insert the headboard. The folded-up coffee table "box" contains it all — mattress, sheets, comforter and pillow. You make the mattress from high-density foam rubber, which is readily available from most upholstery shops or can be easily purchased online.

Making the Leg

Hardware and panels for building a coffee table bed
To begin, gather all hardware and cut all parts to size, as shown in the Material List. This simple project can be completed in a couple of days. Select a paint color to match your home.

Begin work on this project by cutting all the parts to size. Although a fully outfitted workshop will no doubt make the job easier, this entire space saving project can be made with a couple of handheld power tools and a hammer. I decided on simple lumberyard 2 x 6s for the rails (pieces 1), although standard 5/4 stock would work just as well.

The height of the rails is calculated so there is about an 11"-deep storage area for mattress and bedding when the unit is being used as a coffee table. For the bottom and top (piece 2), footboard end (piece 3), headboard end (piece 4) and headboard panel (piece 5), I chose 5/8"-thick veneer-core plywood. A lower quality plywood can also be used, but be sure to fill any edge voids before finishing.

Gluing plywood panels together for coffee table bed
Start nails along the edge of the plywood bottom and apply glue to the rail edges.

Before you cut the footboard end to size, buy the casters. You'll need to know the exact height of your casters before cutting the footboard to final width. The footboard width equals the caster height plus another 6-1/8".

Machining the other details on this table/bed is pretty straightforward. I drilled two holes with a spade bit, then used a jigsaw to "connect the dots," thus creating the handle openings. Put together the main subassembly with glue, finishing nails and clamps. While the glue cures, mark a centerline on the assembly in order to cut it in half, later.

Attaching rails to convertible coffee table bed base
Secure the rails to the plywood and allow the glue to cure.

Next, install the casters. Use 2" #8 flathead wood screws to secure the outboard sides of the casters to the bottom and top (piece 2) and rails (pieces 1). You’ll have to use 1/2" #8 flathead wood screws to secure the inboard sides of the casters to the plywood, or else these screws would protrude into the bedding area.

Casters for convertible coffee table bed
Your choice of casters can greatly influence the look of this piece. Remember that the height of the casters you choose will determine the width of the footboard end (piece 3).

At this point, the "bed box" is still one piece. The next step is to cut the box in half. I decided to make use of my (just) sharpened handsaw to make this cut, because it’s a lot safer than using a circular saw or table saw for a large scale operation like this. The added control also makes splintering and mistakes less likely. Stand the unit on one rail and begin the cut. Then you can lay the box on 2 x 4 scraps, open side down, and cut across the plywood base. Finally, stand the unit on the already cut rail and make your final cut through the uncut rail.

Installing casters to the base of coffee table bed
Install the casters using #8 x 2" screws where they mount over the rails and #8 x 3/4" screws where the backing is plywood only. File any tip protrusions smooth.

Rejoin the two box halves with two strap hinges (pieces 7). It is important that there is something solid to screw the hinges into, which is the main reason the rails are made of thicker stock.

Installing All-important Alignment Pins

Boring holes in coffee table bed base with a drill press
Fashion the handle cutout in the footboard end by boring two 1"-diameter holes.

Two small but very important parts are the alignment pins (pieces 6). Made from 3/8"-diameter by 1-3/4" dowels, they serve to keep the rails aligned and parallel when in coffee table mode. They also create a small gap between the rails to prevent the table halves from pinching your fingers when closing up the bed.

Cutting waste from a bored hole with a jigsaw
Then use a jigsaw to cut away the remaining waste.

To install the pins, bore the holes to a depth of 7/8". Then add a drop or two of glue to the holes and tap in the pins until they are fully seated. Mark for the opposing holes and bore them to a depth of 7/8" minus the depth of the hinge knuckles.

Tracing radius on convertible coffee table footboard
Use a spray-can cap to trace a radius at the corners of the footboard that will touch the floor.

The removable headboard panel (piece 5) mounts to the folded-up coffee table configuration with magnetic catches (pieces 8). The steel plates are attached to the headboard panel, while the magnetic catches are screwed to the inside faces of the rails.

Cutting holes for coffee table bed rail alignment
Drill pilot holes in the rails for two alignment pins, and install them with a few drops of glue. Bore the receiving holes slightly larger.

It is a clever way to hold the captured panel securely. You'll also need to drill a 3/4" or 1"-diameter finger hole through the headboard panel. That way, you can grab the piece more easily and pull it free of the table before you open it up into a bed.

Sawing convertible coffee table and bed in half
Place the bed box on scrap lumber and saw it in half along your layout line.

To finish the project, sand the assembly until smooth. I started at 80-grit paper and worked my way through the grits until I got to 180-grit. Ease all the sharp edges and corners, too.

Clamping convertible coffee table bed halves together to install hinges
Then, clamp the box halves in the open position so they align perfectly and install the strap hinges.

Cover any knots with a sealer such as shellac to keep them from bleeding through the paint, and then apply a coat of good quality primer. Allow the primer to dry and, if needed, apply a second coat. Lightly sand again with a fine grit before applying two coats of interior enamel.

Attaching headboard panel on convertible coffee table bed with magnetic catches
Use four magnetic cabinet door catches to mount the headboard panel inside the open end of the project when it's in "table" mode.

You can choose whatever method you prefer to apply the paint, but I used a good quality bristle brush. Take your time and be systematic in your approach, and you'll get great results.

Installing All-important Alignment Pins

Completed coffee table bed project
When the project is closed up as a table, the headboard panel cleverly hides the contents of the bed (stowed inside and ready for use).

While you can use a ready-made camping or cot mattress or a yoga mat for this bed, it will be far more comfortable if you call a local upholstery company and have it cut from latex or polyurethane foam to the required size. Be sure to ask about density and compression when shopping.

Storage space and foam pad in convertible coffee table bed

The higher the density (best is 1.8 rating or above), the more comfortable. Compression ratings determine the degree of softness. You can also order a foam rubber mattress online at For a "greener" option, use a cotton or wool-filled mattress.

Simple but Useful

Sleeping in a converted coffee table bed

Whether you use this piece in your home or cabin, or even send it off to college with your children, its simple yet practical design will be useful for years to come.

Caster Options

Ball Wheel Caster with Swivel Plate

Designer Wooden Casters with Black Wheel

4" Heavy-Duty Polyurethane Casters

5" Heavy-Duty Polyurethane Casters

Designer Wooden Casters

3" Heavy-Duty Polyurethane Casters

Colored Profile Casters

Click Here to Download the Drawing and Materials List.