How cool is a bunkhouse?

Sometimes colloquially called the dorm or the barracks, a bunkhouse is a quintessential part of the cottage vacation experience.

Friends sleeping over. Cousins getting together. Reunions. Parties. Summer vacation. Long weekends at the cottage. You name it. The bunkhouse is a place where the group ends up at night for laughs, stories, games, and sometimes even sleep…

When you need lots of beds (especially for kids) for those reunions or gatherings, but don’t want to commit tons of space, the bunk house is the perfect solution.

The bunkhouse is a room designed for practicality and efficiency, but also for fun.

Up late, away from the adults. Some of the best memories of childhood are camping out in the bunkhouse.

A well designed bunkhouse should feel special, like a tucked away cottage, or a secret escape. As such, it is an opportunity to have fun with the design. It can be quirky, bright, moody; it’s own little world, separate from the rest of the house.

Here are some tips and recommendations to inspire your bunkhouse design:

The Appeal of Bunkhouse Living

Traditionally used to house working ranch hands, bunkhouses have become a popular accommodation choice for various settings, from family compounds, lake houses and cottages, to retreat centers. Their appeal lies in space efficiency and the fun of the communal living experience. It is a simple, practical idea that becomes a cozy retreat where guests or family members can share stories and create memories.

Designing Your Bunkhouse: Key Considerations

When planning your bunkhouse, you should consider several key factors. Well thought out design will ensure your bunkhouse withstands the test of time. Think about:

  • Location: As we mentioned, a bunkhouse is most successful when it feel like it’s own little world. Is it a separate building, connected to the house by paths or walkways, or tucked away at the extents? Kids can play games and stay up late and don’t have to worry about being noisy. Adults don’t have to be annoyed at noise. It should feel like a taste of freedom. This also gives it a sense of privacy if you are using it for adult retreats or workshops.
  • Size and Layout: How many beds do you need? Is there a common area? Space for gaming tables? Often there is a bunk bath that is dedicated to the experience.
  • Style and Theme: Does it match the rest of the house? Or is it a space unto itself? The story you tell with the design of this space is linked with stories etched in your guest’s memories. Play with colors, textures and materials accordingly.

For those embarking on this exciting project, our residential architecture service offers personalized guidance and expert design solutions to bring your vision to life.

Creative Bunkhouse Layouts and Themes

Unlock the potential of your bunkhouse with creative designs that are fun, memorable and functional. The possibilities are endless, from cozy, wood-clad retreats that echo the warmth of a traditional cabin to sleek, minimalist spaces. Here are some ideas to inspire your project:

  • Rustic Retreat: Incorporate natural materials like wood and stone for a classic look. Look at historic ranch houses, farmhouses and cottages for inspiration. What are the details that made them special?
  • Modern Minimalist: Utilize clean lines and a neutral palette for a contemporary feel. Innovative storage can be concealed.
  • Adventure Basecamp: Design with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, featuring storage for gear and durable finishes. Look at back-country lodges, hiking and ski huts, where simplicity of materials and construction dictated the design experience. If you’re an adventurer, you can play this up with images and decor from your own travels.

Incorporating Amenities for Enhanced Comfort

A well-appointed bunkhouse goes beyond primary sleeping quarters; it includes amenities catering to its occupants’ needs and comfort. Here are some essential amenities to consider:

  • Kitchenette: Do your guests want to store any food, or prepare small meals or snacks?A small, equipped kitchen gives your guests independence and is more practical than having them share the main kitchen in the house.
    Bathroom Facilities: Depending on the size and layout, include private or shared bathroom facilities with modern comforts. Do you want it to feel like a hostel, or summer camp for the kids? Or refined luxury for discerning guests looking for a hotel and spa-like experience?
  • Outdoor Spaces: Decks, patios, or fire pit areas extend the living space outdoors, perfect for relaxation and socializing.
  • Nooks and Crannies: Because so many people are sharing the space, you need efficient storage to keep down the clutter. The design should feature practical places to stash everyone’s stuff. This can mean clever niches in the beds to stash things, books, games, secrets; lockers, cubbies or closets; drawers built into the bed frames; hooks and hangers. This is where you and your designer can have some fun coming up with creative ideas that add to the experience.

Decorating Tips for a Cozy Bunkhouse

Once you have your bunkhouse located, and fit everything on your wish list into the layout, you can start on the interiors. Interior design and decoration are crucial in creating the atmosphere you want. Here are some tips to help you achieve that perfect balance of style and comfort:

  • Furniture Design and Selection: Often the main furniture in your bunkhouse will be custom designed: built in beds and storage. Your designer can come up with ideas and solutions that fit or exceed your vision. Freestanding pieces should fit the theme. As with any project, we recommend high quality furniture made of clean, natural materials: solid wood over particle boards; wool or linen fabrics over polyesters, and so on. These will not only be healthier for you and your guests, but will look better and last longer, likely to become cherished heirloom pieces, and part of the enduring memories.
  • Color Scheme and Lighting: Warm, neutral colors and clear stained wood fit with a rustic, cozy or camp style design. White or light colored walls can make the space feel brighter and larger. Good lighting is good lighting: This is a design goal everywhere, but the bunkhouse offers creative opportunities. Task lighting and built-in reading lights, add to the coziness and charm of the bunks.
  • Personal Touches: Adding personal touches, such as artwork related to the theme, or images from family adventures; rugs, and decorative pillows connected to the story or history of the place, can make the space feel more homely and inviting.

Remember, the goal is to create a space that feels like a getaway, a unique place. Whether it’s reminiscent of a summer camp, or a luxury retreat, it’s up to you and your designer to tell the story.


Creating a bunkhouse offers a unique opportunity to design a functional and inviting space perfect for hosting guests or serving as a cozy retreat. Considering the critical design elements, amenities, and decorating tips discussed, you can ensure your bunkhouse is a place where memories are made and cherished. Whether you’re drawn to the rustic charm of traditional designs or the clean lines of modern aesthetics, a bunkhouse concept is perfect for your needs.