How to Build a Tatami Bed

Written by beverlee brick
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A tatami mat bed frame is a surprisingly easy do-it-yourself project that adds an Oriental touch to any guest room or primary bedroom. For most people, tatami mats are too hard to sleep on without extra padding, even if it's something as thin as a good quilt. Traditionalists keep the padding and bedding in a nearby closet during the day, but with the right colour scheme it can look attractive rolled up on one side of the bed or another.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • 2 full-size tatami mats
  • 2 half-size tatami mats
  • 3 beams, 2-inch by 4-inch by 90-inch
  • 7 planks, 1-inch by 12-inch by 72-inch
  • 2 strips, 1/2-inch by 2-inch by 91-inch
  • 2 strips, 1/2-inch by 2-inch by 7-inch
  • Box of 3-inch wood screws
  • Box of 2-inch wood screws
  • Painting supplies
  • Black, high-gloss enamel paint
  • Power saw
  • Power drill with screwdriver bits
  • Power sander

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    Prepare Lumber

  1. 1

    Cut your lumber to the dimensions listed. If you don't have a power saw or would prefer a professional to make the cuts, have your lumber yard cut your purchases to size.

  2. 2

    Sand all surfaces of the lumber with coarse grit sandpaper. Sand again with fine grit sandpaper.

  3. 3

    Apply one coat of paint to all surfaces of the lumber.

    Mattress Frame

  1. 1

    Set two beams up parallel to and six feet from each other, with their ends aligned. If you drew lines between the ends, the result should look like a rectangle. The beams should rest on their narrowest sides.

  2. 2

    Set a plank so it rests on both beams. Its ends should be flush with the outside edges of the beam, and the edge of its outer side should be flush with the ends of the beams. Screw the plank in place with two 3-inch wood screws per beam.

  3. 3

    Set a second plank across the beams, parallel to and one inch away from the first. Screw it in place as you did the first plank.

  4. 4

    Add and screw in place the remaining planks, each parallel to and one inch away from the plank that immediately preceded it. The last plank should have its outside edge flush with the ends of the beams, even if this means fudging its distance from the previous plank.

  5. 5

    Slide the third beam in under the planks. Screw it in place with two 3-inch wood screws per plank.

    Final Framing

  1. 1

    Set up one 91-inch strip along one 90-inch side of the frame. Position it so that it juts one inch above the tops of the planks and 1/2 inch out from each side of the bed. Screw it in place with five evenly spaced 2-inch wood screws.

  2. 2

    Repeat Step 1 to add the second 91-inch strip to the other 90-inch side of the frame.

  3. 3

    Set up one 72-inch strip along one 72-inch end of the frame. Position it so it lies between the overlapping ends of the 90-inch strips, with its top edge aligned with the tops of the longer strips. Screw it in place with one 2-inch wood screw per beam.

  4. 4

    Repeat Step 3 to add the final strip to the frame.

  5. 5

    Apply a second coat of paint. Allow to dry completely.

  6. 6

    Lay in one full-size tatami mat, parallel to the 72-inch end of the bed. Slide it outward so it lies against the strip on one end. Add the second tatami so it lies against the other 72-inch strip.

  7. 7

    Nest the half-size tatami mats in the space between the full size mats.

Tips and warnings

  • This design is for a traditionally low-lying tatami frame. You can lift it up to Western height by adding four 6-inch by 6-inch by 24-inch blocks as bed posts, screwed to the planks.

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