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Old 08-13-2014, 12:38 PM   #1
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Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

Pretty early on in my experience with my SMB I discovered that I preferred the setup if I had the penthouse bed pushed toward the front of the van for sleeping rather than to the rear. Here are my thoughts on the topic. I hope that they might be useful to anybody planning a build.

First I should say that my van is a Ford E350 converted by SMB North. I realize that penthouse bed setups may be different on different vans and from different SMB locations.

It seems that the norm is to position the penthouse bed toward the back of the van. I say that because that’s the way most posted pictures look and that’s the way the pull handle on my bed is installed. Obviously, some layouts make positioning the penthouse bed to the rear preferable. Mine has just turned out not to be one of those.

Pictures help make sense of this so I have posted some pictures in my gallery that should help. There are 6 pictures there, 3 with the bed in aft position and 3 in fore position. There’s a side view, a top view and a view showing length in each position.

Here are the advantages that I see to the fore position:

-The side view pictures show that when the bed is forward you have maximum screen area around your head. I hadn’t realized that the screens on the penthouse top are only in three sides, not all four.

- The side view pictures also show that when the bed is forward you have an SMB-installed overhead light available for use while in the bed.

- The length pictures show that the total length of the bed is 82” in aft position and 75” in fore. That means that in aft you have a 6” shelf available at the front end of the van and in fore you have a 13” shelf at the back. I am short enough to fit in a 75” bed and find that the 13” shelf that it gives me at the back of the van is quite useful. I can set a duffel bag on it.
FYI, these pictures also show you that the bed does not snug right up against the shelf at either end. There is a 1” gap necessitated by the placement of the lockdown mechanism. This was a surprise to me when I took delivery but turns out to be a non-issue.

- The top view pictures show the areas that you can stand up in when the penthouse bed is down. In my layout with the bed aft I don’t have standing access to anything useful. In fore position I can get to the sink, stove, fridge and several cabinets.

Here is the one advantage that I see to the aft position, as my van was built:

- The side view pictures also show that when the bed is aft I have an SMB-installed pull handle available. If I had thought about all of this while I was doing my build I would have asked them to put it on the other end. I suppose that I could swap the handle and hanging hooks around to address but it is really only a minor inconvenience have the handle in a less than ideal spot.
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Old 08-13-2014, 01:02 PM   #2
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

I think with your layout I might do the same. But with so many of us with the galley towards the front ('50' style layouts or derivatives), it makes sense to use the bad in the 'aft' position for some of the same reasons you state.. Plus, with the '50', you then have access to the side doors, which is our general ingress/egress point.
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Old 08-13-2014, 01:04 PM   #3
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

Our penthouse bed is all the way forward. We have a built-in toilet in the back. It was a no brainer for us to have it all the way forward. Not comfortable for a guy to use the toilet all bent over.

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Old 08-13-2014, 01:14 PM   #4
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

rallypanam: Yeah, I figured that the prevalence of 50 layouts and of pictures of penthouse beds positioned aft would go hand in hand. I understand why it makes sense there.
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Old 08-13-2014, 03:31 PM   #5
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

I'd rather have the bed forward but I must have someway to get up there to the bed. Fridge is the only way up in my 50 model van. I also push the larger section of the bed (with my sleeping bag stowed there with the top down) over the top of the shorter section as soon as the top is popped. I rarely have it hooked to the ceiling for that reason. At night I have full height to walk around and the beds stacked on top of each other do not get in the way while using the couch. At night I just pull the bed down on to the rail, flip back the sleeping bag/blankets back, crawl up and crash.
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Old 08-13-2014, 04:14 PM   #6
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

Hmmm. I didn't even realize that some SMB beds are two piece. Mine's one piece so I thought they all were.

Do you or does anybody know what drives the decision to go one piece vs two piece? That is, do they say, "This is an RB-50 so it gets a two piece bed" or is "one piece vs two piece" just an option that you need to know to ask for?
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Old 08-13-2014, 05:03 PM   #7
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

Actually some are 3 piece. My 95 regular body is 3 pieces, and it's kind of a pain. It's also old enough where they didn't put hangers in the roof to lift the bed up with the top. I've been trying to figure out how to build this without rebuilding/upholstering a whole new one piece bed.
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Old 08-13-2014, 05:26 PM   #8
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

I have a different floorplan, custom with a full length aisle. My one piece bed normally goes to the back - so I can use the sink to climb up to the bed. If it is to the front I have to climb up on the rear sofa - squishy sofa is not the best support for climbing up.

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Old 08-13-2014, 06:07 PM   #9
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 86Scotty
Actually some are 3 piece. My 95 regular body is 3 pieces, and it's kind of a pain. It's also old enough where they didn't put hangers in the roof to lift the bed up with the top. I've been trying to figure out how to build this without rebuilding/upholstering a whole new one piece bed.
That's how my 94 GMC is setup too. I've never first hand how the newer ones hook to the top but that would be a nice upgrade.

We always have our bed to the back but think we'll try putting it to the front next time out. My wife is height challenged and it might be easier for her to get up and down with the bed to the front. In 94 they apparently didn't have an extended length PH top so mine doesn't go all the way back.
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Old 08-13-2014, 06:11 PM   #10
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Re: Penthouse Bed - Fore or Aft?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rallypanam
I think with your layout I might do the same. But with so many of us with the galley towards the front ('50' style layouts or derivatives), it makes sense to use the bad in the 'aft' position for some of the same reasons you state.. Plus, with the '50', you then have access to the side doors, which is our general ingress/egress point.
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