The Murphy Bed: Now You See It, Now You Don’t
If you need extra sleeping space for guests, futons and sofa beds are two options. But have you ever considered a Murphy bed? They’re extremely comfortable and take up zero floor space when not in use. And you can choose one that complements your room’s design. Here’s what you need to know about Murphy beds.
“Murphy beds have been increasing in popularity over the last five years due to smaller living spaces, downsizing and higher real estate values,” says Chelsea Williams, Retail and Internet Sales Manager at Murphybeds.com. “A Murphy bed provides you with the opportunity to have a spare bed without giving up the space for a spare bedroom,” she explains.
Dan Nelson, Principal Architect at Designs Northwest Architects, uses Murphy beds in his designs. “One of the great things about Murphy beds is that they can be folded up to fit into a wall of built-in cabinetry and completely disappear.”
Murphy beds can be used in a variety of applications. “They’re ideal for mixed-use spaces, like an office/bedroom, gym/guest bedroom, theater/guest bedroom, etcetera — and they’re great for occasional use sleeping areas,” explains Paul Foster, President of Contact Renovations & Construction. Foster has also used Murphy beds in some of his designs. In the photo below, he included one in a basement renovation project.
Michelle Tascione is Co-Lead at 84 Lumber’s Tiny Living Program and she believes Murphy beds are ideal for tiny homes where space is at a premium. However, she says this is not the only use. “They also bring more flavor to your home. For example, a Murphy bed with bookshelves that are finished in a rich wood tone could complement any den, while also adding an extra bed for overnight guests,” she explains. “Murphy beds also work well in small apartments where living and sleeping spaces are conjoined.”
Comfort and quality
Murphy beds look convenient, but are they comfortable? Yes, they are, according to Williams, who explains that unlike futons and sofa beds, Murphy beds don’t use mattresses that fold, so you can avoid those pesky bars and painful lumps. In fact, you can use your own mattress.
Also, you don’t have to take the sheets on and off every time you use the bed or put it away. For example, Williams says their beds have a Velcro strap system and this keeps the bedding (and the mattress) in place when it is closed. And if you don’t like vertical Murphy beds, you can get a side tilt configuration that opens horizontally.
“I would advise homeowners to do their research,” Williams says. “There are numerous Murphy bed options available with varying degrees of quality and warranties.” She recommends considering a Murphy bed as an investment. “You want to be sure that you are not only happy with the final product but that it will also operate effectively over its lifetime,” Williams explains.
Safety and ease of use
Foster agrees that you should consider the bed an investment and choose accordingly. “Like anything, pick a quality Murphy bed since a cheap bed means it will be clunky, heavy and hard to open and close.” Also, he warns that a cheap Murphy bed is likely to have lower quality hardware. Why is that important? “Hardware is a key component of a Murphy bed and if it’s clunky and heavy and if the hinges get easily misaligned, the bed can become dangerous to raise and lower,” Foster explains.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t have problems with a quality Murphy bed. “Our beds are incredibly easy to lift and lower,” says Williams. “We use a counter-balanced spring-loaded mechanism that is essentially a fingertip operation,” she explains. “When the bed is balanced correctly, it will sit at a 45-degree angle without lowering or closing.”
It’s not quite as simple as just choosing the type and style of a Murphy bed. There are other factors that should also be considered. “When designing for Murphy beds, the designer needs to allow enough area around the folded-down bed,” Nelson explains. The photo above shows one of Nelson’s projects, a lower-level cabana with dual Murphy beds and glass garage doors.
Foster agrees that space should be a consideration. “Give some thought to the big picture and be practical about the use of space,” he says. “If it’s a daily-use bed that is built into a space that is too small to comfortably move around the room when in use, then it will be very inconvenient for the end user.”
Functionality also includes other considerations. For example, you don’t want to drag heavy furniture around when you need to use the bed. “Keep the room’s other furnishings lightweight and mobile to allow easy access to the Murphy bed,” Nelson advises. “You also need to provide interior lighting at the bed’s headboard so guests can read,” Nelson says. “Also, don’t forget to provide nearby additional storage for blankets, pillows and other bedding.”
And while you can use your own mattress, you’ll need to consider which type will work best. “If you’re planning to stick your pillow-top mattress into the Murphy bed, make sure the bed’s design can accommodate a mattress that thick,” says Foster. “Some won’t close with too thick of a mattress.”
Installation can also be tricky, according to Thom Kuntz, Co-Lead at 84 Lumber’s Tiny Living Program. “If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, be cautious of the installation process,” he warns. “Many pieces will need to be put together, including some heavy sections — and it’s definitely a two-person job.”