Everything You Need To Know About The Murphy Bed

Image courtesy of Lori Wall Beds.

Ah, the ever-cool, and ever-efficient Murphy bed. Maybe you know it as a wall bed or a pull-down bed, but whatever you call it, you know how it saves space and how magical it can be. If you’re living in close quarters or just want to create spaces that have multiple functions, like a guest bedroom, the wall bed might be the option you're searching for. But where does the Murphy bed come from? What even is a Murphy bed? Where can you get a murphy bed? Do you need a special mattress to make this bed work?

All excellent questions.

Morality Is The Mother Of Invention

The origin of the fold-up bed begins with a love story. In the early 1900s, William Lawrence Murphy found himself in quite the predicament. He was courting a young opera singer while living in a small apartment in the heart of San Francisco and longed for some quality time with his lady friend—as any good courtship would demand. The problem? The strict moral code at the time looked down on a young, unmarried woman entering a man’s bedroom. This wouldn’t normally have been so prohibitive, but Murphy’s studio apartment meant that his entire living space was a bedroom.

Not one to be stopped by a silly societal rule, Murphy got to work. His first bed design allowed him to simply fold his bed upward and inward towards the wall into a closet. It hid the whole setup in the closet and freed his bedroom up to become a parlor. He could then entertain his soon-to-be Mrs. and their friends as he wished in the space. It wasn’t the first of its kind, no, but Murphy was the first to introduce some key elements into the design that made the setup not only easier to reproduce but pretty darn practical for those living in San Francisco.

From Murphy’s Lips To Hollywood’s Ears

The Murphy bed caught on quickly. The ever-growing population and shrinking living space made for good timing on Murphy’s part. His original design was patented in 1911 and has since become a staple in apartments as well as on the big screen. Charlie Chaplin famously tangoed with one in his 1916 silent hit, One AM. The Three Stooges, Mel Brooks, Roger Rabbit, and even James Bond have all shared a screen with Murphy’s star bed invention.

Off the screen, manufacturers were cashing in on the concept, and studio apartments, apartments, and guest rooms were using them as major selling points. Years later, in what sounds like a made-for-TV movie, Murphy’s grandson would have to fight another manufacturer to prove that the term “Murphy bed” belonged to their company. The court ruled that the term was ubiquitous enough that it was no longer eligible for copyright protection. Let this be a lesson, kids—trademark everything.

First Timer's Guide To The Murphy Bed

Eventually, the closet design gave way to a wall bed, which is much more common today than its original counterpart. You can find these bed frames just about anywhere, but some companies have been specializing in the fold-up bed for years. Companies like Wilding Wallbeds and Costco have a ton of great options, and your local furniture designers probably offer easy to assemble beds that open and close as well. You can even find some models that fold up into a desk or shelving unit with side cabinets, or other storage and furniture designs, creating even more functions for your space during the day.

The key to longevity with your mattress and a Murphy bed design is to be sure that there’s enough support both when the bed is in use and when it's in storage. If you’re using a foam mattress, like the Tuft & Needle beds, a flat, even surface is the best support for sleeping on, and you want to make sure the mattress isn’t sliding down and sagging when the bed is folded upright into the wall. An innerspring mattress has a bit more flexibility with the base of the bed. A spring or mesh base on the bed would still give it enough support in most cases.

Always check your mattress warranty to make sure that you’re complying with the foundational needs of your model’s design. If you're not sure, reach out to customer service. You’ll also want to be absolutely sure that your Murphy bed has the right dimensions needed to house your mattress.

Now that you’re an expert on Murphy beds, you might even be up for a DIY project. The Spruce has a great roundup of DIY wall-beds to try. You can build side cabinets or create other storage designs for your wall bed. For anyone wanting to save space or create a more practical room space, the Murphy wall bed is for you.

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Shelly Weaver-Cather
Shelly Weaver-Cather

Shelly Weaver is part of the Content Team at Tuft & Needle, leading the writing and editing of our blog. Not quite a Phoenix native, (They take that sort of thing super seriously.) Shelly has spent most of her life in the Phoenix Metro area and has no plans of leaving anytime soon. She made the unexpected jump out of wedding photography and onto T&N’s team in 2016, and found a passion for the people that keep the lights on. She still finds herself shooting in her free time, though these days there are less bridal portraits and more masterpieces of her first child, Duke, a lab-pit mix with an unparalleled love for both T&N mattress hogging and couch destroying.

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