Design Solution from the Pandemic Era of the Past: The Murphy Bed


When the vast majority of your life takes place within the four walls of your home, every square foot counts. So the last two years have inspired some serious, space-saving creativity.

“All of a sudden everyone was just surrounded by their surroundings, just kind of thinking, ‘If I’m going to be spending this much time here, I really want this to be a high quality space,'” says interior designer and HGTV host Vern Yip.

Curiously, a popular strategy for creating versatile spaces at home in 2022 is an innovation born over a century ago: the Murphy bed, a fully-made bed emerging from a wall to instantly transform a living room into a bedroom.

New Jersey-based interior designer Karen Topjian remembers seeing Murphy beds in old black-and-white Hollywood movies and thinking they looked wonderfully glamorous. It seemed almost magical, she thought. Unlike a sofa bed which requires moving cushions and some degree of assembly, Murphy beds have the super power to transform a space with just one move.

Sure, the spring metal bed that nearly destroyed Charlie Chaplin in his 1916 short “One AM” seemed pretty uncomfortable. Even World War II models probably weren’t particularly comfortable, Topjian says, no matter how chic they were in the movies. But the technology has improved dramatically.

Today, she says, high-quality Murphy beds open easily and can be outfitted with high-end mattresses and lush bedding.

So when a client with a studio in New York challenged her to create a space where he could eat, sleep, live and work, Topjian designed a Murphy bed built into custom hardwood shelving, giving to the compact living space plenty of storage and flexibility.

And the appeal of Murphy beds goes beyond those who live in apartments. As the pandemic lingers, even people with larger homes are facing “problems living in small spaces,” says Heather Higgins, another interior designer from New Jersey.

Whether aging parents are moving in or adult children are returning home, many people wonder how to add extra sleeping space to existing bedrooms. Depending on the circumstances, a Murphy bed may be the solution.

Among its best uses:


Interior designer Gonzalo Bueno has a meticulously planned home office in Dallas. Behind his desk, a dramatic black and white painting stretches from floor to ceiling, flanked on both sides by built-in bookshelves.

For 90% of the year, he says, his office is set up exactly this way. But when relatives come over from Mexico, her desk is moved forward and that painting is lowered to reveal a Murphy bed.

It’s a better option than even the highest quality sofa bed, he says: “It’s a queen-size bed — a real bed. So it’s ‘paradise’ for visitors. “But for my 90% of the year, it looks like a nice integrated with a piece of art.”

Bueno created a similar design for clients who needed a playroom for their children and a guest bedroom for visiting grandparents. They didn’t want older parents sleeping on a sofa bed, but also didn’t want to lose an entire room to a queen bed. One end of their playroom now houses a Murphy bed tucked away in built-in storage.

Murphy beds can also be convenient for single parents whose children don’t live with them full time. Bueno has a client who uses a guest bedroom primarily as a meditation space. But when his child lives with him, a Murphy bed stays open, and the room looks just like a bedroom.


Higgins says the pandemic is prompting some city dwellers to move to a smaller apartment so they can afford a second space outside of town. In such cases, a Murphy bed can make the city space more manageable.

Topjian recommends mapping the room with the bed open to ensure it won’t get too cluttered. Make sure the furniture you’ll need to move isn’t too heavy or in the way.

If you use a Murphy bed as your primary sleeping space and open it up frequently, it helps to choose a lightweight memory foam mattress over a conventional model. And look for a good quality one that lowers slowly and “makes a soft landing,” Topjian says.

Make sure your Murphy bed is from a reliable manufacturer, the designers pointed out. The name was once trademarked, but has been used by a wide range of retailers since 1989.


For those who have converted a guest bedroom into a home office, it can be difficult to create a space that looks professional on video calls while still having a bed in it.

“People pay a lot of attention to their backgrounds” on video calls, Yip says. “This little part of your living environment that you now share with the rest of the world – what does that say?”

A Murphy bed can offer the sleek look of wooden doors, rather than a view of a bed laden with pillows and blankets.

Beyond creating a Zoom-friendly background, it can also help you focus.

“You wouldn’t want to work all day seeing a bed next to you,” Bueno says. “It will just be too too tempting.”


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