When most of your life takes place within your own four walls, every square meter counts. So the last two years have inspired some serious space-saving creativity.
“Suddenly everyone was surrounded by their surroundings and they were just kind of like, ‘If I’m going to be spending this much time here, I really want it to be a great quality space,'” says interior designer and HGTV host Vern Yip.
Oddly enough, a popular strategy for creating multipurpose spaces at home in 2022 is an innovation born more than a century ago: the Murphy bed, a ready-made bed that protrudes from a wall and instantly transforms a living room into a bedroom.
New Jersey-based interior designer Karen Topjian recalls seeing Murphy beds in old black-and-white Hollywood movies and thought they looked wonderfully glamorous. It seemed almost magical, she thought. Unlike a sleeper sofa, which requires moving pillows and some amount of assembly, Murphy beds have the superpower to transform a room with just a single movement.
Of course, the spring-loaded metal bed that almost destroyed Charlie Chaplin in his 1916 short film One AM. seemed pretty uncomfortable. Even the WWII-era models probably weren’t particularly comfortable, says Topjian, no matter how chic they looked in the movies. But technology has improved dramatically.
Today, she says, quality Murphy beds open easily and can be accessorized with quality mattresses and plush linens.
When a client with a New York City studio apartment asked them to create a space to eat, sleep, live and work in, Topjian designed a Murphy bed that was built into custom hardwood shelving, giving the compact living space plenty of storage and gave flexibility.
And the appeal of Murphy beds extends beyond those who live in apartments. As the pandemic continues, even people with larger homes “are struggling with living in small spaces,” says Heather Higgins, another interior designer from New Jersey.
Whether older relatives are moving in or adult children are returning home, many people wonder how to add extra sleeping space to existing rooms. Depending on the circumstances, a Murphy bed may be the solution.
Among its best uses:
LEADING GUESTS AT HOME — WITHOUT RENTING ROOMS
Interior designer Gonzalo Bueno has a carefully planned home office in Dallas. A dramatic floor-to-ceiling black-and-white painting stretches behind his desk, flanked on either side by built-in shelves.
He says his office is set up that way 90% of the year. But when relatives come to visit from Mexico, his desk is pushed forward and the painting torn down to reveal a Murphy bed.
It’s a better option than even the highest-end sofa bed, he says: “This is a queen-size bed — a real bed. So it’s heaven” for visitors. “But for my 90% of the year it just looks like a beautiful installation with a piece of art.”
Bueno created a similar design for clients who needed a playroom for their children and a guest room for visiting grandparents. They didn’t want elderly relatives sleeping on a sofa bed, but also didn’t want to lose an entire room to a queen bed. At one end of her playroom is now a Murphy bed, hidden in a built-in storage space.
Wall beds can also be practical for single parents whose children do not live with them full-time. Bueno has a client who uses a guest room primarily as a meditation space. But when his child lives with him, a Murphy bed is kept open and the space feels entirely like a bedroom.
According to Higgins, the pandemic is inspiring some city dwellers to move to a smaller apartment so they can afford a second place away from the city. In such cases, a Murphy bed can make urban space more manageable.
Topjian recommends planning the room with an open bed to ensure it doesn’t feel overcrowded. Make sure any furniture you need to move isn’t too heavy or unwieldy.
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 traditional model. And look for a good quality that sinks slowly and “makes a soft landing,” says Topjian.
Make sure your Murphy bed is from a reliable manufacturer, designers stressed. The name was once a trademark but has been used by a variety of retailers since 1989.
HOME OFFICE IN ONE BEDROOM
For those who have converted a spare 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 there.
“People pay a lot of attention to what their background is,” Yip says on video calls. “This small part of your living environment that you now share with the rest of the world – what does it say?”
A Murphy bed can offer the elegant look of wooden doors instead of throwing the glimpse of a bed laden with pillows and blankets.
Aside from creating a work-friendly Zoom background, it can also help you focus.
“You don’t want to work all day and see a bed next to you,” says Bueno. “It’s just going to be too tempting.”