Long seen as a strictly functional solution to limited space, the Murphy bed has become more popular than ever—here’s how it happened.
Once seen as a bit of a novelty or something only seen in tiny studio apartments, Murphy beds have returned to the collective consciousness in the last few years. In 2020, designer Anita Yokota installed a Murphy bed in her home to address her new need for a more flexible space in a newly work-from-home world. Her post about the DIY project went viral and inspired a lot of new Murphy bed fans—and it turns out that the folks who are adding them to their homes aren’t just those living in tiny houses.
Still, this piece of furniture is a bit divisive. Some believe that they’re a bit gimmicky and not a comfortable spot to sleep on a consistent basis—but the space-saving appeal of these beds, particularly when they’re used in guest rooms that often go unoccupied, is undeniable.
So, are these beds a flash-in-the-pan fad or a furniture trend to try? Read on for all the details you’ve always wondered about with wallbeds, plus what to consider before installing one in your home.
What Is a Murphy Bed?
A Murphy bed (or wallbed) is a bed that can be folded away and stored vertically against the wall to allow you to free up space when it’s not in use. Although some people use the terms synonymously, according to Aime Boekhout, director of operations at Wallbeds “n” More Arizona, there is a difference: “A wallbed is a freestanding piece of furniture secured to the wall (into studs) versus a Murphy bed being something that has to bolt into the homes’ concrete foundation,” she says. This means that wallbeds are an easier option to install into a home.
While most people have heard of Murphy beds—or their close cousins, wallbeds—many people haven’t actually seen them in person, which leaves a lot of questions about the details and practical applications of these iconic pieces of furniture.
Why Are Murphy Beds So Popular?
People might be interested in a Murphy bed for multiple reasons, but most are drawn to this solution in the interest of making the most of where they live, Boekhout says.
“People have always had a need for products to help create more space or utilize small spaces in their living situations. The need for multi-functional rooms has continued to grow, and people want to get more use of their real estate,” Boekhout says. “Why have a guest room that has a bed in it that only gets used a few times a year and collects dust (and your piles of stuff) the rest of the time? Why not have the room be your home office, craft, or exercise room most of the time—but you have the guest space when you need it?”
Not surprisingly, since the pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our lives, it has also influenced the popularity of Murphy beds.
“[The] largest and fastest surge in sales for wallbeds was COVID. So many folks were sent home for work or school, or were without gyms, [so] creating these spaces in their homes was essential,” Boekhout says. “If you look at the previous item—real estate being very expensive—combined with being forced to work full time from home (sometimes both adults) with kids being home and doing school at home—something had to give. People could only sit all together at a kitchen table or with makeshift workstations on temporary tables for so long.”
And while the speedy adoption of Murphy beds was driven by sudden lifestyle shifts, this isn’t necessarily a fleeting trend.
“Once this became a more permanent situation—lots of people and companies have transitioned to completely work from home even after COVID slowed down—people had to have solutions like ours to live a sane life during this reality. Wallbeds are perfect for this,” says Boekhout.
What You Need to Know Before Adding a Murphy Bed to Your Space
One benefit of the resurgence of the Murphy bed’s popularity is that there are now more options than ever, so there’s bound to be a Murphy bed on the market that suits your needs. Of course, that also means that you have many things to consider when making your selection.
Before you choose a wallbed, think about how you will utilize the space. Is it primarily a guest bedroom, or will this be an office where the Murphy bed will be a bonus, but not something you’re regularly using?
Boekhout suggests really embracing the flexibility of this piece of furniture to truly make the most of it: “Wallbeds “n” More tends to sell wallbeds with a multi-function purpose. Thus, it is not just a wall bed, but it doubles as a library or a workspace or a craft table,” she says.
Also, consider who will be sleeping there most. If it’s for visiting grandkids, you might be able to get away with a twin, but if you expect adult visitors, you’re probably better off with a larger bed, space permitting.
And of course, you’ll want a design that fits in with the overall style of your room and house, so it looks good in both its upright and extended positions.
Once you know what your needs and preferences are, decide whether you’re going to try and DIY like Yokota or purchase something fully built. It’s worth noting that this is not a great beginner’s project and takes some considerable construction skills. If you want something one-of-a-kind without getting hands-on, some companies also have custom options so that you can design a perfect wallbed for your needs.
“I think the main takeaway is that wallbeds or Murphy beds are for everyone,” Boekhout says. “Large space, small space, guest rooms, everyday sleepers, space needed for other purposes, etc. Wall beds simply create more livable and usable space in any home.” And who doesn’t want that?