Double Any Room’s Potential With the Best Murphy Beds
Office? Guest bedroom? It can be both.
Published Dec 14, 2021 1:30 AM
Necessity, the saying goes, is the mother of invention. In the early 20th century, an Irish immigrant named William Lawrence Murphy was hoping to entertain a friend at his apartment, but as a bachelor low on cash, he was living in a studio. Ever the gentleman, Murphy didn’t want to give the girl in question the wrong impression by inviting her into a space with a bed front and center (the scandal!), so he got to work creating a solution, and the Murphy bed—now the colloquial term for any bed that folds into a wall when not in use—was born.
Today Murphy beds are the perfect combination of fun and function, says Emma Kemper, principal designer at Emma Beryl Interiors. “Since they aren’t for everyday use, there’s a charming novelty element to it, where you feel like you’re sleeping in a cozy, tucked-away, special-occasion kind of spot,” she says.
Even beyond the novelty factor, it’s easy to see the appeal of a Murphy bed in a space like a studio apartment or guest room that also needs to double as a home office. “When it’s hidden,” says Kemper, “you can make it look any way you want, so you can modernize the millwork, add wallpaper to it, hang art, or even build a fold-out desk to the back of it to really make it feel surprising and unique.”
Below, we’ve rounded up the best Murphy beds for transforming your space in a snap.
- Best shelving: The Lori Wall Bed
- Best basic: Bestar Nebula Collection Queen Murphy Bed
- Best customizable: California Closets Murphy Bed
- Best classic: Murphy Wall Beds The Lancaster
- Best compact: Day & Night Murphy Cube Cabinet Bed
- Best twin-size: Orren Ellis Dicus Low-Profile Murphy Bed With Mattress
- Best upholstered: Alice Modern Classic Upholstered Convertible Wall Bed
- Best desk: Bed & Room Porter Queen Portrait Wall Bed
Best Shelving: The Lori Wall Bed
Size: Twin, full, and queen | Vertical vs. horizontal: Both | Shelving: Yes | Color: Unfinished, walnut, and white | Separate mattress: Yes
What we like:
- Great value
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Usable shelves
- You’ll need two people to lift in and out of position
Why we chose it: Shelves turn this bed into a bookcase that can hold plants, photos, and other decor.
The appeal of a Murphy bed is that it turns space ordinarily taken up by a bed into space you can really use, and this one delivers thanks to shelves that turn it into a bookcase by day. Lori Wall Beds has developed a unique system for turning the shelves into a bed and back again, which also has the effect of bringing the price down—this one costs less than $1,000, making it by far the most affordable option on our list.
Best Basic: Bestar Nebula Collection Queen Murphy Bed
Size: Queen | Vertical vs. horizontal: Vertical | Shelving: No | Color: White and gray | Separate mattress: Yes
What we like:
- Easy to fold and unfold
- Exterior is a blank canvas
- Ships in three separate boxes
Why we chose it: The simplest option on our list—no fuss, no muss.
Sometimes it’s better to keep it simple, which is why this Murphy bed is a great option. From the outside it looks like a cabinet with no added shelves or decor, meaning you can put your own stamp on it in the form of wallpaper or paint. This one uses the classic dual-piston system, making it a breeze to pull down and put back up—a major plus if you’ve got a houseful of company.
Best Customizable: California Closets Murphy Beds
What we like:
- Totally customizable
- A trusted brand
- Emphasis is on usable storage
- More expensive than a ready-made option
Why we chose it: A brand that has been doing custom closets for decades knows that one size doesn’t always fit all.
Since the late 1970s, California Closets has been a go-to for architects, builders, and interior designers looking to put together closet organizing systems tailored to a specific set of needs. The brand is no less successful in the Murphy bed category—it works closely with buyers to design custom beds from a variety of options, including vertical versus horizontal; shelving versus no shelving; and add-ons such as rails for hanging clothes and even nightstand-like interior shelves.
Best Classic: Murphy Wall Beds The Lancaster
Size: Twin, twin XL, full, and queen | Vertical vs. horizontal: Both | Shelving: Optional | Color: Everything from unfinished wood to two-tone maple | Separate mattress: Yes
What we like:
- The original Murphy bed retailer
- Includes a 25-year warranty
- Shipping can take up to four weeks
Why we chose it: The first Murphy bed company is still making reliable, sturdy beds after nearly a century in business. We particularly like The Lancaster’s shaker-style cabinet fronts.
While the term Murphy bed is now used to refer to pretty much any wall-mounted bed, Murphy Wall Beds is the original, and it’s still a great choice for anyone looking for some custom options without doing an entire build from scratch. The Canvas, our favorite from the brand, is made from unfinished wood intended to be painted or wallpapered in any color you want (though we do kind of love the gold one shown on the website). These beds can also be ordered in vertical or horizontal options, depending on the size of your space.
Best Compact: Day & Night Murphy Cube Cabinet Bed
Size: Queen | Vertical vs. horizontal: Horizontal | Shelving: No | Color: Cherry, dark brown, and stonewash | Separate mattress: No
What we like:
- Ships fully assembled
- Ideal for small spaces
- Tends to go out of stock from time to time
Why we chose it: This cabinet-style Murphy bed looks great and takes up less space than a dresser.
This Murphy bed comes in a cabinet so unobtrusive you might sometimes forget it’s even holding a bed. When you remember, though, you’ll be rewarded with a memory foam mattress to make you or your guests extra comfortable. Since Murphy beds are all about convenience, it’s an added bonus that this one ships fully assembled, making it the ideal pick if you’re expecting last-minute company.
Best Twin-Size: Orren Ellis Dicus Low-Profile Murphy Bed With Mattress
Size: Twin | Vertical vs. horizontal: Horizontal | Shelving: No | Color: White, light oak | Separate mattress: No
What we like:
- Twin size is good for kids
- Exterior is a sleek neutral
- Assembly is required
Why we chose it: A twin-size Murphy bed perfect for kids of all ages.
Kid-size furniture can be hard to shop for; how do you find pieces that will work now and later? This twin-size Murphy bed fits the bill in both cases. Installed in a nursery, for example, it can be a handy option for parents who want to stay close to little ones in case of bad dreams, and as kids get a bit bigger, it can be a fun way to introduce sleeping in a proper bed. Of course, this design also works for grown-ups—the natural oak version has mid-century vibes and would look great next to an Eames chair (or two).
Best Upholstered: Alice Modern Classic Upholstered Convertible Wall Bed
Size: Full | Vertical vs. horizontal: Vertical | Shelving: No | Color: Gray | Separate mattress: Yes
What we like:
- Light and dark gray options are neutral without being boring
- Fabric is treated to repel bacteria and mites
- At 136 pounds, this is the lightest bed on the list
- Final sale
Why we chose it: This Murphy bed’s fabric finish is easy to clean and even easier to style.
An upholstered headboard instantly makes any bedroom feel more luxe, which is one of the reasons we love this Murphy bed. The exterior is wrapped in a sophisticated, high-performance fabric that becomes a headboard as the bed unfolds to its full size. Strategically placed pockets on the side of the bed are perfect for storing bedtime reading (or phones), and the fabric is antimicrobial and anti-mite.
How We Chose These Products
When shopping for Murphy beds, we looked for well-reviewed pieces that fit with a variety of decor styles, as well as those that are easy to customize. Safety ratings are key here, and we also paid special attention to ease of use: Most of our picks can be opened and closed by a single person. In addition, we looked at mattress size and heft, since any good Murphy bed should be just as comfortable as a bed that doesn’t fold up during the day.
Our Shopping Checklist
Types of Murphy Beds
There are two primary types of Murphy beds—ones that look like wardrobes, which tend to unfold vertically, and beds that fold up to look like a chest of drawers, which more often than not open horizontally. Standard vertical Murphy beds tend to offer more variety in terms of size, while a chest-style one takes up less space.
Style and Design
If you’re not building a custom piece, we suggest a Murphy bed that keeps it simple in neutral wood or painted in shades of white, gray, or black. This will help ensure it doesn’t look too bulky in your space—plus you can slot it into any room rather than designing around it the way you might with a traditional bed.
If you’re shopping for a Murphy bed to use daily (if, like its inventor, you live in a studio apartment, for example), you’ll want to look for something that emphasizes ease of use. Can you open and close it on your own? Does it feel sturdy when you’re sleeping on it? Can it comfortably support a restless sleeper?
Mattress and Bed Dimensions
While it’s rare to find a king-size Murphy bed, most other sizes are represented. For daily use, we’d suggest a queen-size bed, while a smaller size will work for a bed in a home office (for guests or midday naps).
Do you want your Murphy bed to be more than a bed? A piece that gets used less frequently is a good candidate for added storage, but if you’re buying something to sleep on nightly, it might get annoying to take down books and pictures and then put them up again each morning.
Assembly and Installation
Some Murphy beds come preassembled, while others require a little DIY. When it comes to installation, hiring a pro is the way to go for maximum security and peace of mind.
Q: How comfortable are Murphy beds?
It depends. Some beds designed for nightly sleepers are indistinguishable from regular beds, while others might be a little stiffer. Overall, Murphy beds tend to be on the firm side, so keep that in mind when shopping.
Q: What type of mattress can I use for a Murphy bed?
Kemper says that memory foam mattresses are the way to go here: They’re usually thinner than standard mattresses, making them easier to fit into a Murphy bed.
Q: Do all Murphy beds come with a piston mechanism?
Most do, but some, like the Lori Wall Bed we listed, are designed without one. A piston mechanism makes a Murphy bed easier to fold and unfold, while beds without a piston tend to be lighter and easier to move.
Q: On average, how long do Murphy beds last?
If you’re sleeping on a Murphy bed nightly, we recommend replacing the mattress once every few years, while the structure itself can last as long as a decade. In a guest room or another space where it gets less use, both bed and mattress can be used as long as they’re still comfortable.
The Last Word
Far from being outdated, the Murphy bed is a century-old invention with tons of modern applications. Whether you’re looking to maximize space in a studio or get more use out of your guest room, these designs can be functional, durable, and stylish.
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