A $500 Murphy Bed Freed Up Valuable Floor Space in This Designer’s Bonus Room
Once just for guests; now for the whole family.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:23 AM
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For more than a decade, the spare space in designer Anita Yokota’s California home was just a regular guest bedroom with a standard queen-size mattress taking up most of the real estate. But with fewer visitors these days and a need for an extra homework-slash-exercise-slash-hangout room, Yokota decided that the bed had to go—at least it had to go on the wall.
“Most of the Murphy beds we found were boxes—or boxes with faux Shaker doors,” recalls Yokota. Plus the store-bought solutions were expensive: Costco’s was close to $3,000. “There just wasn’t a good, modern alternative,” she says. So she tapped into her love of mid-century design, and she and her husband, Travis, made their own for a total of $500, starting with parts from a $330 kit. When folded up, her kids can use the space for Zoom classes or she can lay down a yoga mat. The family even used the spot as a temporary kitchen while their real one was being renovated. “We all take turns using this space now,” says Yokota. “We just love it so much.”
- DIY Murphy bed kit
- Semiprofessional paint sprayer
- ¾-inch wood slats
- Nail gun and nails
- Refrigerator handles
- Plastic tarp sheets and painter’s tape
Step 1: Build the Bones
Rather than reinvent the wheel when it came to the mechanics of the Murphy bed, Yokota and her husband started with a kit from Rockler. (Psst: Amazon sells similar ones.) The box comes with wood slats for mattress support, the essential hardware, and detailed instructions for building the frame. “All the woodworking makes this more of an intermediate DIY, but you can take the cut sheet to your local Home Depot and have the store make all the sizes you need if you’re less experienced,” says the designer.
Step 2: Paint It
Once all of the panels were in place, the couple set out on painting the frame in Sherwin-Williams’s Popular Gray. Looking back, it would have made a lot more sense to paint all the pieces before they were nailed together. The pair had to spend extra time laying tarps down, as to not get paint on the walls or floor. All the plastic in the room created a vacuum of sorts, not allowing the pieces to properly dry overnight.
“I have a love-hate relationship with spray paint,” says Yokota. The main benefit of using a professional sprayer (you can rent one from a hardware store) is it doesn’t leave streaks like a standard brush. The con (or another pro, depending on how you look at it) is how powerful the tool is. With a steady wrist, Yokota’s husband mastered the technique, holding the gun at a 90-degree angle. “It might be too powerful for some people, but that’s how we got a nice, even spray,” she says.
Step 3: Have Some Fun With the Doors
For some added visual interest, the couple added 65 ¾-inch-wide poplar wood slats from Home Depot to the doors. “The only wood you really want to avoid for something like this is pine,” says Yokota, noting cheaper boards are more likely to expand. The panels are first glued to the surface then secured with four tiny Brad nails, which Yokota spackled over before painting.
Step 4: Give It That Authentic Cupboard Feel
While plenty of Murphy bed systems operate without exterior hardware, Yokota added pulls to the front to make the box protruding from the wall look more like a cabinet. The trick was finding handles that matched the scale of the frame. Her solution? 18-inch-long brass refrigerator pulls.
Step 5: Let There Be Light, No Electrician Necessary
Instead of calling in an electrician to install sconces inside the frame, above the bed Yokota hacked fixtures from Schoolhouse by replacing the bulbs with battery-operated pucks—an idea that actually stemmed from her daughter, who had hot-glued LED lights to her history class presentation board. “It made everything look so cool,” says the designer. When guests stay over, they can create instant ambience without even getting up to flip a switch.
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