Murphy Beds Murphy Beds

Q: I've finally found a dream apartment in an old deco building, with a terrific view in a great neighborhood. The only trouble is, it's a studio apartment. It once had a Murphy bed but now just has bare empty walls. Do I have to get a sleeper sofa, or does anyone still make Murphy beds?

A: There are so many great things for the home from your grandmother's generation that sometimes it's enough to make you wish for time travel. Telephones with a melodious ring, and nice teapots, and chintz curtains, for example. Not to mention manners, but that's another topic.

The Murphy bed is one of those great inventions, and one which helped countless young working gals survive their "bedsit apartments" in the first part of the 20th century. Today, many studio apartments have instead a sleeping loft, which usually requires climbing up a ladder and literally crawling into bed - not a very appealing prospect for most adults who aren't part possum.

Are you wondering how the Murphy bed got its name? You can thank William L. Murphy and his turn-of-the 19th century studio apartment for this wonderful space-saving creation. Murphy's one room San Francisco apartment didn't have enough space for the entertaining he wanted to do and so he created and patented his folding bed back in 1900. Today, the Murphy Bed Company is one of America's oldest furniture companies and they still make Murphy beds.

A sleeper sofa is the solution chosen by most people in studios, but this limits your options in terms of design, and unmaking and re-making the bed every day can be enough to wear you out. In addition, the mattresses on lower-end sleepers often aren't good enough to give you the support you need if you're sleeping on them for more than a couple of nights.

Luckily, there are still people in the world who know that furniture designers of the early 20th century were onto a good thing, and there are places where you can still get a classic Murphy bed. Try or for the beds pictured here.

The Murphy bed is really something of a stroke of genius. It's essentially a bed in a big cupboard that looks like a wardrobe. At night, you open the cabinet and pull down the bed, fully made and ready to go. Often the cabinet for the bed is made in such a way that there are night tables built in on either side of the head of the bed when it's unfolded.

Come morning, you just fold the bed back into its cabinet, and it looks as if one wall of the apartment is taken up by this piece of furniture. No one even needs to know that you indulge in that little habit of sleeping.

The Murphy bed has many advantages, not the least of which is that by day, you can use the space in your apartment. You could have a table that folds down from the wall or even a table with leaves, and throw a dinner party for four in the space the bed would be taking up. Plus, if you're dating, it won't seem quite as forward to invite your paramour over for a nightcap if you don't have to sit on the bed - we know your grandmother wouldn't approve of that.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Design

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