Space has been tight in San Francisco for a long time. Around 1900, resident William L. Murphy was frustrated with how much room his bed hogged up in his studio apartment, and a lightbulb turned on. He invented a bed that flipped up vertically and could be stowed behind closet doors. The Murphy bed was born.
Some of the most hilarious physical comedy I’ve ever seen involved a Murphy bed (check out the “Dinner for Four” episode of Laverne and Shirley), but this idea is no joke; it has had amazing staying power. Most recently, it’s become a crucial part of the microunit apartment movement.
The idea is not just for small studio apartments, either; it’s being adapted in all sorts of homes to create multipurpose rooms. Designers have enlisted talented carpenters to freshen up the bed closet’s door as part of the equation, but the essence of William L. Murphy’s idea is here to stay.
Hiding behind this stunning French polished Macassar ebony wall is a bed. This allows the homeowner to actively use the room most of the time when home alone, and also to easily accommodate overnight guests.
In addition to the way the room looks when the bed is stowed, you’ll also need to consider where you’ll put the furniture when it’s down.
“I selected the Corbusier chairs so they can park under the cantilevered, lacquered desk when the bed is down,” says interior designer Brant McFarlain.
In this lakeside house, “My clients wanted a true multipurpose room, where the husband could have his buddies over to watch a game without having it look like a bedroom,” says architect James Crisp. “Then when they have overnight guests or if any of the buddies need to stay over, they can just fold out the bed after they are done watching.”
Crisp’s carpenter custom built the cabinet doors that conceal the bed and then slide to either side to reveal it. A chair or two is moved out of the way, and the bed pops right down.
“It’s really fun; Murphy is an old brand, and it serves the space perfectly today,” Crisp says. “Plus, it’s a lot more comfortable than a pullout sofa.”
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