A Murphy bed is a very useful and innovative furniture piece, but its fame is mostly due to its usage in comedy films. It makes a great prop for gags and pranks.
In the Charlie Chaplin hit "One A.M", it's a battle for a tipsy Chaplin to get into the Murphy bed. But gags aside, this bed takes the concept of hiding things away, to a new level. Stuff can be thrown into cupboards, chairs and tables thrown away, but a bed is one big heavy, piece of furniture, that takes up a lot of space. And for those living in cramped spaces, even an inch is a lot. The solution is a Murphy bed.
So what is a Murphy bed?
A bed, which can be folded away, inside a closet or cabinet, and pulled out when needed. Created by William L. Murphy in the 1900's, this bedroom piece is highly useful for small apartments and living spaces. It is a massive space saver, and allows a room to be used for different purposes.
When you have guests, use the Murphy bed, otherwise fold it away. It's this sort of functionality, that has seen a renaissance in the standard design, making way for the modern Murphy bed. And it remains a favorite among amateur and professional carpenters, due to easily available building plans and Murphy bed kits.
The Murphy bed mechanism is much simpler. Think of a box with a lid. Now put a smaller lidless box into the outer box and attach them together, by string. Close the outer box's lid. When you want the smaller box to come out, take off the lid and pull the smaller box out. It remains attached to the outer box, but can be used on its own.
Now think in terms of a bed frame. The outer box is the cabinet case or closet, with a door as the lid. It is used to hide the bed away. The inner smaller box holds the mattress and expands into the bed frame, when opened. The frame legs are such, that they fold up easily into the cabinet and open up readily, when pulled out. The whole automatic movement, of opening and folding in the bed, is due to pistons. Another mechanism for opening the bed is an enclosed spring or an open spring. The bed frame must be counterbalanced, in relation to the piston. Due to the weight of the pistons, the entire case or cabinet must be attached to the wall itself. Otherwise, when you open the bed out, the entire unit might fall on you!
The legs of the bed are foldable or retractable, to flatten against the mattress, when stored. A latch is used to hold the bed within the cabinet. Pistons should be accurately placed and balanced. Irrespective of the mattress weight or size, pistons allow for easy folding and opening. Mattresses of any size, can be used in the bed, with respect to the outer cabinet's size.
Normally, the standard mattress size is intended for a double or queen-sized mattress. Though box springs can be used to support the mattress, they should be avoided, as they needlessly add weight to the bed frame. A bed strap holds the mattress and bedding in place, when the bed is folded away.
Contrary to the popular depiction of the bed popping out of a door, there are many ways to store a Murphy bed. The bookcase Murphy bed is classy and multi-purpose, and has storage space for other items. There's the side mount Murphy bed, where the bed comes out sideways, instead of vertically. A good bed design for rooms with low ceilings and less vertical space is side mounting, which allows the bed to multi-task as a convenient seat tool, like a sofa. A smarter design makes use of the side mount, so the underside of the bed is used as a fold-away desk. Vertical mounting is used, when a narrow wall space area is available. Shelves and cabinets have to be built on the side of the unit, to make an armoire design.
The above explanation depicts the store away idea behind the bed design. But this unique bed design and space saving benefit comes with a slightly high price tag. The minimum price for constructing a modern Murphy bed is above $600. Of course, for the carpenter within, a Murphy bed can be a masterpiece. You can either build one from scratch, or use a paid or free bed floor plan, either from a carpentry store, or online. Again, one should be prepared to spend time and expense. A certain degree of expertise is required. If you are a novice at woodcraft, this is not the furniture piece to start or progress with. The ever shrinking sizes of today's apartments ensure the Murphy bed's popularity for years to come.