woman closing murphy bed

Do you ever dream of having more space while still being able to accommodate your overnight guests? Maybe you would really love to reclaim the guest room as your crafting room, or you want to stop climbing over the guest bed to get to the desk in your home office/spare bedroom. Murphy beds help solve those space-sharing issues whether you live in a downtown loft or a spacious suburban single-family home. Think you’re ready to build your own Murphy bed? Check out all the steps to see if the project is right for you.

What Is a Murphy Bed?

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of building a Murphy bed, let’s cover exactly what it is. This style of bed has been around for quite some time. William Lawrence Murphy came up with the idea late in the 19th century as a solution to his living arrangements and his dating life. His one-room apartment presented a problem since his lady friend couldn’t be in his bedroom. Creating the Murphy bed allowed him to transform the room when she came over, so it was no longer his bedroom. He patented the idea in 1911, and his name stuck with the style of bed.

You’ve probably seen this style of sleeping accommodations on TV shows or movies even if you’ve never seen one in person. A Murphy bed, sometimes called a wall bed or fold-up bed, is a versatile bed option that is hinged on one side. When not in use, you can swing the bed on the hinge to fold it flat against a wall vertically or horizontally, depending on the setup. Some styles fold into closets or have other design elements built into them. While the finished product may look a little different from one model to the next, the common design feature is the ability to fold the bed against the wall to free up floor space.

a murphy bed is a versatile bed option

Benefits of Murphy Beds

Looking at the benefits of Murphy beds helps you decide if this is the best option for your space. This type of bed is often associated with small spaces like tiny apartments without a separate bedroom, but they can work just as well in larger homes.

Some of the perks of Murphy beds include:

  • Space savings: When you incorporate a Murphy bed into your room, you save space compared to a traditional bed or even a pull-out sleeper sofa, both of which take up floor space even when you’re not using them. When folded up against the wall, a Murphy bed lets you open up the floor space that is normally lost below a bed. Murphy beds are often used in guest rooms, but they’re also useful in a child’s room because they leave more play space during the day.  
  • Versatile use of space: A traditional bed limits the way you can use a room. It takes up a large portion of the area, and it limits the other furniture pieces you can put in the room. By installing a Murphy bed, you can use the room for other purposes when you don’t have guests. You can combine your spare room with an office, kids’ play room, craft room, den or any other functional space you want in your home instead of dedicating an entire room as a guest suite that only sees occasional visitors.
  • Trendy option: Murphy beds are growing in popularity. By choosing one for your home, you’re staying on the cutting edge of interior design trends. Design options make the beds fit into your existing décor.
  • Customization: You can customize the design and built-in features of your bed to fit your needs. The size of the bed is the first customization option. If you just need accommodations for one person, you can get a twin-size Murphy bed, or go with a larger queen-size or king-size option to accommodate two people. You can also customize things like built-in shelving, attached nightstands, decorative doors and extras like desks or tables. They’re much more versatile than traditional beds or sleeper sofas, which all use the same basic design.
  • Easy use: A Murphy bed is simple to use, thanks to the mechanism that lets it open and close easily. Counterweights ensure the bed doesn’t fall down on top of you when you open it, and the mechanism means you don’t need to be a bodybuilder to fold the bed back up against the wall. Your room quickly transforms to whatever purpose you need at the time.
  • Comfort: Murphy beds are just as comfortable as regular beds. Anyone who uses the bed gets a great night’s sleep, whether you use it for guests or your regular sleeping accommodations every night. Most guests would prefer the regular mattress of a Murphy bed to a fold-out sofa or air mattress.

benefits of murphy beds

What You Need to Build a Murphy Bed Yourself

One of the most important parts of figuring out how to build a Murphy bed yourself is finding all the supplies you need. A Murphy bed involves more than just a simple frame and headboard like a normal bed. You also need the hardware to make the bed open and close. Your list of materials may be slightly different depending on the type of materials you use and the design you want. A Murphy bed with extra shelving or decorative trim requires additional wood, for example. The size of your bed also affects how much of each material you need. A twin bed requires less wood than a queen bed.

The basic materials you need for a Murphy bed include:

  • Murphy bed spring mechanism
  • Murphy bed frame or plywood to create bed platform
  • Solid wood boards to create a frame
  • Cabinet hardware to create the look of doors on the closed bed
  • Paint or stain
  • Crown molding for accents if desired
  • Screws
  • Mattress

murphy beds require open wall space

You’ll also need some basic tools to assemble the bed including:

  • Saw
  • Tape measure
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Stud finder

The Murphy bed mechanisms and kits come in different varieties and may affect the other supplies you need. You can get a basic set of springs that doesn’t have anything else with it if you want to build most of the bed from scratch. You also have the option of buying a larger kit that includes a frame for the mattress in addition to the springs. The kits often include building instructions with specific dimensions for your wood pieces based on the size of the bed.

How to Install a Murphy Bed Yourself

The first step in installing a Murphy bed is choosing the location. You need open wall space large enough to accommodate the bed when it’s folded up. You can either mount it vertically or horizontally. Consider the floor space below that wall, as you need enough area for the bed to fold down completely while still allowing clearance around it.

The step-by-step instructions vary depending on the type of kit or mechanism you purchase. If the kit includes instructions, use the specifications from those instructions to cut your wood to the appropriate sizes. A kit that includes the entire frame for the mattress means you’ll only need to build the outer frame that goes on the wall and attach the provided inner frame to it. If you’re creating your own plans, you’ll need to use measurements based on the mattress size you’re using.

These general steps give you an idea of how to assemble and install the Murphy bed:

  1. Cut the wood pieces to create the outer frame to attach to the wall. This is the frame that the bed folds into when not in use.
  2. Screw the frame pieces together. Finish the outer frame with paint or stain.
  3. Attach the frame to the wall securely along the studs for stability.
  4. Cut wood pieces for the inner frame that holds the mattress if you don’t purchase a kit that includes the bed frame. This frame should be slightly smaller than your wall frame because it folds inside of the wall frame. The mattress should fit perfectly inside the inner frame, so it doesn’t shift around while moving up or down.
  5. Cut plywood to attach to the bottom of the inner frame. This becomes the support for the mattress. Add additional wood support pieces across the plywood for stability.
  6. Attach the legs to the inner frame. Your Murphy bed kit may come with legs. You can also order legs or cut them from sturdy wood.
  7. Finish the inner frame and the bottom of the bed, which will show when the bed is closed, with paint or stain.
  8. Attach the inner frame to the outer frame using the Murphy bed mechanism according to the directions provided.
  9. Add trim to the under side of the bed that shows when the bed is folded against the wall. You can add actual doors, or you can cut trim pieces to look like the door edges. Attach door handles to complete the look.

If you’re adding bookshelves or other elements to your Murphy bed, your step-by-step plans will include those pieces. For example, if you want bookshelves surrounding the bed, you would build the bookshelves off the outer wall frame as one integrated unit.

Costs Involved With a DIY Murphy Bed

Like so many projects around the home, a DIY Murphy bed can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on the materials you use and the features you include. One of the largest expenses is often the mechanism. If you buy only the spring mechanism that raises and lowers the bed, you can expect to spend under $100 on this part of the project. If you buy a full Murphy bed kit with the frame and mechanism, you might spend anywhere from $250 to $800 or more. These kits often have metal rails, supports and legs that tuck under when the bed is folded against the wall. You’ll spend more upfront, but the kits do save time and guesswork on the project.

Your other major expense is the wood you use to build the framework for the bed. The complexity of the design and the type of wood you use determines this portion of the cost. If you use inexpensive wood to create a simple frame around the bed with no extra detailing, you can keep the costs low. If you use high-end lumber and build extra shelves or add other detailing, you can expect to spend several hundred dollars on wood.

largest murphy bed expense is often the mechanism

If you want your bed to look like a closet or armoire with doors on it when it’s folded, you’ll need cabinet hardware to create the look. Just like most other building supplies, you can spend anywhere from a few dollars per handle to $20 or more per piece.

The other materials are relatively minimal in cost. You only need a small amount of paint or stain to finish the project, so the cost should be under $50 even if you choose a high-end paint or stain product. Screws and nails are relatively inexpensive. Your project can get expensive if you don’t already own the tools you need to cut and assemble the pieces for the bed. Borrowing tools from a friend can save you money on this aspect of the project.

Once your bed is built, you’ll need a mattress to go in it. Choosing a mattress designed for a Murphy bed makes it last longer and feel more comfortable. Murphy bed mattresses can withstand the frequent vertical orientation that normal mattresses aren’t designed to handle. They’re also thin enough to fit easily into the closed Murphy bed, and they provide support without a box spring. Expect to spend a few hundred to a few thousand dollars based on the size and the quality of the mattress you want. If you expect the bed to get frequent use, it may be worth it to splurge on a higher-quality mattress for greater comfort.

Design Ideas

Design ideas for murphy beds range from simple fold-up beds to intricate multi-purpose pieces that maximize your space. Choosing a design depends largely on the look you want and the other ways you want to utilize the area. For example, if the bed goes into an office, you may want to integrate storage or a desk.

The following design ideas can inspire your murphy bed plans, whether you make the bed yourself or let a professional do the job:

  • Murphy bed in closet: A common design option is to build the bed into a closet-like enclosure. The doors close in front of the bed once it’s folded against the wall. This model often has side cabinets built into the closet, so you can store other items to maximize your space.
  • Integrated library or shelving: If you’re looking for extra storage or display space, this design option may appeal to you. Open shelving around the bed is always visible. Some options feature additional bookcases that slide out of the way when you want to fold down the bed. When you put the bed away, the bookcases slide back in front of the bed to look like a normal library bookshelf.
  • Desk bed: Combine your office and spare bedroom into one with a desk bed. When the bed is folded up against the wall, a desk folds down. When you have overnight guests, the desk folds up against the bed, which can then come down.

choosing a murphy bed design

Enjoy Your Murphy Bed

With all the necessary supplies and instructions on installing your DIY Murphy bed, you’re ready to get building. If you’d rather let a professional handle your Murphy bed installation, call Chicago Closets or complete our online form for your free in-home consultation. We can help you design a custom Murphy bed that fits your unique needs in the available space. Our quick installation process transforms your room with extra sleeping accommodations, and you don’t have to break a sweat.

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