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William Lawrence Murphy died in 1959, far too long ago to realize that his invention, the wall-bed, would see its popularly skyrocket more than a century after he first applied for patents for the space-saving bed invention.

I’ve long held big love for wallbeds. What a genius idea. My “dream bedroom” design as a teenager included a wall-bed so my bedroom could become a dance hall for when I blasted Wham! and lip-synced with a hairbrush. That never panned out, I’m sad to say.

Murphy bed closed

image: Jeff Croft

Legend has it Murphy lived in a one-room apartment where women were not allowed to be entertained in a man’s “bedroom,” even if it was all in the same room. The crafty inventor came up with a way to hide his bed away. Today, his invention makes the difference for homes around the world.

In an age where apartments grow ever-smaller, and more folks have homes that double as offices and workshops, Murphy’s inspired wall-beds are becoming a must-have.

As square-footage costs escalate and disposable incomes shrink, multipurpose and camouflaged furniture options are more coveted than ever before, but wall-beds still top the list as the best way to repurpose space with a minimum of fuss.

We asked our robots scour the intertubes for only the best wallbed solutions, and we think you’ll like what they found. Read on for more!

Murphy bed open

image: Jeff Croft

Winning with wall-beds

There’s no question, any wallbed you choose will be a big investment, and that sticker price may not include installation.

If you choose wisely, you’re not just buying a bed that tucks into the wall. Instead, you’ll have more bookshelves, a built-in desk, maybe a built-in sofa. The smarter, more versatile, and well-built a solution is, the more expensive it will be, but it should be worth the extra coin.

There are big national brands for wall-beds, but there are also a lot of smaller, custom solutions too. Don’t just comb the web for your choice, visit your local wallbed providers, since they might have custom-fit ideas you hadn’t considered.

Variations on the wall-bed

For a more budget-friendly solution, something like this $2,600 contemporary oak offering would allow a great work area and a little storage for an extra bedroom. Similarly conservative in style, but with a little extra storage included, is this walnut unit from the same dealer.

When looking for modern solutions with contemporary appeal, things start getting interesting. I love a lot of the space-saving solutions at Resource Furniture, who have several locations across North America. This blog post shows their wallbed with built-in sofa, along with their optional adjoining workstation, all combined for one super-efficient living area — exactly the kind of thing you’d need in one of those 400-square-foot microlofts popular in cities now.

Where and how wall-beds are used

Industrial lofts are wonderful, but the lack of walls can make space-defining challenging. Wallbeds that can act as your wall or room divider are a less common option, but a brilliant thing to consider if your goal is to keep a smaller loftspace feeling more open and versatile by day. This British unit is a stylish, versatile option that comes with a built-in sofa.

The problem with a lot of wallbeds is they just fold up to look like a big cupboard, hidden behind doors. It’s when they use articulated shelving on the other side of the bed and things like collapsable desks or sofas, where you don’t have to fuss around, it just folds and angles the right way without you removing four vases or a stack of books every time you want to lower your bed.

Sadly, our robots found that most of their favorite wall-bed solutions were from England or Europe, where space has been at a premium far longer than it has in North American cities, so the product lines are considerably more extensive. From there as well, this option would be the dream wall-bed for nearly any divorced parent with only weekend custody. It’s not just one twin bed, it’s two, designed as a retractable bunk bed. Perfect for siblings or sleepovers, both these beds vanish into the same cupboard.

More examples

For a minimalist design with a fold-down desk you don’t need to remove anything from, something like this simple unit would work in a lot of smaller spaces where it gets used daily for a work or study at home life.

For someone who doesn’t normally like melamine, I’m surprised how much I love a lot of the clean, simple melamine wall-bed solutions. With reading lights and all, this is a great design for a lot of modern rooms. This one is a great twist on the clean-white look, since they’ve got a splash of one of my fave colors, psychedelic lime green.

For a final winning example of a great wall-bed, we give you this, a gorgeous DIY project, in which the homeowners went for a “massive card file” look to hide the bed when it’s up. Here’s not only their finished project, but how they brought it all about for under $800.

Saving space

In the end, Murphy invented the technology for this century-old space-saver. Today, you can buy the framework and make your own solutions, or you can order custom units that are designed for your life, your needs, and your space. You can even order them from Costco.

Today, wall-beds are the difference-maker for family homes and small urban lofts. Take a look beyond the old-style “just a bookshelf” wall-bed and see what other terrific combinations are out there.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.