Everything You Need to Know About Space-saving Wall Beds
Considering fitting a foldaway wall bed and have some questions? We have the answers...
“Murphy beds are like magic – one minute you have a wall of cabinetry and 10 seconds later you have a fully made-up bed,” says Maryanne van der Reijden, interior designer and owner of MvdR Design.
They’re ideal for rooms that need to do double duty, she says – “for example, if you want a guest room but can’t devote the space only to guests. In my experience, the room is usually one that doubles up as a study or an entertainment room – frequently a room where the kids can have sleepovers and play electronic games and the parents can close the door.”
“Generally, we use them in smaller rooms where floor space is a bit of a squeeze,” says Andrew Jhavery, managing director and owner of Ark Joinery. “They’re also great for multi-purposing a room such as kids’ bedrooms, rumpus rooms and studies, as they give greater flexibility to the room and its use.
“Murphy beds are a great way to use otherwise under-utilised storage areas and allow you to keep mess and clutter packed away and out of sight,” he says.
They’re also well suited to studios and small apartments in urban areas, says Justin Loe, director at StudioJLA. “In dwellings like these, flexibility of space is often imperative. With a Murphy bed, during the day you could use the space to work and then convert it to sleeping quarters in the evening,” he says.
“There’s a huge difference between the cheap and expensive options,” says Ian Ugarte, founder of Invida, a company specialising in micro-apartments. “For example, you can go to an Italian brand, which will cost you around AU$12,000 to $15,000 (£6,300 to £7,900) for a perfectly weighted and balanced Murphy bed, which converts to a sofa or a desk when folded up; or you can go all the way down to something you’d buy for around $500 (£260) at an auction site – and there’s a range of everything in between.
“Be sure the frame of your Murphy bed can handle the weight of a sprung mattress, which means the hydraulic arms have to be weighted correctly,” he says.
Kate St James, interior designer and co-founder of St James Whitting, agrees, adding, “Gas-strut-assisted mechanisms allow ease of opening without the strain. Also, select a style with a sturdy metal frame and a pocket-sprung mattress for a quality sleep.”
Wall beds can be customised to suit a variety of different uses and are available in a range of bed sizes, configurations and layouts, Andrew says. “For example, you could have a kid’s single foldaway bed as a vertical stack in a narrow room, or you could have a queen-size horizontal stack foldaway bed in a wider room where you may want floor space available even when the bed is down.”
“We would recommend enlisting the services of a joiner, and most likely a carpenter and/or builder to assist, as the unit needs to be securely fitted to the floor and wall, and the surrounding elements need to be structurally capable of supporting the mechanism,” Justin says.
“Another important factor is making sure your installer is experienced and understands how the system is supposed to work,” he continues. “It’s not overly complex, but we have seen many cases where the installation hasn’t been completed correctly, resulting in a poorly functioning bed.”
“Murphy beds should always be integrated into seamless joinery or they’ll look like a clunky piece of furniture tacked onto the room,” Andrew says. “The best Murphy beds incorporate additional joinery surrounds and will usually take up an entire wall so the bed integrates and hides away seamlessly.
“You should always use a qualified and experienced cabinet-maker or manufacturer, and make sure they have the capability to do 3D photo renders of the space before you proceed into production,” he continues. “It should be an actual CAD file of your room – not an artist’s representation – as this makes it easier to accurately gauge the scale and ratio of the joinery to the room.”
Around 600mm, which is consistent with the depth of most joinery units in your home, Justin says.
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“Anything you like – power points, charging stations, bedside tables, bedheads, floating shelves or LED lighting,” Andrew says. “We’ve even incorporated surround-sound systems into the adjacent carcasses and a TV on the opposite wall, so the kids can watch movies from their beds.”
And standard white isn’t your only option. “You can add colour, timber grain laminates and more to make your Murphy bed sing,” he says.
You might also enjoy Ingenious Ways to Fit a Bed into a Small Space.
Should I choose a horizontal or vertical wall bed?
“A horizontal wall bed is not as overbearing in an interior as a vertical one,” says Catherine Whitting, interior designer and co-founder of St James Whitting.
In this 19 sq m SJW FuturePOD studio, designed by St James Whitting, a horizontal wall bed (Dotto by Interfar Custom Furniture) allowed for the installation of highlight windows and a bookshelf at the top of the cabinetry, which boosted light and functionality in the compact space.
When closed, the foot of the bed turns into a desk, which you don’t even need to clear at the end of the day, as it cleverly pivots to remain horizontal while the bed is unfolded, tucking neatly under the base when the bed is down.
A mattress specially designed to suit a wall bed is recommended. “It will be designed and stitched so it won’t slip when upright,” Maryanne says. “Other mattresses, especially those with a high degree of latex, will sag to the bottom because of their weight.
“I’ve chosen Sealy mattresses for Murphy beds in the past, which have been as comfortable as a regular bed,” she continues. “The bed’s mechanism is designed to fit this mattress and the mattress is designed to be stored on its side without deteriorating or falling down one end.”
- Don’t forget to get all power and services installed prior to the professional installation of your wall bed, especially if it provides the duality of a home office. Consider lighting, power points, data cables and USB ports.
- Have your wall bed installed by a qualified cabinet-maker or builder and ensure there’s enough structural framework in the wall to support it. Also make sure the bed is fastened securely to the wall.
- If possible, specify a cambered-posture slatted base and a sprung mattress that follows the natural curve of the spine to ensure a supported sleep.
- Ensure the supplier provides a warranty for the bed mechanism.
- Choose a style with handles rather than knobs so the bed is easier to pull down.
- To save time, look for a design with two straps that allows you to make up the bed and tuck it away, ready for use. Pillows are best stored elsewhere.
- For reading in bed, opt for an overhead light or a light on an extendable arm rather than a table lamp.
Have you found this advice useful? Share your thoughts in the Comments.