What Is a Murphy Bed and Why Do I Need One?

Of all the inventions named after their inventors, the Murphy Bed is perhaps the most laconic. If you're a tad confused and asking, "What is a Murphy Bed?" you're not alone. The device, patented in 1911 is most commonly used for a bed and storage combo in small apartment structures in high-rise cities.

A popular article from the Smithsonian gives further details into a possibly apocryphal tale of the bed's design and inventor. They manage to list the inventor's birth wrong by 20 years, which provides an interesting impression that the man who invented a bed lived to be 101. He made it to 81, which is still impressive for a person born in the 19th century.

what is a murphy bed

What is a Murphy Bed?

The Murphy Bed is more known to those living in New York in tiny (probably not rent-controlled) spaces while struggling to attend college or 'make it' in an industry. 

The bed folds into the wall vertically. This leaves more floor space for actual living and converts a bedroom into any other type of room in a pinch. When living in a one-bedroom with a half-bath and a half-kitchen, gaining 10+ square feet of floor space can feel like heaven.

People who have traveled abroad will notice that this bears a striking resemblance to the futon of Japan. Futons, of course, are mattresses that fold or roll up and are stashed in closets. The Murphy Bed, in American engineering style, keeps all the same parts of a bed: frame, mattress, box spring, and shoves them whole-cloth into the cupboard. 

Options from Top to Bottom

Now that you know what a Murphy bed is, you are asking, "Should I buy a Murphy Bed?"

The answer is a combination of "do you need the space?" and "will you appreciate the aesthetic?" 

These answers don't have to be mutually exclusive. A solid feature of the Murphy Bed over something like a futon is the customization options.

The bed folds up, either anchoring into place when down or held by a locking spring mechanism. Outside of that feature, everything else is negotiable. You can choose any firmness, style, or material of mattress out there. 

The frame can be as wide as you require and as long as your particular ceiling will allow.


Don't forget the bed cabinets! In addition to looking like a cupboard or closet, the bed can also function as one. The dimensions of the cabinet space are determined in part by the functional elements of the mattress. From there, the style is up to you. 

The storage space is to either side or sometimes under the bed itself. You don't store items in the movable component. 

Rest Easy

Since the late 1980s "What is a Murphy Bed" is succinctly answered as "any bed that folds to store' making futons fall under the purview. Like most named-brand word association, the title has outlived the invention itself.

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