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The Murphy Suite

Murphy Bed and Murphy Desk
A combination study and guest room

©2004 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA

Our first Murphy bed customer wanted to be able to use their study as a guest bedroom, but with a "real" guest bed rather than just a sofa bed or Futon. One side of the room has a queen size Murphy Bed - when it is open, it largely fills the room, like a conventional bedroom. The other side of the room has a "full size" desk that folds into a cabinet, like the Murphy bed. When it is open, it reuses the floor space that was taken by the bed, to provide office space for two people.

Normally we recommend bookcases beside the Murphy bed, with a pull-out shelf that can be used as a nightstand. A later customer had us build a regular size Murphy desk into one of those side bookcases.

Murphy Bed

A Murphy Bed, sometimes called a wall bed, is a bed that folds into a cabinet, closet, or wall when it is not in use. This particular Murphy bed is a normal queen size, but it could also be twin or "full," and could fold into the wall sideways as well as at the head. It uses a conventional mattress, with the cabinet functioning as the "foundation." It includes counterbalance so that it can easily be opened and closed by one person. In this particular model, the outer two blocks near the top fold out to unlock the bed and become the legs when it is lowered. Handles (like a drawer or door) can be installed on the "legs" if desired, and on the two "fake" legs in the center

This bed was made with walnut furniture grade plywood front and solid walnut trim mouldings. A solid wood front with raised panels can be substituted for the plywood. The basic unit has no trim - a line will be down the center of the front where the two sheets of plywood meet. Additional score lines can be requested to make the front appear to be four separate panels for no additional cost.

Closed Murphy Bed 2448

When open, this Murphy bed is almost a normal bed. It is slightly lower than a conventional bed, and the head of the bed is still slightly set into the cabinet, making it a challenge to create a night-stand for glasses, jewelry, clocks, books, etc. Since there must be room to get into the bed, the aisle can lead to a bookcase. I normally build a shelf that opens out of that bookcase to function as a night-stand. A picture (up to an inch or two thick) can be hung on the wall "inside" the bed. (This picture was taken just after installation, with no pillows on the bed, nor pictures, etc.)

Occasionally we get an inquiry about someone who wants a Murphy bed for a kid's room, so there will be more room to play. If your kid makes his bed every day, and never "plops down on the bed" during the day, this may be a good solution. I would also like to meet a kid like that!

The Murphy bed can be built from various woods, with your choice of trim. This bed, installed in a home office, was cherry. The trim on this bed is similar to the walnut bed above. The bookshelves on each side of the bed include a pull-out nightstand. The outer bookcases are conventional units, but built to fill the entire wall and allow access to existing wiring.

Cherry Murphy bed and bookcases 3786
Pecan Murphy Desk and Bed

This is the complete Murphy suite on one wall, built from pecan wood and plywood. A pull-out shelf to use as a nightstand is on both sides of the bed, just above the doors (slightly lower on the right to clear the desk). The desk is about 2 1/2 by 4 feet when open.

Considerations and options when choosing a Murphy bed:

A Murphy bed is large, since it includes the cabinet, foundation, and bed, and weighs several hundred pounds. Delivery can be a challenge since it is several inches wider and longer than the mattress - it may require a truck rental or moving crew even for local delivery. Four moderately strong amateur movers can carry it (two pros should be enough); on request I will temporarily add a couple boards across the back so it can be carried in a full-size pick-up truck.

Room must be left on both sides of the bed to get into the bed, so it is logical that bookcases or other cabinets, at least as wide as an aisle (18 inches or more), are considered. My bookcases have a special shelf at about bed-level, that pulls out to become a night stand for clock, glasses, or other essentials, and on request can have holes for electrical connection and switches for the Murphy Bed lights. There are several connectors (bolts) that come out the side of the Murphy bed cabinet - our special bookcases have a filler so the bookcase can go against the bed and hide the connectors.

Good news and bad... I am getting older. My wife has finally convinced me to limit the weight (size) of the projects I build. A Murphy bed is one of the heaviest items I routinely make. Therefore I have the agreement from a friend and fellow woodworker to build these for you. If you want to proceed with a Murphy bed, I will refer you to John Parkinson, and will work with him on the first few units, so he has the benefit of my experience.

If you have been thinking about a Murphy bed for a longer time, you will notice that the price is higher than earlier. My costs are rising. The beds are made from hardwood and furniture-grade plywood, not cheap particle board or fiberboard. Checking around, the commercially available Murphy beds are still more expensive, yet they are made from plastic (RTF) coated composition material, with lightweight mechanism.

If you have been planning to get a Murphy bed from me, I hope you understand the need for these changes.

Queen Size Murphy Bed...

(Total cost for most units as shown, $2,850 with lights)


Night-stand Bookcases with pull out shelf and ....

Murphy suite in pecan with Queen Size Bed and 2 library bookcases, one of the bookcases with a Murphy desk $5,700 plus delivery

Murphy Desk

We coined the term "Murphy Desk," due to the similar concept to the Murphy Bed. The original design had the bed on one side of the room - when it is closed, there is room for a full size "partner" desk - 3 by 5 feet - to fold down from the other side of the room. A partner desk is large enough for two people to use, one on each side of the desk. File drawers and other storage are in the separate adjacent cabinets; the cabinet under the desk, that would be hard to use when the desk is open, will hold extra bedding for the Murphy Bed. The very large partner desk requires a ceiling height greater than 8 feet.

The pecan Murphy suite included the smaller desk - 2 1/2 x 4 feet - which folds into a "normal" height bookcase. In this case, it was the same side of the room as the Murphy bed, so the desk could either be available or out of the way when the room was used for other activities, and could be closed for easy access to the queen size bed.

When the Murphy desk is closed, the legs fold into the front of the desk, and lock the desk into position. The desk surface is a torsion box - hollow like an airplane wing, so it is light enough to be opened or closed by one person without a counterbalance or the requirement to attach the cabinet to the wall.

Murphy desk being closed or opened 4033

Open Murphy Desk

If the Murphy desk is to be a primary office, you might want to consider file drawers. In this case, they are included in the cabinet beside the desk, accessible when the desk is open. That would also suggest that the base unit be deeper for the drawers - at the request of the customer, the base of this unit was 18 inches deep, with a shallower top unit. Coupled with the extra large desk, it complicated the construction.

This partner size desk is exceptionally tall... the five foot long desk folds up starting at 30 inches above the floor, so the overall desk is over 8 feet tall, so will not fit in may rooms. We recommend a smaller desk to be consistent with the overall design of the Murphy suite, and have found the smaller size adequate for many crafts and games in a guest room.

Closed Murphy Desk 2449

When planning a Murphy desk, consider what office facilities are required. There is no conventional desk drawer, since it would "dump" sideways when the unit is closed. A laptop computer or flat panel monitor can easily fit in the cabinet, but a CRT computer display probably will not fit. A conventional desktop computer will require special provisions for ventilation and wiring. Full extension file drawers, with metal slides for the hanging folders, were included in the adjacent cabinet, but take substantially more work and material than simply including a shelf behind some doors.

Murphy desk unit, with approximately 27x48 inch desk, $1,800

Murphy desk unit with partner desk about 36x60 inches, $2,450

Bookcase with doors $1,100 each

Bookcase with 4 file drawers, $1,300 each

Construction Details

The Murphy bed is closer to the floor than a regular bed when open... the bottom of the mattress is about 9 1/2 inches above the floor; a typical mattress is about 12 inches thick (no more than 12 inches in the Murphy bed mechanism that we use, unless the design is adjusted). Therefore the height of the bed is about 21 inches above the floor, rather than a more typical 28-30 inches - a consideration when planning night stands.

Lights in the unit are close to the bedding when the bed is closed. Therefore we recommend that the height of the cabinet be increased a couple inches if lights are used.

Murphy beds are large. A queen size bed is over 7 feet tall and projects into the room (from the wall where it is attached) 7 feet. Be sure to allow room to walk beside the bed when opened - at least 18 to 24 inches. The outside dimensions of the bed and cabinet, without lights, for vertical-style beds (the head is next to the wall when the bed is used) are

SIZE MATTRESS HEIGHT* WIDTH DEPTH* (Closed) PROJECTION into the room from the wall (when open)
Twin 39 x 75 82 1/8" 42 7/8" 15 7/8"  80"
Full 54 x 75 82 1/8" 57 7/8" 15 7/8"  80"
Queen 60 x 80 87 1/8" 63 7/8" 15 7/8"  84"

*Size of the basic cabinet. Trim and customization will increase these dimensions slightly.

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©2004 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.