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Interior Design Lifestyle

The History and Evolution of the Murphy Bed

April 19, 2019

Space is at a premium in New York City. Regardless of price point or of whether you rent or own, New Yorkers want to make the most of whatever square footage we call home. One of the simplest ways to maximize space is with a single piece of furniture that has been around for over a century: a Murphy Bed. Also known as a wall bed, a Murphy Bed easily folds up from a horizontal position into a vertical position inside a closet, cabinet, or simply against the wall. Invest in one of these, and suddenly you can have both a guest room and a home office. You might think these beds are from a bygone era or just the butt of a Charlie Chaplin joke—and they are. But more than that, thanks to modern advances, many space-conscious New Yorkers swear by them now more than ever. Here’s a history lesson on the space saver embraced by more and more modern-day New Yorkers. 

It all started with a love story.

In 1884, William L. Murphy was a bachelor living in a tiny one-room apartment in San Francisco. He had an infatuation with an opera singer whom he wanted to entertain at his home. At the time, however, it was utterly scandalous for an unmarried man and woman to be together in a room with a bed. Murphy didn’t want to give his lady friend the wrong idea, so he created a way to hide his bed in a closet. The rest is history—the couple was later married and after years of perfecting his design, Murphy finally applied for a patent for his bed.

World Wars significantly affected the manufacturing of Murphy Beds.

Though he applied for a patent in 1900, the first Murphy Bed was not sold until 1918. As the collapsible bed frame was made from steel, Murphy Beds couldn’t be produced during World War I, and again during World War II, due to wartime rationing of metal. Thus the height of Murphy Bed production was the inter-war years of the 20s and 30s. Murphy expanded factories to New York during this time and produced over 100,000 beds a year. After World War II, many people moved from apartments to larger houses with plenty of space, making the beds less of a demand. Today, with preferences skewing toward urban dwelling, Murphy Beds are making a comeback.

The term “Murphy Bed” is now a type of bed and no longer a specific brand.

William L. Murphy passed away in 1959 but kept his trademark protection on “Murphy Bed” for 30 years posthumously. Thanks to a court decision in 1989, the term can now be used by anyone to refer to a bed that folds into a closet or up against a wall. This prompted many companies to try their hand at creating such a bed, ultimately leading to the innovative, creative designs in abundance today.

Murphy Beds now come in all forms, styles, and sizes. Some fold up and transform into other furniture like sofas and desks. Many are accompanied by additional inventive storage solutions like bookshelves and workstations. Most fit seamlessly into a room, even allowing you to completely hide the fact that it’s a bedroom. 

Technological advances since Murphy’s days of solid steel make it a breeze to raise or lower most Murphy Beds on the market. Frames are built specifically so as to not require a box spring. Above all else, comfort is as high a premium with these beds as space is in New York City. With the combination of practicality, comfort, and aesthetics, Murphy Beds can be great additions to any New York City home.

Looking for more ways to maximize the square footage your New York City home? Check out our Storage Hacks for Apartments Lacking Sufficient Space to find all the tips you need for your NYC abode. 

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