When I tell people that my husband and I sleep in a Murphy bed (a.k.a a wall bed), the reaction is usually not one of envy.  “Oh!” they say. “…All the time? Forever? On purpose?”

It’s a bed frame that has long been maligned by the media—a sight gag to tell you that a character has fallen upon hard times. It’s how we know things are not going well for Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s Detective Eddie Valiant; a cultural shorthand for Niles’ loss of status during the dark mid-divorce-from-Merris seasons of Fraiser. (Spoiler!)

But I’m on a mission to correct this unfair misconception. Murphy beds don’t deserve to be just a tragic symbol for down-on-their-luck sitcom bachelors: they’re (in my humble opinion) a tool for savvy space management that allow you, a stylish and cool person with great taste, to optimize the floor space of your home all day long. That’s smart, not sad! And I should know: I sleep on one every night.

The only downside to sleeping in a wall bed, as far as I can see, is that didn’t think of this sooner.

a white cabinet that secretly conceals a bed
This may look like a boring ol’ white cabinet… but it’s actually a queen-sized bed.

Wall beds really do save a ton of space

I guess there was no real urgency before. There were just two of us in the family, Max and I, when we moved into our two-bedroom apartment (may I interest you in a trip down renovation-hell memory lane?). We had our trusty Malm bed in one room, and our computer desks in the other: a clear division of church and state.

But when our baby came along last January, the writing was on the wall—or, rather, the crib was in the home office. Some reconfiguration was going to be required if we were all going to live and sleep and work and be a baby under one roof.

Obviously, finding a three-bedroom apartment was out of the question, and not just because of the real estate market: as I have mentioned repeatedly, after enduring such a drawn-out and spirit-crushing renovation, I plan on being buried in this condo. And while our double-wide desk and office chairs could technically squeeze in alongside our queen-sized bed in the bedroom, it would mean working squished up next to our bed… not exactly an inspiring working environment. I’m a writer! I need space to pace manically and/or practice cartwheels to get those juices flowing.

yellow bedspread in front of funky feature wall
What the bedroom looked like before we entered our Murphy Bed Era. (Photo: Tina Kulic)

But, inspired by small-space-living blog 600 Square Ft and a Baby and an obsession with Resource Furniture, I realized we didn’t necessarily need more floor space—we just needed to use the space we had more efficiently. With the right transforming furniture, we could turn our 850-square-foot home into a veritable palace (at least by Vancouver standards).

And so, we hatched a plan to install a queen-sized wall bed in our bedroom, and move our desks into the room as well. It would now be an office by day, and luxurious deskside sleeping quarters by night.

How much do wall beds cost?

Frankly, wall beds are a bit of an investment, and can range anywhere from $2,000 to $13,000 depending on your specific design choices and custom features. Like any piece of furniture, you’ll be able to find lower-grade, MDF models and high-end European designs. In other words: this wasn’t going to be a pop-by-Ikea sort of purchase, so we really took our time with the research.

We collected quotes from local businesses like California Closets and Arbutus Furniture, discussed the best options for our space with Resource (loved the Penelope, it was just sadly on back-order), and scoped out off-the-rack models online. We obsessed over the dozens of factors that went into finding the exactly right configuration: Did we want built-in storage of any kind in the bed frame? What finish did we want? Where in the room would it best fit? Would getting a model that was 2” slimmer when closed make a difference? Should we choose a vertical frame or a horizontal one? What if we just give the baby a Murphy bed? Decisions, decisions.

After weighing the myriad options and figuring out what worked best for our specific situation, we ultimately went with an “International White” aluminum-frame queen-sized model from Murphy Beds Canada that folded down horizontally. It cost $3,300. (There’s no headboard because of the orientation of the head of the bed, but that doesn’t really bother us.)

You can use the Murphy Bed site to customize your frame with additional drawers and shelving, so we added a little bookshelf onto the side with a few drawers in a contrasting dark blue. I didn’t like the handles that it came with, so I bought some replacement ones from Richilieu that better matched the rest of the hardware in our place—modern, matte-black pulls.

a rendering of the cabinet
A rendering of the wall bed cabinet using the “Build a Bed” feature on the Murphy bed website.

Installing a wall bed isn’t easy… but it is worth it

Before I tell you what an absolute nightmare it was to build, let me just reiterate that I really am happy we did this and have no regrets. But it did take us four days of crying over the installation booklet and calling the Murphy bed hotline like nine times to finally get it done.

the installation process
The installation of the Murphy bed in progress… day three of four.

The instructions were possibly written by aliens cared as little about correctly identifying screws as they did about full sentences. The fact that this inscrutable document had a 94-point-font-size warning that we would lose a hand if we did this wrong was not exactly confidence-boosting, but we had already gotten rid of the Malm and were now sleeping on the floor of the living room, so there was really no going back.

Highlights from the unhinged installation instructions.

Should we have just hired someone to assemble it for us? Probably. But in the end, we managed to get it done without losing any important limbs or getting divorced, so I’d call that a win.

a bed open with a desk next to it
There is juuust enough room for someone to work at the desk if the other person heads to bed. During the day, though, the bed is folded up, giving us lots of space to push back our chairs dramatically to make a point.

What it’s like to sleep in a wall bed

Five months in to Murphy Bed Life, and we sleep pretty damn well at night (or as well as any parents of a one-year-old can). The frame feels perfectly sturdy, and as comfortable and supportive as our old platform bed. The wall bed holds a standard mattress, so we didn’t need to change anything or sacrifice there. (I know we’re in the middle of a foam mattress revolution, but we’re a spring-coil couple to the bitter end). I even gave it a little custom design flair by mounting a quilt on the inside of the cabinet to add some cozy texture (and, okay, to cover up the panel we installed backwards, whoops).

an open murphy bed with yellow duvet
I used a staple gun to mount a playful quilt on the inside of our Murphy bed cabinet.

Every morning we pull off the pillows and stack them on top of the cabinet, and then use the attached velcro straps to hold down the duvet and sheets. It does take two hands to fold up, because you need to fold over the legs while you’re lifting, but it’s really quite light. I admit I am currently the strongest I have ever been in my life because I am strength training by picking up a 20lb baby 400 times a day, but I am confident any adult-sized weakling could handle it.

stacey lowering the bed frame
The bed goes down each night and up each morning. People ask, “Does that mean you have to make your bed every day?” and to them I say: why aren’t you doing that already, you Philistine.

Sleeping on a Murphy bed hasn’t just given us more space in our bedroom: it’s given me a new role as wall-bed evangelist. Finally, some meaning. Come to me, as I preach from my soapbox—which, thank you for asking, does fold up neatly into the wall to give me room for more cartwheels.

a family portrait on the bed
The whole family, hangin’ on the Murphy bed.