When you need to conserve space in your home, Murphy beds and sleeper sofas are clever options. They’re also convenient and fun to use. Still, they vary markedly in design, assembly, and cost. This post will help you decide which type of furniture suits your room layouts and needs.
What is a Murphy Bed?
A Murphy bed is a folding bed that stores vertically or horizontally inside a wall unit. You pull down the bed for sleeping, then tuck it away when not in use. By this, you gain additional floor space!
Meanwhile, the bed hides from view, disguised by a panel. The wall unit can be simple or enhanced with other furnishings, such as cabinets and shelves.
This ingenious design is also called a fold-down bed, wall bed, or pull-down bed. Most styles have hinges at one end to facilitate opening and closing.
Bed frames can be wood, metal, or upholstered fabric. Like traditional beds, Murphy beds come in king, queen, full, and twin sizes.
Why is it Called a Murphy Bed?
William Lawrence Murphy invented the concept in the 1800s. While living in a small apartment, he wanted space for hosting guests. In Mr. Murphy’s original design, the bed folded up into a closet.
How Does a Murphy Bed Work?
Murphy beds have two kinds of lifting and lowering hardware, piston and spring. Here’s a video demonstration of each:
This mode is hydraulic. It raises and lowers the platform with pressurized air or gas contained within a tube called a piston. Depending on the size of the bed, it may have two or several pistons.
When you pull out the platform, the pistons lengthen and expand, lowering the bed. Conversely, when you raise the bed, the pistons compress, moving the platform into the wall unit.
A hydraulic system operates quietly. Still, over time, it loses durability and strength. If a piston fails, you must replace the entire apparatus, which can be costly.
Spring Lift Mechanism
With this operational design, heavy-duty springs on the sides of the bed control its movement. The mattress size governs the number of springs.
When you pull down the bed, the springs unwind slowly, releasing the bed to the floor. Conversely, when you raise the platform, the springs wind up, retracting the bed.
Spring lift mechanisms last longer than hydraulic systems. If a spring gets damaged, you can replace it easily at a low cost. The only drawback to springs is the noise they emit.
What are the Pros of a Murphy Bed?
When you retract a Murphy bed, it frees up the floor space in a given room, expanding it. Many homeowners use wall beds in guest rooms. In a child’s room, a Murphy bed creates a bigger area in which to play.
Wall beds are also ideal for small dwellings, such as mobile homes and cottages.
A Murphy bed can provide handy storage. For instance, you can flank a pull-down bed with matching nightstands. Alternatively, you can attach wardrobes or chests to store your clothes.
For a living room, you can buy a Murphy bed that converts to a couch when folded. Additionally, some couches include a lower compartment or an ottoman for storage.
If you like making crafts or artwork, a Murphy bed can transform any room into an art studio. To do this, conceal the bed with a cabinet to hold your supplies and tools.
Do you need a home office? In that case, you can pair a wall bed with a built-in desk, drawers, or shelves. Some Murphy beds even come with lights.
Here’s a demo of a Murphy bed featuring cabinets, shelves, lights, and a flat-screen TV.
While a wall bed reclaims valuable space, it also promotes sound sleep. That’s because Murphy bed mattresses are equal in comfort and support to conventional beds.
Blends With Any Decor
You can adapt a Murphy bed to all interior design styles, from minimalist to traditional. Or you can camouflage the platform with bookcases, media cabinets, or closet doors.
Pick any color or finish for the construction materials. Additionally, you can dress them up with decorative molding and hardware.
What are the Cons of a Murphy Bed?
Can Be Hazardous
Murphy beds are relatively safe when installed and operated correctly. Still, accidents have occurred. The most common ones are getting the fingers or toes caught in the hinges, legs, or frame.
So, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for handling the bed. In particular, make sure your room is well-lit. If you raise or lower the platform in the dark, you might fumble with the mechanisms, getting hurt.
Additionally, never let a child operate a pull-down bed. If they don’t lower or raise the platform right, they can get injured. For instance, if they fail to unfold it completely, the bed can reverse direction, trapping the child against it.
Needs Expert Installation and Repair
Even if you’re skilled in carpentry, avoid installing a Murphy bed yourself. Instead, ensure safety by hiring a professional installation company. Otherwise, you might not assemble the unit properly, risking injury to the person using it.
When you contact a Murphy bed installer, an experienced designer will customize a wall bed to fit your intended space. Once the manufacturer makes the components, an installation team brings them to your home. Then, they assemble the parts precisely and mount them securely.
Subsequently, if a certain part malfunctions, call the installation company to repair or replace it. This way, you can fix the problem efficiently.
Median prices for Murphy beds range from $2,000 to $4,000. The specific cost depends on your choice of bed size, its features, and the manufacturer.
Still, if a particular model includes storage, you can avoid the added expense of separate furniture. In that case, you could save money.
As I mentioned above, professional installation is safest, costing between $200 and $500.
Some manufacturers limit their installation to certain regions. So, before buying a Murphy bed, inquire about the service area covered. If it doesn’t include your location, hire a reputable handyman near you.
What is a Sleeper Sofa?
A sleeper sofa is a couch that conceals a pull-out bed frame and mattress. The frame rests on legs, supporting the mattress above the floor. Meanwhile, the couch’s back and arms serve as a headboard. Bed frames can be metal or wood.
Sleeper sofas are convenient for hosting overnight guests. Meanwhile, they’re comfortable for group seating.
Note – A sleeper sofa differs from a sofa bed, which doesn’t contain a mattress. Instead, the back of the sofa lies flat, and the cushion is the sleeping surface. One type of sofa bed is a futon.
How Does a Sleeper Sofa Work?
Below is a video demonstration, followed by a written explanation.
Here’s how to convert the sofa to a bed.
- Remove the sofa cushions.
- Grasp the center handle on the bed frame, pulling it up and out toward you.
- Draw the bed out halfway, resting the frame on its middle leg.
- Extend the other half of the mattress, propping it on the end leg.
To switch the bed to a sofa, follow these steps.
- Holding the foot of the bed frame, fold the mattress up halfway, perpendicular to the floor.
- Push down on the end leg until it locks into position on the bed frame.
- Lift the frame and push it down into the sofa base until it’s flat.
- Place the cushions back on the sofa.
What are the Pros of a Sleeper Sofa?
Since a sleeper sofa combines a couch and a bed, it spares you from having to buy a separate bed. Additionally, some sleeper sofas include storage sections.
Various Sizes Available
Sleeper sofas come in an array of sizes, shown below, with their range of mattress widths.
- Cot – 30 to 34 inches
- Ottoman – 30 to 54 inches
- Twin or Loveseat – 36 to 39 inches
- Full – 52 to 55 inches
- Queen – 58 to 62 inches
- King – 74 to 76 inches
- Sectional – 52 to 66 inches
Head-to-toe, mattresses measure 72 to 80 inches.
Broad Mattress Selection
Originally, sleeper sofas had one standard mattress: the innerspring. Now, you can pick from several additional types.
- Memory foam – reduces joint pressure by distributing your body weight evenly.
- Gel memory foam – slightly firmer than regular memory foam, with a cooling effect.
- Polyurethane foam – high-density and motion-stabilizing. Consider this mattress if you sleep with a partner and their movement awakens you.
- Air – the mattress consists of air chambers you inflate with a pump.
- Latex – has a firm, bouncy feel.
Among these mattress choices, the most comfortable are memory foam and gel-infused memory foam. Moreover, their surfaces don’t flatten with time.
There are multiple ways to style a sleeper sofa!
For example, you can pick fabrics and patterns complementing your decor. Then, add inviting throw pillows. To vary your sofa’s look, buy a few slipcovers, changing them periodically.
Sleeper sofas have simple construction and few parts. The basic components are the:
- bed frame
- canvas cover
- sofa-to-bed conversion mechanism
If one part gets damaged, you can likely repair or replace it without needing a new sofa.
For instance, if there’s a problem with the canvas cover, you can buy and install a bed deck kit. You can also readily replace the frame and mattress.
Sleeper sofas are moderately priced. Costs vary by furniture size, style, materials, and manufacturer.
The most popular sleeper sofas are Queen-sized, having a median price of $900.
What Are the Cons of a Sleeper Sofa?
Bulky and Heavy
Generally, sleeper sofas are stouter and portlier than standard sofas. Their beds need substantial room. Meanwhile, the sofa arms occupy space as well.
Following are the sofa widths available, measured arm-to-arm.
- Cot – 37 to 65 inches
- Ottoman – 44 to 68 inches
- Twin – 47 to 68 inches
- Full – 67 to 83 inches
- Queen – 75 to 96 inches
- King – 84 to 98 inches
- Sectional – 113 x 87 to 125 x 65 inches
Here’s another space consideration. You want to allow enough walking room around the bed to prevent toe-stubbing, trips, and falls. This is a safety issue.
Bed Can Trigger Back Pain
On a basic sleeper sofa, the bed frame consists of canvas and horizontal bars. The mattress sits on top. If a bar runs under your back, it can render pain, most noticeable upon awakening.
Comparison of Murphy Bed Vs. Sleeper Sofa
Many sleeper sofas require self-assembly. Still, they typically come with instructions that are easy to follow.
For buyer convenience, some retailers provide “white glove delivery.” With this service, a technician brings the furniture to your chosen room, unboxes it, and assembles all the parts.
As stated above, don’t attempt installing a Murphy bed. You need skill and experience to mount and counterbalance the parts correctly. Otherwise, there’s a high risk of injury to the bed user.
With a sleeper sofa, you don’t need to buy a separate bed. So, you have one less piece of furniture occupying your home. Yet, you need substantial room to open the bed. Thus, you only conserve space when using the sofa.
Conversely, a Murphy bed gives you extra floor space by tucking inside a wall unit, out of your way. So, a Murphy bed frees up more area than a sleeper sofa.
A sleeper sofa provides group seating, a bed, and possible storage. Still, Murphy beds can include several pieces of furniture and accessories. For instance, pick from these items:
- shelves and bookcases
- wardrobes and drawers
- entertainment center
Hence, a Murphy bed serves more purposes than a sleeper sofa.
High-quality mattresses are available for both sleeper sofas and Murphy beds.
Still, a pull-down bed may offer more comfort than a sleeper sofa. This is because a Murphy bed mattress sits on a level platform.
A sleeper sofa with a bar-and-canvas system can provoke back pain from the horizontal rods. You can avoid this problem with an accessory called a “sleeper sofa support board.”
Typically, the shield is a folding hardwood panel that covers the bars. Also, pair the board with a mattress consisting of memory foam or gel-infused memory foam.
Alternatively, you can buy a premium sleeper sofa without a bar-and-canvas system. With this design, a smooth platform supports the mattress, omitting the bars.
Ease of Use
Generally, a sleeper sofa takes more work to operate than a wall bed. To convert the sofa to a bed, you grasp the handle on the bed frame and pull it out. Then, when closing the bed, you angle and push the frame down into the sofa base.
Conversely, when you lower or lift a Murphy bed, you have the help of piston or spring mechanisms. With both types of hardware, handling a wall bed is nearly effortless.
Murphy beds tend to last longer than sleeper sofas. The reason is they only bear weight when you rest on them. On the other hand, sleeper sofas provide both seating and slumber, undergoing more wear.
With nightly use, a Murphy bed has an average lifespan of 15 years. At that point, the pistons or springs wear out, making the platform challenging to lift and lower.
The longevity of a sleeper sofa depends on how much daily use it gets. It’s time to replace the furniture when the cushions sag and the frame squeaks. Such deterioration can occur between seven and 15 years.
Sleeper sofas are less expensive than wall beds. This is due to having fewer components and a streamlined manufacturing process.
In part, the higher cost of Murphy beds comes from their hydraulic or spring lift systems. They also require more parts, such as locks, latches, and laminate boards. If you order extra pieces of furniture, the price will reflect this. Then, factor in the cost of professional installation.
As mentioned above, the median price of a Queen-sized sleeper sofa is $900. For a basic Murphy bed without added features, budget at least $2,200, including installation.
Here’s a recap of the benefits and drawbacks of Murphy beds and sleeper sofas.
Murphy Bed Pros
- Frees up floor space
- Easy to Operate
- Can last 15 years with nightly use
Murphy Bed Cons
- Potential for pinching injuries
- Risky for children to handle
- Needs professional installation and repair
Sleeper Sofa Pros
- Sold in numerous sizes, from cot to sectional
- Easy self-assembly
- Simple to repair
- Relatively inexpensive
Sleeper Sofa Cons
- Bulky, with the bed needing substantial space
- Possible back pain from a bar-and-canvas frame
- Takes strength to open and close the included bed
- Lifespan of seven to 15 years, depending on the extent of use
Murphy Bed Shopping Tips
If you shop online for a Murphy bed, you can pick from a wider variety than in-store. The most popular online retailers of wall beds are Amazon and Wayfair. Sellers that specialize in Murphy beds are Resource Furniture, BredaBeds, and Lori Wall Beds.
When comparing websites and products, note the following:
- bed dimensions
- operating mechanism
- whether a retailer provides installation
- service area
- product warranties and return policies
- customer reviews
Shopping in-store gives you a chance to test a Murphy bed’s operation. You can also examine the bed’s construction materials and particular features. As with an online purchase, check out the store’s policies on installation, servicing, warranties, and product returns.
Sleeper Sofa Shopping Tips
I recommend shopping in-store for a sleeper sofa. This way, you can check out the construction quality, comfort of the bed and couch, and ease of conversion.
Most furniture stores carry sleeper sofas. If you can find a knowledgeable salesperson, ask them to demonstrate the conversion technique for sofas that interest you.
If you prefer shopping online, you’ll gain insights from customer reviews.
With both in-store and online shopping, check out the following:
- if self-assembly is required
- product warranties
- store return policy
- delivery service and what it includes
Typically, sleeper sofas go on sale around holidays, such as Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.
Whether you buy a Murphy bed or sleeper sofa, you’ll love their space-saving designs!
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