What is the History of the Murphy Bed?
Updated: Jun 26
The Murphy bed has become synonymous with making the most of compact spaces and optimizing living arrangements in urban areas, but what exactly is it, why is it so special and how did it come to be? In this guide, we’ll take a look at the history of the iconic Murphy bed.
Introducing the Murphy bed
The Murphy bed is a bed like no other. Developed to offer a solution to a lack of usable living space, this is a bed that appeals to homeowners and tenants who reside in studios and small flats, as well as those looking for versatile furniture options to cater to guests and visitors. The initial design was a folding bed, which could be stowed in a closet. Today, there is a wider range of designs. The Murphy bed is sometimes known as a cabinet bed, as newer models fold out of a chest. In effect, when you buy a more modern Murphy bed, you can free up living space and benefit from a dual-purpose piece. You can turn a cabinet into a bed in no time at all and make the most of the space you have available. If you have a guest coming to stay, or you don’t have space for both a cabinet and a bed, a Murphy bed offers an innovative solution.
The history of the Murphy bed
The Murphy bed was invented by William Lawrence Murphy in the late 1800s. In 1900, Murphy applied for the first patent for the unique bed. The idea for a bed that could fold into a closet came about as a result of Mr Murphy’s desire to entertain and socialize with friends at his apartment in San Francisco. The story goes that he was particularly fond of an opera singer friend, who he wanted to invite to stay over on occasion. Being a gentleman, Mr Murphy set out on a mission to find a way of enabling his guest to stay the night without sharing his bedroom. He didn’t have space in the living room to have a bed up permanently, and so the idea of the Murphy bed came to light. The original design was produced by Murphy with the help of a blacksmith. The duo joined forces to create a mechanism, which enabled the bed to be flipped into the closet to turn a bedroom into a living room and vice-versa.
Mr Murphy continued to develop the concept of the Murphy bed to create a more streamlined and functional product, and soon, the bed became a huge success. In the 1920s and 1930s, demand soared, and Murphy factories, which were located in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, were producing around 100,000 beds per year. Murphy beds became something of a style statement and a status symbol and they featured in several movies and hit TV shows.
The depression hit the Murphy brand hard, and during World War II, factories closed and production was reduced significantly. There was also a decrease in demand caused by a shift towards living in houses and larger apartments.
In 1989, there was a major development in the history of the Murphy bed. A court ruled that the term could be used by anyone, meaning that William Lawrence Murphy lost trademark protection of his groundbreaking product. The decision opened doors for other manufacturers, enabling them to produce similar beds that offered the same benefits. Despite increased competition, the Murphy business is still running under the supervision of the third generation of the family.
The concept of the Murphy bed has evolved over the course of the last 120 years in line with consumer preferences and trends. Modern styles that are based on the original idea have been developed with creativity and a desire to provide space-saving solutions that also look the part. With city living popular and prices in sought-after urban areas high, investing in a functional, versatile bed is an appealing option for homeowners, landlords and tenants.
The Murphy bed is a very famous bed, which came about as a result of its founder and inventor trying to find a means of enabling friends to stay in a small San Francisco apartment. The original concept was a bed that folded away into the closet and it became hugely popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Over the years, the design has evolved and it’s now possible to buy different styles, including the cabinet bed, a bed that folds out of a solid, sturdy chest.