Wall beds (also known as Murphy beds, pull-down, fold-down or hide-a-beds) used to be unreliable, uncomfortable and expensive. They were a perfect prop for the 1916 Charlie Chaplin slapstick comedy movie "One AM" in which a hidden bed mechanism appeared to have a wicked mind of its own.
But now hidden beds are dependable and safe. And you don't have to have them custom built either. There's many cool do-it-yourself designs that will give you a stylish, space-saving good night's sleep. No need to move or remodel to get that home office or craft room and keep a guest room available.
So the only laughter you'll hear is the sound of you chuckling while taking your savings to the bank. Even Charlie Chaplin would love that.
But first here's...
Don’t forget, you are also going to need a mattress.
Thickness – For most, the mattress should be no thicker than 9”-10”. Some wall bed cabinets can accommodate 12” mattresses, but check your specifications. It won’t close if your mattress is too thick and that would ruin the whole endeavor.
Mattress Type – Memory foam is fine if you are using it every day. If it is used infrequently, it will slump because of standing on its head for months. Even then, if you open it up a few hours before your guest will use it, it should even out again. You can also try using a memory foam topper to make an inexpensive inner spring mattress more comfortable. Other than that consideration, you can use any mattress that isn’t too heavy for the specifications of your bed.
Aero Beds - Not suitable. But an air filled mattress is an alternative if you need to put up an unexpected guest and your wall bed is still in the planning stages.
The easiest option is buying a complete hidden bed system that packed flat in the box – you don’t have to go to the store to get the materials for the frame and cabinetry. Everything is delivered to you. All you have to do is follow the assembly directions.
These systems can include shelving units, or storage units with drawers for storing extra pillows and linen.
Includes everything you need, except the queen sized mattress. Mattress must be 12” thick or less. It’s made of laminate board with a melamine finish in white or a wood look. The cabinet has crown molding.
If you want to mount this hidden bed with bookcase to studs on the wall (recommended, especially in earthquake country!), you’ll need to get wall anchors.
When you pull the handle to bring the bed to the floor, the legs will flip down. Each shelving unit has 2 fixed shelves and 4 adjustable shelves to maximize storage flexibility. The back panel allows for access to electrical outlets so sound equipment, lamps, chargers can be used on the shelves.
The frame is steel and the hinges are hydraulic and very strong.
This unit comes with a 10 year warranty.
The major drawback of ready to assemble wall beds is that they are the most expensive option (next to going to a specialty store and having one custom built for you). They also may limit your creativity because there's not much design flexibility. But there's a fix for that. At the link you'll find a book that shows you how to do amazing effects with paint to change the look to match your decor.
Here's some kits that include the parts and hardware for building a freestanding wall bed or Murphy bed such as this one which actually is from Murphy Bed:
Available in twin, full, and queen sizes, this kit is for building a freestanding heavy duty steel Murphy bed frame that you can mount on the floor or base of a wall so it closes vertically to a wall, or into a closet. Or you can build a cabinet (17” depth) around it.
Use with a mattress 9” thick or less.
Everything in the kit comes with a lifetime warranty. The package includes instructions, wall mounting brackets, and slats to support your mattress. The legs are automatic, the lift mechanism is heavy duty and easy to operate, and you can vary the spring combinations to tailor the comfort.
It’s easy to put together and built for everyday use.
There are also kits that include all the hardware, parts, and instructions for building a wall bed in a cabinet such as these ones from Easy DIY Wall Bed:
These kits are for building either a horizontal (“daybed”) or a vertical (“portrait”) queen sized wall bed or cabinet bed. All the parts and hardware are included. You'll need to add the plywood or particle board for the frame and for the cabinet you will hide the bed in, a mattress, some edging tape, wood screws, and a few other bits like washers (read all the instructions and make a list before you go to the hardware store).
It’s relatively easy but it’s not for a novice – you need basic woodworking skills, and basic tools. Absolutely measure twice and cut once. Don’t expect to finish putting it together in one afternoon. It’s an attractive and well-designed bed and piece of furniture.
The bed you build will fit any mattress sized 60" x 80" inches, up to a maximum mattress height of 12" inches. Maximum mattress weight 85 lbs.
Both the vertical and horizontal models have a piston system so you can pull the bed out of the wall cabinet and put it back with ease. The legs fold up into the frame when not in use. The strap that keeps the mattress in place (with or without bedding on it) is adjustable and quick-release.
The included instructions are comprehensive: step-by-step instructions include a cutting guide and more, a DVD version of the instructions, and a toll-free number for help.
Plywood needed: 4 sheets of 3/4", 2 sheets of 1/4", some 1" x 2" frame struts, and some solid wood.
The bed can be disassembled and put back together if you want to move it. There is a lifetime warranty on all the parts that come in the kit.
These kits are also available for twin or full sized beds.
If you have the skills, the cheapest option is to build your wall bed completely yourself. Plans cost $10-$30 and include all the directions you'll need on how to build a cool hidden bed. There are a bunch of different designs here, horizontal and vertical, with simple or more complex cabinets.
There's even one that uses interior paneled doors for a quick and easy classic look without having to spend a lot of time with a router or joiner. Very clever.
Most come with measurements for twin, full, queen, or even king sizes. They call for hardware that you can get at your hardware store, for example a garage extension spring system for opening and closing.
A good set of plans will include a materials list, cutting lists and guides, exploded views and detailed drawings, step-by-step instructions, plus safety and other tips.
It will still cost you around $300-$500 to build, depending on the materials you choose, but you have a lot of control over that.