How Did the Murphy Bed Get its Name?

How Did the Murphy Bed Get its Name?

Learn more about the interesting history and evolution of wall beds and the Murphy bed name came to be.

Chances are you’re familiar with the Murphy bed. The fold down bed has often been depicted as a prop in movies and television shows almost since its invention more than 100 years ago. But when it comes to the Murphy bed name, do you know where it came from?

Over the years, Murphy beds have ebbed and flowed in popularity, but are now considered back in vogue; especially for people living in smaller-than-normal apartments, according to Apartment Therapy. Chances are that you’ll be seeing more Murphy beds, so why not expand your knowledge of this space-saving furniture?

Murphy Bed Name Origins

If you’ve ever wondered how the Murphy bed got its name, the answer may surprise you. According to Smithsonian Mag, William Lawrence Murphy came up with the idea for the fold out bed around 1900 in San Francisco.  

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions, and that is certainly true in this case. As the legend goes, a love interest prompted the invention of the wall bed. Murphy was taken by a young opera singer. However, in that era, it was considered deeply immodest to invite a woman to enter a gentleman’s bedroom.  

(Read about what makes real wood Murphy beds the future of furniture here)

To get around this, he placed a full-size mattress on a metal frame that could be folded up when not in use. The wall bed allowed Murphy to stow his bed in his closet, hence transforming his one-room apartment from a bedroom into a parlor where the young singer could enter.  

The invention was successful in more ways than one. Murphy would later marry the woman who inspired the wall bed, according to More Space Place. Then, in 1911, Murphy filed a patent to launch his own booming business, the Murphy Bed Company. 

The Disappearing Bed

Murphy originally called his invention “The Disappearing Bed.” It has also been called a pull-out bed, hideaway bed, foldaway bed, or wall bed. But it’s ultimately best known by the inventor’s moniker: The Murphy bed.   

(Discover the difference between a cabinet bed and a Murphy bed here)

National Museum of American History's Assistant Collections Manager Robyn J. Einhorn said the invention was a quick success "because of a combination of good timing, a quality product, and an inventive marketing strategy.” 

Gene Kolakowski, who runs the Original Murphy Bed Company on Long Island, told CBS News that what makes the Murphy bed the Murphy bed is really the mechanism.  

"He was a tinkerer, inventor, and he came up with the idea, 'If I could put the bed away then she can come into my living room," Kolakowski said. "And it's only a bedroom when she leaves — that was the concept, and that's what got him started." 

Throughout the 1920s, newspaper advertisements for apartments used the Murphy bed as a selling point, according to Smithsonian Magazine. And today, the Murphy bed remains popular for its same space-transforming abilities.  

Murphy beds “continue to fill a need in living spaces of today, whether it is for small city apartments or suburban homes of empty nesters turning a college student's old bedroom into an office/guest space," Einhorn said. 

Murphy Bed Evolution

Technology for Murphy beds has improved vastly since its invention a century ago. Lori Beds’ modern models don’t use cumbersome metal frames or springs at all. Instead, Lori’s Murphy Bed platform rolls up and down along rounded wooden rockers on the floor. It is a clever, yet simple system.   

(Curious about finished vs. unfinished Murphy beds? Learn more here)

Each bed is made from cabinet-grade Baltic birch plywood, ensuring its stability and durability. The company offers a range of pre-finished Lori’s Beds. You can also choose an unfinished model that can be painted or stained to the color you want.

The Murphy bed design has been improved since William Lawrence Murphy came up with the idea for the fold-out bed a century ago. However, the concept of this space-saving furniture has ultimately stood the test of time.   

Did you enjoy learning about the Murphy bed name?

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This post was first published in 2020 and it was updated in 2022.

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