The Murphy Bed Manifesto: Because Every Room Deserves to Be a Living One

Minimalistally speaking, the Murphy Bed turns every room into a living one.

The original Murphy bed was patented in 1900, but that doesn’t make it antiquated – not in the slightest. For all the touting we do of small (and smaller) living spaces, it bears mentioning that for this concept of the new scaled-down modern living space to literally fit, we need to not only reconsider the excess we’re holding onto but our concept of “living space” altogether.

There are living rooms, and there are bedrooms. Even in the tiniest of dwellings – tiny either by choice or budget – there’s generally a pretty clear delineation between what corner is meant for living, dining or sleeping. But The Modern Murphy Bed Manifesto brings into question a more existential question: should not all rooms be living?

William Lawrence Murphy thought so, anyway, hence he invented the bed that bears his moniker. Newly wed and living in a one-room apartment, he wanted to do away with the bed cramping his style so he and his wife could entertain like civilized people.

This scene was replicated recently in the grossly under-appreciated and hilarious flick Wanderlust. Of course, the punchline was: “Look at us. How lame? Feel sorry for us. We have a Murphy bed instead of a real one. Pathetic.”

It was comedic line borrowed from the silent movie era, in Charlie Chaplin versus the Murphy bed.

Very funny for Charlie Chaplin, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd – none of whom deal with the kind of storage issues the rest of us do. The spatial challenge of the studio apartment is, for the studios, slapstick or romcom entertainment. Today’s studio dweller must reach back to the 19th century for legit human empathy.

According to this fascinating historical account of the Murphy bed on Design Sponge, hiding the bed was all the rage in the 19th century, considered an art form borne of practicality. “The parlor was the defining room from 1850 – 1900 and signaled the social circle to which the family belonged.”

Nowadays our social circles are defined by if we tweet or not, the sophistication of our pins or whether we deign to visit Google+. The Murphy Bed Manifesto, meanwhile, declares that a room can be anything it wants to be. With a push and a pull and cleverly placed stools, it can be a parlor, a bedroom, a closet, a DIY room, a sex caddy, a room of her own, his own or its own.

The Murphy Bed is our past. And by God, if tiny is what tiny does – it is our future, too.

Images: Eunju Namkung; Design2Share; Resource Furniture; The Fancy: Trendir; All Things Thrifty; Resource Furniture

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.