This home office has a secret

A wall unit conceals a Murphy bed in a Houston home office designed by Veronica Solomon of Casa Vilora Interiors.
(Photos: NYTimes)
The office that Veronica Solomon designed for a couple in suburban Houston has everything.اضافة اعلان

There is a sitting area with citron-yellow accent chairs and a coffee table, a desk with floral hardware, splashy patterns in bold colors on the rug and wallpaper, and a custom neon sign in glowing pink.

The office also contains a secret: The teal wall unit featuring built-in shelving and an artwork display actually conceals a full-size Murphy bed.

Now the couple has a three-in-one room where the wife, a retired basketball coach, can work and entertain, and overnight guests can comfortably sleep.

“The bed is really a great use of space, and a great way to make a room really function for a lot of different things,” said Solomon, founder of Casa Vilora Interiors.

Murphy beds have always served as space-savers in small urban apartments. However, as more suburbanites have been working from home, even they have turned to Murphy beds as a way to squeeze the most out of home offices while keeping Zoom call backgrounds free from the rather intimate piece of furniture.

According to market research from the New York-based Resource Furniture, which specializes in transforming furniture, about 40 percent of its clients who bought wall beds last year live in single-family homes with three or more bedrooms. From 2020 to 2021, Resource’s sales increased 60 percent, with wall beds accounting for over half that increase.

A wall unit conceals a Murphy bed in a Houston home office designed by Veronica Solomon of Casa Vilora Interiors. 

The Murphy bed was invented by William Lawrence Murphy, who patented his design in 1911. According to Smithsonian magazine, the bed was created to avoid a salacious situation: Murphy wanted to entertain his opera-singer sweetheart at his San Francisco studio, but propriety demanded that his bed be out of sight. His solution? Folding the bed into the closet.

Despite their intriguing origin story, Murphy beds have historically been played for laughs in pop culture — even as far back as the 1916 film “One A.M.”, which shows Charlie Chaplin drunkenly fumbling around a floppy wall bed. Eventually, Murphy beds became so ubiquitous that in 1989, a federal appeals court in New York found that the name had grown too generic to retain its trademark. Now, “Murphy bed” and “wall bed” are used interchangeably.

Economic conditions also play a role in the item’s popularity. Challie Stillman, vice president for sales and design at Resource Furniture, noted that the company’s last Murphy-bed “marquee moment” was during the 2008 recession. With another recession likely, Stillman said Resource is forecasting a similar rise in sales.

A Murphy bed in a Houston home office designed by Veronica Solomon of Casa Vilora Interiors. 

Murphy beds come in a range of options, and can accommodate any size mattress, from twin to king. Prices range from about $1,000 to $20,000, which includes frills such as a couch and shelving. While the beds once had a reputation for being flimsy, today piston and spring mechanisms make them more secure.

Ryan Jestin, an owner of the Mod Barn, a Los Angeles furniture design store, prefers the spring mechanism. “It’s just one panel that folds down with the mattress, so it looks much more visually appealing this way,” he said.

There are prefabricated options: Michelle Allen, a 49-year-old product designer, bought a queen-size version from Amazon for around $1,800 to install in the art studio of her Vancouver home. Her husband and son put the bed together in about three or four hours, she estimated. “I’m fairly handy, but you probably wanted somebody with a little bit of tool experience,” Allen said.

Bespoke varieties exist, too, and Jestin has designed Murphy beds for more than 20 years. He enjoys working with them because “they transition your room so much”.

Some of his designs feature sliding bookcases, and others have desks attached to the outside that fold up when the beds come down. He has even built a kid’s playhouse with a Murphy bed inside (and an interactive Lego front).

In addition to their functionality, another key to Murphy beds’ appeal is the element of surprise they add to a room.

Genevieve White Carter and Cy Carter, married interior designers who live in St. James, New York, designed a home Venice, California, where they color-matched a Murphy bed to a pink oxford shirt. When the bed is up, even the built-in shelves with knickknacks are concealed. “I do think that there’s kind of a fun, secret-y element about it, as well as it being practical and utilitarian,” Cy Carter said.

The designers have since pitched Murphy beds to several residential and commercial clients — often receiving eager responses. “The client is like a little kid,” Cy Carter said. “I think that there is a part of it of like, ‘Oh look, this whole other room comes down, like a secret passageway.’”

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