The clients came to interior designer Laura Casey with a space dilemma: They did not want to give up the guest room in their suburban home, yet they needed a place for their child to play.
Casey came up with a solution often used in small urban apartments: a Murphy bed. It takes up less space than a sofa sleeper or futon and -- unlike many of those -- uses a standard mattress, so guests, including elderly grandparents, have a more comfortable stay.
"They did not want to compromise the quality of the mattress," said Casey, owner of Laura Casey Interiors in Charlotte, N.C.
The Murphy bed -- which tucks into cabinetry when not in use -- is enjoying new popularity as a stylish space-saver in many kinds of homes, not just studio apartments.
"It's an interesting trend," said Chris Fahy, vice president of The Bedder Way Co. in Indianapolis, which makes Murphy beds and has seen sales rise in recent years. He says many customers are Baby Boomers, empty nesters, and other homeowners who want to turn a bedroom into a hobby room or exercise room but still need a place for grown children, grandchildren or other guests to sleep.
Fahy's Murphy beds range in price from $1,300 to $3,100.
California Closets, which also makes custom wall beds, has seen the same upward trend, said Ginny Snook Scott, vice president for sales and marketing. Customers still buy Murphy beds for studio apartments and vacation homes, she said, but many others are looking to get more use out of an extra room.
The company designs vertical and horizontal Murphy beds, often incorporating them into cabinetry units for home offices or craft rooms. Prices range from $3,000 for a simple wall bed and desk to $20,000 for a custom project with extensive cabinetry.
Support pieces vary by manufacturer, but generally the mattress is encased in a frame that pulls out from a cabinet adhered to the wall. Today's improved mechanism for lowering and raising the bed makes the process an easy job for one person, Fahy said.
The bed Casey designed for her client does not include a piston or spring mechanism, which most manufacturers use to lower the bed onto the floor.
"It just slowly drops down," she said.
Her design, which she had a carpenter build, does not look like cabinetry. The bed is incased in a faux wall. When not in use, the bed looks like a couch with a shelf over it. In order to reveal the bed, the homeowner removes the couch cushions and pulls on the shelf, which causes the faux wall to drop to the floor. The wall is really a platform for the queen-size mattress. The shelf becomes the support for the foot of the bed.
It was the first time Casey ever recommended a Murphy bed to a client. She wrote about the project on her design blog, at www.lauracaseyinteriors.com , and the post drew inquiries from around the country, she said.
She's not the only one to think of a new twist on the Murphy bed. Some manufacturers also have designed beds that, like hers, are hidden in a faux wall rather than a traditional cabinet. Resource Furniture in New York sells a wall bed that flips down over the top of a couch attached to a fake wall, said interior designer Nicole Sassman of Century City, Calif.
"The whole bed comes down over the couch, and it's a proper bed," she said. "It's pretty amazing."
Sassman recently designed a room that she and the client nicknamed the "jackknife room" because it served so many purposes, including guest room, meeting room and home office. It included a Murphy bed; they're just more versatile and comfortable than sofa beds, she said.
"People are far more design-savvy, and they need multipurpose rooms," Sassman said. "There are so many reasons why the Murphy bed works in so many places."