The hot new hotel room perk: a Murphy bed

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Beds once associated with claustrophobic Depression-era flophouses are popping up at ski resorts, timeshares and luxury suites.

Hotel rooms are shrinking, and travelers are increasingly demanding their rooms be more than just places to catch some shut-eye. That has led hotel developers to turn to an old standby — the Murphy bed.

Today’s hideaway wall bed isn’t the rickety, dust-covered last resort many travelers might expect, say hoteliers, designers and furniture companies. They pitch it as an aesthetic marvel that’s also comfortable.

“It used to be that they were kind of a punchline in comedy sketches,” says Caden Wilding, vice president of marketing at Wilding Wallbeds, a family-owned Murphy bed retailer and manufacturer based in St. George, Utah. “The industry is coming to see them more favorably.”

Michelle Sutton, a 43-year-old gym owner from Barberton, Ohio, booked a short stay at an Orlando-area timeshare with her wife as part of a theme-park vacation.

When they reached their studio room, they found no bed. “I thought, ‘How am I gonna call the front desk and ask where’s the bed?'” Sutton says. Sure enough, the room had a Murphy bed — a detail Sutton says the timeshare didn’t mention during the reservation process or check-in.

“It was actually super comfortable,” Sutton says, adding she would stay in that room again.

Motto, Hilton’s hotel brand aimed at young professionals, features traditional layouts that boast a single, king-size bed and others with bunk-style beds. In addition, Motto’s seven current locations also feature rooms with a wall bed as the only sleeping option. These “Flex Rooms” can be used alone or connected with an adjoining room for a suite-style layout.

Up against the wall

Disney has included wall beds in the designs of new buildings and renovated rooms at resorts it operates around the world, including its least and most expensive hotels.

“A kid is always fighting to sleep on the twin bed that folds out,” even if a queen bed is free, says Alyssa Long, a Memphis-based travel agent with Smart Moms Travel.

When Alan Utley’s family booked a Walt Disney World vacation last August, they stayed in a suite at the Art of Animation Resort. It was the first big trip for Utley’s two children, then ages 5 and 2.

They picked a suite themed after “Finding Nemo,” a favorite movie of the kids. When they walked in the room, their son grew worried because he only saw one bed. They then folded down the room’s wall bed, revealing an image of the film’s titular fish character and his father, Marlin.

“He immediately jumped on it,” Utley says, adding that his 2-year-old daughter was jealous.

Changing rooms

The earliest variations of hideaway beds appeared hundreds of years ago. The “Murphy bed” moniker hearkens to a California inventor, William Lawrence Murphy, who purportedly invented the bed in the late 19th century so he could host a woman he was courting in his one-room apartment, by transforming the space into a parlor.

They continue to spring up in pop culture. On “The Simpsons,” a budget apartment building featured a sign that read: “Our beds are the Murphiest.”

Tucking the bed away can mean more room for kids to play or a nicer backdrop for a Zoom meeting. Unlike other space-saving options such as sofa beds, a wall bed is usually more comfortable, interior designers say, because contemporary Murphy beds generally feature standard mattresses and don’t have pesky bars or coils that can keep you awake. “The sofa bed is the reason we have a business,” says Steve Spett, co-founder of Resource Furniture, a New York-based company that sells wall beds.

Tom Parker, co-founder of interior architecture and design firm Fettle Design, says one of his hotel clients is exploring a concept for a fold-down dining table for their rooms. “You can Murphy-ize a lot of stuff,” Parker says.

Chateau Denmark, a luxury boutique hotel in London’s Soho neighborhood, has rooms with Murphy beds. The buildings that house the hotel were once the site of recording studios used by Elton John and the Rolling Stones.

The beds were custom-made for the hotel to match its punk rock-meets-Victorian gothic aesthetic. The Murphy bed in one suite, inspired by graffiti done by members of the Sex Pistols, features studs.

Wall beds still give some hoteliers pause. They’re expensive, and some worry about their durability. And there’s the question of whether guests could injure themselves, or damage furniture, by trying to fold down the bed on their own. “The thing that we’re seeing a lot of hoteliers still be nervous about is the guest doing that function themselves,” says Molly Forman, a senior associate at //3877, an architecture and design firm based in Washington, D.C.

Some hotels have solved that by requiring housekeeping staff to set up the wall beds — a twist on evening turndown service. On YouTube and TikTok, travel agents and jetsetters have posted videos demonstrating how to open and close the beds at resorts.

Last year, the JW Marriott Essex House, on Central Park South in New York, opened a group of renovated suites. The Delacorte Presidential Suite, which starts at $15,000 a night, is 2,500 square feet and has two bedrooms on the building’s 26th floor. Among the amenities: A Murphy bed.

The bed is in a separate section of the suite that features a kitchen and a bathroom. Staff members of guests, such as nannies or chefs, often will use the bed, says Essex House general manager John Rieman. It’s also used by extended family members, he says.

When Rieman gives arriving guests a tour of the suite, the Murphy bed frequently catches their eyes.

“You get a lot of oohs and ahhs,” he says. “They see that it’s not just what you think of when you think of a Murphy bed.”

The feature has proven so popular Rieman says he is considering adding Murphy beds to some of the hotel’s other large suites.