Murphy Beds vs Sofa Beds

March 25, 2021 | Expert Advice

What are the differences between murphy beds and sofa beds? Here we compare comfort, space-saving ability, and ease of use.

Create Space Without Feeling Cramped

It takes some creativity to transform a room from crowded to elegant. Furniture can be cumbersome, and beds take up most of a room’s floor space — and you’re asleep for most of the time you’re there!

Space-saving bed options, such as a Murphy bed or pull-out couch, maximize your square footage while preserving your home’s aesthetic. Among people searching for additional sleeping space, sofa beds vs. wall beds have been battling it out for decades. Whether you’re looking for a new bed for yourself or to accommodate occasional overnight guests, you can create space without feeling stuffed. Here are some things to help you decide on a winner.

What Is a Sofa Bed?

The first space-saving bed option many people think of is the sleeper sofa — a folding bed stored inside a sofa. You’ve likely slept on one at some point — perhaps while visiting your grandparents or at a friend’s sleepover. It’s a handy piece of furniture with a dual purpose, which makes it appealing to people trying to maximize their space. By day, this furniture piece offers seating. At night, it converts into a bed.

Most standard sleeper sofas use queen-sized foam mattresses, though they’re different from a queen mattress you would use in a regular bed. Sofa bed foam mattresses are quite thin and flexible, as they have to fold up inside the couch when not in use.

Typical modern sleeper sofas use a folding metal frame attached to the couch. To convert the piece into a bed, you remove the cushions and lift the frame up and out, unfolding it as you go. The mattress stays on top of the frame. Then, fold the end of the bed over, lift, and lower the frame inside the sofa.

Rather than fitting a frame and mattress inside, sofa beds transform in two ways. Some feature an armless, backless frame and instead use dense, fully removable cushions. Removing the cushions converts it from sofa to bed. Other sofa beds fold down into a flat surface, extending the available sleeping area.

Sleeprs and sofa beds are more multifunctional than a traditional bed, as you can use them for seating during the day and open them up for overnight guests.

What Is a Wall Bed?

A wall bed is essentially a platform bed with a hinge connecting it to the wall. When not in use, the entire platform swings up against the wall. This bed style takes its name from its inventor, William Murphy, who patented his design in 1911. The traditional Murphy bed is a type of wall bed. Still, the name is now synonymous with wall beds in general, much like we associate Photoshop with photo editing and Kleenex with disposable tissues. So, when you’re comparing Murphy beds vs. wall beds vs. sleeper sofa options, you’re essentially comparing wall beds and sleeper sofas.

Are Murphy beds comfortable? It helps to look at the parts of the bed when assessing its comfort level. A simple wall bed consists of a platform with a sturdy metal frame and a real mattress, rather than the standard sofa bed mattress, which is foldable by design. That thicker mattress means a wall bed can be as comfortable as a traditional platform bed. It folds up against the wall when you’re not using it. The mattress rests on beechwood slats that provide optimal support and comfort.

The wall bed operates with a hinged counterbalanced system that makes it easy to fold up and down. The weight and safety mechanism keep the bed in position, so it won’t open on its own or fold up while you sleep. Wall beds are available in horizontal and vertical designs to better suit the space.

Wall beds come in many options to make the most of a space and even provide multiple functions. Some, like the LGM, rotate and feature shelving on the front. Others seem to disappear into the wall. The style depends on your preference and the look that fits best with the rest of your room. While wall beds are ideal for small spaces, they work in larger rooms, too.

Wall beds are a terrific way to make a room feel open, airy, and larger, no matter the size of the space. For example, in a child’s room, a wall bed is ideal for creating more play space during the day to make the bedroom more functional. Some wall beds integrate other furniture pieces, such as tables, desks, or sofas, to make them multifunctional.

Should You Choose a Murphy Bed or a Sofa Bed?

Murphy and sofa beds are both clever, versatile options for increasing your space. Choosing which one is right for you will depend on your needs and preferences.

Reasons to Choose a Murphy Bed

If space and style are both at a premium, a Murphy bed could be the perfect choice for you.
You’re downsizing: Whether you’re an empty nester, moving from the suburbs into the city, embracing minimalism, or starting a new chapter of your life, it’s time to downsize. When you’re used to something larger, a smaller space can come with challenges, like saying goodbye to the guest room. Even if you have limited space, you can still ensure your children, friends, and extended family have a place to sleep when they visit. A Murphy bed lets you transform an art studio, office, or even your living room in moments. Opting for a Murphy bed can also help maintain even a small room’s airy, open feel. If you want enough space for guests to gather without sacrificing accommodations, a Murphy bed gives you the best of both worlds.

You have a growing family: Your home has stayed the same size, but the space is starting to feel smaller as your family grows. You may be waiting for a shift in your finances or the real estate market before you move, or you might prefer to stay where you are. Regardless, your need for additional space is undeniable. Murphy beds are the perfect solution for maximizing your square footage. You can make your children’s room an open playroom during the day and unfold their bunk beds when it’s time to go to sleep. Choose an option with hidden storage and adjustable seating to get even greater use of a limited footprint.

You need a home office: Perhaps you recently started a business or earned a promotion that means taking more of your work home from the office. Or, you’ve switched to remote or hybrid work and realized you need a dedicated place to concentrate without interruption. However, as your work at home has increased, your home’s size has stayed the same. A Murphy bed will let you update how you use your space to fit your current needs. You can open up floor space to produce or photograph products for your small business. Opt for a model with a built-in desk to create a hybrid office and bedroom.

Reasons to Choose a Sofa Bed

You may be in a situation where versatility is your top concern. If that’s the case, a sofa bed could be your best option.

You need a multifunctional space: While specialization can be valuable, investing in items that serve multiple purposes is most efficient. Whether your home is on the smaller side or you have more activities than individual rooms, you may need furniture that quickly allows you to convert your space from one use to another. A high-quality sofa bed can serve as seating during the day and as your regular bed or a space-saving guest bed at night. There are even options available to combine a guest bed, your bed, and sofa all in one. Sofa beds are especially beneficial in small rooms or areas with limited space. While wall beds still need enough clear floor space to fold down, sofa beds require little to no additional room to transition from seating to sleeping surface.

You need more seating: Sofa beds are a fantastic option if you still want to entertain with minimal space. With only so much room in a studio apartment, it can be challenging to fit all the furniture you need. Or maybe you want to transform your guest room into a game room without giving up the option to have a guest stay for a night or two. Rather than choosing between a bed and enough seating for friends and family to be comfortable, you can have both with a sofa bed.

You need portability: The critical difference between sofa and wall beds is their portability. As the name suggests, wall beds attach to the wall — once they’re in place, they’re a fixture in the room. However, sofa beds are as movable as any other couch. You may be planning a move soon and want a piece of furniture you can take with you. A sofa bed’s movability is also a significant advantage if you live in a rental property with restrictions on what you can install and modify. Finally, a sofa bed is an excellent choice if you’re someone who prefers to rearrange furniture to freshen things up.

Wall Beds Make Life Easier

Convenience Factor

At the end of a long day, you just want to sink into your bed to relax. Most space-saving options require you to set up your bed before you can do that. When comparing Murphy beds vs. pull-out couches, the convenience factor in setting up your bed is something to consider.

Wall Beds vs Sofa Beds. Graphic explaining the difference between a wall bed and a sofa bed

A wall bed is easy to set up when you’re ready for bed. You can pull it down into position and jump right in. Wall beds are usually much easier to set up and put away than pull-out couches. They don’t feel heavy when you pull them down into position or put them back against the wall. By design, these beds have a hinge that lets them move smoothly up and down as needed, so you don’t need a lot of muscle to get your bed ready or put it away. Wall beds also have straps to hold the bedding in place, which saves you the hassle of making your bed every night and removing the bedding before you can put it away in the morning like you would need to do with a pull-out couch.

Some wall bed models offer even more convenience depending on the features. For example, some have shelving and desks that stay level, so you don’t have to remove them just to convert the bed. Some have integrated storage under the sofa seats. Integrated cabinetry and shelving also add convenient built-in storage. Wall beds have a highly versatile, convenient design that’s stood the test of time. On the other hand, traditional sofa beds tend to be stand-alone and not integrate as seamlessly with the other storage or space-saving solutions you may have in your space.

Space Savings

Sofa beds offer seating and a place to sleep. However, you can’t ever move a sleeper sofa completely out of the way. While it only has the footprint of a standard couch when you fold it up, it will still require a significant amount of space when you transform it into a bed. If your goal is to save as much space as possible, consider trading your sleeper sofa for a wall bed.

The ability to completely open up floor space makes a wall bed a much more versatile option. Wall beds fold up and disappear into the wall for a sleek and modern look, leaving the space open for any activities you choose.

You can choose a wall bed with an integrated sofa and get the same seating you would with a sofa bed with the ease, convenience, and comfort of a wall bed. Many models are also available with integrated tables or desks, giving you two essential pieces of furniture in the space.
Penelope Sofa Wall Bed Resource Furniture

Another space-saving factor in choosing a wall bed is the size variety. Sofa beds typically only come in a queen size, limiting your options. Wall beds are available in various sizes and options.

Single or twin: A twin-sized bed is perfect for children or saving more space even when you have folded the bed down into a sleeping position.

Intermediate: The length of a twin XL, intermediate beds are almost as compact as single beds and long enough to be comfortable for teens and adults.

Full or double: With the same length and greater width than a single bed, this size is perfect for single adult sleepers. Two children can also comfortably share a full-sized bed.

Queen: The extra width of a queen-sized bed is essential for couples. These also make the best choice for guest beds to ensure your guests can sleep comfortably.

Bunk beds: One classic space-saving system meets another with transforming wall bunk beds. These duos take advantage of vertical space to provide twice as much sleeping space as a single or intermediate-sized bed within the same footprint.

Most wall bed models also include integrated storage, a substantial space-saving factor, especially in small rooms. Many beds feature shelving above the bed or attached to the bed itself. Opt for a model with built-in cabinetry and doors to conceal your items if you prefer hidden storage. For a wall bed with an integrated sofa, look for an option with storage underneath the sofa seats.

Choosing a Space-Saving Bed

Comparing sofa bed and Murphy bed pros and cons helps you choose the best option for your particular situation. In general, a Murphy bed is the more comfortable option, whether you’re buying a bed for everyday use or a guest bed for occasional use. However, if you want to find a comfortable sofa bed, there are some things to look for.

Skip spring-style mattresses, which can poke you or cause creakiness. Memory foam mattresses or hybrids with air and innerspring construction offer a more comfortable sleeping surface, and neither require box springs. Another feature offered by some manufacturers is a foam topper that adds a cushioned, comfy top layer for those who don’t like a memory foam mattress. Inspect the mechanism for sharp pieces that can hurt or snag your sheets. Test out the mechanism to make sure it glides easily. If a wall bed is a better option for you, you still have some decisions to make and things to look for in the purchase. To find a quality wall bed, consider the following factors:

Construction

Sturdy construction and quality materials make the wall bed a safe, comfortable place to sleep. A quality design is critical if you plan to sleep on the Murphy bed every night. That may mean investing a little more to get a higher quality bed that lasts a lifetime.

Size

Choose a size that fits both your sleeping needs and your available space. The bed folds up against the wall during the day, but you still need enough space for the bed to fold down completely at night. If you’re sharing the bed, you need a larger size to sleep comfortably; otherwise, a twin-sized bed will fit the bill.

Orientation

You might think of the traditional Murphy bed style that folds out vertically, but Murphy bed frames also have horizontal orientations. The way the bed attaches to the wall and folds down affects how well it fits in a space. If the room can’t fit a queen bed with the attachment at the end, consider if the arrangement would work better with a side attachment.

Style

The wall bed’s appearance is another factor when making your selection. While some Murphy bed designs seem to disappear into the wall, others offer a custom look with many different style options to fit into your design scheme and functional needs. You can choose custom styles with sofas, desks, tables, shelving, cabinetry and built-in storage to serve your desired purposes. Various fabrics and colors offer additional customization options. On the other hand, sofa beds tend to be a “one-style-fits-all” situation, with little to no customization ability based on the specific function you need the piece to achieve.

Storage

When you’re working with a small space, creative storage solutions are essential. Look for a wall bed with built-in shelving or storage to get more use out of the space. Keep extra bed linens or items you might need at bedtime in the storage areas.

Extra features

Choosing dual-purpose pieces makes the best use of your space. Consider not only the furniture design, but also how you want to use the surrounding space. Styles with an integrated desk or sectional sofas turn your sleeping space into a multifunctional area with a tiny footprint. It all comes down to how much space you have and what you want to fit into that space.

Mattress Options

Ask about the mattress options when choosing a Murphy bed. Having a quality mattress makes your wall bed more comfortable and enjoyable and prevents or relieves long-term discomfort like back pain. Check on the maximum mattress thickness allowed in your bed to ensure you choose a compatible one. (Resource sells queen and twin-sized mattresses for wall beds in our collection.)

Maximize Space and Comfort

Saving space with a wall bed or sofa bed is a wise move in any room where floor space is prime real estate. When comparing sofa beds vs. Murphy beds, wall beds typically offer better comfort and more floor space when not in use. In contrast, sofa beds offer greater flexibility and portability. Whichever option better meets your needs, Resource Furniture has the selection and quality you’re looking for.
If you’re considering a wall or sofa bed to maximize your space, visit one of our showrooms to experience the quality and beauty of our options in person.