It takes some creativity to transform a room from crowded to elegant. Furniture is necessary but cumbersome, and beds, in particular, take up most of the floor space in a room — 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 space while keeping the aesthetic of your home how you want it. For those looking to maximize 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 sofa bed. You’ve likely slept on one at some point in your life — perhaps while visiting your grandparents as a child or at your friend’s sleepover. It’s a handy piece of furniture with a dual purpose, which is what makes it appealing to people who are trying to maximize their space. By day, this furniture piece offers seating, and by night, it converts into a bed.
Most standard sleeper sofas use a queen-size mattress, although it’s not like a standard queen mattress you would use in a regular bed. Sofa bed mattresses are quite thin and flexible, as they have to fold up inside the couch when not in use.
The typical sofa bed uses 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. When you’re done, you fold the end of the bed over, then lift and lower the frame inside the sofa. The sofa bed is more multifunctional than a traditional bed since you can use it for seating during the day.
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 style of bed is often referred to as a Murphy bed. The Murphy bed is actually a brand of wall bed, but the name is now synonymous with wall beds in general, much the same way Photoshop is associated with photo editing or Kleenex is associated with tissue. 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 the platform with a sturdy metal frame and a real mattress, rather than the standard sofa bed mattress which is designed to be folded up. That thicker mattress means a wall bed is just as comfortable as a traditional platform bed. It simply 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 can be designed to open horizontally or vertically 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 what the size of the space. For example, in a child’s room, a wall bed is an ideal way to create 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.
Sofa Beds vs. Wall Beds
Sofa beds and wall beds offer a similar benefit: a sleeping surface you can tuck away when not in use. While the purpose is the same, the method of achieving the goal is different. Breaking the comparison down by different factors helps you get a better idea of which option is best for you.
Comfort is the biggest factor in choosing a bed. You may save space, but you won’t get much sleep if you choose an alternative bed option that isn’t comfortable. In general, a wall bed is more comfortable than a sleeper sofa, and it all comes down to the mattress.
A sleeper sofa uses a thin mattress, usually only about 4 to 5 inches thick. It needs to be flexible enough to fold up into the sofa, so the mattress doesn’t generally provide a lot of support. For a night or two, it may not be bad, but, for a regular sleeping option, it can get uncomfortable fast. While sleeper sofa mattresses have improved over the years, they still don’t give quite the support and cushioning of thicker mattresses like those you find on wall beds.
On a sofa bed, the mattress goes directly on top of the metal frame, which has metal bars going across for support. Without those bars, the mattress would sink, but those support bars can add to the discomfort. If you choose a sleeper sofa with a thin mattress, you may end up feeling the bars through the mattress while you sleep — especially after it’s had a few years of use.
A wall bed uses a sturdy platform to hold the mattress, so it provides one large surface for support rather than individual bars that can cause pressure points. You also have greater versatility when it comes to the mattress for a wall bed. Most wall beds accommodate mattresses as thick as regular bed mattresses, which gives you a lot more cushioning. The most comfortable Murphy bed options use thicker mattresses.
If you’re choosing a sofa bed or wall bed as a place for occasional guests to sleep, comfort may not be as big a concern — although you don’t want your guests to be uncomfortable either. If you’re choosing a space-saving option for yourself, a Murphy bed for daily use is usually the most comfortable choice.
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.
A wall bed is easy to set up when you’re ready for bed. You can simply pull the bed 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. The hinge on the bed is designed to let the bed easily go 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 deal with removing them just to convert the bed. Some have integrated storage under the sofa seats. Integrated cabinetry and shelving also adds convenient built-in storage. When it comes to overall design, wall beds are clearly very versatile and convenient. Traditional sofa beds, on the other hand, tend to be stand alone and not integrate as seamlessly with the other storage or space-saving solutions you may have in your space.
While a sofa bed offers both seating and a place to sleep, it comes with a major drawback — you can never fully move the sleeper sofa out of the way. It takes up a little less space than a regular bed when you’re using it as a couch, but it still takes up a significant amount of space in your room. If your goal is to save as much space as possible, the sofa bed isn’t the best option.
A wall bed can fold completely up against the wall, leaving the floor space below open for any activities you choose. That ability to completely open up floor space makes a wall bed a much more versatile option. The bed disappears against the wall, so it looks sleek and modern. And if you need the seating, you can choose a wall bed with an integrated sofa to get the same seating you would with a sofa, with the ease, convenience, and comfort of a wall bed.
Most wall bed models also include integrated storage, which is a huge space-saving factor, especially in small rooms. Many beds feature shelving above the bed or attached to the bed itself. If you prefer hidden storage, opt for a model with built-in cabinetry with doors to conceal your items. For a wall bed with an integrated sofa, look for an option with storage underneath the sofa seats.
Another space-saving factor that comes with choosing a wall bed is the size variety. Sofa beds typically only come in a queen size, which limits your options. Wall beds are available in every size, from a twin size to a queen size, and even bunk beds. Choosing a twin-size bed is another way to save more space in a room even when the bed is folded down into a sleeping position.
Choosing a Space-Saving Bed
Comparing sofa bed and Murphy bed pros and cons helps you choose the option that’s best for your particular situation. In general, a Murphy bed is the most comfortable option, whether you’re buying a bed for everyday use or a guest bed for occasional use. However, if you want to know how to find a comfortable sofa bed, there are some things to look for.
Skip spring-style mattresses, which can poke you or cause creakiness. A memory foam mattress or a hybrid with air and innerspring construction offers a more comfortable sleeping surface. Another feature offered by some manufacturers is a foam topper that adds a cushioned, comfy top layer. 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:
Sturdy construction and quality materials make the wall bed a safe, comfortable place to sleep. A quality design is particularly important 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.
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.
You might think of the traditional Murphy bed style that folds out vertically, but there are versions bed for a horizontal orientation. 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 of the bed, consider if the bed would fit better with a side attachment.
The appearance of the wall bed is something to consider when making your selection. While some wall beds seem to disappear into the wall, others are designed to 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 the purposes you desire. Various fabrics and colors offer additional customization options. Sofa beds, on the other hand, 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.
When you’re working with a small space, creative storage solutions are essential. Look for a wall bed with shelving or storage built-in to get more use out of the space. Keep extra bed linens or items you might need at bedtime in the storage areas.
Choosing dual-purpose pieces makes the best use of your space. Consider how you want to use the space around the bed. A style with an integrated desk or sofa turns your sleeping space into a multi-functional area with a very small footprint. It all comes down to how much space you have and what you want to fit into that space.
Ask about the mattress options when choosing a Murphy bed. Having quality mattress makes your wall bed more comfortable and enjoyable, and will prevent or relieve any longterm discomfort – like back pain. Check on the maximum mattress thickness allowed in your bed to ensure you choose a compatible one.
Maximize Space and Comfort
Saving space with a wall bed or sofa bed is a smart move in any room where floor space is prime real estate. When it comes to sofa beds vs. Murphy beds, wall beds typically offer greater convenience, better comfort and more floor space when not in use than sofa beds. If a wall bed feels like the right choice for your sleeping situation, visit one of our showrooms to experience the quality and beauty of our options in person.