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hideaway flyaway bedHideaway Beds: Push Here and Disappear
by Marjorie Dorfman

Did you ever wonder where on earth wall beds came from or why many of them are mysteriously named after some man named Murphy? Is he related to the person who started Murphy's law or was he from the other side of the family? Whatever the story, read on for some info and a laugh or two as well.

No matter how big or soft or warm your bed may be, you still have to get out of it.     Grace Slick

Whoever in the world gives beds, hide-aways or any other kind, a single thought? They just seem to be there every night when we go to sleep, whether in the form of a twin, bunk, water, double, king, queen or deposed prince. Whenever I think of hide-away beds, I recall that little girl of long ago, who unfolded the Castro convertible sofa bed all by her lonesome over and over again before a mesmerized television audience. She made it look so easy to open and close it and maybe it was. I never owned one and so I couldn’t say. Hide-away beds, however, are a fundamental part of my not so checkered but most embarrassing past and present.

In many cultures and for many centuries, the bed was considered the most important piece of furniture in the home. In ancient Egypt, it served as an elegant place to dine and entertain guests as well as to sleep. (Whatever did they do about cookie crumbs back then?) Goatskins filled with water were the first water beds, used in Persia more than 3,600 years ago. In the days of European castles and manor houses, there was nothing to stop little beasties from falling into the house and this became a real problem in the bedroom. The canopy bed (a bed topped by a sheet which is attached to the ends of four long posts) was designed to prevent unwanted guests, like dead wasps and rat droppings, from intruding into one’s sleeping space.

In today’s world, the "hide-away" bed evolved right along with urban and middle age sprawl. Whether we are speaking of the trundle, Murphy or Castro convertible sofa bed from the 1950s, the idea of anything secret or hidden appeals to almost everyone, be they lost or found, with or without a secret. The oldest of the three is the trundle, which comes from the word "truckle." Designed for children and servants of 16th century England to sleep upon, these beds served as the lower portion of the modern day trundle and could be shoved under another bed during the daytime. On the American frontier, the expression "sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite" refers to log cabin life where children slept in trundle beds next to their parents. Keeping the ropes or deerskin strips tight on the bed prevented the mattress from sagging onto the floor. Trundle beds with wheels to push them under bigger beds were also used in slave quarters on many American plantations.

The Murphy bed was the brainchild of William L. Murphy, (surprise!) who lived in California at the turn of the last century. He and his wife shared a one-room apartment which had a standard sized bed taking up most of the floor space. As a man who loved to entertain, Murphy began experimenting with a folding bed (electricity had already been discovered). He applied for his first patent in 1900 and the first folding beds were manufactured in San Francisco. In 1918, William Murphy (you just can’t keep a good man down) invented the pivot bed which pivoted on the doorjamb of a dressing closet and then lowered into a sleeping position.

Wall beds have come a long way since those early days and modern technology has made it possible for less complicated, more efficient methods for counter balancing the weight of the bed. Somewhere along the wall bed’s stony path, a man named Castro (no relation to Fidel) came up with the brilliant idea to convert a sofa into a bed. (After all, if Mr. Murphy could do it with a closet, why not?) The convertible sofa bed became so popular that it lives in some form or other in practically every home in America today. The Castro brand, however, having gone the way of all commercial flesh and Nick at Night re-runs, is no longer in existence.

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Don't miss this excellent book:

Collapsible: The Genius of Space Saving Design


Collapsible by Per Mollerup is a comprehensive survey of all that breaks down, balls up, pulls apart and stacks together. It includes everything from Murphy beds to cameras that collapse and keyboards that curl.

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