A Nuovoliola murphy bed from Resource Furniture that includes a sofa and storage shelf.
DIY & Apartment Hacks

Loft Bed, Murphy Bed, or Storage Bed? Here’s How To Decide

Loft Bed, Murphy Bed, or Storage Bed? Here’s How To Decide Expand options

You’ve moved into a tiny apartment and need to make more space. So you watch videos of collapsible apartments that turn 150 square feet into 600. In reality, though, the solutions to create more space are simpler, and they often begin with your bed.

If you’ve lived in a big city for any amount of time, or browsed the MakeSpace blog, you’ve seen these three types of beds: a loft bed, a Murphy bed, and a storage bed.

All claim to accomplish the same thing, which is creating more space so you can enjoy your small apartment more. Structurally, financially, and practically, they are certainly not all the same, but all do have some benefits (and detriments) to consider. If you’re planning to buy a space-saving bed, this guide should help you decide between loft beds, Murphy beds, and storage beds.

First things first: the cost

A wooden loft bed in a tiny apartment.

If budget is your biggest concern, go ahead and narrow your choices down to two types of space-saving beds: a loft bed or a bed with storage. Each of these beds has inexpensive options, some as cheap as $150 for a new twin frame, or even less if you’re willing to buy second-hand on Craigslist.

Of course, at those price points you’re getting what you pay for. The cheapest lofts are made of flimsy metal while the cheapest storage beds are likely made of particleboard, which means they’re probably not as secure as you’d like to feel at night.  And since Murphy beds have to fold up into the wall, they need to be much sturdier, making it harder to find a new Murphy bed for less than $1,000.

Beautiful lofts like the custom-built bed above come with a much higher price tag, as will any antique storage bed that’s full of character.

If you’re willing to pay more and focus on the aesthetics, the sky’s the limit, especially for loft beds and Murphy beds. Designers and space-saving furniture companies like Resource Furniture and Clei sell incredible pieces for an incredible price. Realize, though, even in a city where space-saving beds are in high demand, these beds are hard to resell (and harder to move).

In the event of moving

A man is pulling down a bed from the ceiling in a small apartment.

Obviously you can’t see into the future, but given your lease, location, and job, ask yourself, “Do I plan to live here for awhile?”

Ruling out the $150 loft beds and storage beds, which are basically disposable after a year, any bed that saves you space comes with some degree of hassle. Most good loft beds require more construction than a regular bed, and depending on their material, storage beds can be as heavy and bulky as a piano. Murphy beds certainly are. If you live in a walk-up, you won’t want to move Murphy or storage beds twice in 12 months. If you expect to live in your small apartment indefinitely, it’s less of a problem.

In terms of resale value, storage beds are the most practical of the bunch, popular in city apartments of every size, and in suburban homes beyond. There won’t be as many potential buyers for loft beds, and even fewer who would want a used Murphy bed. Given their size and cost, they’re long-term investments, usually purchased by small-apartment dwellers who don’t plan to move anytime soon.

Which bed creates more space?

A lofted bed with a ladder in a tiny apartment.

No reason to drag this point out: loft beds create more space.

Yes, you could argue that Murphy beds are the actual winner, since they make the whole bed disappear into a box that juts out from the wall less than a mount of antlers. Still, loft beds legitimately create space in your apartment, essentially adding a second floor to your studio. If you live in a tiny, tiny place like Grayson Altenberg’s 100 square foot apartment, a loft bed would double the livable area, while a Murphy bed would require you to stack everything you own against the wall each night. (And, spoiler alert, it wouldn’t have room to fold down anyway.)

Storage beds aren’t even a contender in this fight. They do supplement or replace the storage of a dresser, but if that’s all you’re after, boxes under your bed might be more effective. Then again, you should be sending that stuff to storage because according to feng shui, you’re not supposed to put things underneath your bed in the first place.But hey, that’s entirely up to you.

Feng shui, and other things to consider

A Nuovoliola murphy bed from Resource Furniture that includes a sofa and storage shelf.
Resource Furniture

One of the primary principles of feng shui is allowing energy to flow under your bed. Translation: you can’t store anything there. So if you want to practice this ancient philosophy, forget about storage beds, and maybe lofts too, because you probably can’t resist the sudden expanse of floor space that would be perfect for a table or couch.

Other considerations, like the height of your ceilings, amount of entertaining you expect to do, and how much time you spend in your apartment should also guide you through the buying process.

Wait. What about futons?

A blue futon folded up onto a brown DIY wood pallet chair.
Mary Place Gallery

All right, so we didn’t include maybe the most popular space-saving bed: the futon, or sleeper sofa. Sure, you can find these throughout any city, and many people do sleep on them every night, but most are made for guests or as a last resort, not regular use.

The best futons in the world can give you at least one great night of sleep. The worst will twist a crick in your neck as soon as you’ve switched off the light. Truth be told, we love any piece of furniture that saves space through dual use, but night after night we’ll take a real mattress and a different space-saving bed.

Good luck choosing yours!

This article was written by David Michael McFarlane, a writer from Texas and Oregon who lives in New York and loves smart design and organization.

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