Sunday, April 12, 2009

Guest Room Remodel - Budget Murphy bed with Ikea Pax cabinet frames

Over the last couple of weeks, I've undertaken a complete re-do of our guest room.

One of our key goals was to keep the room multi-functional, so we really wanted a Murphy Bed (folding wall bed) to make room when the bed wasn't needed. Unfortunately, even the cheapest Murphy systems we could find were well out of our price range. With a Queen bed, side cabinets and a rudimentary headboard, delivery, and installation, we were looking at nearly $5000, and that's just for a thin white-melamine cabinet with vinyl-foil doors.

I knew I could do better (price-wise) if I did something myself, but I don't have the equipment or time to make full cabinets or raised-panel doors. Wanting an alternate solution I did a lot of searching and scheming and eventually hit upon the idea of using Ikea Pax wardrobe cabinetry (somewhat modified).

This was a long-ish project, so I won't go through every step here. You can see the evolution of the project along with descriptions of many steps here on the Web Album.

Since the main reason for undertaking this myself rather than just purchasing a basic melamine Murphy Bed was cost ($5000 or so, as of November 2008), let me break down the main expenditures: Queen-size Murphy Mechanism + Foundation .... $390
Floor saver (attaches frame to wall instead of floor)............$80

2 x Pax Cabinet Frames, 20x23x93.................................$180
1 x Pax Cabinet Frame, 39x23x9...................................$100
4 x Pax Birkeland Doors, 19 5/8 x 90 1/8.........................$480
2 x Pax Birkeland Glass Doors, 19 5/8 x 90 1/8...................$240
3 x Gravyr Handles 2-pack........................................$24

Melamine Sheets (Home Depot).....................................$60
2 x Piano Hinges, 72" (ACE Hardware).............................$30

Dimmable Halogen Lights, door-switch, wiring, etc................$40

Assorted Hardware, Hole covers, magnetic catches, etc............$10

"Wrought" Iron Headboard from our old bed........................$0

......................................... Rough Total ..........$1634

Even accounting for a few tools that I had to buy (<$50) and a big pile of Komplement accessories and sales tax, you can see that I came out way ahead.

So, what did it take to pull all this off? Surprisingly little.

As far as tools, I needed a Circular saw, a Table saw (borrowed from a friend), Cordless Drill, various drill bits including 15mm and 35mm forstner bits (the tools I bought), hammer, screwdriver, and various measuring tools, squares, and a few clamps.

This whole build was based on using standard Ikea Pax wardrobe frames. This meant I could fit stock Birkeland doors, which in my mind was the biggest hurdle to overcome. The only real trick to this is that the Pax frames only come in two widths: 19 5/8" (1-door wide) and 39 1/4" (2-doors wide), whereas a Queen bed and frame needs roughly 65" clearance. The solution was to "extend" a wide cabinet to a "double-wide" cabinet and make the doors bifold (4-doors wide).

To do this, I made new top and toe-kick panels in the adjusted width. Using the original top as a guide, I machined my new top to have the same pockets for the Ikea cam-lock hardware so that everything would assemble the same way as the original cabinet frame. I then added a horizontal stringer bolted to the wall to keep the top piece from bowing under its own weight. The toe-kick was similar, except that instead of a full bottom to the cabinet, my toe-kick is only topped by a strip that fills the gap to the Murphy base frame (the center cabinet is "bottomless" and the Murphy Bed frame sits directly on the floor, bolted to the wall.)

Attaching the doors is nearly identical to the Ikea method, except that given the added weight of a second door panel, I felt compelled to add three additional hinges on each side. These were mounted just like the regular hinges into additional recesses I drilled into the doors.

The lighting is actually not Ikea, because I came across some Dimmable Halogens for a great price at my local Dixieline. Rather than just put in the lights and a dimmer, I also built a switched outlet into the cabinet frame. A momentary switch is mounted such that power to the lights is only "On" when the cabinet doors are open, since I didn't want the hot halogen lights left on by accident when the bed was folded up into the cabinet.

The other big improvement in this implementation vs. the cheap commercial Murphy Beds was the headboard. Since the Pax wardrobe cabinets are deeper than I need (even accounting for a pillowtop mattress), there is room between the wall and upright bed frame to accommodate our spare "wrought" iron headboard. When the bed is lowered, the headboard can be slid forward and bolted to the bed frame with two wingnuts. This provides a REAL headboard for our guests to lean against for reading, etc., something that was not provided by the cheap commercial beds we looked at.

Final results? We're very pleased.

The actual Murphy mechanism from went together very easily and is well built, and their "Floorsaver" is a unique offering, as far as I can tell. Being able to bolt exclusively to the wall studs instead of into the subfloor made things much easier on me. My only knock is against their "foundation", which is really nothing more than a pine wood frame, some corrugated cardboard, and a quilted covering stapled on. For the $110 difference, I would just order the mechanism without the foundation and just make one from plywood, were I to do this again.

The Ikea cabinetry isn't as nice as real hardwood, but it actually feels less cheap and more sturdy than the thinner particleboard/melamine on offering from commercial Murphy Bed sellers. For our room, we actually wanted the white cabinets, but we could have also selected one of the other Pax finishes. NOTE: If using a cabinet finish other than white melamine, you'll probably want to buy one additional Pax cabinet frame. Use the side pieces from this extra cabinet as the raw lumber for the new top and toe kick panels. It will be slightly more expensive that buying melamine in sheets, but it gives you the option of "other-than-white", another difference versus the commercial Murphy Bed makers.


Unknown said...

What a great project? Can you tell me what wattage of lights you used? Will the kind sold for under kitchen cabinets throw enough light for reading in bed?

Choose_Adventure said...

Don't know the wattage off-hand, but I do know the three I have are PLENTY bright. Sadly, the dimming feature doesn't work so hot, you only have a narrow range before they start to buzz, but when switched on full bright they're enough to light the whole room because of the light reflecting off the white cabinets. If I were doing it again, I might just to two lights instead of three.

Unknown said...

Can you go into more detail on the construction of the foundations?
I too am unconvinced of their value but I also imagine that you wouldn't want to use the frame without some kind of foundation.
They look like felt stapled over three pieces of plywood...

Choose_Adventure said...

Felt stapled over plywood would be a massive improvement over the foundations as supplied, except it would be heavier.

The foundations I bought are literally this: A box frame of 1x3 (probably pine), covered in corrugated cardboard, then the quilted material stapled over the top. Their only merit is that they are lightweight.

Jerry Starbuck said...

Herbie: I want to thank you for posting your Murphy Bed build. Very helpful! I used your plans to create my own Murphy/IKEA Bed.

Please see:

Choose_Adventure said...

Jerry, absolutely TOP NOTCH. Great work, and your documentation is probably better than mine!

Glad this helped someone else.

Jerry Starbuck said...

Thanks Herbie, I appreciate your comments. You blazed the trail! Your plans made my build a lot less stressful- even fun!

Show said...

WOW, how great it is. I have wanted to buy a murphy bed for about 10 years now but could not afford it and unfortunately I can not build it, so I will just keep looking at them and dreaming. Way to go.

Show said...

Wow what a great job. I have wanted a murphy bed for about 10 years now but couldn't afford one. The unfortunate thing is that I can not build one either so I will just keep looking and dreaming. I am happy to see you share your knowledge.

Peggy said...

Just out of curiosity how is your murphy bed holding up? Does it see a lot of use? We are currently looking at different companies for the murphy bed mechanism and foundation but have not come to a concrete conclusion as of yet. We do not have a lot of out of town company but when we do they stay anywhere from 3 to 10 days. And they are not especially young. (our parents live anywhere from 600 to 1000 miles away and all 4 are in their early to mid 70's.) What type of mattress did you use?

Thank you so very much for information!!

Choose_Adventure said...

Peggy, it's holding up great. My in-laws have been visiting with good frequency ever since our daughter was born and they are always comfortable. Making sure the headboard is attached seems to contribute since my MIL likes to read. The counter-tension springs have not relaxed much, so I'm still getting by with less than the full complement of springs, and I would just add back the two or four I deleted if they relaxed some. I believe Jerry had to use all of his springs, so he might have had a very heavy mattress or something.

One of the nice things about semi-scratch building is that you don't get a crappy mattress bundled in. We went to one of the local "big name" mattress stores and bought a decent quality Serta or Posturepedic (don't remember offhnad) queen size. Since this mechanism takes regular queen size mattresses, you can spend as much or as little as you want on quality versus your needs. I should measure the height of the foundation off the floor so you could figure out what the height of a particular mattress thickness would be, but I can say it is about average. Not very high (our sleigh bed in the master bedroom requires climbing up into with the thick mattress, for comparison), but not super low either.

The only dimension that you have to pay attention to when choosing a mattress is the thickness of the mattress you intend to use versus the cabinet depth. The instructions include some notes about how/where to position the mechanism and the cabinet depths for a big pillowtop mattress versus a regular one. If you build for a pillowtop, any mattress should fit for sure. The upside of the Ikea cabinet solution is that you have more than enough cabinet depth for just about any mattress, and then some.

Jade said...

Hi Herbie-
Im just wondering which PAX size you used. Did you use the 22" depth or the 13"?

This project looks awesome. Job well done!

Choose_Adventure said...

Mrs. Curiosity, I used the 22" depth PAX which provided more than enough depth for the Murphy Bed Mechanism (15" depth minimum for the mechanism I used, depending on mattress thickness).

Having extra depth meant a couple of pluses: I could use whatever depth mattress I wanted, I had extra space for the headboard, and it saved me from having to be too picky about placement. If you build the cabinet "just big enough", you'll have to get everything lined up just right.

Jen McCleve said...

I didn't know that that much work went into installing a murphy wall bed. Thanks for the pictures and the explanation, it really helps.

Christian SUndquist said...

Thanks so much for putting together this write-up! With baby number 2 on the way, the wife and I are searching for ways to create more space. We are strongly leaning towards tacking your Ikea murphy bed project!
One quick question - would a 63" wide space be large enough to accomodate a queen bed? I believed you stated that allowing at least 65" was preferable. I ask since we only have 63" of space to provide for the center unit in the spot we want to place the murphy bed!

Choose_Adventure said...

Christian, you've got two problems there:

First, the 65" dimension actually comes from the manufacturer of the bed frame:

They say 64.5". The frame is actually 57.5" wide, but a Queen mattress is right at 60" wide, plus you'll probably want another couple of inches on either side. 63" INSIDE dimensions would probably be fine, but if you've got 63" wall-to-wall, it'll be tight once you subtract the material thickness, etc.

Second, and more importantly: What (if anything) are you planning to do about doors? 64.5" is sort of the minimum if you're building your own cabinet, but since I was using off-the-shelf stuff, I needed to work in the standard door widths for Ikea hardware. In this case, that's 19 5/8" (1-door wide) and 39 1/4" (2-doors wide), or in my case roughly 78.5" (4-doors wide). I suppose you could try to do 3-doors wide and have only one bifold, but that's 58-7/8" wide, which won't fit a queen mattress.

Moreover, you need to allow some room for the doors unless you get fancy about how they mount. You can see my doors don't go 100% out of the way.

If you're stuck to a 63" width, here's what I suggest: Instead of using this style of murphy frame, look into the style where the bottom of the bed forms a "false" door. Instead of the door opening up, then lowering the bed, the "door" is fixed to the bottom of the bed and a hidden-leg feature usually comes out somewhere near the top/end. Here's an example:

Christian SUndquist said...

Thanks Herbie!! I was so enthralled with your work that I posted a question without fully thinking everything through! We simply do not have the space to replicate your project exactly, and so I am thinking of still doing a 4 doors wide space (78.5), with only one closet (19 5/8) on one side. I would then need to figure out a way to shore up the side panel that is no longer bordering a cabinet. I think it can work! said...

YOU ROCK! This is exactly what I was looking to do in my guest room which is very limited in space! I am inspired to create something similar, when I do, I'll be sure to come back & ask questions if I have any! Awesome job!


Eyad said...


One word ... AWESOME ! I am in fact going to embark on making this project for a guest room and am adding in an office. Once i am done i will be posting pics and stuff.

Wish me luck !

Great job, just great !



Unknown said...

I'm thinking of buying some murphy bed hardware to fix up our queen that we've been using since we got married. I think it's about time for a repair or two.

newfangled said...

Hi Herbie,

Just wanted to say thanks for posting this. I used your idea as inspiration for a Pax murphy bed with sliding doors.

I did up an instructable for it here:

(P.S. I am not a robot)

Choose_Adventure said...

newfangled, well done! Looks very modern and clean, I like it a lot.

Paul said...

Herbie - Thanks so much for being a pioneer with this project. Your site was very helpful for my own build. The biggest difference on my build was that I didn't have room for the two end cabinets. Here is my build if you're interested:

Lucgal said...

Hi Herbie, great post! How are the bi-fold doors holding up! I'm thinking of doing a similar idea with my closet, which has two 30-inch wide sliding doors. Since it requires reframing, I have asked a carpenter to do it. However, he thinks the doors would not last long because they are too tall and thin. Since its a clothes closet, the doors would be constantly in use. Is my carpenter right? Thanks!

Choose_Adventure said...

Lucgal, it's hard to say. I'm definitely no fine carpenter.

My doors have worked out just fine. If I'm honest, they're open about 99% of the time, since my wife recently prefers to just leave the bed down all the time (Sure glad I build a Murphy bed that's down all the time!) :)

The Ikea doors are mostly convenient if you don't have the skills and tools to make a raised panel door. The bad part is that you're locked into their fixed widths and heights. If the dimensions work for you, they're a bargain door. Even doubled up as "bifold" doors, which they were never designed to do, they're working out pretty well.

If you're going to have custom framing done anyhow, you're probably better at least getting a quote on what having real cabinets and doors made.

Unknown said...

It looks like you found a great way to economize the space you have! I would never guess that there was a bed behind those doors from IKEA. It is impressive to me how creatively you installed everything, and it makes me want to improve my bed space. I think that I should put in some kind of storage, since I am low on space as well.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

I think this cabinet bed is such a great idea, especially for a guess room because you could totally use it as something else, but then when a guest comes you just open the closet and the bed comes down. My grandpa is in the process of building a cabin and he is interested in a bed like this. I hope that he will be able to find someone who can make a bed like this for his cabin.

Unknown said...

Can i find plans for this build somewhere?

jessi said...

Do you think this could be made In king size?

Choose_Adventure said...

Yes. You can see from the photos that there's a fair amount of space in the cabinet on either side of the queen mattress.

The limitation is that you can't change the width of the Ikea prefabbed doors, so you couldn't build any arbitrary-width cabinet, but I think there's room. You'd want to check the measurements of Ikea's current offerings to be sure, obviously.

HM said...

Great build! Thanks for the info and insights.