It seems New Yorkers can no longer afford the floor space for beds. With Manhattan’s real-estate market peaking at an all-time-high average of $1,083 per square foot, the necessary 28.125 square feet of space for a full-size bed now holds a net worth of $30,459 ($31,022 in Soho; $31,612 on the Upper West Side). Reenter the Murphy bed. Columbia grad students and faculty who live in Butler Hall returned to find their thirteen-by-sixteen-foot studio apartments apparently bed-free. “When they first come, I have to go up and show students the beds, because otherwise they don’t know there’s a bed in there,” says Butler super Karl Jones, who finds Murphys lower-maintenance than regular beds with their loose casters and ripping boxsprings. Downtown, Murphy Bed Center sales manager Phil Caruso says that NYU students have been buying portable models to Murphy up their dorm rooms themselves. Sales have been “been off the hook, up over 30 percent in the last three months,” he says. “People right now are buying Murphy beds. Yes, they buy every day. We just sold three,” reports Antonio Camilla, a salesman at Manhattan Cabinetry.
The Murphy bed, invented by Dr. William Murphy in 1900, became efficiency-apartment chic during the Depression. “Many buildings—Lincoln Towers, London Terrace, Tudor City—were all primarily Murphy bed, and some still are,” says Caruso. “But I really think the heyday is today.” The city is now home to at least 40,000 Murphy beds from the three major local companies. Interior designer Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, founder of ApartmentTherapy.com, is not convertible: “I hate Murphy beds. The bed is the one piece of furniture that should be sacred. It shouldn’t flip up.” Of course, as so often befuddled the Three Stooges, there’s always the risk of a bed-crash. “I’ve seen some crazy stuff,” says Giovani Ferreira, who does repairs for Murphy Bed Center. He recalls arriving at the apartment of the frantic owner of a king-size Murphy bed that was in pieces. “It’s hard to imagine how they broke it. It looked like they had a party in the bed. It fit a lot of people.”