Interiors: Fold-away solutions
Clever designs mean wall beds are no longer the laughing stock of furniture
Wall beds and comedy were made for each other. Charlie Chaplin was squashed by one in 1916. James Bond was shot at through one in 1967 (but at least he died on the job). Inspector Clouseau was flipped out of the window by one in 1976, along with his duelling manservant Cato and a beautiful Russian spy. In short, when a wall bed comes into a movie, hilarious slapstick will follow.
In America, wall beds are known as Murphy beds, thanks to their inventor William Lawrence Murphy. Allegedly, Murphy was trying to lure an opera singer back to his one-room apartment at a time when it was considered improper for a woman to enter a man's bedroom. The fold-up bed tucked everything neatly away until it was needed.
This may be how wall beds acquired their reputation for being a bit sleazy. In Mel Brook's Silent Movie (1963), a neon motel sign reads "Murphy Beds - Charming to the Unsophisticated". Utterly unjustified! Wall beds are practical space-savers and the designs have improved a lot since the 1960s. I'd love to have one myself (although I would make sleazy jokes).
Wall beds have found a new place in post-recessionary Ireland, as many an aging parent is having to make room for adult children who can't afford a place of their own. And then there's the much vaunted trend for "micro living" (aka shoebox apartments). In both cases, wall beds are a feasible option.
"The feeling of space where the bed used to be - that's what you're really buying," says Linda Lynch of Wall Beds of Ireland (www.wallbeds.ie), which has recently re-opened its showroom on Dublin's Cappagh Road.
"Sofa beds are all very well if you want a sofa, but a wall bed can turn the guest room into a multi-functional living space," she adds. "A wall bed will reduce the size of a room, but not by a great deal. "A double bed will come into the room less than 2ft."
All their beds are designed and manufactured in Ireland and have a lifetime guarantee. "Our system has an industrial strength mechanism," says Linda. "We've got beds out there that have been functioning for 15 years. We know the system works." Although the mechanics of the beds have stayed the same, the designs have changed. Fifteen years ago, people tended to buy a wall bed as a standalone item. Now they often prefer to invest in a fit-out of which the bed forms the largest part.
A double wall bed costs around €1,700, including delivery and fitting, but many people are now paying a little more to include built-in units. "Most of our customers spend between €2,500 and €3,500," says Linda. "For that price you can get a whole room fit out with fabulous office and a storage unit as well as a bed." This is a sizeable purchase but very much cheaper than building an extension.
Wall beds are strong enough to be used every day, depending on your choice of mattress, but most people put them in guest bedrooms. For those who want a wall bed for everyday use, the study bed (www.studybed.co.uk) has been designed to convert from a desk to a bed in three seconds flat. The trick is that you don't need to tidy either the desk or the bed. Pull down the bed and the desk descends under the bed space. Pull up the desk and the bed flips back against the wall, duvet, pillows and all.
"You can leave your clutter on the desk when the bed comes down," says Katie Cheetam of the Study Bed Company. "There's plenty of room for a computer with an average-sized screen, a desk lamp, books and folders. If you want a big multi-media screen, you can attach it to the back of the desk."
Feng Shui experts would advise you clear your desk before you pull down the bed. Sleeping directly above work-related items is not a recipe for a good night's sleep. The study bed is a standalone piece of furniture and doesn't require installation. If you're moving house, you can take it with you. But expect to pay around €2,450 for a double, plus delivery from the UK.
The trend for fold-away furniture continues with a new range of wall-mounted ironing boards, tables, desks and stools from the design boffins behind Eureka MFG (www.eurekamfg.com), a company based in Shanagolden, Co Limerick. Their wall-mounted furniture is designed for small spaces and based on folding brackets of their own invention.
The full-length deluxe ironing board (€165) folds down from its own cabinet while a slightly smaller fold-down version (€95) simply attaches to the wall. "The average ironing board is a very unstable design," says Joe Headley of Eureka MFG. "The feedback from customers is that our wall-mounted ironing boards are much easier to use."
Nice design, but it would take more than this to get me ironing.