From Built-in to Murphy Bed: DIY Wall Bed with Shelves

built-in shelf to murphy bed 7

Disclaimer:  This is a tutorial on how I took a built-in shelf in my daughter’s room and transformed it into a murphy bed.  Now, I realize that most anyone who might read this post probably doesn’t have a built-in that they can slightly modify and make into a murphy bed, but hopefully this will inspire some with ideas for their own built-in + murphy bed.  I don’t have a tutorial for the built-ins, because I didn’t build it, but with some 1X12 boards, a similar shelf unit could be built to fit your room and hold your bed!  I hope this helps someone, at least a little.  🙂

Also, I really didn’t know this project would turn into a blog post, so I apologize that there are not a lot of step-by-step pictures and some of the ones I have aren’t great quality.  Most of these pictures were pictures I took on my phone and texted to Megan to show her my progress.

Before we get started, here are a few things you need to know about me:

  1. My husband, Ryan, and I have two small children – a girl and a boy.
  2. My house is small and I am always trying to find ways to maximize the space.  It’s sort of an obsession.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail miserably.  My husband can attest that I am constantly rearranging furniture, etc., to try and make things “work” just a little better – and probably also to solve an underlying need for change.
  3. Another detail about my life is that my parents and my in-laws both live far away, so having a guestroom of sorts is a necessity.  However, we only have 3 bedrooms and no other space to utilize for this.
  4. Even if I have money to spend, I pretty much always try to spend as little as possible on every project.  This is probably somewhat because I am a bit of a tightwad, I mean thrifty, but I also think trying to find the cheapest (preferably free) method of doing things is part of the challenge and the fun for me.  So that said, most of my tutorials will reflect this.  That doesn’t mean my way is necessarily the easiest or best, but it is often the cheapest that I could come up with.  I do occasionally vary from this and I will spend money if it is deemed necessary, but if it can be done for cheap, that’s usually the path I take.
  5. I also often have a “if there’s a will there is a way” mentality and as my mother can attest, I’m a bit strong willed.  So there is usually a will.  🙂

Okay, so now that you know those things, this post will probably make a bit more sense.  Most recently, my daughter’s room has served as the guestroom when we have overnight company and she either sleeps in our room or her brother’s room.  We have an extra queen-sized bed, so I moved it into her bedroom a while ago and she had been using it as her bed.  She was mostly okay with this, but the bed took up nearly half of her floor space and little girls need room to play.  So I started thinking of a solution.

I spent lots of time searching pinterest, of course!  I considered a futon, ee0257d038acd1a6b858cee8211211c0which seemed like the easiest solution, but I wanted a queen-sized, so it didn’t seem to be the cheapest.  Plus, we already had the queen bed.  I considered a loft bed, but wasn’t so sure about the idea of a queen-sized loft bed or the practicality of adults occasionally sleeping on it.  So then I was pretty set on the idea of a murphy’s bed.  I looked at lots of DIY ideas, but most that I found were neither easy nor cheap.  Then I came across this and it got me thinking…

Here is the source if you’d like to check out theirs!


So, why did this post strike such a cord with me, while others did not?  Two reasons:

  1. This bed is surrounded by built-ins.  Guess what!?  My girl already had a built-in shelf in her room.  Could it be used as the structure for the bed to fold into?  Hmm…
  2. Another big plus, this bed is not made with the pricey mechanism that many of the murphy beds use.  Instead it uses piano hinges.  Guess what!?  I already had some of those!  Yay!

So I was sold!  Now I was just a little nervous about pitching the idea to my hubby, because this wasn’t my run of the mill, rearrange the furniture or paint a dresser type of project.  But, he liked the idea too!  Yay!

built-in shelf

The original built-in shelf was mounted on the window wall.  There was a set of shelves on each side with a large opening in the middle.  Obviously, I could not build the murphy bed in front of the window and the opening was not big enough, so this project would require some modifications.  You get a Throw Back picture, because believe it or not, the only reasonable “before” picture I can find was from WAY back when we were working on decorating the nursery.  I was not into the DIY scene at the time and her room has had countless changes since then, but the shelf is the same.  🙂

I took several measurements of the preexisting shelf, the mattress and the wall that I wanted to build the murphy bed against.  From those measurements I drew up some plans.  I decided for the best fit I would cut the preexisting shelf down a little bit to make the top shelf usable.  I also discovered that if I attached the bed horizontally, instead of vertically, the fit along the wall would be PERFECT!  Yay!

I deattached the shelf from the original wall and took the shelf apart where I needed too.  Then I had my hubby make a few cuts to adjust the height of the shelf to where I wanted.  After the shelf was down from its original location, I had to repaint the room, because the shelf was there before we painted, so we hadn’t painted behind it.

Then it was time to reassemble.  Because my shelf was already built, this step really was not hard.  I just reattached the shelf to the new wall with screws.  I used corner brackets to attach the shelf to the back wall.  Previously, it was just attached to the side walls and I don’t think it was even in the studs, but since the shelf was becoming a murphy bed compartment, I knew it needed a lot more stability.

Here’s some pics, but they are rough.

built-in shelf to murphy bed 4  built-in shelf to murphy bed 2  built-in shelf to murphy bed 1  built-in shelf to murphy bed 3

Once it was attached, I took a break…for about two weeks.  I moved the mattress into the opening, used some stretchy cords to secure it so it didn’t fall over and threw a blanket over it to hide the mattress.  Time passed.

built-in shelf to murphy bed 5

Making the bed frame (which is also the compartment door).

I kept going back and forth on how to build the actual bed frame/door.  The most common and obvious answer was to buy plywood, but true to my nature, I really wanted to repurpose rather than buy and build something new.  So, what did I do?  I started taking apart the box springs.  I didn’t need it anymore and I didn’t really want to send it to a landfill, so what if I could reuse it or at least reuse part of it?

I wasn’t 100% sure what was inside of that thing, but the fabric along the bottom tore off fairly easily.  Then I was able to pull the rest off, leaving the fabric padding that went along the sides and top still attached as one piece (I didn’t know it at the time, but I later discovered this could be reused too).

Next I started disassembling the actual box springs.  This is where the “if there is a will there is a way” motto came into play.  I have to admit taking this thing apart was extremely monotonous.  There was a lot of pins in there that had to be removed, then each spring had to be twisted to get it loose.  It was a hot day, so I rethought whether it was really worth it a few times.  But I was determined, so I persisted and I got it apart!

I didn’t take enough pictures of this part, but as you can sort of tell, there is a wooden frame on the bottom, a whole bunch of springs and then a metal grid on top.  Once all the springs were tediously pried off of the wood with a hammer and a screw driver and then twisted off of the metal frame, I was left with the two grids.  You can see the fabric I removed in the background.disassembling a box spring mattress

Once I got it apart I was determined not to buy any other materials to build the bed frame.  This was partially for “thrifty” reasons, but also, because I knew that if I could reuse these grids it would be lighter than if I used solid pieces of wood, such as plywood.  I wanted it to be sturdy and safe, but I wanted to add as little weight (ie. wood) as possible.  I’m a pretty petite girl and one of the disadvantages of using the piano hinges instead of the murphy bed mechanisms, is that you have to be able to support all of the weight of the bed when you lift it up and down.  I think the mechanisms have some sort of tension springs that help with this (but, again, they are pricey).

After I had dismantled the box spring, I spray painted the wooden grid.  Then once it was dry I placed it upside down, then I took a purple blanket that I already had and laid it down over the wood (this was basically a curtain to conceal all the other layers).  Then I got an idea!  If I used thebuilt-in shelf to murphy bed 13 fabric I had removed that covered the top and sides of the box spring, it would create a “pocket” for the mattress to fit into.  This would keep the mattress secure without adding any more wood to the frame (no additional weight).  Perfect!  Then I laid the metal grid from the box springs down inside of the pocket.  Once I had these four layers stacked together, I took the “C” shaped pins (not sure what they are called – sorry) that I had removed when disassembling the box spring and grabbed my hammer.  I used the pins to attach the four layers together.  They went in without too much trouble and made the base feel secure.  Bed frame complete!

IMG_0695You may notice in the picture above that there is another layer on top of the metal grid.  This was also hidden inside of the box springs, so I tossed it in to protect the mattress from the metal grid.  It’s not attached to anything, just laying there.  Then the mattress goes inside.  If you add a fitted sheet on top, tucking it over both the mattress and the “pocket” then the mattress is secured to the bed frame and won’t shift when you raise and lower the bed.  Even if the bed is

Attaching the bed frame to the built-ins.

Sorry, but I don’t have any pictures of this part.

I measured the opening in the built-ins one more time and then cut a 1×12 (which I already had) to fit along the bottom of the opening where I would later mount the hinges that hold the bed.  I had gone back and forth about what height to make the bed off of the ground, but I had some 4x4s and also had a frame my dad had built several years ago out of 2x4s to go under the box springs and raise the bed (I didn’t have a bed frame), so rather than “reinvent the wheel” I decided to make this the height.

I laid some 4x4s on the floor and then laid the 1X12 on top of it.  I attached the 1×12 both to the 4x4s and also to the wall with corner brackets.  Notice if your mattress is deeper than the 1X12, you may need to modify this a bit.  This “shelf” where the hinges will be mounted needs to be at least as deep as the mattress, so that the mattress can fold up inside of it.  Once the “shelf” was installed I used three piano hinges (I think they were 18″ each) to attached the bed frame to the 1X12.

IMG_0686I ordered a couple straight loop latches that I installed to keep the bed in place.  The ones that I ordered were 3″.  A little bit longer would have probably been a bit better.  But these seem to hold the bed securely.  So I’ll probably keep them, unless I come across some really cool decorative latches that are affordable!

built-in shelf to murphy bed 10
Please ignore the partially removed linoleum on her bedroom floor. That is a project for another day! Hopefully soon…

I never ran across any ideas for legs that I loved, so at least for now, I have decided to use the frames that my dad had previously build.  The advantage to these (other than that I already had them), is that I feel they make the bed very secure.  The disadvantage is that they require separate storage (they don’t fold up inside the bed).  For now I am just storing them in the closet of her room.  There is adequate room to do that and we don’t have to put the bed down that often, so I am fine with it, but I may come up with something else someday.  We will see.  If you are going to be using the murphy bed on a nightly basis, this is probably not ideal.

So there you have it!

built-in shelf to murphy bed 7 built-in shelf to murphy bed 11

built-in shelf to murphy bed 8

This is where my sweet girl sleeps, so we don't pull the murphy bed up and down unless we have company sleeping crib bumber pad into toddler quiltover.  One of my awesome aunts made her quilt from the fabric of her crib bumper pad!  I love it!
This is where my sweet girl sleeps, so we don’t pull the murphy bed up and down unless we have company sleeping over. One of my awesome aunts made her quilt from the fabric of her crib bumper pad! I love it!








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