Home & Garden

Multipurpose beds can do the work of two or more furniture pieces

Many Americans are spending more time in bed, not less. But that doesn’t mean they are getting more rest.

The place that we once set aside mainly for sleep is now doing shifts as the home office, in-home cinema seating, or a retreat for late-night Skype and Facetime chats. Maybe that’s why the market seems flush with beds that are at least dual-purpose.

These sleepers – daybeds, sofa beds and Murphy beds – are no longer for cramped apartments or diminutive dorm rooms. They’re for anyone who wants to optimize the space they have or to wring more function out of little-used areas such as guest rooms.

Beds with built-in flexibility may be particularly appealing for people carving a space out of a corner in a dining room or welcoming adult children back to their former bedrooms. The trend has boosted sales of sofa sleepers and other dual-purpose furniture, said Patricia Bowling, vice president of communications for the Hickory-based American Home Furnishings Alliance. A record 57 million Americans, mostly millennials, lived in multigenerational households in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center.

“People are getting resourceful in terms of creating additional storage in the bed or using vertical space to stow a mattress,” said Charlotte interior designer Laura Casey. Her own custom Murphy-style bed, which forms a small, upholstered sofa when closed up, allowed a client’s playroom to shift seamlessly to guest room. “It’s the ironing board in the cabinet concept,” she said.

In general, Murphy (or wall) beds live in a cabinet and have a hinge to lower a platform and mattress down to the floor from the upright position. They can save space without compromising comfort. “The configuration allows you to use a really good quality mattress,” said Casey.

Daybeds also remain popular because of their versatility. They provide a place to sleep, attractive daytime seating and sometimes additional storage. Some sport a slide-out trundle bed for an overnight guest.

There is plenty of variety in designs and prices. World Market’s Studio Day Sofa (about $319) folds down at the ends, allowing the mattress to lie flat. The multitasking Stratton Day Bed ($1,200) is a platform-style single from Pottery Barn that comes with either rattan baskets or drawers underneath.

If the daybed sits in a frame, Casey recommends, make sure there’s a half inch to an inch around the perimeter between the mattress and frame. “Some are so tight it’s next to impossible to make the bed,” she said.

Sofa beds used to have skimpy mattresses over metal bars that caused discomfort. Those old designs are evolving. “People who have not shopped for a sofa sleeper in the last five to 10 years will be pleasantly surprised at the new options available,” said Bowling. Mirroring trends in mattresses, some sleepers come with air-over-coil technology or gel or memory foam.

Some updated designs don’t require folding a mattress in on itself. That helps the cushions hold their shape longer. Urban Outfitters’ Ava Velvet Tufted Sleep Sofa ($749) is an example. Its back folds down lengthwise to create a smoother sleeping surface.

It’s wise to try out sofa beds in person before purchasing, Bowling advised. Work with the mechanisms yourself – don’t depend on the salesperson to do it for you. Give opening and closing the bed a test drive. Casey agreed: “You don’t want to give your guests a backache before breakfast.”