In a multi-purpose guestroom which is also a video watching room, would a Murphy bed or a sleep sofa be the best choice?  I started the project assuming that the Murphy bed was the logical choice. I became familiar with a Murphy bed when renting a condo with some Scandinavian friends of mine at the Big Sky Resort in Montana. That experience inspired me to think about a Murphy bed as a legitimate sleeping option when extra sleeping space is required as in the one bedroom mountain resort condo.


Before the current renovation of this craftsman cottage, the guestroom was a dedicated bedroom with a full bath in a wing off of the garden patio. It was a pleasant enough room whose sole function was sleeping.  It had a queen size bed with bedside tables, a dresser and a small bistro table and two chairs.

The breakfast bar/ kitchen is the focal wall of the guestroom. In this small space the counter and the walk space in front of it takes up twenty-five percent of the total area of this nonfunctional room.

The breakfast bar/kitchen is the focal wall of the guestroom. In this small space the counter and the walk space in front of it takes up over twenty-five percent of the total area of this multi-functional space.


As I was looking at re-designing the house for this couple’s retirement years, it occurred to me that this space which was still needed as a guestroom was valuable square footage which could satisfy other needs that this couple had. This home is a vintage farmhouse cottage with small rooms. When the main house was renovated, the owners decided that they did not want the living room to be dominated by the TV and relegated it to the basement which has a low ceiling—the husband is a tall guy—and, not surprisingly, the space has been seldom used for this purpose.


As we turned our final remodel focus to the guest room, the problem-solving renovation designer in me sought to explore how this space might accommodate several different functional needs. Oh, I should mention that the wife, thinking of possible future needs wanted to incorporate a small kitchen/breakfast bar so that a live-in assistant could inhabit this space and be self sufficient. Also, it should be mentioned that this room is only 200 square feet so we are trying to accommodate three different functions in a relatively restricted foot print. The breakfast bar and work space/circulation space in front of it would require more than 25% of the total square footage of the main room.


Upon researching rooms with Murphy beds designed into them, it became evident that when those rooms worked well it was essentially because there was a void or empty space in front of the closed bed; more or less, the footprint of the bed when open. This meant, of course, that it was easy to extend the bed without much, if any, alteration to the space. That, however, was not going to be the case in this situation because the room was going to be used primarily as a second living room, TV room and an adjunct party space to the garden patio. Consequently, the sleep sofa was the preferential choice. The room would be arranged with a furniture grouping for these more frequent functional needs and when a house guest came visiting it would be converted to a bed-sitting room.


The furniture plan for the guestroom suggests the strategic challenge of furnishing the space and where to store furniture needed from one use of the room which needs a resting spot in another use of the room--say, guest bedroom or caretaker apartment.

The furniture plan for the guestroom suggests the strategic challenge of furnishing the space  as a comfortable ‘sitting room’; but then the problem  arises as to where to store furniture when unneeded in another configuration of the room–say, guest bedroom or caretaker studio apartment.

The next design issue that needed to be solved was how to make the room as convertible as possible when it was being used as a guestroom or as a self-sufficient living space. This required studying the different configurations for each use and then looking at how to accommodate furniture as it was shifted around the space. An adjustable shelving unit in the walk-in closet was designed so that sofa cushions and pillows could be slid into the upper shelves while the bottom was designed to accommodate the ottoman. The two occasional chairs are slid into a custom console table designed for that purpose. There is also a cavity in the breakfast bar in which the bistro table/bedside table can also be pushed out of the way.


The resulting design with a very comfortable sleep sofa accommodates all this family’s functional needs while being a captivatingly rich space with its high ceiling, recycled pine beams,board and batten wall treatment and new double French doors, sidelights and transom. While the room is still in the design phase, there is a certain satisfaction in being able to problem solve the functional needs of the client and the demanding requirements of a relatively small space. It will be fun to test our assumptions as it is built out and as stylish yet comfortable  apartment-sized furniture is selected to grace the space. I will post some images of the completed space as they are available.



Exterior entrance elevation of  the guest room with a new pair of French doors, side lights and transom windows above which open the room to the light, the patio and the garden beyond.

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