Welcome random hitchhikers from the Internets! I guess if you build it [and @thebloggess tweets it], they will come. Come for the epic TARDIS Murphy bed, stay for the shenanigans!
I’ve had a very special project at my house this fall. My guest bedroom gets frequent use; rarely a week goes by that I don’t have at least one overnight guest. But even with that many guests, the majority of the time, it sits unused (except for the dogs when they go to sleep at night, or run away to avoid their Frontline treatment). Until recently, a queen-sized bed, night tables, and two dog “houses” took up the majority of usable space, and there wasn’t much left for my hobbies (or anything else for that matter). Since I only have a two-bedroom home, space is at a premium, and I try to maximize its use every chance I get.
Enter the Murphy bed.
Murphy beds are pretty spectacular. They are also spectacularly expensive. I looked around, and the best price I found on a bare bones Murphy was $1899. I don’t know about you, but I have way more ways to spend money on any given day than I have money to spend. So I decided to look into what it might take to build my own, since I’d have to put one together if I ordered it anyway. I found a kit I could buy that came with all the specialty hardware (bed stops, gas pistons, legs, etc.) and written and DVD instructions for cutting the wood and putting it together. I also ordered the light kit so I wouldn’t need night tables anymore.
Since Murphy beds are the ultimate space maximizers, it only made sense to build it using Time Lord technology: bigger on the inside!
The first step (after purchasing the necessary materials and tools) was to assemble the frame. I was fortunate enough to complete this step three times which I think makes me an expert.
The first redo occurred because the young man who assisted me at the hardware store told me it wasn’t possible to get solid wood pieces in the measurements called for in my instruction manual, so I tried cutting some of the leftover raw materials to size and screwed them together. I wasn’t totally satisfied with the end result, which seemed a little wobbly. The instruction manual states in extremely BOLD letters not to make any substitutions of materials without first contacting customer service. I went back and forth a few times until I decided to just call and verify before I continued with the assembly. They confirmed my suspicion that the substitution would not be sturdy enough to withstand use for long and also informed me that the the solid wood sold in the stores is the standard size called for in the directions… something about nominal 1″x2″s are actually 3/4″x1 1/2″ (the dimensions the instructions called for) and he was quite surprised that the young man who worked in the lumber department did not know that. I thought that might be the case, but the worker seemed so confident in the store that he had me convinced otherwise.
The second redo occurred because I decided I’d save some time and just have the lengths cut while I was at the store since they could set the saw to cut at the length I needed for multiple pieces instead of having to measure and cut each one individually with my miter saw. I took the wood home and assembled the new frame immediately.
It turns out that when I said I wanted them cut to a length of 60 1/2″ – “that’s six-zero and one-half inches,” that the worker somehow heard 61 1/2″… something I was lucky enough to find out while trying to attach the head and foot rails. So… I took the frame apart and measured and cut each one with the miter. I love saving time, don’t you?
Here are a bunch of assembly pictures. Counter height kitchen tables make excellent workspaces.
It was around this time in the project that I had to start calling in reinforcements to help me move things, stand on things, take pictures, lift things or just stand around and tell me what a spectacular job I was doing. I have the best friends and neighbors (with a few notable exceptions – they know who they are) ever.
Once the bed was primed, I laid out the trim. A friend and I spent a couple of hours late one night discussing the various possibilities, and laying out materials. I didn’t have quite enough for the layout I finally chose, and since it was already after 2100, I was going to have to wait until I could get to the hardware store the next morning.
Around 0200 in the morning, I had a new idea which required completely different materials – materials I wasn’t even sure existed. But it looked so good in my head, and on paper when I drew it out, that I decided to pursue it anyway. I returned the trim I’d previously purchased and proceeded to walk the trim aisle for almost two hours. My idea looked like it might work, but it was going to take some creative effort to create the pieces I wanted. Apparently they don’t make the pieces I’d imagined.
My design differs from the actual TARDIS (I know), but I wanted it to look a little more decorative while still keeping with the spirit of the TARDIS. I also wasn’t working with the same dimensions as the actual TARDIS, so I had to make width and height adjustments however I could without taking away from the look. I happen to like the way it ultimately turned out, so haters can hate somewhere else.
I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I got when I finally reached this point!
I opted for the older blue-gray color scheme because it just seemed to fit a little better with all the other stuff in my home. I love the deep blue of Matt Smith’s TARDIS, but this is a little subtler for the uninitiated.
Before I could begin the final assembly, I had to figure out the lighting. This was the only part of the kit experience that scared me. The entire time I was building the components, I wondered if maybe I wouldn’t be better off assembling the bed and installing the lighting at some later date when I magically had the skills to do so with ease. Because the light kit is a separate component, the DVD does not include instructions for light installations, and the one-page diagram and instruction sheet looked massively confusing to my novice mind.
I finally reminded myself that I would never install the lights if I didn’t do it during the initial build, so, taking a deep breath, I started: one step at a time.
The instructions said I could use a jig saw or a hole saw to create the holes for the lights. Um… seriously? The project had already required my jig skills twice (once for each side rail), and I think they’d best be described as substandard and definitely needs improvement, and I didn’t think attempting to jig perfect circles that would suspend lights directly above the heads of my sleeping guests was the way to practice for the appropriate skill level.
When it came to routing a dado (you like how I throw terminology around like I know what it means?) the entire length of the cabinet, I had to get especially creative with both my space and my tools. My test run with the trim router on a piece of scrap wood was awful! And yet, I somehow determined from that atrocity that I understood the mechanics and the vibrations well enough to just move in straight for the kill with no more practice attempts. It turns out that my confidence wasn’t entirely misplaced. The dado turned out quite nice, even if I do say so myself.
I secured the cabinet to my inverted craft table legs with clamps to hold it steady. I had no idea if it would be sufficient to hold the board upright and securely enough to run the router the entire length. It was. Ready. Fire. Aim. I am so freaking lucky sometimes. I had to adjust the clamps a couple of times as I worked, but apart from that, there were no snags or hiccups.
A few coats of paint to the cabinet pieces, and it was time to assemble!
My dogs were such good sports while their room was under construction.
I definitely could not have done this part without the help of friends and neighbors. I don’t have enough arms and legs, nor do I have enough strength to maneuver this thing on my own. Out of respect for their privacy I won’t publicly call them out by name, but they know who they are.
So, without further ado, I give you the *original TARDIS-inspired Murphy Bed:
Okay, maybe a little more ado… because I thought these pictures were way too cute not to share.
And yes, it’s definitely bigger on the inside. Go ahead. Pull to open.
*Actually, I have no idea if it’s ever been done before; I just know that I had never seen one until I built one in my living room.
UPDATE: Holy cow there has been a lot of traffic on TST since I posted this (okay, since The Bloggess [yes, that The Bloggess] tweeted it). I just wanted to add that the duvet came from an artist at REDBUBBLE. Gotta give credit where it’s due.