Epic battle: Sofa bed vs. Murphy bed

When you are working with 320 square feet, every single inch counts. I shared the original small kitchen plan yesterday for our barn conversion.

Thank you for all your encouragement and ideas. Truly appreciate them all!

What I didn’t share in that post is that Ryan and I are still trying to decide what to do with the opposite wall in our kitchen. Here was the rudimentary drawing I shared a while ago. The space is open to the living area and is about 10×10.

Barn apartment


Instead of installing a Murphy bed in the living room like above, we decided we’d rather have built-ins across from a sofa. This give us space for storage and our television. Here’s where the built-ins are located – in the eaves of the living area.Barn apartment January update2

So, we thought we’d build the Murphy bed with small built-ins for closets around it in the kitchen. Here’s an example of something a little more traditional with a table.

table murphy bed

Image via Rockler

It’s not ideal to have a bed in the kitchen. I get that. But we loved the idea of having it built into the wall (not taking up floor space) and having a true table during the day.
But now Ryan and I are thinking of investing in a nice sofa bed in the living room for our bed. This would allow us to have a little space between our “bedroom” and the kitchen (and Henry’s room). It would also give us more space in the kitchen for floor to ceiling storage and a fold-out dining table. This storage space could be awesome for kitchen overflow and even clothing.
I love this style of built-ins, with tons of storage for anything you need.

floor to ceiling

Remember – we don’t have a true “bedroom” for us, so our clothes and stuff will have to go somewhere. Look at all the space here for clothes. (Probably way more than we’d even need.) 

Images via Young House Love

And I love the idea of a wooden fold-out table. This is a potting bench, but you get the idea.
So, we still have decisions to make. We’re both on-board with the sofa bed, but need to find a sofa bed that we can actually sleep on every night and is not a small fortune. I’ve been reading a lot about sofa beds, and it seems that they are not all created equal.
Here are a few contenders that I’ve picked out. Does anyone have experience with sofa beds – particularly for daily use?
Valencia via Sleepers in Seattle
Levin via Room and Board
The last two are Made in ‘Merica, which I like. But, the Levin is probably beyond what we wish to spend for a short term living arrangement. And the Valencia is not something I can see in person before ordering.
I know that it’s not a popular choice to stay on a sofa bed everyday, but I’m trying to think outside of the box.
So, I’m looking for your thoughts and ideas! Share away!


  1. says

    I also would not recommend anything IKEA! I did not have a good experience with our Karlstead. I know YHL really loves theirs, but I’d leave the couch with back pains. I’d hate to feel that way after every night of sleeping. We ended up loosing $$ when I sold Karl on CL, I wish I would have just splurged for as nice piece from the getgo.

    • says

      Yeah, I had an Ektorp that we hated, too. We ended up selling it for a loss on CL, too. That’s definitely what’s giving me pause on the sofa. I don’t have any issues with IKEA in general, but upholstered furniture has to be comfortable.

  2. says

    In our guest/game room we went through the same consideration. I would love a sleeper sofa in there because it would be so pretty when its folded up as a sofa, but when we have guests from Europe they tend to stay at least a week or two and then we needed some more comfortable arrangement, so we are actually using the Hemnes daybed (IKEA) which pulls out to a queen. The upside is that you sleep really well on it AND it has three gigantic drawers for storage. The downside is that it is not that pretty. It’s not ugly, but it’s not pretty like the sofas you are showing up there :)

    • says

      Would you have room to build something yourselves out of wood and two twin mattresses in an L-shape? I think that is the route I would go if I were furnishing my first apartment again which was a studio. Then the compromise is that you don’t sleep next to each-other, but there is no folding in and out and it is comfortable, could be made totally chic and you can still hold hands… Henry doesn’t need a sibling right now, right? ha ha 😉

    • says

      The Hemnes daybed is actually something I never considered. But I think it may actually be a contender. I don’t mind the look of it at all. And I love that it pulls out with real mattresses. It seems like it may actually be easier to pull out than a sofa bed. And the storage. And the price cannot be beat.

      You may have convinced me. THIS is why I love blogging.

      • says

        Me too. The roll out part is on wheels and it is pretty difficult to roll out over a rug or carpet, but pretty easy over a solid floor. Something else to consider if you go this route for when you go rug/shopping :)

  3. says

    I don’t know much about sleeper sofas but a few years ago we stayed in a beach condo that had a sofa bed with the most comfortable mattress ever. It was a slumber air mattress system by La-Z-Boy. It may be a pain to have to air it up everyday but it sure was comfortable!

  4. Laura J says

    With sofa beds (& futons if you look into those), you get what you pay for. I think it’s worth it to pay more, then you can sell it or put it in a guest room/office/play room or something later on for overnight guests

  5. says

    I would definitely lean more towards the kitchen murphy bed then a sofa bed. I slept on a sofa bed for several years (fresh out of college, took all the hand-me-down furniture I could get in my first apartment) and it did not bode well on my back.

  6. says

    I don’t really have too much advice to share on the the sleeper sofa/murphy bed debate, but this did give me flashbacks to my senior year of college (10 years ago!) when I decided to buy myself a futon for my teeny tiny bedroom. I splurged on the 7 inch futon mattress (over the 5 inch) from Walmart (it was probably a whopping $300 back then but I was a poor college student) and let me tell you – I never once put it back to full sitting position the entire year. It wasn’t the most comfortable bed, but I did get used to it (having a few cocktails before bed helped too, I’m sure). I ended up keeping it as a couch in my next two apartments living rooms through to my first job! While the 2 inch splurge was totally worth it, I was totally kidding myself about putting it away every day and should’ve just bought a bed.
    Maybe since you guys are full grown adults with a kid you will be better about putting one bed away over another, but definitely consider what you’d be willing to leave out all day (lazy Sunday?) because I’m sure those days will come!

    • says

      Hahaha… I totally had a futon in college, and I”m fairly certain I didn’t splurge. (Heck, $300 is still a lot for me, now).

      I think we’ll have to put it away with a one-year-old who wants to run and play. That’s the only reason I think it may work.

  7. says

    as far as looks i like that Moheda one the best.
    I’ve slept on a sofa bed from Ikea before and all I could feel was the Bar in my back the entire night…but this was not the Moheda…So i’m sure they are all different!
    Do you think it would be annoying to pack it up every day? I feel like a murphy bed you just close the hatch…a sofa bed you have to take off the pillows make sure the sheets and blankets aren’t lumpy thennnn pack it up and put the other cushions on….

    I don’t know just trying to think of the cons!

  8. says

    First what does the living in 320 sf IKEA display say? :) I’m terrible with small spaces. We have a dresser and 2 moveable closets (1 has an extra hanging rod) and a very small part of another closet for the 3 of us in our chaotic space. Beckett does has a tall dresser for himself too. We use the moveable closets as a faux wall. It wasn’t so bad until winter came and we needed so many layers and bulky jackets. Is there a place designated downstairs for shoes and jackets. That would be huge on helping with storage.

    • says

      We will have the main floor space for coats/bags/shoes. We’ll actually put the IKEA shoe holder there, at the bottom of the stairs. That’s a big blessing, becuase we need lots of stuff for winter in the Midwest.

  9. says

    I like the idea of the sofa bed and save the dining room wall area for storage/closet space. However, I would not recommend an IKEA sofa bed for everyday use. Even for a short term living arrangement, I would still suggest investing in something with a comfortable mattress.

    I think the Valencia is really pretty and neutral enough it could fit in any space for any future houses you have, and I really like the compact dimensions for the small space you have in the barn, I also like the attached pillow backs to not have Henry getting pillows everywhere 😉 It showed great reviews on the couch and comfort on the mattress, so that is good too.

    Another good option is La-Z-Boy, they have really nice sleeper sofas as well.

  10. says

    We have a lazboy double sleeper in our den that’s pretty darn comfy! We put one of those egg carton mattress pads on it to maximize comfort. You can fold it up with the pad on it too. We were able to get ours through a local company’s warehouse sale, and ended up saving about $400 dollars when they got rid of their floor model. That sale happens in February here – don’t know if you’d have similar luck with a local place in your area.

  11. says

    I’ve slept on the first IKEA option for a week and it was fine, but I honestly don’t know (or remember…I had several beers each night to calm my nerves about being stuck in New York during a hurricane) if it would be a long term solution. I think I’d probably go a little higher end (if you can find one that you can test out and love) – especially since you didn’t like the Ektorp. Comfort is SO subjective, it’s important to get something that works for you and Ryan. They don’t make sleep number sofa beds, do they? That’d be nice.

    • says

      The one thing I do remember about the Ikea one is you sleep on it like you would lay on a couch, not the way it folds out. Does that make sense? I think that helped the comfort because each person got their own half, so no one slept on the folding part…but not sure how it would work with Ryan’s height.

    • Christine says

      they actually used to make sleep number sofa beds altho they stopped a few years ago. They had 20 year guarantees tho, so maybe you could track down a used one.

  12. says

    We have an Ikea sofa bed (couldn’t find exact one on website but looks similar) and it’s very uncomfortable. But, since my parents are the ones who sleep on it, they bought a thick foam mattress topper and now it’s perfect! Without one though, I wouldn’t recommend to use it as a bed!

  13. says

    I’m usually the type of person who can sleep anywhere, but my parents got a sofa bed recently and it is AWFUL. It seemed fine when we tested it out, but when you’re actually sleeping on it, it is terrible.

    I really have no advice beyond that, other than I saw a cool thing on Pinterest that would allow you to have a bed without losing floor space…but looks like it would be a pretty crazy DIY! http://www.pinterest.com/pin/113856696803039243/

  14. says

    I think a sofa bed with work so good for the space and they are super comfy these plus it could stay in the apartment once your home is built or move with you – the Valencia is super cute and looks like a nice space saver, so sure that over a Murphy bad

  15. says

    I have no opinion or experience with sofa beds or murphy beds, but a murphy bed would be more fun for Henry ;). Maybe he’s too young to find the idea of a bed that folds into the wall completely novel and fascinating, though, and you don’t even need to take this issue into account!

    • says

      Hahaha…. I think it’s a pretty neat idea. It would be a huge DIY project and sort of expensive, too. So that weighs into the decision, too. Although being neat is a great bonus.

  16. Erin says

    Hi Kim! If you’re bored sometime (haha), go check some RV’s. They have great space saving designs that might spark some ideas as you’re building. And there are some cool camping things like collapsible pasta strainers in stores. Sorry I’m not more help, though. :)

  17. Kellie says

    No sofabed experience here. But for our future playroom/future Elena’s bedroom we considered a Murphy bed (we’re converting our guest room and I still want space for the grandparents when they visit). We are opting instead for the Ikea Brimnes daybed with trundle AND storage!! It’s more like a futon mattress on a platform so we will see about the comfort factor, but I’m so jazzed to find a trundle bed WITH storage! We have to maximize space in our tiny house! I could see the daybed setup with a couple of cushy chairs as a decent sitting room option? Bonus for quick setup, just pull out trundle and flip mattress out.

  18. Aubrey says

    We bought a Flexsteel sofa sleeper last year because we loved the couch and then found out it had the pull out bed. Though the sofa is very comfortable (love Flexsteel, but I am a little partial since my mom works there!) the bed is not! My only other experience with sofa beds is in hotel rooms, but I think that all sofa beds are just too thin so that they can be folded up and tucked away under the sofa. I don’t know about murphy beds, but I would be all for it if it could accommodate my awesome, super thick and fluffly mattress!

  19. Beth says

    Just thinking outside the box a little bit here, but have you considered suspending a bed from the ceiling that you could raise up to get out of the way? That way you could keep your wallspace AND your floor space, and still be able to have a real mattress. Don’t know if you have the ceiling height to be able to do this, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

  20. Rebecca says

    Forgive me if you know this already, but those ikea couches aren’t your typical fold out sleeper sofa (typical to me would be take the cushions off and unfold a futon mattress). Instead, you pull part out from underneath and up. Not sure if that makes sense, but the bottom line is that 1. You will have to take the sheets off the bed every morning and 2. You are not sleeping on a solid surface, you are sleeping on couch cushions that butt up to each other. It is not comfortable to sit on, so I personally wouldn’t want to try to sleep on it. I love the idea of a daybed with trundle because then you get a real mattress! But then still there is a canyon between you and your husband, so I’d prefer the Murphy bed.

  21. Beth says

    My family actually just found ourselves with a similar question of murphy bed vs sofa bed. My dad had knee surgery this past spring and needed to stay in our fairly small living room for about two months while he recovered.

    We ended up going with the murphy bed and haven’t regretted it at all. Comfort was a factor (since it was two months and the one sleeper sofa we’ve owned–a PB basic sleeper–was not all that comfortable.) But mostly, we didn’t want to feel like we had to constantly rearrange our space. The murphy bed was a bit more expensive (though we had a friend built out the cabinet and just bought a bed kit)–but it was great to be able to fold it up and down so easily at night.

    I’m excited to see your finished space!

    • says

      The idea of having to re-make the bed every day is definitely a drawback of the sofa bed. I think we’re sort of leaning toward a twin daybed that expands to two twin beds = king size. It is sort of the best of both worlds. And it’s a lot less work for Ryan, who would be building the Murphy bed. It’s sort of a good middle-ground, I think.

      But, we’ll see what actually happens. Thanks for weighing in! Truly appreciate all the insights.

  22. Stacie says

    If your attic is deep enough your bed could pull out of the wall on rollers (either the long or short way) and then it wouldn’t have to be remade every night, if a box in the attic was constructed for it to slid into . It would require a little bit of structural work to re-support the roof. But the front would look like a drawer at the bottom of your closet.

  23. Jenn says

    I know this is similar to the above statement, but you could just have a partial pull out. For example, a queen size bed that sticks out of the wall the depth of a sofa, then pulls the rest of the way out for sleeping. This would allow for built-ins all around it, but not require the full length of a mattress. I’ve never seen anything like this, so don’t know if you can picture it, but in my mind, it looks great! :) the other option is build 2 twins with storage under that you leave in an L shape sofa during the day and swivel and hook together for a king at night. This allows plenty of storage and swiveling together is much easier on the body then pulling them out and setting up!

  24. Tamara says

    I found your blog because I have this same dilemma. Your last post was in March so I’m dying to know what you finally went with and if you are happy with your decision. I know that our local furniture store sells a sofa bed that has a tempurpedic bed and it’s amazing! In the store of course. Not sure how it holds up over time and it is expensive, but worth it if you are sleeping on it every night.

  25. Jeannette says

    I have the same dilemma . I’m curious to hear what you’ve decided. How you went about the closet? Was that made or bought as one piece?

  26. Lucy koch says

    you’ve probably already found your solution, but since you has space in the eaves, creating a space in the knee wall for the bed to roll into that small area could be a solution as well. There are even automatic versions. I saw some good application pics at dornob.com i think one brand is called zoom room.

    We have a Sleep Number Sleeper sofa. Its an excellent bed but not a very comfortable sofa. In any event, they don’t make them anymore. I do wonder if you would be able to put a plain Sleep number Mattress as a sub for another mattress in a sleeper sofa. Just the mattress is pretty reasonable when they have a good sale. I can tell you that the main difference I see between the one in the couch and our main matrress is that the one in the couch doesn’t have the foam wall inserts.

    I’m not familiar with the other brands of sleeper sofa air mattresses but it was a great solution for us. Some guests have varying needs and it works for everyone even those people that like super firm. Its very difficult to get super firm in something designed to fold.

  27. Olivia says

    I slept on a sofa bed daily for about 2 years back in high school and slept really well until the legs started to bend and I kept slipping during the night. I would recommend it for short term daily use :)

  28. says

    Great post by the way, loving your blog, discovered while searching for murphy beds vs sofa beds, I’m moving into a smaller place and need to downsize. Did you guys decide on which option was best for you? This decision is more difficult than anticipated for me.

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