There are a couple of ways to approach this question. The shorter answer is to state that the terms are used synonymously. In fact, Murphy bed is so deeply "embedded" into popular culture that in 1989 the courts ruled that it was longer eligible for trademark protection. While consumers frequently use the terms interchangeably, a Murphy bed is actually a type of wall bed, and that name reflects a brand.
The longer answer is that a Murphy bed has a specific hinge, a spring lift mechanism that was originally designed by William Lawrence Murphy in the late 1800s. Ameriwood Home beds do not utilize this brand of hinge, and as such are not true Murphy beds. Instead, our beds operate using a newer, gas piston lift mechanism. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but here are a few to consider:
- Price. Like Apple or Starbucks, brand names come with a heftier price tag. The cost of Murphy hinges is about three times as much as gas pistons.
- Material. The primary materials of Ready-To-Assemble furniture are particleboard and MDF, and this allows us to create that high-end look without the high-end price. Gas pistons pair better with particleboard and MDF than does spring lift, which makes the wall bed as a whole more economical, not just the hinges.
- Space. Murphy hinges require a little more space to operate, which means piston beds more suitable for smaller spaces.
- Size. While wall beds are available for twin, full or queen mattresses, currently only Murphy beds offer a king-size option.
- Installation. Something as complex as either a wall bed or a Murphy bed could hardly be called easy, but ours ship flat, and assembly is generally more involved.
- Operation. It is not difficult to lower a wall bed, but it does require more force than a Murphy brand bed. For this reason, our wall beds do not utilize a lock to keep them in the closed position that way that many Murphy beds do.