The Ups and Downs of Murphy Beds

Have you ever wondered who Murphy of the Murphy Bed is?  Okay, neither have I, but I am interested in Murphy Beds, or hide-a-beds, since they seem like they would fit so perfectly into contemporary home environments.  They are space efficient and the design lends itself to so many modern home aesthetics.  This is what I usually think of when I think of Murphy Beds.

Murphy Bed from the 1920's

But, the Murphy Bed has grown up and looks very different. Below are some of the newest designs in what was once seen only on the I Love Lucy show. Check out some of the more contemporary versions.  I’m glad to see that Murphy Beds are making a comeback.

Contemporary version of the Murphy Bed

Murphy Bed that pulls down from the ceiling

I’m surprised that IKEA has not yet come out with one of these.  In terms of design, it seems that these space-saving wonders would have a larger presence on the market.

The "Tale" computer bed from Flying Beds

The computer bed,  “Tale Bed”, manufactured by Euro Flying Bed company, is considered one of the best designs out there.  When you pull out the bed sideways, the stuff on the desk stays flat so it won’t be dumped onto the floor.

The coolest looking Murphy Bed is one from Boxetti.  I’m sure they are crazy expensive, but this is the one I want. The other shapes on the side of the bed house a closet and drawers.

Boxetti Bed

Boxetti Modular Environment

The Boxetti reminds me a lot of Vernor Panton‘s ideas back in the 60s and 70s. The Danish designer was the master of fluid, futurist design.

Verner Panton

Verner Panton Phantasmagoria

Unfortunately, the Murphy Bed had many disadvantages. The greatest of Murphy Bed shortcomings is that it’s nearly impossible to change the mattress without ordering an entirely new bed. Another is that most people don’t want to put the Murphy Bed away when they wake up. Laziness aside, I still think the Murphy Bed is a great space-saver and now, with the new styles, it can also be an asset to the look and feel of a room.

Next week I’ll be talking about the Airstream motor home.  Laters.


Are You Shovel-Ready?

A few years ago during a Chicago election season, some candidates started referring to themselves as “shovel-ready” to take office.  It described the hardscrabble grit and preparedness required of a true Chicago politician.  I like the word ‘shovel’ and this new use of the word “shovel-ready” had me using it like crazy.  I was “shovel-ready to get a manicure” or “shovel-ready to get the dinner on the table”.

ManPlow Pro 36

Well, now as we brace ourselves for a big snowstorm, I’m shovel-ready to buy a new a shovel.  But, there are so many new designs on the market.  The ManPlow had me feeling a little resentful.  ManPlow?  A huge snowstorm in 1995 when I was nine months pregnant with my first child and shoveling the six inches of heavy wet snow from our corner lot, induced labor.  What about the MomPlow?  Guaranteed to take those last horrible weeks off of any pregnancy. With the snow falling outside my window, I must say, however, that I did like the look of the ManPlow. It also boasts of having 36-inch extra width.  Thirty-six inches.  That’s a lot of ManPlow.  It runs about $110.

Ames True Temper 26"

I also liked the look of the Ames True Temper 26Snow Boss and not just because it is yellow.  When I shovel I can’t always pick up a large plate of heavy wet snow so the smaller shovel surface appealed to me.  It is also ergonomic and very light weight.  The cost, $26, was also a plus.

Toro Snow Blower

In the end, don’t we all go for the electric snow blower and forgo the shovel altogether?  I know that my neighbor Ralph did. Ralph fell down the stairs last summer and did some major damage to his back.  His shoveling days were over.   A few days ago, the snow came down.  A few of the neighbors had already shoveled.  (Why they shovel while the snow is still falling will always puzzle me.)  Anyway, Ralph had his Toro Power Clear and he was ready to plow the entire town he loved it so much.

“It’s so easy”, he said after he had finished plowing my front walk and the area behind my garage.  “It literally pushes me along.  I don’t have to do anything but guide it.”

With Ralph’s new Toro, I am hoping that I will never have to worry about being shovel-ready. Let’s hope. Maybe I’ll make him some cookies every time it snows.  Cookies are way less expensive and easier on my back. Find a Ralph in your community. You’ll be glad you did.

Window Farming – Grow Your Own

You can farm your own tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries or cantelope even if you live in a cramped apartment and have no access to dirt or a tiny patch of lawn along the freeway just outside your window. The current official population estimate as of 2010 was 6,800,000,000 (boy, my hand was getting tired of pushing the zero key).  That is almost 7 billion people.  One-third of us live in cities and urban areas.  Food, as you can probably guess, is very big business and is doing a lousy job at keeping people fed and/or healthy. Let’s not even talk about the obesity problems in America.  With food deserts and other urban issues, people are not eating vegetables!!!

Britta Riley, an urban dweller in Brooklyn, has decided that she was no longer going to hand over the responsibility of taking care of the environment and access to healthy food to specialists and corporate interests.  She thinks that they are pretty much the cause of the mess we now see with our current food system.  Thus was born the Windowfarm!

Windowfarm System

The Windowfarm is a hydroponic growing system.  Hydroponics is a method of growing plants with a high-quality liquid soil that is fed to a plants root system.  There is no dirt which makes it a great system for creating a Windowfarm in your apartment where you can control the climate and provide natural light.  Plus, no vacuuming.


What I think is especially amazing about the Windowfarm is that its not just a product that makes money for those who sell it, it is also an environmental and food movement that invites people from all over the world to participate in improving its design and efficiency. Through social media, the creators of Windowfarm have published well researched instructions of how to build one of their systems so that anyone anywhere can build a Windowfarm system for free. asks that people who have built their own system post their customized versions on their site in order to benefit the specific concerns of those who build their own.

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There is a pump at the bottom of the Windowfarm system that periodically sends a liquid nutrient up to the top. The nutrient then trickles down through the plants’ root system that are suspended in clay pellets.  No dirt.  No mess.  But, you do, as the farmer, have to decide what crops you are going to put in your Windowfarm.

BUY THE FARM or build your own for free

One-Column Windowfarms cost $119.95, but if you buy it on Kickstarter, you will get it for just $99 (plus shipping and handling). Or, if you’ve got some empty water and milk bottles you don’t mind cutting into, you can make your own for free.  All of the “build-your-own” designs are available on the Windowfarms site for free.


Check out Britta talking about the Windowfarm movement on TedTalks.

The Nest Thermostat

THE DIGITAL DESIGN AGE – Teach Your House A Lesson

The newest and most innovative thermostat on the market is The Nest. I did not receive one of these from Santa this year so I am boycotting Santa and all of his works until I do receive one.

The Nest Thermostat

Nest Thermostat in "learning" mode

Two former Apple leaders, Matt Rogers and Tony Fadell, who worked on products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad, designed this retro-meets-modern-looking digital thermostat from their startup, Nest Labs.

The Nest is a “learning” thermostat and enables you to teach it your heating and cooling habits over a seven day period.  You can also program your Nest remotely using an iPhone.  Pretty crazy. This is a beautiful design answer to the old utilitarian-looking thermostats of old.

Once Santa brings me a Nest, I’ll definitely post a picture.  If you have one, let us see it.  Send me a photo of the Nest in your home and I’ll post it here at Crane Design for Better Living.