How to Build a DIY Murphy Bed with Desk & Ikea Bookcases
See how to build a full-size DIY murphy bed with desk & Ikea Billy bookcases. Perfect for a guest bedroom or craft room! Made with a Create-a-Bed kit & great for small spaces.
Affiliate links used in this post. Read more about my link usage here.
We've now had our DIY Murphy Bed in the craft room/home office for a few years. I can honestly say it's one of the best home improvement projects we've ever completed! It has become one of the best uses of space in our whole home.
When we first planned out this project, we needed this craft space to double as a guest room. We don't really have a lot of guests, but still needed space for the occasional overnighter. Since we didn't want to sacrifice the floor space for a bed we rarely use, a murphy bed seemed like a perfect solution.
One little twist to this project is that we also needed this space to function as more than just a fold-down bed. Since this is also our craft room and home office, I also wanted to have a desk area for my kids and a little bit of storage space on either side.
After brainstorming for awhile and doing some research, we were finally able to cook up a solution that provided everything we needed. We decided to make a simple DIY fold-out desk for the front of the murphy bed and install Ikea Billy bookshelves (that we’ve used and loved in the past) on either side.
Keep reading for the full details of how we planned and executed this DIY murphy bed with desk & bookshelves!
How much does a DIY murphy bed cost?
We did we choose to build the bed ourselves instead of buy premade, you ask?
Money. Lots of money.
We priced out many different fold-out bed options to put in this space. For what we were wanting, we easily would have paid $1500-2000 (not counting shipping). That was way out of our price range, so we started looking into options for building it ourselves.
If you've ever searched on Pinterest to find ways to build a DIY murphy bed (that might even be why you're here), you're going to find tons of ideas. Let me go on and put this out here: please don't believe these "build a DIY murphy bed for under $100" posts.
No offense meant to those bloggers, but after completing this project, I just don't see how you could safely build a DIY murphy bed that's going to be functional and is going to last. Yes, if you're building one from scratch, it's a little bit of an investment. But trust me, if you're putting all of this time and effort into building a bed, make sure it's going to be something that you're going to be able to use for a long time.
Making It Cost-Effective
Noah and I did tons of research on the best way to cost-effectively build a DIY murphy bed. We finally decided on a bed we could build with this murphy bed hardware kit from Create a Bed. This is absolutely, totally the foundation of everything we did to create our DIY murphy bed.
Not only do you get extremely high-quality hardware, but you're paying for very detailed instructions for building your bed. You'll get incredibly thorough supply lists, cut sheets, and step-by-step instructions. If you follow their instructions, it's fool-proof.
(And no, this post isn't sponsored by Create a Bed. We're just huge fans of their company after this experience!)
There are lots of tutorials and videos online for how to build with these kit instructions (just google or search youtube for "Create a Bed" to see them). However, I wanted to make my own tutorial to show you how easy it can be, interjecting a few of my tips from our building process that I thought made it easier.
Project Supplies and Cost
I didn't find a lot of breakdowns of total cost online before we did this, which would have been really nice. It honestly did cost a bit more than we were expecting (but still way, way less expensive than buying a pre-made bed).
Let's take a look at the supplies needed and how much they cost us.
(Please note: this is the cost breakdown when this post was originally published in 2019. As we all know, prices on pretty much everything are much higher now. Keep that in mind when pricing out this project.)
- 1 Create a Bed Full-Size Vertical Hardware Kit - $249 (I bought ours through Amazon Warehouse deals for $50 less, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Check that out before paying full price! You can find those deals by clicking the link that says "New and Used from $___" right below the main add to cart button.)
- 4 sheets of ¾" x 4' x 8' plywood (we went with birch wood) - $224
- 2 sheets of ¼" x 4' x 8' plywood - $67.18
- 14 1x2" furring strips - $15.26
- 3 packs of natural melamine veneer edge banding (75 total feet) (also available here) - $20.94
- 1 bottle Titebond wood glue - $4
- 1-¼" finish nails (pneumatic) - $6.38
- 1-¼" #8 coarse thread wood screws - $6.98
- 1-½" #8 coarse thread wood screws - $6.98
- 2" #8 coarse thread screws - $6.98
- Cabinet handles/pulls - budget about $20 for this, depending on how intricate the front of your murphy bed cabinet will be
- ¾" poplar dowel (to attach your pivoting legs) - $4.50
So, all said and told, we spent a little over $600 for supplies (for just the bed part - I'll talk about the cabinets and desk later on in this post). That's not including tools you'll need, like a drill, possibly a table saw, clamps, jig saw, etc. I would budget about $100 for supplies you don't currently have. That makes the total about $700. You'll also need a mattress, but we just used the one that was already in our guest bedroom.
Trust me, this is still about half of what you're going to pay for a premade bed.
How to Make a DIY Murphy Bed with Create-a-Bed
Next, let's take a look at the steps to make the actual DIY murphy bed unit.
I'm really just giving the instructions you get with your Create a Bed kit a huge summary. They are much, much more detailed in the actual instructions, complete with diagrams, specific measurements, and super detailed instructions. Like I said, if you follow the instructions to a T, you can't mess this up.
If you're taking this project on, please don't just follow my instructions to do it. The instructions you'll get with your hardware kit are much better and more detailed. I just thought my notes might help a few of you who are taking on this project in your home, as well as give those of you who are on the fence a preview of what you're taking on.
Here we go!
Step 1: Make plywood cuts.
I'm going a little bit out of order with this one. The directions you receive with your Create-a-Bed hardware kit show this as step 2. But, I'd recommend getting this part over with first. It was the most tedious and difficult part for us - but it so doesn't have to be!
Here's a list of cuts you'll need to make in plywood pieces. Refer to the diagram above to see how to fit it into your plywood efficiently.
¾" plywood cuts:
- Part B (2): 5-⅞" x 76-½"
- Part C: 3" x 56"
- Part D: 7-⅞" x 56"
- Part E (2): 29" x 76-¾"
- Part F: 15-⅞" x 58-⅜"
- Part G (2): 15-⅞" x 82-⅛"
- Part H-H: 14-⅜" x 58-⅜"
- Part H-F: 2-¾" x 58-⅜"
- Part H-R: 2-¾" x 58-⅜"
- Part I: ¾" x 54-¼"
¼" plywood cut:
- Part J (2): 28" x 75"
Friends, don't be like us - it didn't even occur to us to get this done at Lowe's. For free. Seriously - no need to do the cuts yourself on a table saw (which is heavy, difficult, and takes forever).
Lowe's (or most other major home improvement stores) can do this in a fraction of the time. Get it done there!
If you choose to do it yourself (or don't have access to a hardware store that cuts for you), I recommend using a chalk line to make your marks. Mark out 2-3 cuts at a time (not the whole thing, just in case you make mistakes).
The hardware kit has great diagrams that show you exactly what cuts to make on each piece of plywood (you can see it above). Follow it, it works!
Whether you have your hardware store make these cuts or you do it yourself, one huge recommendation is to label the corresponding letters for your plywood cuts as the cuts are made. This will help so much later on during assembly.
Once your plywood cuts are made, give the edge of your new pieces a good sand to eliminate any jagged edges.
Step 2: Construct the bed frame.
This part is going to seem SO EASY compared to step 1. You can have the base of your bed done in maybe an hour.
You'll need to make the following cuts to 1x2" lumber:
- Struts (10): 54.5"
- Sides (2): 75"
(You'll also need to make two 14-⅜" cuts to your 1x2" lumber for mounting the header later - might as well go on and make those cuts.)
Glue the strut pieces together to form an "L" shape. You'll have 5 of these total, using all 10 strut pieces.
...then nail together (preferably with a pneumatic nail gun). Make sure the ends are flush when nailing.
Then, using the spacing outlined in your guide, attach the frame sides to each side of the struts.
Step 3: Cut rounded corners and put hardware in your side rails.
This is another slightly tedious part. The key here is following directions. It's not difficult, but it does require you to make a lot of measurements.
First, take your parts B and, using the template in your instructions, trace out the rounded edge you'll need to cut with a jigsaw. This will be the rounded side of your bed frame that folds out. You can also go on and mark your leg pivot placement at this point.
Use a jig saw to cut the edge and a ⅝" forstner bit to drill almost all the way through the leg pivot hole.
Repeat with the other template on the other B cut of plywood.
Now, you'll simply follow the instructions to make your 1" pivot plate hole and attach the lower ball stud plates at the indicated placements on the B pieces.
It's incredibly important that these measurements are exact, or your hardware kit will not line up.
Step 4: Attach the side, head, and foot rails.
This is the part where it starts actually looking like a bed!
Lay the B pieces on either side of your strut assembly from Step 2. Part C goes at the foot and Part D goes at the head of the struts.
Clamp C and D onto the front and back of the strut pieces (like the image above) and attach using five 1-1/14" screws from the inside of the bed out. These screws shouldn't go all the way through to the front of C or D.
Similarly, attach the sides B with clamps and use two 1-¼" screws in between each strut to attach the sides.
Now, lay your E boards out below the strut pieces. Make sure the front of the E boards is flush with the foot of your bed frame (the other sides will have a slight overhang). Use a pencil to outline where your struts fall on these pieces.
Use wood glue under where your struts will lie to reinforce the attachment. Stay inside the pencil lines you just marked.
Then, replace the frame in the same place on the E boards and screw the bed frame to Parts E with 1-¼" screws. We had 5-6 screws in each strut.
Step 5: Attach hardware to frame sides and construct header.
This is another somewhat tedious (but not really difficult) part - you're attaching the other half of your hardware mechanism that will allow the bed to pivot up and down.
Simply follow the instructions in your hardware kit to make three attachments; your male pivot plate, the upper ball stud plate, and the bed stop. You'll need to do this on both "G" pieces (the pieces that will stand upright and make the actual cabinet on either side of the bed).
This is kind of a minor step, but we also constructed the bed header (that goes above the bed) at this point using all of the H pieces.
Step 6: Paint, caulk, and tape.
You won't find this in your instructions, but this is a good point to add any paint/stain and caulk before your final assembly step.
I painted the front of our bed frame, the outside of the frame sides (G pieces), and the front of the constructed header. The birch plywood we used soaked up paint like crazy. Definitely use a paint primer if you have one on hand!
I also added caulk to kind of seal the gap between the two E pieces on the front of the murphy bed. Just run a bead and use your finger to push it into the gap. Then, use a wet paper towel to wipe off the excess. You might have to do this twice to get a good, flat caulk line.
You can see the before and after of sealing that line above - it makes a difference! I also used a little bit of caulk to patch the screw holes on the header board.
I didn't take pictures of this step, but you'll also attach veneer tape to the exposed pieces of your bed. You simply do this by ironing it on - super easy.
I put this veneer edging on the outside of the "B" sides, all around the E edges, on the front faces of the side G pieces, and on the top of the back headboard that will be attached to the wall - basically anything that showed when the bed was open.
Step 7: Attach and assemble.
You're finally ready to build this thing! Believe it or not, this installation part isn't difficult at all.
We took our baseboard completely off of the wall before starting this step. There's an option in your instructions to cut out a notch for baseboards, but since our finished piece would be taking up the majority of the wall, we chose to do it this way and reattach after everything was installed (I'll show more of that later on).
Definitely follow your instructions for this attachment step. Attach the ¼" plywood as directed under where the mattress will go, putting your mattress straps in on top. (Make sure to add any hardware to the front of your cabinet before doing this part.)
Next, attach your cabinet verticals to the sides of the bed using the hardware instructions.
We used a 1" dowel, cut to size, to go between our pivoting legs.
Screw in the back headboard to hold the two verticals together...
..and raise it up! Follow the instructions included with the hardware to put the header on top, securing to the studs in the wall.
The most important part of this is to attach the header as directed to the wall studs. There is a pretty good chance your bed will come out of the wall if not attached to studs. It's really heavy.
When the murphy bed is complete...
Just like that, you have a DIY murphy bed! However, you can see in the picture above it looks pretty plain at this point.
Never fear; it didn't stay that way for long! There are a million different ways to spice it up.
We used a few fairly simple customizations to really make this piece a central part of the room. We added Ikea Billy bookcases for storage and a fold-out desk on the front of the bed (that doubles as a fold-up chalkboard), giving it so much functionality when it's not in use.
I wanted my kids to be able to enjoy this craft room as much as I did. I think having a murphy bed with desk was a big step in making that happen.
In my opinion, the customizations we made to the murphy bed were just as important as the actual bed for our craft/guest room. These ensured that we could get lots of use out of this space even when the bed was not being used.
Let's take a look at how we made this murphy bed into the piece that we now love!
How to Add the Murphy Bed Desk & Bookcases
Step 1: Ikea Billy Bookcases
There's really not much to show about installing these bookcases. We used Ikea's Billy Bookcases again in this room; they've become a favorite in our house. Not only did we install these as built-ins in our playroom, but we also recently put in a window seat in my daughter's room using these shelves.
These bookshelves are incredibly versatile and inexpensive. We priced out the cost to build the bookcases ourselves, and it was actually cheaper to buy them from Ikea!
I had to steal the couple of pictures I had of this step from my Instastories - that's how uneventful the building of these was. Simply follow the directions and mount the bookcases to the studs using the included hardware (VERY important step), getting them as close as possible to the sides of the murphy bed.
One extra thing we did do is place one piece of 2x8" wood and one piece of 2x4" wood (cut to the width of the shelf) underneath the bookcase before mounting to the wall. Placed side-by-side, these fit just about perfectly under the 11 ½" depth of the cabinet and prop it up to the correct height to mount baseboards at the bottom.
With our playroom cabinets, we didn't do this, which resulted in an annoying overhang on top of the baseboards on the bottom shelves. Doing this also raises the height of the shelf to just about match the top of the murphy bed, making it so much easier to mount consistent crown molding later.
Step 2: Reattach baseboards and crown molding
Earlier, I mentioned that we decided to take the baseboards completely off of this wall before attaching the murphy bed. We knew we were going to be putting baseboard all around the entire unit and this saved us having to buy an extra length of baseboard.
It also made it where we didn't have to make a bunch of annoying cuts in the back of the bed/cabinets to accommodate baseboards that were already on the walls.
Before we reattached the baseboards, we ran a small piece of scrap plywood along the bottom front of the murphy bed (just under the bottom, where the bed pivots forward), screwing it into the sides of the cabinet.
This gave us something to attach baseboards to. That particular length of baseboard is pretty long and could easily become detached without some support. We used scrap plywood for this, but a 1x2" would work too.
At that point, it was as simple as cutting the angles in the baseboard (which is SO not simple at all…my brain doesn't work that way). Remember - the back of the baseboards needs to match the length you're cutting for! We used a pneumatic nail gun to attach the baseboards to the bottom lengths of wood.
Next up, my worst enemy: crown molding. Guys, I wish I could even tell you how much I hate working with crown molding. Again, my brain isn't good with angles - So thinking through these cuts was so hard! But two rules that helped me…
- The edges for corners that face out get long tops and short bottoms with the end angle of the wood facing the back of the wood.
- The edges for corners that face in get long bottoms and short tops with the end angle of the wood facing the front of the wood.
That is so hard to explain, better to look at - see how the angle on the right in the picture above has a long top, short bottom, with the angle facing the back of the piece? This might not help a single other human being, but it became something I had to repeat to myself (lots and lots) while making these cuts.
Remember - whatever molding is touching the cabinet (so the back of the crown molding piece) needs to match the length you need cut!
Again, we attached these pieces with a pneumatic nail gun. And do not worry if your angles aren't perfect. Mine obviously weren't, as referenced above. We will fix that in another step.
It might take up a very small part of the cabinet, but adding the right molding can make all the difference in the world in your finished piece!
Step 3: Add a fun (and functional) desk.
We went through lots and lots of plans for the desk that we wanted to put on the front of this bed. I originally wanted to make this look like an armoire cabinet, but just because of our plans and the way the desk needed to swing out, it wouldn't have looked right. We also thought about having crown molding that doubled as detachable desk legs. But again, that would have been really hard to design.
So, we made it simple. I've used plans from Ana White before (remember our outdoor sectional?). They are straight to the point and super thorough...not to mention free!
I was browsing desk ideas and came upon this one. I immediately knew that, with a few little tweaks, it would be perfect for what we needed on the front of the murphy bed.
1. Assemble Desk
We used these plans to make this murphy bed with desk. We simply doubled all of the measurements (making the outside of the desk 48x32") and made the whole thing out of 1x4" lumber and ¾" plywood (with 1x2" book holders).
It's really so simple. I would highly recommend this project if you're a woodworking newbie!
Next, paint or stain the desk the color of your choice. This bad boy soaked up a TON of paint - 5 cans to be exact. I wanted to use spray paint because of all of the nooks and crannies, but keep in mind, it does get pricey.
For the bottom of the desk part (what will show when the fold-out desk is closed), I used chalkboard spraypaint (similar brand, this one pictured is no longer available). It was perfect! One can gave me a solid 3ish coats on the front, just what I needed.
Finally, I used leftover veneer tape that I had used at the beginning of the project to go around the desk, hiding all of the plywood's raw edges.
3. Mount Desk
Mounting the desk to the front of the murphy bed was kind of tricky.
First, we held the desk's back cabinet part up to the front of the bed and marked where all four corners needed to be positioned. The frame had to be a certain height to match the legs we bought for the desk. Once that was marked, we drilled a small pilot hole from front to back at each corner where we would need to mount it.
We folded the bed down and took the mattress and supporting plywood off. If you need to do this, weighing the bed down with weights or kettlebells helps to keep the hydraulic piston mechanism open.
(If you can do all of this before assembling the bed in the first place, go for it. Disassembling everything after the fact was kind of a pain).
Next, we used 3" wood screws to drill through those pilot holes we made, from back to front. We just barely screwed through the plywood, to where maybe ⅛" of the screw was sticking through to the front.
After that, we were able to fold the bed up some and gently hammer the shelf into the screws, allowing the little bit of screw sticking through to kind of tack the shelf in place while we put the rest of the supporting screws in.
One of us still held the shelf in place while the other one drilled the next screws…the four corner screws just kind of helped us position it and keep it in position. After all was said and done, we put four 3" screws along the top and bottom of the shelf. We also put screws along the sides as well, trying to put them through the slats in the bed to give it a little bit extra stability.
Finally, after it was solidly in place, we went back and drilled those four original corner screws all the way through to the desk.
4. Attach Desk Legs
Next, it was time to install the fold-down desk part. We put the leg sockets on the front (chalkboard side) of the desktop.
We decided to use these legs from Ikea (they're the same kind you use on the Linnmon desk we used on the other side of the room). They're really easy to take off for times we want the desk folded up. Added bonus: they're super inexpensive!
5. Attach Fold-Out Hinges
After the legs were on to give us a little bit of stability on the outside part of the desktop, we moved onto hinges for the inside. We used this kind of hinge - easy to install as long as you position your hinges exactly where the directions tell you to.
6. Lock it up!
Finally, we added a lock to the top! In addition, we used something similar to these magnets to help keep the desk closed and this lock to make sure the kids didn't pull it down on themselves.
Step 4: Caulk and paint everything.
At this point (if you're anything like us), you're a little sick of this project. 🙂 Don't worry, you're almost done - and this is also a little step that make a huge impact!
I used my favorite finishing caulk to go around the whole unit and fill in any gaps. That included…
- the small space between the cabinets and the bed
- the gap between the cabinets and the wall (to give it a real built-in look)
- all crown and base molding
- the small gaps between the desk cabinet and the bed
Simply run a small bead in any gaps, push it in (and wipe off any excess) with your finger, then run a wet paper towel over to eliminate any excess you didn't get. Sometimes you need to do this twice to get any gaps completely full.
It makes a world of difference, especially on uneven molding. Remember that scary picture of the crown molding above? This is what it looks like with caulk. We also added a coat of white paint to cover the nail holes and unevenness in the molding.
Step 5: Add fun lights!
One last little detail - I really wanted the cabinets to pop, and these lights were the perfect addition to do just that!
We ran extension cords from the plugs behind the bookcases to the top before we installed them. So, once we were ready to install the lights, all we had to do was drill a hole for the cord (with a spade slightly wider than the cord), run the cable to the extension cord, and attach the lights with the glue patches included in the kit.
Easy peasy! This is one detail that really makes the cabinets look custom.
Finally, your DIY murphy bed with desk and bookcases is finished!
Let's go on and say it: this project was a ton. of. work. The whole thing took us months to complete. I don't think this one is for the faint of heart - but it's also a project that we're incredibly proud of!
This murphy bed with desk and bookcase combo most definitely will be used and loved in our home for years and years to come. I don't think we could take it out if we wanted to now! 😂
This post is part of a series on how we turned our junky guest room into a fun, functional craft room space! Check out more posts from this series...
Completely impressed by this! Amazing work. Question...why not take up the entire wall...add shelves on top .. something on sides ..?
The big reason is a closet door on the right side (you can see it in the pictures). If we had gone all the way to the wall, it would have blocked the door. We wanted it to be symmetrical, so it couldn't go to the wall on the other side either. Plus, the Ikea bookcases just don't come in the perfect size for the wall.