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Custom Murphy Bed Design History

In 1980, I received a phone call from Harrah’s Casino Hotel in Reno asking me to bid the renovation of 34 rooms. They wanted to install Murphy Beds. At the time, I owned a company that sold bedspreads and drapery to the hospitality industry. I agreed, then phoned up a friend in New York City and asked him, “What the heck is a Murphy Bed?”

After that installation, I decided this was the specialty industry I wanted to join. The system I installed in Reno was adequate, but had lots of room for design improvement. It was easy to recognize that this unique bedding alternative was plagued with a low-quality reputation that Hollywood loved to make a villain in cheap comedy movies. A James Bond movie had a Murphy Bed that was sexy and electric in operation. It was thrilling to watch. I was hooked. I started a worldwide search for other manufacturers of this concept. From France to Singapore. I visited ‘old hands’ in the furniture industry. All advised there was ‘No Market’ for custom, quality Murphy Beds. All said there was no demand for this alternative sleep system. All had limits of weight or sizes – except one.

So I flew to Miami in early 1981 to attend a Hotel Show that had an exhibitor named SICO. I was pretty sure this was the company I wanted to make the mechanism for my furniture manufacture. Their display was perfect for hotels, but much to my chagrin, they had a sales force for hotel murphy beds. But those guys had to sell dance floors, staging, food-service carts, banquet tables…. And most of them hated the complexity of a bed that was really a machine.

I asked the powers at SICO if I could sell (market to) the resort communities of Colorado and Utah. Years later they admitted that many sales people had gone into those Rocky Mountains never to be heard from again. They had nothing to lose giving me free reign to become another Mountain Man lost in the Rockies.

I survived by some individual sales to condo owners until 1983. I landed a 187 bed order from a resort outside Winter Park, Colorado. It was a pretty bland design I came to call “A Bed-In-A-Box”. After that experience of a very boring installation, I came to realize this concept needed somebody to make this Murphy bed dance. Instead of just functional change, I wanted to make the bed “Deceptive”!

On a flight to Denver to start up a showroom, a kind stewardess saw some of my sketch artwork for the planned demonstrative models and gently reminded me that I was working in the bedroom. Be delicate with the sexual implications but, don’t forget that important benefit: “Throw in some Romance.”

The Denver Post ran an article the following year with the headline: “Ron McKey won’t mind if you can’t find his bed!” I was off and running with the ready answer, “We can do that! Nope, never have before…” Over the years, “never have” became less and less. Thanks to our inventive customers, we also became the Most Unique Custom Murphy Bed Manufacturer.

My factory can take the SICO Wall Bed concept and make furniture surrounding it in every possible theme. We developed a Murphy Table, a Mirrored Murphy Bed, a Sofa Murphy Bed, a TV Murphy Bed, and became the leader in an industry that had a stigma of marginal quality. We made real beds disappear. It’s your choice of mattress manufacturer, weight, size and thickness. It’s our job to make it disappear.

In the late 90’s I looked around the emerging Murphy Bed stores and came to the decision I was going to be the most unique guy. I was going to be the best Murphy Bed source in the world. I wasn’t going to sell the most or be the lowest priced guy. I was going to be the best quality. Cost be darned. Ikea had their strategy, I had a different goal.

When the Internet came along, I was late jumping on that train. All the good names for Murphy Beds were gone. So I threw up a make-shift page that had a bright purple background color. It did nothing, as I expected. People at shows started asking if I had a website they could visit. Really embarrassing!

I started talking to an exhibitor next to me at a 17 day show and asked him if this website thing was going to be anything. He suggested that for people with strange stuff it would be great. He sold gold coins from Spanish Galleons sunk in the Caribbean. He said to get a good URL name and put up some pictures of delivered systems. The next day I came over to his booth and asked him what he thought of the website being Falling Beds.com. He said “That won’t fly…” Aha!

Along the way, I forgot about vacations…. I was marketing to resort hotels around the world, from Conference Rooms, to Hospitality Rooms, to Time Interval Ownership properties. It became a passion to improve each year with new tests of design concepts. In 2016, we celebrated 35 years of manufacturing the World’s Best Murphy Beds.

Ron McKey
President
FlyingBeds International

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