When our team decided to start blogging, I knew right away what I wanted my first blog to be about. I admit to being an HGTV junkie and am always intrigued by some of the furniture and design elements that I see on the shows. Do you know what a Murphy bed is? Do you know that there’s a company right here in our area that specializes in making these? Lancaster Handcraft designs, builds, and sends Murphy beds all over the country. I had no idea this existed unit a few years ago.
I moved into my current home almost three years ago. I met Andrew and Hilary Collier while we were in the process of building our house. Actually, Hilary and I discovered that we met briefly many years ago when we were 6 years-old and our Brownie Troops worked on a project together, but that’s a story for another day. Hilary’s husband Andrew said that he made his living off of Murphy beds. Being that I am not from the big city, I had no idea what a Murphy bed was. Not wanting to look like an idiot in front of our new friends, I nodded and later asked my husband if he knew what a Murphy bed was. He said it was a bed that pretty much folded up on to the wall to save space. I may or may not have exclaimed, “I think I saw one of those on the Mary Tyler Moore Show once!” My reaction is not surprising to anyone that knows me because I have a knack for working old TV show references in to my daily conversations. Too bad it’s a useless talent.
Because of my friendship with the Colliers, I certainly know a lot more about Murphy beds than I did 3 years ago, so Andrew agreed to let me interview him about his business. One thing I had never really asked him was how he found himself in the business of Murphy beds. Previously, Andrew was in engineering and did land surveying. Half of his clients were in subdivisions, and the other half were Amish in Southern Lancaster County. In 2009, the market had crashed, and he was lucky to have a job, but was barely getting 40 hours a week. Turns out, one of his Amish customers was looking to drum up extra business for his furniture workshop so they decided to work together and formed Lancaster Handcraft. Hilary is a graphic artist and agreed to help with the catalog. Andrew credits Hilary with helping them get started. “I couldn’t have done it without her.” She did all of the photoshop work and website design. In the first two years, she did all of their drawings.
Lancaster Handcraft received their first request for a Murphy bed in 2010, and like me when I first heard of it, Andrew had no idea what a Murphy bed was. They bought a kit and after they put it together, they thought it was the “cat’s meow.” Andrew and his Amish friend bought more kits and created many prototypes and even engineered and perfected their own gas piston mechanism. This mechanism aides in opening, closing, and raising the bed effortlessly “making the bed kiss the floor.” I had the chance to try it out and this makes pulling the bed down for use and lifting back up very easy. My 8 year-old son can do it! They are now on their 8th version and Andrew said that the only thing now that will probably ever change is the aesthetics, as furniture styles change over time.
Lancaster Handcraft has a showroom in Salunga, but only 50% of their customers ever visit the showroom. Andrew does have some local business, but a lot of his client base is on the I95 Corridor from DC to NYC. They may or may not have some semi-famous clients, but Andrew would never tell because he is big on confidentiality. People usually find their business by googling, “Murphy beds.” Anyone who watches HGTV knows that Tiny Houses are a hot topic right now. I asked him if he has ever worked with any of these and he said most of his clients live in apartments or condos. A lot of them are retirees that have downsized, but need multipurpose home offices with spaces for a bed for children or grandchildren when they visit. Locally, a lot of his business is in retirement communities.
Our home doesn’t have a Murphy bed yet, but finishing our basement is our next project that we are tackling this year and we have included a Murphy bed in our design plans. So I asked Andrew to walk me through the process of ordering.
Step 1- Talk to Andrew about the vision and what we need. Do we want just a bed or something with a desk, or drawers around it? They have interchangeable cabinetry. What size mattress? He said they can fit any size bed in a room. You just need to take into account wall space and some other perimeters. Measuring is easy too, according to Andrew. “If you can read a tape measure, you will have no problem ordering the correct size.”
Step 2- You can go to the showroom in Salunga to look at bed models. This is optional, but not required. Everything can be done online.
Step 3- Andrew takes your information to the shop. Each part is custom fabricated for each order. You can select cherry, maple, walnut, or any exotic wood. They have over 24 different standard color finishes for any wood. All orders include crown moulding and hardware. They can order a mattress too if you need one.
Step 4- Installation is usually 6-8 weeks later but that can vary. Andrew calls you a week or two before your furniture is finished to schedule your install. He has a full time employee that handles installation and he usually does two installations per day. Installations usually take 3 hour for each bed. He points out that is a very clean process because everything is cut, sanded, and painted before they bring it your house. So don’t worry, you won’t be left with a house covered in sawdust. They have developed a crating system so the beds can be shipped and customer installed as well. 20% of their beds get shipped and they have sent Murphy beds to places like Seattle, San Francisco, and even Aruba!
Step 5- Enjoy your Murphy bed. My next door neighbor had one installed this summer (mattress and all) and they let me try pulling it out of the wall and putting it back. They even let me sprawl out on it to test it for comfort. Sadly for me, it’s more comfortable than my current bed!
What sets Lancaster Handcraft apart from the competition? Well, the products are absolutely beautiful. Not only can you customize your Murphy bed to be whatever you need, but you can also choose built-ins, cubbies, entertainment centers, standard beds, desks, kitchen cabinets, and even countertops. Their products are also very high quality. Their mechanism is warrantied for the life of the bed and they only use solid wood. No particle board or MDF pressboard is used in their product. They also use a urethane finish that is extremely hard and industrial sprayed. These beds are meant to last for a very long time! If you are interested in a Murphy bed or any other piece of custom furniture, Lancaster Handcraft can be reached at (717) 455-7099. They also have a Facebook page and website http://www.lancasterhandcraft.com.