Increase Pantry Storage With a Murphy Door


Have you ever heard of a "Murphy bed?" Imagine that same engineering applied to a pantry door. You have not only storage in a door, but a hidden pantry.

If you missed my article "Hidden Pantries, the Best-Kept Kitchen Secret" the summary is hidden pantries solve design problems in a kitchen. The article featured hidden pantries masked behind kitchen cabinet doors, bypassing the traditional pantry door; the pantry entrance is disguised.

Since more Murphy door manufacturing companies are starting to focus on Murphy pantry doors, I decided to dedicate an entire article to it. It really opened up my imagination how Murphy doors can help with kitchen design, storage, and traffic flow.

 Let's back up and get a little bit of history to this concealment door.

Murphy - synonymous with anything "fold down"  "fold up" or "hidden"

The word "Murphy" has become synonymous with any fold-down contraption for the home. There are Murphy wall bars (as in alcohol), Murphy end tables, Murphy bookcases, and more recently Murphy pantry doors. Let's take a look where it all started.

History of the Murphy Bed

A Murphy bed was a bed designed around 1900 to fold up into a wall by a man named William Lawrence Murphy. Murphy originally called his invention "The Disappearing Bed." He patented his “In-A-Door” bed in 1908, and founded the Murphy Bed company - after that the bed was more commonly called "Murphy bed."

The Murphy bed filled the need of one-room apartments needing to conceal the bed and use the same space for everyday living or entertaining. They are still popular today and serve as extra sleeping areas in offices, as guest beds, or in small houses that don't have room for extra bedrooms, as well as apartments. Some people refer to them as "wall beds" or "fold-away beds." 

It's interesting to learn that the term "Murphy Bed" lost its eligibility for trademark protection as of 1989. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the term “Murphy Bed” had entered common usage - sometimes popularity can work against you.

Reference: Lori Wall Beds

modern Murphy bed

Modern Murphy bed.

The next generation of concealment doors

Although the term "Murphy Bed" is no longer trademarked, the special fold away beds are still available for purchase today. Murphy beds are grouped in a category of products for the home designed to fold away, but also conceal.

Since the idea of secret or hideaway doors is a speciality item, the market is not flooded with companies. The ones that do offer hideaway doors branch out to bookcases, attic doors, pool room doors, wine cabinets, bedroom organizers as well as pantry and spice doors for the kitchen.

One company, Hideaway Door, takes custom orders. They emphasize that hideaway doors are not just for hiding things, but may be the perfect solution when another door is not desired in a room (instead replacing that space with a decorative bookshelf). 

I thought this Murphy pantry door in white was very attractive with the glass doors (picture below). If you want to see the door in action, visit Dave Yelovich's YouTube channel of his visit to a tradeshow where the Murphy Door company are on display.

Murphy Pantry door, white, with glass for display.

Murphy pantry door, white, with glass for display.

Murphy pantry door user questions

I will almost guarantee that you will want your own Murphy door in some shape or form after reading this article!

Why would I want a Murphy pantry door?

A Murphy pantry door is a door for a hidden pantry. The purpose of a Murphy pantry door is to conceal the pantry, but with added storage in the door. Hiding the pantry can be intentional and secretive, such as making the door blend in as a cabinet, or it can appear as a traditional pantry door, but with generous storage on one side.

Murphy pantry doors are also known as "invisible doors" "hideaway doors" "hidden doors" and "secret doors."

What is the difference between a hidden pantry and a Murphy pantry door?

Hidden pantries and Murphy pantry doors have the same goal: to hide a pantry. In fact, a Murphy pantry is another type of hidden pantry. A hidden pantry uses a cabinet door that in most cases matches the rest of the kitchen cabinets, but with no attached storage on the door. Murphy pantry doors have storage on one side of the door.

Hidden pantries are often located within the cabinet floor plan of the kitchen, blending in with the other cabinets. A Murphy door is a specialty item that won't exactly match the kitchen cabinets. Chances are that it will be placed on a close adjacent wall within or nearby the kitchen footprint.

Homeowners choose Murphy pantry doors because they:

  • want more storage that Murphy doors provide
  • ideal for small kitchens with limited space
  • like shelving or decorative storage on the exterior instead of a door
  • a way to add shelving to a small bedroom with no space
  • the cool factor, Murphy doors are fun!

One more point to add, Murphy doors eliminate traffic patterns, especially where you don't want guests to enter. On the Framestead website (a design-build firm) they showcase one of their services for installing hidden storage. You can see how effective it is in a grand room or living room. In their example, it appears as one room with no exits, keeping the design aesthetic intact. The bookcase really does lead to another full room.

Direction of swing of the Murphy Pantry door

For the record, most pantry doors swing out. This is especially important to be able to enter the space and access shelves within without a door in the way. However, if you have the space of a large pantry room, and concerned about the pantry door interfering with a traffic pattern or kitchen work zone, then it might make sense to swing the door in.

Will items fly off the shelf of my Murphy pantry door?

I actually found this question in the FAQ of the Hideaway Door website. Hideaway Door responded, "No, not during normal usage, however; if the doors are slammed you might expect items to fall off." 

If you watch a video of a Murphy pantry door in action, the motion is quite smooth. They are incredibly secure and there is no imbalance. I noticed on the pantry doors with interior storage or "reverse pantry door" that the shelves have bars or wood strips to prevent items from falling off. 

I would love to hear about daily use of Murphy pantry doors. It's such a natural habit to whip a door open, especially when busy making a recipe. Infrequently accessed spaces wouldn't bother me, but I am not so sure of the action of opening these bad boys every day.

One gentleman installed a Murphy bookcase with access to his basement stairs. If you don't go down into the basement very often, it probably is a great solution.

Will I get locked inside a Murphy room?

Pantry doors just swing open and latch, you will not get locked in. Since Murphy doors are concealment doors, sometimes for valuables, many owners want them locked. Asking if you would get locked in a Murphy room is actually a valid question. A good company will have measures to open the door safely from inside to prevent accidental locking in.

Planning a Murphy pantry door into your kitchen design

Murphy pantry doors are thick and therefore extra planning is needed in how they function and fit. There are different versions of Murphy pantry doors. Keep the following points in mind when planning out your future kitchen.

Design, look and finish of Murphy pantry door.

Murphy pantry door companies for the most part offer lots of options. You can get unfinished Murphy pantry doors which is really helpful when you're trying to get it to blend in with the cabinets of the rest of the kitchen. There are also a nice selection of stain colors for the doors.

The downside of Murphy pantry doors is the limited cabinet door selection. They don't match your kitchen cabinets; they can offer universally appealing designs that come close, such as a Shaker door design. The same goes for trying to match bedroom furniture.

Murphy bookcases have less pressure of matching because they are not in competition with the important design details of a kitchen. Unless you have hired a custom cabinet maker to build a Murphy door that matches your kitchen cabinets, you will have to settle for a door that compliments the rest of the kitchen.

Step-in closet or hidden room? A Murphy door doesn't have to lead to a full secret room. It can just be a second layer of storage that you reach in to. An argument can be made that less expensive storage solutions could be had for such very small space. However, in a small kitchen with no ability to push a pantry room into another space, a shallow pantry could be the winning solution.

Threshold and frame of a Murphy pantry door. Murphy pantry doors are designed with special engineering, hardware, and support to function smoothly. A skilled carpenter will need to install the door to assure proper installation. The Murphy Door company designs its doors with sufficient casements that need to be securely attached to the wall studs

In addition, the Murphy Door Company ships a finished door with its own casement and threshold. The threshold is important because it adds stability, but it plays a part in latching the door closed on the bottom. The door itself swings on pins extruding from the top and bottom of one side of the door. This system truly is the secret to stabilizing Murphy doors. 

You may see some DIY'ers make homemade versions of Murphy doors with hinges on the side. Even if they enforced it as much as they can, door sag can be an issue. Once a door sags, it won't close properly anymore.

Murphy door purchase questions

What is a reverse Murphy pantry door?

A reverse Murphy pantry door simply means that the storage is on the inside of the door, facing interior pantry storage. A typical Murphy pantry door puts the pantry storage on the out-facing door. This is ideal for display, or the popular spice racks that have easy kitchen access, or typical food storage. It really is personal preference. The Murphy Door company sells a reverse Murphy door that looks like a pantry door, complete with the words "Pantry" on the outside.

How big can I get a Murphy pantry door?

Single Murphy pantry doors come in widths of 30" to 48". It's possible to put two doors together, creating a French door effect.

In the video below, a Murphy representative explains that the doors are designed to be 8" thick. The width and swing of the door takes away from the door opening 10". This means that for a 30" door, you will have 20" of access space to squeeze through. A door that is 36" will give you 26" of pass through space.

Murphy pantry doors don't feature drawers because the drawers would be impractical (the pantry door versions are only 8" thick). The line of Murphy doors for bedrooms is designed deeper - 12". At this depth, the drawers are still fairly impractical but could store smaller items such as socks.

As mentioned previously, Murphy Door makes a French door wine rack that has a shelf depth of 10-1/4" and fills a space of 72" (although they do not guarantee against sag or twist on French Doors wider than 72", this would be a two-door configuration).

There are design limits to what Murphy doors and Murphy-inspired furniture can do. Keep that in mind when planning or remodeling your space.

How much weight can a Murphy door hold?

Regardless if the Murphy door is a bookcase, bedroom storage, or pantry storage, weight is going to come up in the conversation. Here are a few guidelines.

The Murphy Door company states that their doors can hold 300 pounds. The single doors come in sizes up to 48" which they still stand by the 300 pound weight limit. Two doors can be used for double French doors, but the weight limit applies to each separate door.

The Hideaway Door website answers a questions for both hardware and weight rating:

"Our bookcase doors use a thrust hinge & pin system. The hinges mount to the top and bottom of the bookcase, the weight is transferred to the floor. Our Out-swing Mirror Door hinges are specially designed to articulate away from the wall as the door swings open. Each hinge is rated for over 600lbs."

When put in real-situations, I'm sure these doors from any company will stand up just fine to having books or food items put on shelves. Manufacturers have years of experience improving their specialized doors for highest performance.

Don't forget that the doors themselves are built with quality that ups the weight factor. For example, the Wine Rack French Doors from Murphy Door state "Average door weight is 125 to 150 lbs per door depending on width, height, options, and locking system. Due to door weight we do not recommend Wine Rack French Doors over 80" wide."

This video gives a better, closeup demonstration of how the hardware works on a Murphy door.

Can I make my own Murphy pantry door?

It is possible to make your own Murphy pantry door, but it is not a beginner job. The Murphy Door company sells hardware kits that are specialized and designed for the success of a Murphy door. I'm not saying that there are not other options. Anytime heavy-duty hardware is required, there will be a cost.

The company makes it quite clear that this is a job for experienced carpenters and runs the disclaimer that they will not assist in anyway other than selling the door hardware.  It makes sense that they are not giving away their expertise and knowledge and the opportunity to sell a Murphy door.

How much does a Murphy pantry door cost?

As you can imagine due to the extra reinforcement and materials, there will be a considerable cost to a Murphy door.

The Murphy Door Company does offer an option that you can purchase a kit and assemble it yourself. You may be able to keep costs under $1,000 if you build it yourself and it is not extravagant. There was a guy on YouTube who built a version of it for under $300, but with hinges. Don't get discouraged if it is out of your price range. With the right person with the right skills and building plans, a person with incentive can build a more economical version.

Back to manufacturing companies, with finishes and added features and door sizes, prices can range from $1200-$4,000. Most retailers of Murphy doors offer financing.

Where can I buy a Murphy pantry door?

There are a few specialty companies online that manufacture Murphy doors. Some of the big home centers also have access to ordering Murphy doors. Either way, you can't walk into a home improvement store and walk out with a pantry door. These are special items and will require pre-ordering.

Places to buy pantry doors:

Murphy Door has really expanded into the Murphy pantry door and spice door market,  along with more focus on home organizing, such as for bedrooms. Hide Away Door is also focused in a similar direction. I am thrilled that these companies are recognizing the need for innovative storage in the kitchen!

In conclusion

I never gave much thought to using a Murphy door before. After researching this article, I am plotting where I can fit one in my house! I have a creepy attic door accessed from a bedroom. Guess what? No one wants to live in that room. But what if I turned it into a Murphy bookcase?

I also never really gave thought to using a Murphy pantry door. The more I think about it, it really has its merits.

If you're struggling with your pantry design, consider how a hidden pantry or a Murphy pantry door can add benefits of squeezing in precious pantry space to your kitchen. If you have first-hand experience using Murphy doors, I would love to hear your personal feedback in the comments below. If you have some thoughts to add about the use of Murphy doors, I would be interested in hearing those, too!

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. She uses her technical background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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Pantry Talk for Pantry Enthusiasts!

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