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Futon Beds

Futon beds are famous among college students and bachelors alike. There are many reasons why a futon bed enjoys such popularity in places like dorm rooms and small apartments. However, let’s begin with a little history.

bi-fold futon bedWestern futons are derived from a traditional Japanese bedding style generally known as futon. In the Japanese style the bed has two parts. The first part is a thinly padded mattress roughly two inches thick. The mattress can be stuffed with foam, natural fiber batting, synthetic fiber batting or a combination of all three. The second part is one or more quilts that go on top of the mattress. The most important aspect of both parts of the futon is that they must be able to be folded and stored when not in use. In much of Japan, space comes at a large premium and so for many people it does not make sense to have a dedicated living space. Instead, people can unroll or unfold their futons at night converting that space into a bedroom. Then during the day the futon will be put away turning the space back into a living room.

Western futon beds are similar in concept to their Asian cousins, but differ significantly in execution. They are meant to increase the flexibility of the room they are kept in. However, when they are not being used as a bed they are not put away in a closet or storage bin. Instead, they are converted into a couch or a sofa. The Western variety also comes in two main parts. A mattress and a futon bed frame. The American mattress can range from five to nine inches in thickness which is considerably thicker than their Japanese counterparts. The thickness of the mattress is limited. This limitation comes from the fact the mattress gets folded into the shape of a sofa when not laid out as a bed. If the mattress is thicker than about nine inches it becomes too difficult to fold. At the same time, the mattress cannot be overly stiff or rigid for similar reasons. Stiffness is usually not a problem because the mattress is stuffed with flexible materials like foam and cotton and polyester blend batting. I was surprised to discover how many mattresses have inner coils. My personal opinion is that the inner coils make the mattress needlessly expensive. Further, the coils will not tolerate being daily bent and contorted as the mattress goes from bed to sofa and back to bed for months or years. You should get several years of life out of coil-less mattresses. You can extend life even further by using mattress covers and placing sheets whenever the bed is in use. As an added benefit, if you want to update the look of your futon bed you have a range of futon covers to chose from. A new look is simply a matter of changing the slip cover. Mattresses range in price from $95 on the low end to over $350 on the high end. You will find your best values in the $150-$200 range.

Futon Bed Frames

The second part of the bed is the frame. I believe that the frame is the most important part of the bed. Quality frames will provide the majority of the back support for the user. Metal futon beds and wood futon beds are common frame materials. Both metal and wood are available in a number of different finishes. In keeping with the futon’s frugal reputation unfinished pine is very common. This gives you the option to stain, paint, or lacquer the frame yourself or leave it unfinished. If you leave your frame unfinished, I would go over any rough spots with fine-grit sandpaper making sure to go with the grain of the wood.

Sizes and Folding Styles

Great example of a twin futon bunk bedQueen size and full size beds are by far the most common sizes. The third most popular category is the twin futon bed. Twin size bunk beds are also quite popular. Only the bottom bed folds into a couch with bunk beds. Other folding styles include bi-fold, tri-fold, and e-frame. For the most part, you will only find metal e-frame sofa beds. Full size frame can cost from $130 on the low, low end and go up to a staggering $1100 or more. In my opinion, the best values can be found between $300 and $600.

Futon beds remain popular because they are very affordable, versatile, and make fantastic use of limited space in dorm rooms and studio apartments.

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