The Spruce: What Is a Futon?

The Spruce: What Is a Futon?

By Sarah Lyon

Published on 03/29/23

dark gray futon in living room
 Studio Light and Shade / Getty Images

A futon is a floor mattress or sofa that is designed for sleeping. These pieces differ from similar furniture options, such as sofa beds and daybeds, and range in size depending on your needs. Below, interior designers share insights on the types of futons on the market as well as their pros and cons.

MEET THE EXPERT

  • Charlene Threatful is the founder of Lush Interiors in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
  • Allison Garrison is the principal designer and founder of Allito Spaces in San Diego, California.
  • Janna Robinson is an interior designer and lifestyle technology design expert.

What Is a Futon?

The word futon may refer to a traditional Japanese futon, which is a frameless cushion that is placed on the floor, but it can also describe a Western futon, which is similar in appearance to a sofa—both are designed for sleeping.

In the case of the latter option, futons generally sit on wood or metal frames. “Styles range from modern to traditional and using a custom fabric on the cover allows for a more bespoke piece,” says Charlene Threatful, the founder of Lush Interiors.

black futon next to bookshelf
 Studio Light and Shade / Getty Images

What’s the Difference Between a Futon, Sofa Bed, and Daybed?

With futons, sofa beds, and daybeds on the market, it may be difficult to determine which option is best for you. Allison Garrison, principal designer and founder of Allito Spaces, notes that these furniture pieces differ in key ways.

A futon’s mattress is exposed and can easily be positioned into a sofa or bed depending on one’s needs. A sofa bed has a mattress that is generally hidden and can be accessed by removing the seat cushions, and a daybed has a mattress that is always stationed in one position and can be used either for sitting or sleeping.

Threatful notes that sofa beds, also known as pull-out couches, are ideal for those looking to subtly implement a multi-functional piece into their home. “They look like a sofa, and you would never know that there is a bed hidden inside,” she says. “They are fully customizable and allow for a more luxurious look and feel both for sitting and sleeping.”

If you choose to opt for a daybed, note that many daybeds contain a pull-out trundle underneath, in addition to featuring a twin-sized mattress up top. “This size allows for lots of pillows and styling and is the perfect place to lounge during the day,” Threatful comments. 

dark gray futon
 Studio Light and Shade / Getty Images

Types of Futons

The futon you select—Japanese style or Western—all depends on your needs and square footage. “[A Japanese futon] could be a practical solution for accommodating overnight guests, avid backpacking travelers, or someone who leads a very minimalist lifestyle or has a small space,” says interior designer Janna Robinson.

Pros and Cons of Futons

Futons are lightweight, convenient, budget-friendly, and ideal for small spaces.

“Convenience is a major selling point for futons,” Garrison says. “They are very easy to convert from night-time sleep surface to daytime lounge spot, which is great for anyone with limited space or who needs extra guest quarters.”

Note that futons aren’t generally known for their comfort or durability, though. “The cushion is not a mattress and therefore is not going to have the same longevity as a mattress,” Robinson states. “It will flatten over time, and it’s not the easiest to keep clean and fresh.”

black futon with string lights
 Studio Light and Shade / Getty Images

Sizes of Futons

Futons generally come in sizes similar to standard mattresses: twin, full, or queen sizes. “Sometimes the mattress folds out from the short side and sometimes from the long side,” explains Garrison. “There are so many versatile options to work in a variety of homes.”

FAQ

  • What are some benefits of futons?Futons are ideal for small spaces, are affordable, and are lightweight, making them easy to move around the home.
  • How do you know if a futon is right for your space?If you need a space to host guests but do not have a guest room or space for a full bed, a futon is a smart solution for your home.
  • Where can I buy a futon? Many online furniture retailers offer their own versions of futons, with picks for every price point and style.

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