Futons Guide

Futons, similar to waterbeds, gained popularity in the United States during the 1970’s.  Futons were convenient and affordable, thus they were very popular among college students, apartment dwellers, and first time home and condo buyers because they save space, are relatively easy to move, and convert easily from a couch to a mattress.


The word ‘futon’ is descended from the Japanese word ‘shikibuton’(bottom mattress) and ‘kakebuton’ (thick quilted bedcover).  The traditional Japanese futons are quite different from what we think of here in America.  Japanese futons are much thinner, only about 2 to 3 inches deep and placed upon ‘tatami’ mats.  When not in use the futon is rolled up and put away in a closet.

American Futons-

American futons are descended from the Japanese futon idea, however they are not exactly the same.  American futons are similar in that they were thin, foldable and not terribly supportive mattresses.  However American futons, instead of being stored in a closet were convertible to typically either a couch or love seat.  In the 1970’s, William Brouwer, a furniture designer, who was familiar with the Japanese futon, became convinced that an adaptable bedding product could be useful in the Unites States.   He felt this was especially true in homes like his small Boston apartment and others like it across America.  His vision was to produce something more practical and easy to use than the conventional hide-a-way beds in use at the time.  Brouwer developed a “tri-fold” bed system, essentially a bed frame that was able to fold into a couch or chair.  His bed (the Brouwer bed) was well received, well crafted from fine wood, and even won a national design award.  In addition to the “tri fold” variety, there were other designers throughout the United States creating other “bi-fold” versions which lent themselves to more conventional looking couch designs.

Modern American Bi-Fold Futon Styling

Today’s futons have advanced in style and technology to rival some of the finer sofas and mattresses.  Huge strides in appearance and comfort have made them economical, easy to use, and very nice looking.   Futon frames are typically wood or metal and also have become quite stylish.  You can find futons to fit your needs from very affordable $200 to $300 models at Ikea and other futon ‘Warehouse’ specialists on up to large, very comfortable, king size futon bed systems for $1000 or more.   If you find the Futon comfortable, you will have a lot of options available to you and can also receive quite good value for your bedding dollar.

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