Buying a Futon Frame - What to Look For

Western futons are derived from a traditional Japananese style of bedding in which a shikibuton (mattress) is used on a tatami mat on the floor with a kakebuton (quilted cover) on the top and a pillow filled with beans. Both mattress and cover are very flexible so that they can be rolled up and stored in a cupboard during the day.

Traditional futons are about two inches thick with a cotton filling and a fabric cover and are usually sold in complete sets in specialist shops called futon-ya. They are aired regularly by leaving outside in the sun and are often beaten with a tool made from bamboo to keep them soft and flexible.

Futon airing at the Maison Yamanaka
Futon airing at the Maison Yamanaka

In the West futons are frequently used with a frame to raise the mattress above the ground. You can buy futon frames in either bifold or trifold designs. The most common design is the bifold frame and this is one you will find most frequently in the shops or when buying a futon frame online. Futons look like sofa beds except that their frames can be seen on the outside.

Cheaper frames are laid on the floor while more expensive frames are raised above the ground on legs. In this type of frame the back support is kept upright by a pin which links it to the seat. When changing to a sleeping position this pin allows the seat to revolve around into the correct position. More expensive frames sometimes use a roller system instead is used which is easier to manipulate.

In order to change the frame from seating to sleeping position it will have to be moved into the middle of the room to give it more space. This can be inconvenient in a small room so an alternative is available called a wall hugger frame. With this type of frame you can pivot the seat and back into the correct position without needing to pull it away from the wall. This makes it ideal if you only have a small space, for instance in a small apartment or a dorm room.

Metal bi fold futon frame with mattress
Metal bi fold futon frame with mattress

Metal Futon Frames

Metal futon frames are much less expensive than wooden frames, are attractive and long-lasting. Most manufacturers make them in white, black and chrome. A popular color for futon frames is black as it blends in with the decor in most homes. Metal futon frames are strong enough for the heaviest person to sleep on, yet light enough to effortlessly shift around. Couch or chair metal futons change into full size, queen or twin beds. You could even buy drink tables to attach to the arms!

Arts & Crafts Style Futon in Natural Wood Finish
Arts & Crafts Style Futon in Natural Wood Finish

Wood Futon Frames

Wood futon frames are typically constructed from superior quality hardwood including ash, oak, maple, poplar or yellow pine. Lumber from tropical forests is not usually used as it will to dry out in the heated atmosphere in most homes and may crack. White pine is much too soft to stand up to the stress a futon frame has to will be subjected to. Several cheap frames may well be fastened with staples and will not last for very. See if you can find a frame with dowel and screw connections or even better tenon and mortise joints as they will be stronger.

Click here for more details on the Arts & Crafts Style Futon in Natural Wood Finish

Savannah Twin over Futon Bunk Bed
Savannah Twin over Futon Bunk Bed

Types of Futons

Futon frames and mattresses can be purchased in full size queen, twin, bunk and chair models. Futon bunks are particularly suitable for childrens rooms as some models have a desk incorporated in the lower part of the bunk plus a futon chair or other models can be seperated into two twin sized beds. Full size futons are the best size if you want to use it as a couch during the day as they can comfortably seat three people and sleep two.

Savannah Twin over Futon Bunk Bed

Rugged good looks and quality construction ensure this futon bunk bed will make a great addition to any bedroom.

Click here for more details of the Savannah Twin over Futon Bunk Bed

Futon Covers

You should always use a futon cover with your mattress as they are not usually washable so you need to protect them from dirt and spills. This is especially important if you use your futon directly on the floor. Most of the futon covers you can buy are machine washable but there are some that are dry clean only so make sure you check the cleaning instructions before you buy.

They are available in a wide range of colours and designs so there's sure to be one to suit your decor! Also ensure that ypu buy the correct size for your mattress which will be either full size (the most popular), queen size, twin or chair. Some covers are made in a box style, with deep borders to make your futon look more like upholstered furniture. Designs vary with one of the more common being a solid coloured back with a patterned upper cover and borders.


Once you have used a futon I can guarantee that you won't go back to a regular bed! You will love the comfort and convenience and whether you buy a wood or metal frame your futon will last you for years of hardwearing service. If you buy once for an occasional guest bed it can still be used daily as a chair or sofa or you could buy a bunk type futon for the childrens room.

When you decorate or paint your room it's easy to refurbish your futon to fit your new decor by simply buying a new cover in an attractive design.

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