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Types of Fold Out Sofa Beds and Futons

Updated on May 19, 2013

The Benefits of Sofa Beds and Futons

Finding room for relatives and friends to stay can be tricky, but having a sofa bed or futon in the living room means you don't need a separate guest room.

Sofa beds and futons are real space savers that allow you to use rooms for more than one purpose. They are probably the most commonly used dual-purpose items of furniture. Refined by manufacturers over the years, modern versions are comfortable to sleep on, as well as to sit on, and they certainly do help with making the most of small-space living.

With a sofa bed or futon, you can turn a child's bedroom into a teenager's study-cum-bedroom, or an under-used guest bedroom into a workroom or sewing room. You can also solve the problem of limited space in studio apartments extremely effectively.

The type of bed you choose depends on who is most likely to sleep on it. While children and teenagers are usually happy to sleep anywhere, older people need a bed that provides more support and comfort. Also, consider whether the bed will be in constant or occasional use.

Futons, which are thick cotton bed rolls with wood or metal bases, are generally a little harder than a sprung or foam sofa bed, so when buying either a sofa bed or a futon, make sure that you lie on it to test it - just as you would with a normal bed. Test it as a sofa, too. It may be that, with certain convertible options, comfort and support are less important than the overall look.

Sofa beds provide both seating and a bed and they are designed to transform from one to another with the minimum of fuss. Sofa beds can look every bit as stylish as normal sofas. With the top of the range models, it is hard to distinguish between a conventional sofa and a sofa bed. They can also be just as comfortable as normal sofas and come in almost as many different shapes and sizes.

With the large range of choices of modern or traditional styles, including upholstered or show-wood frames and printed, woven, or damask cover fabrics, you can be confident of finding a sofa bed to complement your d├ęcor. However, some manufacturers offer customers an "own cover" service if you prefer it.

One point to remember about sofa beds is that they are deeper from front to back than a conventional sofa. You should take this into account when you plan to replace an old sofa with a sofa bed, and want to place it in exactly the same place.

Types of Sofa Bed

There are basically four types of sofa bed: the fold-out sofa bed, the flip-over or flop-out sofa bed, the A-frame sofa bed, and the drop-end sofa.

Fold-Out Sofa Bed

Usually top of the range, these sofa beds are the most popular choice for the living room. Some are available as part of a full suite range with matching fixed sofas and chairs. These sofa beds have quality foam or sprung mattresses folded away inside. They have a sophisticated spring-loaded opening mechanism, which usually pulls out from the center of the sofa frame. The bed base is supported on an additional pair of legs. A wire mesh base is the least expensive option, but is not very durable. For regular use, choose a base made from laminated wooden slats because these provide good support while still allowing the air to circulate for freshness.

You cannot put a fold-out sofa bed away with bedding left on it, so they aren't ready for immediate occupation. Check that your existing bed linen fits the sofa bed you buy. This can be a problem because mattresses come in various non-standard sizes. A three-seater sofa, for example, may accommodate a 51 1/2in mattress.

Flip-Over Sofa Bed

With no separate mattress, this type of sofa bed simply unfolds directly onto the floor, so that the solid foam seat becomes the sleeping area. On some models the back unfolds too. Other versions incorporate a tailored duvet or quilt as a sofa cover, under which your guests can sleep.

Flip-over designs are perfect for children or for overnight guests, as they are easy to operate. However, once opened, they are generally too close to the floor for the elderly; they find them difficult to get into and out of.

A-Frame Sofa Bed

The seat and the back on the A-frame sofa form the bed - either single or double. Some types have a quilted cover that you can use as a duvet; others offer storage underneath in which to stow away bed covers during the day.

Drop-End Sofa Bed

This is the perfect option for a studio apartment. By means of a few levers, the sofa converts to a chaise longue, a single, or in some cases, even a small double bed. In many styles, you can fix the sides of the sofa at different angles, from horizontal for sleeping, to slightly angled for reading or watching TV.

Other Options

Many clever variations exist, especially for children's rooms, but check how comfortable and supportive the bed is before you buy.

Sofas are also available that have a single foam bed on sprung legs that pulls out from underneath. This "studio bed" is a useful alternative where singles as well as doubles are needed.

There are also many different sorts of chair available, from flip-over ottomans to fold-out bed chairs.

The table bed is a further ingenious variation. It is a coffee table or stool by day, but its hard outer casing opens out to become a bed by night.

Introducing The Futon

Futon is the Japanese word for bedroll. It is a lightweight cotton or wool-mix filled mattress. Unrolled at night and used as a mattress on the floor or on a bed base, it gives good, even support to the sleeper and provides a smooth, springy surface to cushion the back. By day, you can roll it up for more room.

There are dozens of ways to use futons. You can sleep on them, sit on them, lay them flat on the floor, or on a variety of bases from tatami mats (the traditional Japanese base made of compacted rice straw) to conventional bed bases. Particularly suitable where space is at a premium, you can roll up the futon completely to store it in a cupboard during the day or convert it into a comfortable low-level sofa. Futons often come with a wooden frame -these are now available in a wide range of styles to suit most decors.

The traditional futon is made up of three thin layers of filling, strategically tufted to ensure that the filling stays in place and doesn't eventually become lumpy. The slim format of the mattress means that air can circulate. Futons made from six layers of filling are also available, but are more difficult to fold up when not in use.

Futons absorb moisture during the night, just like any other type of bed. They need a regular airing to keep fresh and springy. Rolling the futon up and using it as a seat during the day is sufficient to air it thoroughly. Futon bases with narrowly spaced wooden slats let the air circulate at all times.

Futons are quite difficult to clean, so it is well worth buying one with a removable cover. These are available in a tempting range of plain, patterned, and hand-printed fabrics. You can

Children's Options

A child's bedroom usually lacks the space to accommodate a permanent extra bed, yet it is often your children's friends who need somewhere to stay. A perfect solution to this sleep-over problem is a dual-purpose bed that can be used as a seat at other times. The following options do not take up much room when set up as a bed or chair because they are especially scaled down for children. Inexpensive and tough, they can be positioned wherever you want and you can make them up at a moment's notice.

Hardy, small-scale flip-over chairs with or without arms make excellent everyday seating in a child's room and they can be opened as a bed when a friend arrives. Ottoman versions are available. These are simply three or more squares of foam stacked and sewn together so they're easy to fold and unfold with the minimum of fuss.

How To Set Up Your Bifold Futon


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