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Your Guide to Choosing a Sofa Bed

Updated on May 14, 2013
Not all sofa beds are double, this is a great example of a single sofa bed.
Not all sofa beds are double, this is a great example of a single sofa bed.

As we are all probably familiar with, a sofa bed is a type of sofa that serves two purposes. By day it serves as a seating area and by night it can be transformed into a bed thanks to its special design features. There are various types of sofa beds based not only on styles but also in terms of construction and operation. This hub will review the different types available and what they are most suited for.

The Wooden or Metal Futon

The futon is a style of bedding of Japanese origin that is made up of padded mattresses and a bed cover, both bendable enough to be folded and put into storage when not in use. The Western interpretation of this kind of bedding has a couch made of either a wooden or metallic frame that is suited to regular use as a sofa. If you're interested in buying a futon you should check whether the mattress is part of the couch, or if it has to be stored separately. If it has to be stored separately then this could become a bit of an inconvenience.

The frame is able to fold and unfold midway, and most offer really easy mechanisms that make this a snap. Another benefit is that the bed cover is changeable - meaning that if you fancy a change of décor, or simply need to wash the cover then you can easily do so. There are a number of advantages of owning a futon over other types of sofa beds. The major one being the fact that the mattress is not stored within the couch; it minimizes the need of having a thinner mattress if it did have to be stored within the couch. A disadvantage of the futon is that it can look somewhat odd when used primarily as a couch in the living room, as they usually have quite a distinctively sofa bed appearance.

This is a very simple pine futon sofa bed. You can get more complicated designs that look more like a regular sofa, however this is one of the cheaper models available that will be kind on your purse.
This is a very simple pine futon sofa bed. You can get more complicated designs that look more like a regular sofa, however this is one of the cheaper models available that will be kind on your purse.

Corner Sofa Beds

Corner sofas are (as their name suggests) sofas designed at a right angle so that they can conveniently fit into a corner of a room. Their design allows them a higher seating capacity than a regular two or three seater sofa, and they help to add visual interest. They can be used as a method of making a room seem larger as they give a lot of seating in a neat corner space. Amongst the luxury versions of sofa beds, they are typically fabricated using speciality fabrics that are often more expensive than other cheap sofa beds such as futons or foam varieties.

Their frames are pretty much always metal-action frames, and allow one to discreetly hide the bed when not in use using an easy 'cantilever type' folding mechanism. These types of sofa beds may also come in handy in the sense that some come with storage space (in the side not being used as the sleeping area) thus having the functionality of seating, sleeping and storage all in one attractive couch. The downside of the corner sofa bed is that it may not be suitable for all kinds of rooms, for example rooms that aren't rectangular or square, or don't have a long run of a straight wall. They are also notably cumbersome to move and believe me, they aren't easy to transfer between rooms!

A lovely example of a leather corner sofa bed. These are quite expensive, but then again you're buying a bed and a sofa, so definitely better value than buying both separately!
A lovely example of a leather corner sofa bed. These are quite expensive, but then again you're buying a bed and a sofa, so definitely better value than buying both separately!

The 'Metal Action' Sofa Bed

Although the name sounds a bit reminiscent of a computer game, the metal action pull out bed is one of the types of sofa bed that has borrowed its design from the regular couch. The functionality of this type of sofa as a bed is facilitated by an ingenious design that neatly tucks away a folding metallic frame within the couch. To convert the sofa into a bed, the cushions are removed and then the sofa's cover too (in some cases). The metallic frame is then conveniently pulled and rolled out from the confines of the couch. They are usually really easy to pull-out, as they have sprung frames that enable it to be converted within just a few seconds. A mattress can then be placed on the couch and et voila it's ready for sleeping on.

The main benefit of this type is that it fits just as perfectly as a regular couch would in a lounge when the metallic frame is retracted and the cover and cushions are repositioned. There is a catch though. Due to the complexity of the metal frame these aren't the cheapest option available, and are always more expensive than their foam counterparts, however they are likely to give your guests a better night's sleep.

A leather metal-action sofa bed.
A leather metal-action sofa bed.

The Basic Foam Pull Out Sofa Bed

Foam cushioned pull-out sofa beds are another variety that borrows their design from regular sofas. The foam pull out bed has a folding permanent foam cushion that is large enough to be a bed and also serves a seating function when made into a couch. The foam cushion is folded into the couch when not in use as a bed.

It has similar advantages to the metal action beds mentioned previously in that it looks absolutely fine when located in a lounge due to its obvious sofa-like appearance and the fact that this type of bed is typically more compact. However, some of the drawbacks are that the foam cushion may slide out of position when people are seated on the sofa, and that your guests will effectively be sleeping at floor-level. Metal action sofa beds, on the other hand, have the advantage that guests are raised off the ground by about a foot. By being seated at floor level this makes the foam pull-out variety harder for elderly guests to sleep on, and typically won't be quite as comfortable.

On the plus side you can pick up some real bargains of these, even from just £95 in Ikea.

This simple pull out foam sofa bed is probably one of the cheapest you can buy that still has the look of a sofa. Available from Ikea for around £95 it represents excellent value for money for a occasional-use sofa bed.
This simple pull out foam sofa bed is probably one of the cheapest you can buy that still has the look of a sofa. Available from Ikea for around £95 it represents excellent value for money for a occasional-use sofa bed.

Conclusion

I have discussed the merits and drawbacks to the four main types of sofa beds currently available. The one you choose will ultimately be based on your preferences in terms of space available, the style you want to achieve, and your budget. Here are a few good examples of different models and styles available.

As a handy little tip, eBay is often a great place for finding a bargain sofa bed, as you can filter the search results by distance to your home location. Many couch or sofa bed listings typically go for a rock-bottom price, as there are usually so many people selling theirs to make way for a newer model. You could set up a saved search that notifies you of new listings within your area - that way you are able to quickly find new bargains to be had without having to go back on every day and search manually.

What type of sofa bed do you have or like?

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