Futons are beds that originated in Japan and have been adapted to suit the needs of Westerners. Japanese futons were mattresses made of cotton batting inside a cover and only a few centimeters thick.
They were placed on the floor and in the morning rolled up and stood upright against the wall to save space. They were often left in the sun for a proper airing and afterwards beaten with a stick to keep them clean and dust-free.
In the West cotton batting layers were added for more comfort; but as this added too much weight, a mixture of cotton and polyester was later used. These thicker mattresses could not be rolled up, so they were placed on frames and left there throughout the day.
These frames are manufactured either from steel or from various kinds of wood such as oak, mahogany or teak. The base is slatted to allow air to circulate. Futons can easily be moved from room to room because the mattress is removable and flexible.
The great advantage of a futon is its space-saving properties. To compensate for the heavier Western mattresses on a bed frame, the frames can be folded to form a chair or couch. The futon mattress can be used to sit on during the day and to sleep on at night, making it very versatile.
This saves money, as one piece of furniture does the duty of two. It is therefore ideal not only in a small apartment, but also for people on a limited budget or starting off on their own.
Futons are also ideal as occasional beds for when you have visitors. They are available in single beds that fold up into a single chair, double or even queen sized beds that fold into two or three seater couches. These can be only slightly raised off the ground or quite high, depending on the height of the frame legs.
A platform futon bed is the traditional type of bed frame lifted off the floor on legs. A wall hugger is designed to fit flush against a wall, saving a lot of space.
The Click Clack futon can be folded into several different positions, such as flat for a bed, raised for a couch or even as a high back chair. Some futon beds are made as box frames with reclining backs, foot rests and ample storage space.
American futon manufacturers have even added mattresses with inner springs, pocket springs and coils for further comfort. More luxurious beds even have electric frames with built-in massagers for extra relaxation. Futons are generally good for your back, as the firm surface keeps the spine straight.
An added bonus is the fact that futons have loose covers over the mattress. This means they are easy to remove and clean. For a change in the room decor, only the cover of the futon needs to be changed to match the rest of the furnishings. Loose cushions and a throw in fashion colours can be added if the futon is used as a couch during the day.
A very affordable wood for futon frames is pine. Pine beds have light wood and will match decor with a lighter colour. It is still a strong wood and forms a very sturdy base. When choosing a futon bed, remember to lie down on it for some minutes at a time in the store to feel whether the level of comfort is acceptable.