Tiny Tuesday: The Humble Futon

If you’d like to free up space in your house, your bed is a good place to start. When you’re sleeping, you’re not working or cooking or entertaining, and vice versa. It follows that wherever your bed is at night, it doesn’t have to stay there during the day.

We’ve looked at the Murphy bed, a system in which the bed disappears into a wall when not in use. A futon takes a different approach: turn the bed into another piece of furniture, namely a sofa. It’s a western spin on the traditional Japanese futon, which is just a mattress (no frame) that rolls up to air out and store during the day. And you can still take the traditional Japanese route, though you might find it uncomfortable and a little too much work. Or you can choose a modern futon, which preserves the shape-shifting aspect of the original and adds a frame that folds into the shape of a couch.

A traditional Japanese futon rolls up like an air mattress. (Flickr - creative commons)

A traditional Japanese futon rolls up like an air mattress. (Flickr – creative commons)

Variations on this concept abound: bifold or trifold, lengthwise or widthwise, twin beds to queens and chaises to three-seater sofas. The mattresses are up to 10 inches thick, and they usually contain layers of wool and foam allowing them to bend. I actually find them more comfortable than coil mattresses, as over time they compress and become more supportive. My most prized piece of furniture is a full-size futon from Bedworks in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The hardwood frame converts from bed to sofa and back again with the push of just two fingers, once you get the hang of it. I kept a foot of clear space between the couch and the wall, so when I converted I didn’t even need to move the frame.

Bedworks futon in bed form.

Bedworks futon in bed form.

But no need to take my word… go hunting and find your own versatile sleeping arrangement. And by the way, if you ever happen to open a bed store of your own, I highly recommend naming it “Back to the Futon.”

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