If you’re looking for a spot for guests to spend the night but lack the space or budget for a sleeper sofa, a futon is a great alternative. No longer relegated to dorm rooms and basements, this multifunction seating option offers a less-expensive, slimmer, and more lightweight choice for lounging and hosting overnight guests. Today’s options range from traditional styles that include a frame and mattress to more modern versions that are all one piece and have ends or sides that fold down to create a sleeping surface.
The best futons for overnight guests serve both as a seating area and a sleeping spot. Read on to learn about the types available and how to pick the right option for your space.
- BEST OVERALL: Novogratz Tallulah Memory Foam Futon
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Serta Futons Twin 66.1″ Tufted Back Convertible Sofa
- BEST ADJUSTABLE: Milemont Futon Sofa Bed Memory Foam Couch Sleeper Daybed
- BEST FUTON LOUNGER: DHP Emily Linen Chaise Lounger
- BEST FUTON LOVESEAT: Novogratz Leyla Loveseat, Multifunctional Modern
- BEST TRADITIONAL FUTON: Stanford Futon Set, Full Size Frame and Mattress
- BEST FUTON FRAME: KD Frames Studio Bifold Futon (Full)
Types of Futons
There is a wide range of styles and quality when it comes to the types of futons on the market. In Japan, a futon is simply a mat or a quilted sleeping pad that sits directly on the floor. In the United States, futons are more widely known as a type of mattress alternative that doubles as a seating area during the day. From bifold frames to lounger styles, here are the most common options available.
When you think of a classic futon, a bifold frame often comes to mind. This common style folds once, approximately at the middle of the frame along the length of the mattress. While open, the width usually takes up 54 inches of floor space for a full size mattress and 60 inches for a queen. It is generally easy to fold out for a bed setup and a locking mechanism holds it closed when not in use. When used as a sofa, a bifold frame futon will give you a seating capacity of three to four people at a time, offering additional space over a trifold version.
A trifold frame folds three times along the width of the mattress (like the letter Z), with the additional section being a built-in or separate ottoman. The ottoman piece might sit underneath the frame, hidden from sight when not in use. For compact rooms, this option will take up less wall space, but more floor space (up to 80 inches) since it folds along the width. It also works more like a loveseat in length, seating about two people. Trifold frames come in different sizes, from twin to king, and might be slightly harder to fold out than bifold versions.
If you want a loveseat-size futon, two styles are available. One is a more traditional style that comes with a frame and the other is a 2-piece mattress. The latter style uses an ottoman and the separate mattress piece to create a full-size sleeper. The loveseat will measure about 54 inches square when closed, but with an added ottoman and second mattress piece, the length becomes 75 inches. This is similar to a trifold, but the ottoman and mattress pieces are separate and don’t have the Z fold.
The other type of loveseat futon is similar to a sofa in style, but the sides and back fold down to create a sleeping spot. In this option, the frame is hidden and the loveseat surface acts as the mattress.
For those short on space or looking to sneak in an extra sleeping spot in an already furnished room, a lounger or chair futon could be the answer. With this style, the seat back generally folds down to create a long, flat surface. Use it as an upholstered chaise lounge during the day and a twin fold-down bed at night for a guest.
This solution also works well in a child’s room, either for sleepovers or when they need a parent close by overnight. Loungers come in a variety of styles and materials, so you can choose the look and feel that suits your needs.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Futons
With such a large range of options for futons, it can be tough to know what to look for. Once you decide which style you would like, you’ll want to consider the size, materials, and frame that suit your needs, as well as ease of use and accessories.
Futons are available in several sizes, with mattresses that include twin-, full-, and queen-sized options. It is possible, but not easy, to find king-sized versions as well. When choosing a size, remember that a bifold futon will use more wall space and less floor space, while a trifold option will do the opposite.
Fold-down sofa-style models without a typical mattress offer nearly the same measurements as standard-sized beds when open. When deciding which type will work best for you, consider wall space and measure the room carefully, making sure to leave enough space for the futon to extend fully. Also consider how many overnight guests you plan to host, whether you will need a double or queen for two guests, or if a twin will do the job.
The comfort of a futon depends on the cushioning or mattress design. Memory foam and options with pocket coils, with encased springs to isolate movement, generally are the most comfortable, especially if your choice includes a foam topper. Innerspring and foam and cotton batting versions are reasonably comfortable and usually keep their shape.
Look for mattresses that are at least 6 to 8 inches thick, and even thicker if it will hold two adults. For couch versions, make sure there is ample cushioning, ideally filled with foam and springs, for a comfortable sleeping surface when folded down.
Futon frames can sell separately or in conjunction with a mattress. The most common frame you’ll find for futons is solid hardwood, with the sturdiest being kiln-dried wood. This method removes moisture, making the wood sturdier and less likely to crack. The same goes for sofa-style futons. Though it won’t be exposed, a kiln-dried wood frame is the best option here too. Metal versions also are available, either alone or combined with wood, but are generally less durable than wood alternatives.
Ease of Use
If you’ve ever owned a futon, you know that all are not created equal when it comes to assembly and ease of use. Bifold options typically open by pulling on the bar or handle under the seat. Some versions might require unlatching or unlocking the handle before pulling the seat out.
A trifold futon is a little more complicated. You’ll have to lift up the seat to detach the hidden mattress section, unfold it, and pull out the ottoman portion to rest it on. The back will push down to lay flat.
In a loveseat futon, the third section hides under the main seat, so you’ll have to pull that out and adjust the legs as needed. You’ll then put the lower mattress on this part and fold down the seat back so the rest of the mattress lies flat.
For 1-piece couch- and sofa-style versions, you will usually click and lower each side separately. Some options include a split-back design so each user can lower their back for the desired lounging angle.
When shopping for a traditional futon, make sure to reserve some of your budget for a mattress cover, since this might be just as expensive as the other parts. Similar to couch upholstery, options vary in price and quality. If you’ll be using your futon regularly for seating, make sure to choose a durable fabric like a polyester blend. The best part of having a separate cover is that you can zip it off and either wash or dry clean it if it gets soiled. Other available accessories are pillows, grip pads for the handles, and even cupholders.
Our Top Picks
The best futons will be easy to use and offer style and comfort. Consider some of the following choices as you narrow down your search.
With a vintage design of velvet button-tufted upholstery and wooden legs, the Novogratz Tallulah Memory Foam Futon is a modern sofa and sleeper option in one compact design. It is easy to use and adjust. The backrest features a split back so users can recline independently to multiple positions for lounging and sleeping.
This futon features a wood frame and seats filled with high-density foam and responsive memory foam to offer a comfortable sleeping surface. It measures 83 inches long, 33.5 inches wide, and 32.5 inches high with sleeping dimensions of 73 inches by 44 inches by 17.5 inches and has a weight limit of 600 pounds. It requires no assembly.
The Serta Futons Twin 66.1-inch Tufted Back Convertible Sofa features a metal frame, polyester upholstery, and a button-tufted design at an affordable price. It measures 29.5 inches high, 66.1 inches wide, and 33.1 inches deep, only extending a couple inches more in depth when opened for sleeping. The mattress is 7.1 inches thick and is best for one person, with a weight limit of 264 pounds. The futon includes a patented finger-guard mechanism built in for finger safety when opening it for sleeping. It includes nuts, bolts, and a hex key for assembly.
If one person wants to lounge while the other wants to remain upright, a split-back design like you’ll find in the Milemont Futon Sofa Bed allows each user to operate a side easily and independently. The seat ends of this couch sleeper also have an adjustable design. When folded down, they create a comfortable bed with memory foam cushioning that molds to a sleeper’s body. The black faux leather and chrome legs give this futon a modern design. When folded down, the Milemon couch sleeper measures 70.5 inches by 41.5 inches. Just attach the feet right out of the box for an easy setup.
Measuring 61.5 inches long, 30 inches high, and 32.5 inches deep when closed, the DHP Emily Linen Chaise Lounger is a compact and easy-to-use option. The lounger adds only 9 inches to the length when open. As a sleeping surface, it falls somewhere between a twin- and full-sized bed, comfortably fitting one person. With limited cushioning, it works best for occasional overnight stays. Design features include a squared tufted pattern with slanted chrome legs. This futon can hold 350 pounds and has a quick and easy assembly upon arrival.
Measuring 56 inches wide by 30 inches high and 32 inches deep, the multifunctional Novogratz Leyla Loveseat offers seating for two with easily adjustable sides for lounging. When the armrests are in the sleeper position, the width becomes approximately 76 inches and the sleeper can hold 400 pounds. Linen upholstery and chrome legs contribute to its modern design, while magazine storage pockets on the armrests add a bit of functionality. Assembly is quick, accomplished by attaching the legs and support frame to the seat.
The eco-friendly wood frame of the Stanford Futon Set, Full Size adjusts to three settings, from upright, to fully reclined, to a full-sized bed for optimal comfort. The mattress is made from a multilayer of poly-cotton and four layers of high-density foam, providing medium-to-firm support. Available in 10 colors, the durable microfiber cover is not removable, but can be placed in a slipcover if desired. As a sofa, this futon measures 80 inches wide, 32 inches deep, and 33.5 inches high. As a bed, the width is the same but the depth becomes 54 inches and the height lowers to 22.5 inches. The set is easy to use and assemble, but assembly might require two people.
Eco-friendly and chemical-free, the KD Frames Studio Bifold Futon wood frame is made of unfinished tulip poplar wood for a sturdy base and a natural-looking aesthetic. Without a mattress, it weighs 47 pounds, but the frame comes with wheels for easy mobility.
The frame requires assembly and should take about one to two hours to complete. Once it’s put together, its dimensions are 10 inches high, 74 inches wide, and 54.5 inches deep. It can sleep one to two people and holds up to 600 pounds.
The Advantages of Owning a Futon
Futons do double-duty as a spot for sitting by day and a place to sleep at night. Today’s styles are slim and stylish, providing a good alternative to a more traditional couch, especially when you’re short on space. The smallest version, a fold-out chair, can offer an extra sleeping spot in an office or bedroom. There are also plenty of options when it comes to style, providing shoppers with choices to suit their design aesthetic.
For overnight guests, futons offer advantages over sleeper sofas, such as their more compact size and a lighter-weight frame, not to mention their much lower price tag. Available mattress options, especially innerspring and memory foam, offer plenty of comfort.
Besides the benefits of functionality, the removable cover has its perks too; owners can easily wash out spills or swap out colors or patterns to change up their décor.
- Futons are a more compact, lightweight alternative to sofas.
- They sell at a lower price point than sofas.
- Users can easily change their décor with removable covers.
FAQs About Your New Futon
Wondering if a futon is a better option than a pullout couch or if you can sleep on it every night? Read on for answers to commonly asked questions about futons.
Q. Which is better, a futon or sofa bed?
Each option has its strong points. A futon’s advantage is that it’s more compact, lighter weight, and generally sells at a lower price point.
Q. How thick should a futon mattress be?
A futon mattress should be a minimum of 6-inches thick, but higher than that is preferable, especially for regular adult use.
Q. Is it OK to sleep on a futon every night?
You can sleep on a futon every night as long as you have enough cushioning and support to be comfortable.