The Differences Between Futons and Sofa Beds & How to Choose One

If you’re in the market for a piece of furniture that doubles as a traditional sofa and a sleeping space, you’re in luck. Today we’re going to review your two best options: futons and sofas. We’ll review their pros and cons and best use cases for your lifestyle so you can decide which option is best for you. 

First, why would someone buy a sleeper sofa or futon mattress? Well, they’re a great way to maximize space in small apartments. Whether it’s because you live in a studio apartment or that you need a place for guests to sleep and don’t have a guest room, futons and sofa beds provide a great resource. 

Major Differences Between Futons and Sofa Beds

Futon beds and sofa sleepers are both dual-purpose pieces of furniture that can be used in small spaces like dorm rooms or in multi-functional areas like the living room. They also both use flexible, foldable mattresses but they differ significantly in their appearance and construction.

Futons vs. Sofa Beds:

  • Futons are made with a metal frame and transition between a 90-degree angle and a 180-degree angle. Futon mattresses can also come in various sizes from a twin to a queen size and firmness levels: firm, medium, and soft.
  • Sofa beds are made with a wood frame and when the bed is in a folded position and stored, it looks like a traditional sofa. The mattress size will depend on sofa size and is typically either a full or queen. In terms of firmness, sofa bed mattresses tend to have only one firmness level as they must be compressed quite a bit more than a futon mattress. 
  • The futon doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a bed, whereas a sofa bed completely hides a fold-out mattress under its seat cushions. Once the cushions are removed, the bed can be pulled out and unfolded. 

Now that we know the major differences between futons and sofa beds. Let’s take a closer look at the major advantages and disadvantages of both.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Futons

Futon Advantages

  • Lightweight/Portable
  • Convenient open/close
  • Mattress firmness options
  • Better sleep

Futons are not just lightweight and portable, but also very easy to fold up and sit out- making them a convenient option. Futon mattresses come in various levels of firmness for comfort level and sleep preference, making them more likely to give a good night’s sleep. Additionally, different sizes of futons are available to accommodate different sized mattresses. 

Futon Disadvantages

  • Potentially uncomfortable seating/sleeping
  • Looks like a bed, not a sofa

The metal bars that make up the futon frame tend to be a very hard foundation and can make lounging and sleep uncomfortable if you sacrifice a quality mattress to save on price. Additionally, there is no way to hide that this is both a bed and a seating area. Even in the seated position, the folded mattress is a dead giveaway. As a compromise, a futon cover can be purchased to give the futon frame a slightly more sofa-like appearance.

Sofa Beds: Advantages and Disadvantages 

Sofa Bed Advantages

  • Size options
  • Looks like a traditional sofa
  • More comfortable to sit on

Sofa beds do come in a couple size options depending on the size of the sofa structure. In addition, as the exterior is a fully upholstered, standard couch, you can easily hide the bed frame that lies within. In addition, the wood frame and memory foam cushions provide a more comfortable experience when the sofa is in the sitting position.

Sofa Bed Disadvantages

  • Thinner mattress, no firmness options 
  • Less comfortable
  • Heavy
  • Not portable like the futon

Unfortunately, most sofa beds do not have options to choose between different levels of mattress firmness. This can make for a less comfortable experience, particularly as sofa bed mattresses degrade more over time. In addition, they also tend to be very heavy and difficult to move without help upstairs or through narrow hallways. This is a huge disadvantage for multi-story buildings and dorms. 

Choosing Between Futons and Sofa Beds 

Now that you know the main differences between the futon and the sofa bed, as well as their advantages and disadvantages, you are well on your way to making your selection. While both pieces of furniture are great for small spaces and multipurpose rooms, you ultimately have to decide on what factors mean more to you?

Will your convertible sofa be your primary bed or used frequently by guests? If that’s the case, a futon might be best because it tends to provide more comfort. Would you rather have something that looks like a standard sofa or loveseat that just so happens to include a fold out bed for occasional guests? Then a sofa bed is likely the better option. 

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