Futons are Western interpretations of the Japanese “shikibuton.” According to Futons.org, a shikibuton was a stuffed mattress placed on a special mat or flooring called a tatami. It was spread out when needed and then, folded and stored in a closet after use.
Futons for Fun and Functionality
How yesterday’s favorite space-savers have grown up and evolved.
- by J.D. Walker
You could say that futons are all grown up. From their early introduction into the United States in the 1970s, futons have evolved beyond the college dorm to become elegant and functional additions to many American homes.
Evolutions in Comfort and Style
Many Baby Boomers and even later generations can recall crashing at a friend’s apartment on that innovative space-saver: the futon. Those memories may not be especially fond. While eminently practical, the futons of the 1970s weren’t always so comfortable. Style choices were limited, too. That’s no longer the case.
“Futons are the most versatile furniture out there,” says Tracy Hamlin, spokesperson for Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company. “They can go into any room in the house. They’re inexpensive, compared to traditional mattresses, and great space-savers. Since we began manufacturing futons in the late 1980s, demand for futons has grown exponentially.”
By day, the futon can be a comfortable sofa or chair. At night, it folds down to become a bed. The futon originated in Japan and was called a shikibuton, where it was spread out on the floor when needed. Western futons came up off the floor onto a platform or deck.
While cotton-stuffed futons are still available, these days consumers can also purchase their futon mattress filled with wool, latex or foam, including some materials that are certified organic, says Hamlin. For those who want a more traditional mattress, Hamlin says Hickory Springs’ Inner-Vator line is one of several that feature a flexible innerspring futon. “The mattress on the Inner-Vator is a full 10-inches thick."
Futon frames have evolved as much—if not more—than their mattress components. Today’s frames are available in styles ranging form classic wood to sleek metal designs. And while the bi-fold futon is the one most often thought of, futons are also manufactured as tri-fold and platform beds.
When shopping for a futon, Hamlin says a key feature should be a sturdy base or deck. Make certain the mechanics that allow the bed to transition from an upright position to a flat position work smoothly. Finally, test the bed for comfort by stretching out on it in the showroom.
“Above all, don’t settle for a run-of-the-mill product,” says Hamlin. “A well-made futon can last a long time as a safe, comfortable, durable piece of furniture in the home.”