Futon vs. Sofa Bed: How to Choose the Right One?

Futon vs sofa bed
If you’re looking for space-saving piece of furniture that can work as both a traditional sofa and a sleeper sofa, you’ve probably looked at both sofa beds and futons as options.

Both sofa beds and futons are great options if you’re looking to create a little extra sleeping space and don’t have a guest room. Whether you’re trying to maximise space in a small apartment or want to add some extra sleeping space in your living room, futons and sofa beds can do the job.

But which one is the better option, and what are the key differences between the two?

In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about futons and sofa beds so you can make the right choice.

Futons and Sofa Beds: What You Need to Know

What is a Futon?

In the words of Kaitlyn Oakes, owner and interior designer of Decorating Den Interiors - Kaitlyn Oakes, "A futon is a lower-seated sofa that can be folded out into a bed, usually with a wood or metal frame."

A futon tends to consist of two main parts: a thin, flexible mattress and a frame that allows it to be converted between a bed and a sofa. Futons are designed for frequent conversion — they’re very lightweight, easy to move around, and are perfect for small living spaces that need a versatile piece of furniture that can be used for seating and sleeping alike. Futon mattresses are also available in a range of sizes and firmnesses to help accommodate your comfort level needs.

Brittany Futon
The Novogratz's Brittany Futon

As Kaitlyn points out, "While futons have been around for many years, they typically get a bad reputation as being college kid dorm room furniture. However, they have come a long way in the modern-day furniture industry." These days, futons are not just functional but also have a unique aesthetic that can add a touch of Japanese-inspired design to any room.

What is a Sofa Bed?

On the other hand, "A sofa bed looks just like a traditional sofa,” says Oakes. But the main difference between a futon and a sofa bed is that a sofa bed has a complete mattress folded inside of it. “Typically the seat cushions are removed, and the mattress can be pulled out from there [to create a sleeping space],” adds Oakes.

Sleeper sofas typically offer a larger sleeping surface and are more comfortable for long-term use than futons. "The major difference between the two would be that the mattress is hidden away in the sofa bed, and when it's not folded out, it looks just like your average sofa," says Kaitlyn.

Article's Nordby Sofa Bed
Article's Nordby Sofa Bed

Sofa beds (also known as convertible sofas) are also generally more comfortable than futons, with thicker mattresses and more supportive frames. Sofa beds also tend to be more comfortable when in a sitting position too. "Given the extra support of the sofa cushions and the complete mattress inside the sofa, sofa beds are typically much more comfortable than futons," Oakes adds. She also notes that "many sofa beds also have the option of memory foam mattresses for even more comfort."

Review: Article Nordby Sofa Bed Review: A 2-Seater Sleeper Sofa

Key Differences Between Futons and Sofa Beds

Now that we know what both pieces of furniture are, let's examine the critical differences between futons and sofa beds.

Design and Aesthetics

Futon frames have a minimalist design and are available in a range of colors and fabrics. They are perfect for anyone who wants a clean and straightforward look but still wants a comfortable place to sit or sleep. Sofa beds, on the other hand, are available in a wider range of styles and are some options are more customizable, give you a range of upholstery choices, armrests, legs, and more.

Comfort and Support

When it comes to overall comfort, sofa beds are typically more comfortable than futons. They offer more support, and the mattress is usually thicker than a futon mattress — the mattress also tends to be hidden away so it won’t look like a bed frame when it’s not in use.

There also tends to be less that futons when it comes to sofa bed mattresses choices.

Ease of Use and Conversion

One of the major advantages of futons is how easy they are to use and convert. Futons can typically be transformed from a bed to a sleeping space and vice versa in less than a minute. Sofa beds, on the other hand, can be more challenging to convert between a sofa and a bed, and may require some extra assistance.

Durability and Lifespan

When it comes to durability, sofa beds generally outlast futons. Sofa beds are built to withstand years of use, whereas futons can wear out faster due to frequent conversions.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Futon and Sofa Bed

Space and Room Layout

The amount of space you have in your home can play a significant role in determining which piece of furniture is best for you. Futons are generally designed for small spaces, whereas sofa beds can require a bit more room, unless you find a smaller, loveseat-sized sleeper sofa. At the other end of the scale, if you have a larger room, some sofa beds come with queen or king-size mattresses.

Budget and Price Range

On average, futons are less expensive than sofa beds. If you're on a tight budget, a futon may be the better option for you.

Intended Use and Frequency

Consider how frequently you'll be using the piece of furniture and for what purpose. If you plan to use it primarily for sleeping, a sofa bed is the better option. If you want something that’s more flexible and can easily be moved between spaces for sleepovers, then a futon would be best.

Personal Style and Preferences

Your personal taste and style should also play a role in your decision-making process. Futons tend to blend with most interior design styles, but sofa beds come in a much larger range of options and there will be options that fit whatever style you already have at home.

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Making the Right Choice Between a Futon and Sofa Bed

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing between these furniture pieces. Both futons and sofa beds have their place and the best option for you will ultimately depend on your preferences, lifestyle, and budget.

But if you’re looking for a high-quality sleeping option, a sofa bed might just edge it it most cases. As Kaitlyn Oakes puts it, "I would say a sofa bed is almost the right option for everyone. However, if you are looking for a low-cost sitting/sleeping solution, the futon may be the right choice for you."

At the end of the day, you need to find the option that best suits your unique needs and situation. So take your time, weigh the pros and cons, and choose wisely.

Meet the expert

Living Cozy works closely with leading industry experts to bring you the best, expert-driven content. In this article, you'll hear from Kaitlyn Oakes, owner and interior designer of Decorating Den Interiors - Kaitlyn Oakes.

Written by
Ash Read
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
Ash Read
Written by
Ash Read
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
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