by Staff Writer
With so many styles available, futons have become a popular choice for living room sofas. Whether you need a sofa that turns into a bed for the occasional guest or you want a bed that can turn into a couch during the day for a small apartment, a futon is thee perfect choice. Here's what to look for when you're shopping.
Frame styles: There are two types of futon frames to choose from: bi-fold or tri-fold. Most futons are bi-folds, but each style has benefits.
Bi-fold futon frames are the industry standard and the ones you're likely to find everywhere. Bi-fold futons have arms and legs like regular sofas, and the cushion folds once down the middle. Most of the bi-fold futon frames you'll find now have a system of rollers that allows the futon frame to be converted from the sitting position to the sleeping position smoothly. This is known as a "slider" mechanism. Some bi-fold frames are called "wall-hugger" frames because when they fold down, they pull away from the wall so that you don't have to move the entire frame to turn your futon into a bed.
Tri-fold futon frames were actually the first frames on the market. These futon frames fold three times instead of two. Some have legs and some sit directly on the floor (picture someone kneeling and sitting on their heels). The high-end tri-folds have legs and unfold into a nice large sleeping area, as do those that sit on the floor.
Futon frame materials: Unlike most sofas, futons usually have an exposed frame, which means that the material of the frame makes a difference in the look of your futon. Most futon frames are made from either metal or wood.
Metal frames are durable and inexpensive. If you're shopping for a futon on a budget or if you simply want a cheap futon for your child's dorm, a futon with a metal frame may be a great choice. Metal futons usually come in attractive matte black finishes that can go with almost any decor.
Wood frames are usually made from high-quality timber, which often increases the price of a wooden futon. However, if you want your futon to not simply match with but complement your decor, wooden futons are good choices because they come in many attractive woods and finishes, from stained cherry wood to varnished maple.
Futon mattresses: Futon manufacturers have found a number of ways to make a futon mattress that folds easily and yet remains soft as long as you use it, usually by combining cotton batting with other materials. Cotton and polyester mattresses maintain loft for longer than cotton would alone. Cotton and foam mattresses are the most common kind of futon mattress. Cotton and foam futons have excellent rigidity and don't sag. Innerspring futon mattresses offer a level of comfort that you can only get with an innerspring mattress construction. They are a bit heavier than most other futons and are a bit more expensive than other futon mattresses, but of all the futon mattress varieties, they feel the most like a regular mattress.
Futon covers: Since futons are used for sleeping and sitting, they receive a fair amount of traffic. One way to protect your futon mattress from spills and general wear and tear is to use a futon cover. A futon cover slips over your futon mattress, changing the look of the mattress as well as protecting it. If you spill something on a futon cover, you can slide the cover off and wash it. Not all contemporary futons are made to be used with covers, however, so if you feel you need this protection, be sure to read the description carefully.