What Is Futon? Here's What You Need To Know

Are you looking to furnish a small space or are you on a budget? If so, you might wonder, what is a futon? Here's what you need to know before you buy.

It wasn’t too long ago when I was a college kid trying to furnish a cramped city apartment. Though I won’t tell you how long ago, I will tell you I needed affordable furniture to help fill my first place in Pittsburgh. And it had me asking myself: What is a futon?

Maybe you can relate to having lived in an impossibly tiny space. Or maybe you have learned to appreciate stretching every dollar. If so, you also may wonder: What is a futon?

Divano Roma Furniture Collection Splitback

What is Futon?

People who wonder, "What is a futon?" often wonder where they came from.

Futons originated in Japan, where they were not much more than rolled out mattresses placed on the floor. Since then, the futon has certainly evolved. Nowadays, futons are a brilliant blend between couch and bed.

Futon mattresses rest on frames made most commonly of metal or wood. Futons can sit upright like a couch or fold out like a bed to provide a sleeping option. If you want to design a small space or are on a budget, you want to know all you can about futons and where to get the best futon mattress.

What Are the Differences Between a Couch and a Futon?

Maybe you're still wondering, "What is a futon?" How does it differ from a couch? Futons might even look like a couch to the casual observer. However, there are some key differences between a couch and a futon.


A couch is a cushioned, upholstered piece of furniture that people sit or lay on, usually while watching television or hosting guests. Oftentimes, the couch doubles as a sleeping space for overnight visitors. You can even buy couches that have a pull-out bed.

On the plus side, couches come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. Some couches are sleek and designed for appearance. Other couches serve the purpose of comfort with fluffy cushions and plush pillows.

For many years, couches were a rectangular shape. Nowadays, many couches “wrap around” in an L-shape to accommodate more people.

Downsides to couches include price and size. A decent couch can run you a large price tag. It's also worth noting how much space a couch can take up.


Like couches, futons provide stylish seating options. Oftentimes, futons can be found in living rooms or offices. Similar to couches, futons offer a variety of styles and colors. And like couches, futons come either with armrests or not.

Unlike most couches, however, futons offer the option of folding out into a sleeping space. Sleeper sofas serve this function, except the bed is tucked into the sofa.

Futons are the bed themselves, and they're much easier to fold down.

Benefits of futons include their price, versatility, and usability. And they are usually less expensive than couches and serve more functions.

What Can a Futon Be Used For?

In addition to wondering, "What is a futon?" you might also wonder what they can be used for. Futons serve a wide range of functions and provide many benefits to owners and guests alike.


Futons offer comfortable seating options for relaxation. A futon is a great idea if you want to furnish your living room or office and save space. In such a space, a futon is a suitable seating option for you or guests.

You can place your futon in your living room and watch television. Or maybe you can host the next game night with your friends. If you work remotely or have a home office, a futon would be a comfortable seating addition.


A futon is hard to beat for sleeping. A major benefit of a futon over a couch is that a futon sleeps one to two people comfortably. Most non-sleeper couches can only accommodate one person.

The most common type of couch is a traditional three-seat sofa. Maybe you have one just like this. When hosting guests, fitting such a couch with bed sheets is cumbersome and unwieldy. Just when your guest gets comfortable at night, snap! The fitted sheet comes loose from the couch.

A futon mattress closely resembles a traditional mattress. That means sheets fit snugly and easily.

Additionally, a futon saves space in both a living and a sleeping area. When upright, a futon is less bulky than most couches. If folded down, a futon is smaller than most beds. The mattresses of a futon and twin bed are virtually the same size. A futon's smaller frame makes it ideal for tight spaces.

As with any product, quality matters. The same goes for a futon. If you purchase a cheaper futon, don't be surprised to wake up with an achy back.

Building up your rainy day fund and purchasing a more costly futon has its benefits, namely quality of sleep. More expensive futons typically mean more slats to support firmer mattresses.

From personal experience, I can say that futon is a great option for guests. But I would not necessarily recommend an inexpensive futon as your primary option for sleeping.

That said, a futon is an affordable lifesaver for the occasional guest who crashes at your place for maybe one or two nights.

What Futon Sizes and Covers Are Available?

Admittedly, I had no idea there were so many options in sizes and covers for futons. Given the variety, you're bound to find something that suits you and your living space.

Futon sizes

Chair futons are the smallest option, measuring 28 inches by 54 inches when opened into the bed position. When upright, this option looks much like a single-person sofa seat. The chair option works best for kids rather than adults, who might find the space cramped.

Next, the twin futon measures 39 inches by 54 inches when open. To use this futon for sleeping, you will need to purchase an additional ottoman. A twin futon is a great option for one person to sit but won't accommodate any more.

With a full futon, you have three options: the standard full, the loveseat, and the full lounger. Full futons seat three and can sleep two.

I’d say this is your best everyday couch option. A bonus is that it's easily folded down into the bed and back up again into the couch.

Finally, the queen futon has three options available, as well: the queen, queen split, and queen lounger. All of these options open to a queen-sized bed, providing the largest futon choice. The queen seats four and can sleep two adults. It's the best everyday bed.

Futon covers

In addition to its versatility, a futon can provide you with unlimited options for personalization. You can either use the cover that most mattresses come with, or you can purchase your own as a backup or style change.

Fortunately, futon covers are available in every size for reasonable prices. Many, like this one, are made of soft foam-like fabric that repels water. You can also easily customize your cover depending on your decor.

Most futon covers come in a variety of colors and patterns. What I especially loved about my futon was how easy the cover was to clean.

Futons go through a lot of wear because they’re usually placed in high traffic areas. For simple messes, wipe gently with a wet cloth as soon as possible.

If the cover needs a deeper clean, many can be thrown in the gentle, cold cycle of the washing machine. Then, I’d recommend gently air-drying to prevent shrinkage or damage.

How Long Does a Futon Last?

What is a futon, if not durable? You can expect your futon to last 5 to 10 years if taken care of properly. That's a long time! Proper maintenance means using an appropriate slate base and turning the mattress regularly.

How Much Would a Futon Cost and Where Do I Get One?

As with most products, a futon can run the full price gamut from cheap to extravagant. It all depends on how much you are willing to spend. Additionally, I recommend considering who will use your futon.

If you wish to use the futon as the main sleeping space, you should splurge. However, if you want to host the occasional guest overnight, you can probably find a more affordable option.

Amazon provides a ton of options, so I suggest poking around to see what suits you the best. Additionally, I love that Overstock sells contemporary futons. And Wayfair has some neat futon chair options, too.

Sweet Dreams and Happy Relaxing

All in all, I love a good futon for its versatility, affordability, and customization possibilities. Before purchasing one, keep in mind its advantages over a couch. Also, you want to consider what you’ll use your futon for. Will it be used in an office for seating or in a living room for lounging and sleeping?

Your futon is a 5 to 10-year investment, so weigh your options carefully. Now when someone asks you, "What is a futon?" you can answer!

Let us know what you think about futons and how you’ll use yours in the comments!