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What are the differences
between sofa sleepers?
Many people get confused as
to what constitutes a "Sleeper Sofa". They lump many
different kinds of sofas into one category. In truth, there
are at least 3 different types. The first is the traditional
pull out sleeper sofa. Next is the Japanese import called a
futon and then the relatively new adjustable sofa. All of
them make into beds, but, they are all have different
construction, designs, and price points.
In the traditional couch, the mattress folds into three
sections and is carried by a mechanism into the base of the
sofa. Once secured, seat cushions are then placed on top of
this mechanism to give it the appearance of a normal sofa.
Because the mattress has to fold (twice), it must be a
specially designed mattress. Because it has to fit into the
mechanism and the available storage space, it must be a
relatively thin mattress (4 to 5"). The technical design of
a traditional sleeper sofa mechanism requires that a steel
bar run the width of the mattress. Because the mattress must
be thin, this bar then can be felt across the back of the
sleeping person. While functional and space saving, this
style of sofa is very expensive to build. This makes their
retail selling price range from about $599 on the low end to
$1200. Because of the folding steel mechanism, the sofa is
very heavy. They weigh from 250 to 350 lbs. They are
generally available in twin, full, or queen size sleepers.
The futon came to the U.S. from Japan after World
War II. It utilizes an external single fold mechanism.
Because it only has to make one fold,
the futon mattress can be much thicker (6 to 10"). The
mattress is still specially designed for a futon. Futons
come in many styles and looks. They can be made from steel,
wood, or a combination of the two. The futon mattress can be
very comfortable to sleep on, but while it makes an adequate
sitting sofa, it sits differently than a traditional Western
sofa, with a slope down and away from the front. Frames and
mattresses are sold separately. Basic metal futon frames
generally start around $100 and mattresses also start at
that price. It is not uncommon to see a high-end solid wood
futon with a high end mattress around the $600 to $700 price
range. Be wary of promotional combo sets as the mattress is
generally a non-functional 2 or 4" piece. You end up having
to buy a mattress anyway. Usually futons form a full size
bed. However, while more unusual, they are available as twin
More recently, adjustable sofas have become very popular.
They are equally as space saving, make into full size beds,
are easy to operate,
lightweight, and inexpensive. A Western modification to the
futon design, adjustable sofas usually have the mattresses
built into the sofa frame. A simple ratchet mechanism allows
the back of the sofa to lay down to form the bed. This
mechanism requires virtually no effort to operate. Generally
comfortable to sit on and sleep on as well. They do tend to
sit lower to the ground than either a sleeper sofa or a
futon. Because of the operating design, manufacturers do not
have the mattress limitations of either of the other two
styles. Adjustable sofas tend to have a more contemporary
straight line styling than do the others. Their pricing
generally starts around $200 and can go as high as about
$700. While normally a full size sleeper, clever modular
designs allow some to form up to a king size bed.
There are pros and cons to all three designs. You can choose
traditional or contemporary styling, buy for comfort, or hit
an economical price point. While adjustable sofas have an
over all price advantage, traditional sleeper sofas and
futons have the advantage of being able to change mattresses
over the course of time. It is best if each individual
chooses based on their specific needs.
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