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Perhaps best known as the go-to furniture for college students everywhere, futon couches and futon chairs provide an affordable and reasonably durable option for the budget-conscious individual looking to furnish a dorm room, guest room or small apartment. A futon chair is a smaller version of the futon couch, a piece of furniture consisting of a frame, a mattress and a mattress cover. The advantage of the futon chair design is that it can serve as a traditional chair, or it can be "unfolded" to serve as a small bed.
The term "futon chair" is sometimes used interchangeably with "convertible chair" or "sleeper chair"; there can be slight differences, however, between each type of chair. While a futon chair is comprised of a covered mattress positioned on top of a chair frame that can be laid flat, a convertible chair is similar to a sleeper sofa—a single piece of furniture that contains a spring-mounted mattress hidden under the seat. "Sleeper chair" can refer to this type of convertible furniture, or it can refer to a frameless, foam-filled chair form that can be unfolded into a mattress that lays directly on the floor.
Because a futon chair serves two purposes, it can be a great space-saver in a small room or apartment. By day, the futon chair can provide extra seating in a den or bedroom; at night, it can be transformed in just a few quick steps into a small bed, either for its owner or for a guest. Some futon chairs are also designed to be reshaped into a chaise, or reclining, position, in addition to the chair and bed options.
New futon chairs can be purchased in department or furniture stores, or online. Generally, they are assembled at home, which contributes to the usually affordable price—although do-it-yourself assembly may be frustrating for some buyers. Futon frames come in a variety of styles, so when selecting a futon chair, the buyer may want to consider how the chair will fit into the overall design of the room for which it is intended.
Since many stores and websites allow a buyer to chose the futon frame and mattress separately, buyers should give careful consider to the mattress selection. The greatest complaint about futon chairs is often that they can be uncomfortable. Not all futon mattresses are equal; while a less expensive mattress may provide significant savings, it may also result in less sleeping or sitting comfort. A cheaper mattress may also need to be turned and aired out regularly, and may wear out faster than a mattress that is more expensive but built to last.