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What is a Futon?

Updated May 16, 2024
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Futon is the expression Americans use to refer to the traditional Japanese bedding system. Japanese use the word shikibuton, meaning mattress. The American concept expanded to a broader definition, which includes either the mattress, or the convertible furniture it sits upon, or both.

A futon serves as furniture during the day and can convert to a sleeping space at night. It can take the form of a bed, couch, or chair that provides a comfortable and sturdy space for sitting or sleeping. Some futon furniture comes with wood frames that can be folded and put way to save space.

Futon mattresses are also constructed to be easily folded and stored away. They are usually stuffed with cotton batting, and are available in a wide range of colors, sizes and choice of fabrics. Many people who are accustomed to sleeping on a futon rave about the good back support, and devotees especially appreciate the fact that it can be conveniently moved outdoors for frequent beneficial airings.

Americans first became interested in futons during the early 1970s, perhaps because of an increased interest in Eastern culture or because the inexpensive furniture provided a novel home furnishing idea. The market still remains strong among students, apartment dwellers saving on space, and first-time home owners. But a futon can also provide handy lodgings for visitors, making it an ideal addition to any den or extra room.

The quality and styling of the "American futon" has dramatically improved since its first appearance. Today, this furniture is made from top-of-the line hard woods, with your choice in a wide palette of wood finishes, from oak to mahogany.

There have also been improvements in futon mattresses. While early versions were usually covered with durable but plain materials, today's mattresses and covers are available in luxuriant colors and choice of fabrics, from rich brocades to lush tapestries. The purchase of a new cover for a sofa can quickly and economically give the entire room a totally new look.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon85227 — On May 19, 2010

As a futon business owner, I found the information really helpful and will be pointing my customers to this site! Thanks again Glenn

By Kirie — On May 07, 2010

Great information on the history and materials that make up a classic futon.

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