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A futon couch is a variation on the traditional Japanese futon, which is a type of bed that can be folded and stored during the day so the room can be used for other purposes besides sleeping. A futon couch does much the same thing, but instead of folding into a closet or stow space like the traditional Japanese futon, a futon couch folds on a metal or wooden frame into a couch for sitting. The futon couch is a Western invention, as the traditional Japanese versions did not generally fold into couches.
The futon dates back centuries, and they have been an integral part of Japanese culture and home decor throughout the years. They are a functional piece of furniture designed to stow away so the space can be used for other purposes, and they were designed to be used on tatami floors, which are floors made from special mats that were traditionally used for sleeping or dining. Tatami mats were supposed to be kept extremely clean to be used for such purposes, and futons fit this tradition as well when they were used on such mats.
Several differences between the traditional futon and the more Western futon couch exist. First and foremost, a traditional futon generally did not have a frame in such a design as the western versions. The western futon couch has a frame that folds in the middle, meaning the mattress, too, folds in the middle so the resulting shape is comfortable for sitting. Western futon couches usually feature a cushion that is much thicker than the traditional futon mattress, and synthetic filling materials are often used in such futon couches.
Futon couches are also typically larger than traditional futons. The main function of the traditional futon was its ability to be easily stowed, so smaller sizes were common. Today, futon couches are larger to accommodate sleeping as well as sitting when the futon is folded. Futon couches also generally feature a slipcover that makes cleaning easier; traditionally, futons needed to be aired out regularly and cleaned by beating it. A slipcover makes cleaning simple, as it can be tossed in the laundry without moving the rest of the cushion or frame.
Prices of futon couches vary depending on the size of the cushion and the quality of the frame. The frame might be made of metal, wood, or a combination of both, but the quality and sturdiness of the futon frame varies by manufacturer, price point, and intended use. Simple futon couches can be quite cheap but also quite flimsy, while others are well-constructed and are intended to be an attractive piece of furniture for a living room or bedroom.
We had a futon years ago because we couldn't afford a sofa. It worked fine for a while, but the mattress got so misshapen that we finally just had to get a new one. Then the new one got all mashed up and all. You couldn't sleep on it, and sitting on it wasn't comfortable, either.
Someone eventually gave us a sofa, which was a beast to move into an upstairs apartment. We managed it, but then couldn't get it out of the place when we moved. We eventually dropped it off the balcony. It survived and we used it for another couple of years until we could afford a sofa!
Our current futon has a back that doesn't move; the sides go flat instead. It came with pillows to cushion the back for comfortable sitting, and it is very comfortable for sitting or sleeping. It was under $300USD, but I don't remember exactly what we paid for it.
I have been pleased with it.
We keep it in the bedroom we use as an office. It's great for a nap, or for extra seating in the room. It was a good purchase and has been a nice addition to the room.