The Futon World

World View of What a Futon is

The next question in the futon world would definitely be where and when?

When I first got connected with “futons” it meant a Japanese style mattress filled with cotton felt. This mattress was used on the floor and could be rolled up against the wall to also become seating. As an illustration for this, I have used a photo of a new futon that has refined the old definition. See also


In the early 80’s the hippie period was over and people no longer wanted to sleep on the floor. Wooden “A-frames” sofa beds lifted the futon off the floor and made a 2 seat sofa in the daytime and a double bed at night. That combination of frame and futon mattress folded in 3 was referred to as a futon until the mid 80’s when the next big change happened.

The futon mattress was made thicker with different fillings and was folded lengthwise in 2. These new 3-seater futon frames looked and worked much more like conventional sofa beds. The traditional furniture industries in North America and parts of Europe became involved and the 3-seater frames with a thicker futon mattress including foam in the middle were marketed as futon furniture.

French clic-clac metal frames that could be opened and closed from the front of the frame were tested in Denmark with a futon mattress and turned out to be very successful. Through the 90’s and up until now this combination is a futon in Scandinavia.

Spectacular growth for futon furniture led to metal frame production being moved to China. In turn these production facilities created new products such as bunk/platform beds with a foldable double frame underneath. This thing was called futon in China.

When importers started to make frames in Malaysia they called it a futon even without a mattress.

Germany took a different turn, at the same time as the Green party came into parliament futons were being introduced to the domestic market and they were used as a symbol of ecological worth. Germans used the Japanese tatami mat to make it a totally green product and called it a futon bed.

Futon Association International in the USA made an attempt to define the word “futon” in the 90’s but it had already taken too many turns to be able to agree on a definition. The most accurate definition worldwide today is a sofa bed where frame and mattress are separate but I have seen the word futon used for fully upholstered sofa beds with separate seat and back sections just to attract a certain type of customer.

A futon bed is a different story again, these days generally a definition would be a low level Japanese style bed where almost any type mattress could be used.

All in all the word futon is used differently all over the world and the meaning has changed over time but it will always stand for creativity, good value for money and in most cases space saving sleep products.

Stig Eriksson  Copenhagen, Denmark      Futon specialist since 1982

<body > } }