What are some alternatives to futons?
January 22, 2005 4:32 AM   Subscribe

Futon mattress alternatives? I have a lovely futon frame with a nasty lumpy old futon mattress. I'd like to get rid of the mattress and keep the frame, using it with my air mattress for overnight guests. Does anyone make sofa-type cushions that I could put on the frame to make it more of a couch? Could I make them myself? (+)

I'd love a new couch, but they are expensive and I don't have room for both a sofa and the futon frame. Couldn't I get seat and back cushions and turn it into a couch? Googling just brings up throw pillows. I did find a site that offers custom cushions, but it seemed to be more for boats and RVs and I was scared off by highly technical foam choices. I could just get a new futon, but I'm sick of the way they look and would prefer something that looked more upholstered. Any ideas?
posted by CunningLinguist to Shopping (13 answers total)
Response by poster: This would be the look I'm going for.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:36 AM on January 22, 2005

CL, we just did a fair bit of research attempting to solve the same problem: very good futon frame, old-beat-to-death futon. I hope that you have better luck than we did, because short of having some cushions custom-made we couldn't find anything that would fit our existing frame (because of the way our futon frame is angled, for lack of a more coherent explanation.)

We found in the end that the best futon mattress alternative was to buy a much better futon mattress.

We wound up buying an "innerspring" futon and new cover from Broadway Futon here in NYC (we went to their store in person, rather than using their hideous e-commerce interface, however.)

End result: a new-looking futon-sofa that is much more comfortable to sit on than our old one ever was, and can also be slept on by overnight guests if necessary, for about $300 total.

P.S. Picture available.
posted by enrevanche at 5:10 AM on January 22, 2005

Best answer: Do you have a sewing machine? Because making that kind of cushion would be trivially easy. You'd need to buy the foam, and you'd want to buy thick, high quality foam if it's going to get regular use as your couch. You'd also need upholstery fabric. Almost any home dec re-upholstery book will include the instructions on how to measure and cut the fabric to cover an existing foam cushion mold, and actually making a square cushion mold is simply cutting the foam as many layers thick as you want it and using a spray adhesive designed specifically for foam to stick them together.

The only suggestion I'd make that might complicate matters a little is that you might want to mitre one side of the cushions - cut it on a 45 degree angle. Because your frame is angled, you'd want the backs of the cushions angled to sit against it properly. Then, you'd want the bottoms of the top cushions angled so they'd rest evenly on top of the seat cushions. When you lay this out flat for use as a bed, the two 45 degree angle will meet up and give you a solid surface, and also reduce somewhat the long crack down the middle of the bed effect that you'd get otherwise.

After you make upholstery covers for the cushions, I'd suggest making a lighter fabric bed cover for when you want to use it as a bed. Have it zip or snap together on three sides so you can arrange the cushions on top of it and then close it, rather than trying to stuff the large cushions into it and still have them aligned right. If this is relatively close fitting (choose a fabric that's not stretchy, like heavy sheets (in fact, given the relative price of huge swaths of fabric and sheets on sale, I'd just buy a couple of flat sheets and sew them up for this part), it'll hold all the different cushions together better when someone is sleeping on it.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:42 AM on January 22, 2005

Response by poster: making that kind of cushion would be trivially easy

Well, um, not so much. (I don't think I've ever even seen a sewing machine outside a museum let alone tried to work one!) I'm going back to the idea of getting foam custom cut and then getting a slipcover for it. Still googling for such services, but I would have thought someone would have come up with the idea of prefabbing these.

I'm not worried about making the cushions comfy to sleep on - I'd remove them and put the aerobed on the frame, much more comfortable - but you're both right about the weird futon frame angle. It's something I hadn't considered.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:58 AM on January 22, 2005

Fells Point Futon in Baltimore has an impressive and stylish selection of quality mattresses that go way beyond the typical lumpy futon mattress. I have no idea if they regularly ship outside the baltimore area, but I'm sure arrangements could be made.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 6:58 AM on January 22, 2005

Response by poster: jacquilynne - you've totally inspired me! I found foam selling on ebay and I could cut it and have slipcovers made for a fraction of what it would cost to order custom cushions. Thanks!
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:49 AM on January 22, 2005

I got a great split futon foam mattress from ikea in the rejects/damaged area that works like a charm. My SO and I slept on it for several months while moving and it was nearly as comfortable as the standard matress.
posted by jmgorman at 7:50 AM on January 22, 2005

If you decide not to go with that, as jmgorman notes, Ikea does sell mattresses for their couch/futons that are exactly what you have described. Very comfortable to sit on as well as to sleep on. You can also get covers from them that protect the bed and make it look more couchy.
posted by jb at 9:42 AM on January 22, 2005

My sister used to have a nasty cold futon in her guest room and I used to dread staying there. She had a similar quandary to yours and decided that instead of a new mattress/pillows, she'd go with a series of egg-crate mattress pad covers, total investment $25 or so. I stayed there last weekend and have to say, the bed is no longer cold, lumpy, or lame. I know you're leaning towards a different solution, I just wanted to chime in with a possible temporary solution while you are scheming your dream couch.
posted by jessamyn at 10:36 AM on January 22, 2005

Looks like CC found her answer, but I was going to suggest a futon mattress that has springs and is wrapped in foam. I had one a few years back and loved it. It was the only futon mattress on which I ever got a good night's sleep. Bought it at a place on M Street in Georgetown too, so you may be familiar with it. I know it's a bit far for you now, though ;)

speaking of far, update your user info sometime. ;)
posted by terrapin at 11:07 AM on January 22, 2005

Response by poster: I'm still here! Not for long tho....And the whole point was to avoid futons and find cushions to make it look like a couch as I linked to above.

So the update: I've spent the morning looking at foam websites and boy, I am now an expert in densities and ILD and what have you. (great primer here in case anyone else is on a similar quest.
While I can probably get someone to cut me a sort of triangular piece of foam to make the cushion look flat on the futon seat (not angled down) I figure I'll never be able to get a cover for such a weird shape. So I probably will have to get a new futon damnit.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:17 AM on January 22, 2005

I've heard that upholstery people like electric carving knives for cutting foam. You could probably pick one up at a flea market or salvation army. I personally like the foam that is made of many types of recycled foam pieces glued together (the foam version of particle board), I beleive it is called "rebond foam". It's rather dense so you don't bottom out, but comfortable because they are some squishier pieces mixed in. I collect it from crates used to ship very delicate scientific instruments and we love sleeping on it in our suburban. You may be able to get a good deal on it since it's used for packing.
posted by 445supermag at 12:41 PM on January 23, 2005

Best answer: CL - if you are stuck buying something, do check out the Ikea foam cushions/mattress thing. I don't know exactly what they are, but they are not at all like a futon mattress, and feel like foam cushions when you are sitting on them (though attached so that they lay together to make a mattress easily). It was the most couch- like (looking and feeling) futon I have ever sat on. But I have no idea how much they cost.
posted by jb at 10:05 PM on January 23, 2005

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