We disagree about futons.
August 27, 2014 8:21 AM   Subscribe

My SO and I are having a good natured but heated argument about futons vs. pull-out beds. Convince one of us that one or the other is a good thing.

I favor futons. I think with a nice mattress/cover they can be comfortable, attractive, lightweight, easy to convert, and relatively cheap for a good product. She says they're all uncomfortable and ugly.

She favors pull-out couch/beds. She thinks they're more comfortable, can be more "elegant looking" and easier to operate. I dread paying thousands to move a two ton piece of furniture that will cripple anyone who sleeps on or attempts to open it while looking like something from the set of Full House.

We have differing experience. I am not aware of the existence of an acceptable pull-out bed and she's not aware of the existence of an acceptable futon. Can you show us examples of both, or reasoning one way or another?
posted by cmoj to Home & Garden (59 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Whenever I'm faced with sleeping on a pullout bed, I put the mattress on the floor and sleep on it like that. No bar in the back! And some couches have super nice mattresses.

Futons always seem lumpy and hard on my back. And they look like college dorm furniture no matter what you do to dress it up. Just my two cents.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:27 AM on August 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Futons are for college and just after. Sofabeds are for the next stage in your life. Then a separate sofa and a guest room.

No judgements--where are you in your life? Pick the furniture for where you are in the ineluctable march towards the grave.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:29 AM on August 27, 2014 [29 favorites]

How about a compromise and you get one of those folding couch/bed things from ikea? It looks more like a futon but it doesn't feel like one.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:30 AM on August 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Speaking as a female who has slept on both futons and pull out beds, I think your SO is 100% correct.

Futons are always ugly, lumpy and hugely uncomfortable to sit on OR sleep on.
Pull-out beds can be surprisingly comfortable to sit on and sleep on and usually just look like a regular sofa.

They are also much easier to operate than a futon and again, as a woman, I would much prefer something easy to use so that I don't have to ask someone else for help when putting away said bed.
posted by JenThePro at 8:35 AM on August 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Neither is great as a sleeping location, most futons look juvenile, and most pull out sofas are a beast to move.

Stick with a regular couch and get a nice air mattress for guests.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2014 [25 favorites]

Best answer: Whichever way you jump don't go for one of the sofabeds with an inflatable mattress since something will inevitably leak and then you are screwed since it's all built in. We inherited one - was ok-ish although had a tendency to lose air but then a houseguest broke the cover to the air valve and that is non-trivial to get a replacement part.

The problem with most folding futons is that they develop a permanent crease where they are folded and become less comfortable. Best fold-away I ever slept on was a convertible from IKEA but they don't seem to make that particular one any more.
posted by leslies at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here are a few non-traditional sleeper sofa (they avoid the terrible bar in the middle of your back)

CB2 Tandom

CB2 Lubi (day bed style so not sure if it meets are sofa requirements)


Finally, some Apartment Therapy reviews. Some are classic with the bar, but others have better designed beds.

For the record, I think your SO is right about futons - it's really, really rare to see one that looks as good as a sofa (sleeper or not). And don't forget to consider a regular sofa with a high quality air mattress! If you inflate it right in front of the sofa, it doesn't take up much more space than an extended sleeper sofa.
posted by cessair at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Go with futon, without a doubt. It needs to be a good one, though.

Sofa beds are a thousand times more uncomfortable than futons. Whereas the support of a futon and can be spread out evenly, a pull out sofa will always have a hard spot and the edge of the couch, while the rest of your body sinks it. This is a back killer.

Sofa beds also aren't good couches. They're rarely comfortable to sit on, often have odd proportions, and they weigh a ton.

"Regular" futons are pretty cheap looking, but there are better ones out there. My wife and I got this one from Room and Board. It says it's a "sleeper sofa", but it's not a pull out and is really a futon. It's comfortable and not terrible looking. (It is firm, which is the way I like beds, but not to everyone's taste.) It's also very easy to operate, isn't lumpy in the slightest, and works pretty well as a couch.
posted by spaltavian at 8:40 AM on August 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

We have this sofa bed from IKEA which is incredibly easy to operate, looks like a regular sofa, and is comfortable to sleep on. The chaise longue section is designed to be easily switched if needed (which also means that you can easily separate it into two pieces for moving).

I agree with the comments above suggesting that futons are more suited to student digs.
posted by jonnyploy at 8:42 AM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm a fan of a sofa bed that doesn't have a bar! Ikea has a couple like this. They have trundle beds that pull out to make a full sized bed. That way you get the nicer look of a sofa, but the comfort of a solid flat sleeping surface.
posted by MsMolly at 8:43 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, while sofa beds are a huge hassle to move, I haven't slept comfortably on a futon since I was a couple of decades younger.

Are you looking for a guest-sleeping-arrangement solution? Or is this just and idealogical discussion? If you need guest sleeping, how about a Murphy bed and a loveseat or a couple of armchairs? But since you mentioned moving the sofa bed, I'm thinking you all rent so installing a Murphy might not be an option but apparently there are portable versions.
posted by Beti at 8:46 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Both futons and pull-out beds can be incredibly uncomfortable or very comfortable; it depends on which one you get.

I used to live in a tiny studio, and I had Ikea futon (I think it was this one) as my only bed/couch. I found it very comfortable.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:46 AM on August 27, 2014

I think you're both wrong. Futons and couch pull outs are both super uncomfortable! Consider a Murphy bed!
posted by hollyanderbody at 8:51 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

IMO, futons are not juvenile. But, they are extremely crunchy-granola, pretentious, and PC, at least with the people I know.
posted by Melismata at 8:57 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I slept on a futon for about seven years straight and was really happy with it. Two things I should note, however: first, my futon mattress was really thick and firm (I think it had springs, even) and, while comfortable, was a struggle to re-couchify; second, my interior decorating sense stalled out around nineteen and I still consider IKEA to be fancy grown-up stuff.

Sofa beds are generally more comfortable as both sofas and beds, and easier to operate, but seem a little fusty to me; I usually wonder how long that bed's been stuffed in there. They're also challenging if you have any cats: in my experience, cats like to hide out in the sofa part right as you attempt to fold the bed back in.

The decision ultimately comes down to how much you're willing to spend, how often you have overnight guests, and what your personal aesthetic is. I wouldn't spring for a sofa bed, myself, because my answer to all three is "not very much."
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:58 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

How often are you going to use it as a bed? We got a sleeper sofa, which cost and weighed more and used it about 6 times in a decade.
posted by k8t at 8:58 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with getting a sofa you both like and supplementing it with a kick-ass air mattress. We have this one from Amazon and it is amazing. I never knew air mattresses could be this nice! Not as comfy as a real bed, but definitely way more comfortable than any futon OR sofa bed I have ever slept on. It plugs in, so you do not have to do any work at all to get it blown up. It's also tall -- taller than a box spring + matress sitting on the floor, although not as tall as a "real" bed, so it doesn't feel totally like you're sleeping on the floor. And, it folds up small when deflated for easy storage/moving/etc.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:59 AM on August 27, 2014

They both suck. I bought a good air mattress instead, and then only because I wanted one as well, a hammock!
posted by cgg at 9:01 AM on August 27, 2014

Like hollyanderbody, I think both futons and pull-out sofas both have major downsides. As a compromise, I suggest West Elm's Tillary Sofa - reasonably elegant sofa by day, then when needed you can pop off the back cushions for a twin-size bed. (Obviously, this only works if you have two small or one average-sized guest at a time.) Seems to meet your comfort requirements, and her aesthetic ones.

In fact, thanks to the itty-bitty studio I live in, the Tillary Sofa is actually my regular couch and bed -- I convert it every night. It's perfectly comfy.

Futons are incredibly easy to use, and newer, nicer sofa beds can be as well. My suggestion, if you're hell-bent on choosing one or the other, is to visit Ikea or similar and try out a bunch of models until you find one that is reasonably pretty, comfortable, and easy to use.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:03 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personally, I prefer a good futon to a sofa bed; I'm a huge fan of firm beds, and the springs and thin mattresses of sofa beds never give me the support I want.

Also, you should totally take your dispute to Judge John Hodgman. He'd have a field day with it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

So far, I think everybody's wrong. ;)

Daybed. Actual, real, supportive mattress. Dress it up with big pillows on the back for day, sleep on a real mattress at night. Cheap versions available at Ikea, more upscale versions available at the Pottery Barns and Crate and Barrels of the world. Some of them even have trundles, so you get two proper twin mattresses for the price of one.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think there's a big difference between a black-metal-frame college dorm room futon and a nicer one that sits higher up off the floor, has a wooden frame (or at least a sturdier frame) and a thick mattress. One that you wouldn't know is a futon unless you saw it pulled out into a bed.

I prefer the nicer futons to pull-out couches. I'm probably a weirdo, but I don't like sleeping on them because there's usually a big space between the mattress part and the back of the couch that my pillow always falls through. And the gears squeak. I'd rather just sleep on the non-folded out couch.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

you get one of those folding couch/bed things from ikea?

This has been the best solution I've come across. I have slept in hundreds of different places and have spent a lot of time on futons and pull-out couches. I will say this

- a nice pull out couch with a really good mattress doesn't have to have that shitty "bar in the back" feeling for most average sized people. Heavier people will usually have that problem so think about your guests. It will always weight a million pounds however
- a good futon with a cover can turn into a decent couch and be an okay place to sleep but it will never be a bed. There are higher end futon couches that are actually quite nice and comfortable.

I have a day-bed-as-couch in my place and it works great for a single person. I've slept on one of those Ikea pull out couches (where it pulls out flat and doesn't unfold) and it was a pretty decent couch and a pretty decent bed and I'd suggest something like that. Basically if you had to choose a shitty futon couch or a shitty hide-a-bed, you'd want the shitty hide-a-bed. With a higher end model of either of those, you'd be doing okay but there are better options. I would not willingly sleep on an air mattress for any reason, but this is one of those YMMV things for people.
posted by jessamyn at 9:09 AM on August 27, 2014

Daybed. Actual, real, supportive mattress.

Daybeds are actually incredibly uncomfortable to sit on for any real duration, though. They're so deep that you can't sit with your legs bent at a comfortable angle and your back supported -- if you want to sit against the back of the daybed for back support, your legs are straight out in front of you like you're a toddler in one of those gigantic novelty chairs they have for photo ops in tourist towns. So they're great for sleeping on but definitely do not replace a couch.
posted by kate blank at 9:13 AM on August 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

Sofa beds are ghastly uncomfortable and if I have to sleep on one I just leave it folded up in its usual couch state and sleep on that with sheets and blankets, which oddly enough the sofa bed owners seem to take personally on occasion.

Most of what we picture as futons are, in fact, cheap-looking, but higher-end ones are pretty nice.
posted by elizardbits at 9:13 AM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm in the futons-suck camp, sorry.

About a year ago, we were in the same boat and looked everywhere for a sofa-bed (it is the primary sofa in our apartment - futons/daybeds just wouldn't work for that purpose). IKEA ended up being our top choice - particularly the TIDAFORS sofa bed. Looks like a "normal" couch, is a comfy couch to sit on, and the sofa-bed is FACINATING. The bottom pulls out, and it's actually got those springy wooden slats going across the length. Then the couch cushion flips over that (also has storage space under the wooden slats, which is bonus). It IS huge, and it'll be a pain to get out of here, but it feels like a real bed and there will never be a weird bar or anything in the middle. (You sleep along the length of the sofa, not perpendicular like an ordinary sofa bed).

Alternatively, if you feel extra Bohemian, we got a Corda-Roy beanbag from a friend of ours. It's normally a beanbag, but the foam insert unfolds into a queen bed. Weird, but comfy!
posted by aggyface at 9:18 AM on August 27, 2014

I slept on a futon (grown-up quality) all last winter and it was very comfortable. I can't imagine sleeping on a sofa bed for more than a few nights. Also I generally don't find sleep sofas very comfortable as sofas.

I also slept on an air mattress (aerobed) for a few months and that was pretty comfortable, although it can get weirdly cold (doesn't have the same insulating properties as a regular mattress).

I still have the aerobed and I have added an Ikea chair bed (this guy) to my livingroom-guestroom arsenal. So far reviews for the chair bed are excellent, and it comes in a sofa size. It's also pretty comfortable as a chair and will even hold two people if they're reasonably cozy with each other.

I think you guys need to evaluate Actual Sleep Sofas and Futons in your price range rather than the idea of a sleep sofa and the idea of a futon. And also you need to think about what you're using it for - is it your main sofa in your main room? Is it your main sleeping place? Is it tucked away in an office/spare bedroom?
posted by mskyle at 9:19 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are also couches that span the difference between day-bed and regular couch. My friend has what seems like a normal couch, until you remove the very thick back cushions to reveal a twin-sized sleeping area.
posted by fermezporte at 9:21 AM on August 27, 2014

My daughter has a top-class futon, and she was really happy with it for a while, but now she hates it. As I understand it, it has developed strange uncomfortable lumpy holes. So now instead she very often sleeps on the day-bed we have in the living room. We are looking to buy her a proper bed
I think a lot here depends on what the purpose is. If it is for your own daily use, I'd go for the day-bed as couch. Then you will need layers and layers of back-pillows or specially make deep back pillows to avoid the problem kate blank rightly highlights. It can be done. My parents had such a bed when they married, with the special pillows, and it was still a wonderful thing decades later.
If it is for guests, I think it mostly depends on your style of decoration. I tested my daughters futon one night when she was at a sleepover, and it was fine then. But I wouldn't like the design in my living room, and I have slept very well in the IKEA pull-out beds of my friends.
posted by mumimor at 9:23 AM on August 27, 2014

Futons are MUCH more comfortable than sofa beds. Sofa beds perform neither function well.

As for futons, the frames, they are fugly.

But you have options.

Shikibuton! They fold into rectangles! Here's a DIY article. Or buy one fully made.

My parents have had two of these bad-boys for nigh on thirty years now. I sleep like a log everytime!

Another option is a Daybed. They come in all options from Masculine to Twee.

Another option is dressing a twin-bed up like a sofa, with daybed bolsters.

I'd rather sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag than on a sofa bed.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:26 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used a nice wooden-frame futon as my bed for the last few years and did fine with it, and I'm pretty picky about sleeping arrangements. Just anecdata, not advice, but futons aren't always as horrid as some of the descriptions here. That said, it did become more uncomfortable over time - springs in the mattress getting misaligned and becoming lumpy. My family has this Hemnes pull-out bed and I think it's great; the pictures don't really convey how luxuriously huge it is when expanded. If you can, see if you can try it in person at an IKEA.
posted by NMcCoy at 9:27 AM on August 27, 2014

You can get a fancy futon like this which doesn't give away its futon status by being three feet from the wall. It looks even better if you get a slipcover with piping to square it off. Note that the frame alone is almost $700, and that's on sale. The mattresses are very customizable, and can add another $1000 to the cost.

This is very close to what I got when I moved into my tiny studio, but not an endorsement of convertible sofa beds of any kind*. However, I have no doubt the mattress is about as comfortable as it could be for what it is and probably the least objectionable if you had to have one.

*After getting a better sense of how to use my space and almost two years of folding and unfolding that fucking thing I now keep it open and use it as a bed and bought a smaller-scaled normal couch. Because sometimes, you just want to go to sleep already.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:27 AM on August 27, 2014

How often will you use it?

Futon mattresses, if left in the upright sofa position for long periods of time, will deform at the fold. If you're only going to use it as a bed 1 or 2 times a year, go with the sofabed (preferably a bar-free one). If you're going to fold it out weekly, then the futon will be ugly, but may be an appropriate choice.

Also, if you get a futon, for gods sake get a real futon matress cover to use when you're using it as a sofa. Don't just put a throw over it and let everybody's feet/food/whatever come into contact with the mattress. Also, turn the mattress regularly.
posted by anastasiav at 9:28 AM on August 27, 2014

I have slept on a strangely high number of futons. Never been on a comfortable one, despite the owners always saying how "comfortable" it is, etc. I also find the older they are, the more lumpy and dusty they get. My allergies inevitably kick up when I sleep on a futon. I now dread having to sleep on a futon. Also, sorry, but I think futons as couches are pretty ugly and usually weirdly hard and uncomfortable. Just my experience.

I have also slept on a fair number of sofa beds. Not super comfortable but hella better than the futons. But still pretty crappy. Generally not great as couches too.

My husband and I have a high quality queen size air mattress for our guests. Our guests always are well rested, happy, not stiff, not a single complaint (aside from needing an extra blanket underneath to stay warm because air mattresses can be cold, what with the no insulation). My over-60 years old inlaws sleep on it every time they visit and are perfectly happy. My husband actually had to sleep on that airmattress for a week or so when he was "between beds" (long story) and he had zero issue. Plus, the airmattress stores away fairly compactly, which is important because we have a small house.

Quality air mattress all the way.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:34 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

In my experience, a decent futon with a nice mattress can be almost as comfortable as a "real" bed. Pull-out couches can be okay, too, but most I've slept on are less comfortable. I do agree with your wife that couches just look nicer than futons.

If several moves are likely in your future, you should certainly go for a futon in my opinion. (For the record: I'm male, 40 [gulp] and the happy owner of a futon for 11 years and 5 moves.)
posted by tecg at 9:43 AM on August 27, 2014

If it goes in the living room, it should look like real furniture, and be comfortable to use as a couch, as well as a bed. In a guest room, a futon or a chair with a foldout foam mattress(shikibuton) is fine. You get what you pay for. The futon from Walmart will not last well. My futon came from LLBean, looks nice, is reasonably comfortable, but they don't make it any more. I'm currently a guest, sleeping on a wooden couch with loose cushions, and not complaining. Who's likely to visit? Double bed is usually more useful. I'm not a fan of air mattresses, and some fold-out couch mattresses are wretched, so try it out.
posted by theora55 at 9:43 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The single most uncomfortable sleeping arrangement I have endured in recent years is my aunt's sofa bed (which is one of those things where the sofa's back gets folded down to create a sleeping surface together with the seat bit). Not only do you have the welt where the seat and back meet all the length of the sofa/bed, you also have massively different degrees of softness and support in all other parts of this 'bed'. It's in her office so I suspect it's not used as a sofa much either and knowing my aunt she picked it up cheaply somewhere to have another sleeping space at a push....No matter how lumpy, any futon would be more comfortable to sleep on.

Think about the various jobs you want this thing to perform. If you'll be using it as a sofa daily clearly it needs to do that job well. But if you want people to sleep on it for more than a night at a time please also consider how it performs as a bed. Consider that people sleep in different positions and come in different sizes etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:47 AM on August 27, 2014

A futon on the floor is a good place to sleep.
A pull-out sofa or futon that is pretending to be a couch is pretty much never a good place to sleep.
I would recommend a normal couch, with a futon rolled up in the closet.
posted by steinwald at 9:49 AM on August 27, 2014

IKEA Beddinge with the highest-end mattresss available for it. Critically, the mattress isn't folded over itself; it's divided so it splits at the fold and the edge of the top half sits on the flat top of the bottom half. Could be an everyday bed if you have a good mattress pad; totally serviceable as a guest bed. We've had 20-year old cousins sleep on ours, as well as 70-year old parents, and none have complained. Get a nice cover and some good throw pillows and it doubles visually as a minimalist couch.
posted by devinemissk at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Agreed with your SO on futons. Sofa beds can be uncomfortable, but there are definitely comfortable sofa beds. We have this one from American Leather -- it's VERY comfortable, no bar, feels just like a bed. It's relatively expensive, though I think it's worth it if you're at that stage in life where you're buying furniture for the long haul.
posted by odin53 at 9:57 AM on August 27, 2014

Buy two mid-range IKEA twin mattresses (mine are actually the cheapest HAVBERG and they are fine except they need a decent topper). Store them under your real bed if you have nowhere else to keep them. When someone stays over, you can make up a twin, two twins, or a king.

Much cheaper, much more portable, require no specialized linens, can be set up literally anywhere there's room on the floor, one of them fits in a hatchback for car camping and drive-in movies, two of them stack (or prop one against the wall to lean on) as an emergency sofa, loanable to friends and neighbors. One day if you move somewhere with a guest room, buy a platform frame and you are all set!

Then get an attractive comfortable sofa you like at a reasonable price.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:59 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can vouch for the American Leather sofa beds that odin53 mentioned. Definitely superior to other sofabeds and no bar. They also make some of Crate & Barrel's sofa beds as well so that's also an option.
posted by zsazsa at 10:11 AM on August 27, 2014

Sofa beds have changed a lot and it's possible to get one that's actually comfortable, doesn't have the dreaded bar, and looks good.

Futons look dated, cheap, and are quintessential college decor. It's not really a grown-up furniture choice that you should be investing in. I'd get a regular sofa and a really nice blow-up mattress before I'd ever consider a futon.
posted by quince at 10:16 AM on August 27, 2014

I think they are both horrible.

Futons - ugly couches. Get a lump in the middle from being folded upright. Lumpy beds. Not suitable after the age of 24.

Pull-out beds - uncomfortable couches, uncomfortable beds. Lose-lose.

I've never had a murphy bed but I would consider it as the least worst alternative.

Or a large air mattress, which can be surprisingly comfortable.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:40 AM on August 27, 2014

My friends who are a few years older than us own a futon. I like it just fine but I'm not sure that I would want to sleep on it. A friend and I discussed recently pull-out bed vs. air mattress. He has a pull-out and when people come to spend the night with him, they always ask, where is your air mattress? Plus air mattresses are easy to move. If you're visiting someone, you can just throw it in the trunk of your car.

That said, I've long had my eye on this for our office. I am concerned that it will be heavy but I like the look of it. But then I saw this and I don't even understand anything any more.

FWIW a Slate writer recommended this thing.
posted by kat518 at 11:00 AM on August 27, 2014

Best answer: Aero Bed all the way. But if you must get a pull-out couch, you can simplify the moving process by unscrewing the bed bits from the frame and moving them separately.
posted by alphanerd at 11:15 AM on August 27, 2014

I agree w you. To me, fold up couches are from the '70s. I thought it was down to futons or air mattresses these days.
posted by mdn at 11:22 AM on August 27, 2014

Another vote for the IKEA Beddinge. Our guests all agree it is the best.
posted by Tunierikson at 12:05 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The American Leather sleepers are the best. No bars, no springs. It's a real sofa and a real bed. We got a memory foam topper to put on it and it's great. Totally feels like a real bed and it'll last forever. We slept it solely for about 1.5 years.
posted by reddot at 1:05 PM on August 27, 2014

Futons are ugly.

But a good futon mattress is as comfortable as a regular mattress. We've had an Otis Moonshadow for years now, and I actually find it about as comfortable as our $3,000 mattress (which is very comfortable). We will be keeping the mattress long after the frame wears out to put on a guest bed.

(Also, having slept on those ikea convertible bed/sofa things--the vilasund, specifically--they are just as uncomfortable as old fashioned pull-out sofas.)

Honestly, I think the really grown-up solution is a full guest bed in a guest room and a sofa that is just a sofa.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:12 PM on August 27, 2014

I dislike futons. They're ugly. And often, they will develop a permanent fold where it is folded up regularly. Then, you're always rolling in the middle and your back will complain. (I used one as a bed for a few years.) They also take up a surprising amount of room, since the back leans back even when in a couch position, and I did not find futons space efficient at all.

I've had bad sofa beds, as well, but I've also had good sofa bed experiences. In particular, some friends have an IKEA one (I don't know which one) that was surprisingly comfortable. (Disclaimer: It was just one night, and we might have been drunk.)

For me, we have a spare mattress (our old mattress that we deemed too soft for daily sleep) in a spare room for guests. And before that, we had daybeds. (Better for single guests, not so good for couple guests.) It was the Crate and Barrel "Simone" daybed, which they have since discontinued. West Elm and CB2 make some attractive ones, depending on your style.
posted by ethidda at 1:48 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We like a lot of the not-quite-futon couches that fully fold down into a bed, but the inflatable mattress is the way to go for our purposes. We even own one, but it didn't occur to us.

This is for an office/studio space that will be used as a guest bedroom about once every month or two. An air mattress in a box in the closet is exactly the thing.
posted by cmoj at 2:49 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

We also sprung for an American Leather sofabed. No bar in the back, assembled in the room by the delivery dude. It was important that we have a real queen-sized mattress but we only had a very narrow space for the sofa. The Hannah fits perfectly in our 74 inch wide space and folds out to a real queen size. If you really want to go all out you can order their sofas with a Tempur-pedic mattress.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:00 PM on August 27, 2014

We also have an American Leather sofa bed and it's wonderful. Guests are constantly amazed.

Expensive, but worth it if you're going to use it as a bed.

My daughter has a Insta-Bed Raised Bed with Never Flat Pump with a memory foam topper. It inflates quickly (with the usual noise), and stays inflated by running a very silent motor. I stayed on it for five nights and had no issues, other than it took up the living room. Deflated in 10 minutes, tops.
posted by blob at 3:21 PM on August 27, 2014

We are currently using the air-mattress-in-the-closet solution, but my fantasy solution for the "office space that sometimes houses guests" is a really awesome bookshelf Murphy bed.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2014

If you have or want to have an actual couch in the space, consider the EnduraEase for your air mattress solution. The air mattress slides onto the couch, thus taking up less space. We have one for our basement couch and it is a great mattress.
posted by devinemissk at 5:35 PM on August 27, 2014

I have slept on both. Team pull-out bed. BELIEVE ME.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:38 PM on August 27, 2014

If you end up going with an air mattress, get a good patch kit.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:40 PM on August 27, 2014

It's important to consider the mobility of your guests. My regular houseguests of an age where it's difficult to stand up from an air mattress on the floor; they need the height of a regular bed.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:38 AM on August 28, 2014

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