Replacing our bed with futon to save space?
June 3, 2016 3:05 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are moving into a much smaller apartment, and would like to conserve as much space as possible. Is sleeping on a futon in the living room every night a reasonable arrangement?

We have a futon at the moment that was a hand-me-down, but it's for guests and not very comfortable at all and we're thinking about discarding it. We currently sleep in two twin beds (also hand-me-downs) pushed together, which are fairly comfortable, nothing special, and we'd like to actually sleep next to each other at some point. We currently have a very rectangular, standard apartment layout: living room, dining room, small kitchen, bedroom, bathroom. The dining room is very large so we've always used it as an office/desk space.

We've been kind of "meh" on our bed for awhile; sleeping in two twin beds that have a tendency to roll apart is not very romantic. Originally we considered keeping the twin boxsprings, strapping the frames together and buying a new mattress (king?) in order to have a normal bed. Fast forward to now: our building just sold and we signed a lease on a place we really like, but which is about 70% the size of our current apartment. It has one main room which serves as living room and opens directly into a very open kitchen, plus a medium-ish bedroom, and decent closets/bathroom space. The whole apartment is about 600-700 sq ft. We're both graduate students, and would like to keep our desks/desk space, but that is kind of iffy in this kind of layout. One desk *might* fit in the bedroom; two definitely won't. (This could be OK, though, as boyfriend is finishing his degree so I'll soon be the only student. In general I'd prefer not to study in my bedroom, though, for sleepiness reasons.)

So the first plan was to keep our boxsprings and old futon and put the desks in the main room with the futon, which would be cluttery, but we didn't see a good alternative. Then last night we both had the idea to possibly sell the beds, sell the futon, and buy a reasonably-priced but comfortable foldout bed to serve as couch + our bed in the living room. The bedroom could then be an "office" or general purpose room (would also keep dressers and other general bedroom stuff here most likely). We would put an air mattress here for guests (all our regular guests voted on an air mattress rather than the crappy futon we have now).

So, is this dumb? And does there exist a sufficiently comfortable futon to serve as a permanent bed for two people (both under 6'0"), that won't break the bank? I've heard good things about this Ikea bed. I've slept on an Ikea bed before for about a year (college-level bedding) and had no complaints. We would be willing to buy a mattress pad or whatever if it makes the bed comfortable. I see some Ikea daybeds and so forth that are seemingly acceptable, but what I'm really looking for is caveats about this slightly unconventional setup, and either suggestions beyond Ikea, or your personal experience with making Ikea sleep furniture sufficiently comfy to live your life in.

We don't have anyone to impress so we're not too worried about the impression this will make on guests etc. I kind of like the idea of putting the bed away during the day, since I never make my bed and it always looks trashy. I'm the kind of person who falls in love with Small House lifestyle photography, loves minimalism and giving things away; boyfriend is kind of a hoarder who wishes we had more space, but we're going to have to downsize regardless during this move. So I'd like to come up with a reasonable solution that isn't psychological torture for him.

We could also just get a new bed (probably from Ikea for price point reasons) that is closer in size to a Queen, and hope this gives us more bedroom space.

tl;dr, is this a good plan, and if so, what's the best futon for less (hopefully a few hundred dollars less) than $1000?
posted by stoneandstar to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I slept on that same ikea bed-couch for about a week while on vacation in an Airbnb with my 6'2" boyfriend at the time and we both really liked it. We strongly considered buying one for our apartment, but then other life stuff happened totally unrelated to the bed and we did not do it. But it is not a traditional bed: it is one of those high density foam fold out beds, and in retrospect I am not sure that I would have been comfortable sleeping on it forever and ever. If you have an ikea nearby you should definitely check it out to see if it works for you. I have found that as I have aged I have become a lot pickier about my sleeping setup (my boyfriend has one of those foam mattresses you buy online and I hate it) but ymmv.
posted by sockermom at 3:21 PM on June 3, 2016

Best answer: I'm all for creative solutions so I applaud this idea.

Two things come to mind; one - what if one of you is entertaining a guest or two (or you both are) but the guests overstay their welcome into the wee hours and someone wants to go to bed, get some rest, etc. Will each of you be okay saying "I'm just going to go camp out in the other room while you guys stay and hang out here on my sofa/bed space"?

And two - if you are going to do this I suggest not trying to cheap out but instead find the very best, most highly rated cushion/mattress that you can. Your back will thank you. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but when you're a little older you have time to reflect and say to yourself "why the heck did I do that, look at the long-term back problems I've developed". Trust me /(not-so) old fart rant.

Worse comes to worst and you will both discover that you HATE living this way - eh, so you go buy a queen sized bed and you're really only out the cost of the futon (because otherwise you were going to buy a new bed anyway). NBD.
posted by vignettist at 3:22 PM on June 3, 2016

Oh, another offbeat suggestion: how big are your closets? I have fit a bed in a closet on two occasions and slept there and it was actually great - the entire room was the bed. Perhaps this might work? 700 square feet is more real estate than it seems, so I'm wondering if your closets are big enough to fit a bed in (and nothing else). Making the bed is a real nuisance, but I loved having the rest of the space in the house to use.
posted by sockermom at 3:25 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

The basic layout sounds good. But I will tell you: you are NOT going to fold that futon up every day. You are going to wind up only folding it up when you have company over, and otherwise you will use your unfolded bed as a couch. Trust me, I live in NYC, land of studio apartments, and have seen such setups play out many times over.

Given this fact, were I you, I would put a real bed and a loveseat in the main room. Maybe get a folding screen for if you ever want to hide the bed.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:25 PM on June 3, 2016 [22 favorites]

If you can't be bothered to make your bed in your current situation then I'd say this is a really bad idea.
posted by srboisvert at 3:27 PM on June 3, 2016 [15 favorites]

Do either of you have allergies/respiratory issues? I love futons, but find sleeping on them long-term a tough proposition because you're so close to the floor (and to dust). That crept up on me after sleeping on a futon for a couple of weeks.

Seconding that you're totally not going to fold it up everyday.
posted by pickingupsticks at 3:34 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My spouse and I did this for a while when we were waiting to buy a house, and I was going to school. We agree that if we had it to do over, we would have bought a real bed and had a real bedroom, and I could have worked at the kitchen table. Having a bedroom that is just for sleeping (and sex) is better.
posted by Etrigan at 3:37 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: re: folding up the bed every day, normally I would agree that we absolutely will NOT (we actually have an unfolded futon in our living room this very moment, due to having guests... two weeks ago), but since boyfriend generally uses a couch + lap desk rather than a desk, it probably will have to fold up and down fairly frequently. If that means this is a bad idea, that's good to know.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:41 PM on June 3, 2016

Best answer: My boyfriend did this when I first met him. His apartment was much smaller than yours, maybe ~450 square feet or so, but it had a separate bedroom. He kept a comfy chair and small TV in the bedroom and had a crappy futon in the living room that he slept on. He was a neatnik at the time, so of course he folded up the futon every morning after he got up. Anyway I think this is a great idea if you're both on board. And if people aren't coming over, who cares if you fold it up every day or not?
posted by jabes at 3:43 PM on June 3, 2016

n-thing the "not all futon mattresses are created equal" sentiment. We have two futons, one in the second bedroom and one in the living room, and even as we spent a lot of money on the mattresses the one in the living room is more comfortable to me than the one in the second bedroom, and all of those are more comfortable than the cheap futon mattresses we've had previously.
posted by straw at 3:45 PM on June 3, 2016

Best answer: What about something like this bed that folds into a cabinet? I've never slept on one, but I've seen how easy they are to put away. Full disclaimer: I know the designer.
posted by carmicha at 3:48 PM on June 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

700 feet does sound like enough room to have your bed, desk(s), and living room with existing futon.

I'd put both desks pushed up against a wall on your main room before I slept on a futon. Especially if boyfriend wants to sit on existing living room furniture with his laptop.

Don't sleep on a futon. Get nice bed(s) and have a weird lookin bedroom or living room to accomidate your needs. I've seen nerds do this. I was not offered. I admire their practicality.
posted by Kalmya at 3:56 PM on June 3, 2016

Best answer: Personally, I vote for buying a bed that goes in your bedroom.

I, too, had one of those "high density fold out beds" from IKEA (not the one pictured), folding/unfolding for overnight guests got tired fast and I didn't sleep as well on it as I would have liked. I'm not sure that anything you can get to enhance the sleep experience would not also compromise the couchy-ness, but I never tried it.

Another thing (obviously, YMMV) but the main reason that I could never have hacked it in a studio is that I need a separate space to sleep and relax that is not the same space as where I cook, eat, watch tv, etc.
posted by sm1tten at 4:06 PM on June 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a friend who did this with her husband in medical school--they slept on the couch and folded it back up every day. They are super neatnik ultra organized people and it was a struggle even for them to do it.

So it's doable, but you just really need to search your innermost selves and be honest about what your mutual abilities and expectations are.
Your boyfriend may fold the bed back up into couch configuration to work, but what about the pillows, blankets, etc?
What if one of you wants to stay up late watching a movie and the other one go to bed?
If your boyfriend mostly works on the futon with a lap desk anyway, why does he need a real desk too?

If you really think it's going to be the best solution, go for it, but I suggest you mutually come up with a trial period and that either person can vote to move the bed into the bedroom at the end of the period.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:13 PM on June 3, 2016

Best answer: I lived with a futon as my only bed for about ten years (lots of constant moving between shitty, tiny rooms in group houses = sorry no big ass mattress for me). It sucked. Horribly. By the end I was sleeping on the houses' shared couch to avoid my futon. A real, tried and true, Japanese futon is one thing, but a standard commercial futon is a piece of shit for a primary sleeping spot. It's great for guests who occasionally need to sleep in your tiny space, but your body will regret it if you sleep on one every day.

We've had a murphy bed (with curved slats in place of a box spring, and a dense foam mattress that's only about 7" deep) for the last three years and it's immeasurably better than a futon.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:16 PM on June 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's not just folding up the futon every day -- unless you want you / your guests to sit on top of your sheets and blankets, this means stripping the futon every time you fold it up, and then folding (or wadding, whatevs) your bedding and storing it someplace that preferably isn't the floor since your stuff will get pretty dirty if you do that unless you are more motivated than I am to sweep or vacuum a lot.

And per your update, if your boyfriend mostly works on the couch. . .why don't you just use the desk and get a real bed to put in the bedroom? I know working in your bedroom isn't ideal, but it sounds like a better option than dealing with a futon. Will your desk(s) fit anywhere else in the place? Like in the living room or kitchen?

If you can put a bed in your closet, do it! I lived in a studio apartment and did this, and I loved it.
posted by ananci at 4:30 PM on June 3, 2016

This was my setup for a while because I didn't like my roommate and so I, and my boyfriend when he visited, would spend most of the time in my room on my bed which was a futon. I only folded it into a couch occasionally because it was annoying and just as easy to sit on it as a bed with my back against the wall. Having sex on it was occasionally problematic. I'd suggest getting a real bed.

Maybe you could compromise by getting a smaller couch and then really luxurious desk chairs, so people could sit in those if you need more seating?
posted by ChuraChura at 4:52 PM on June 3, 2016

Best answer: We have that sofa bed and it's great. It's in our inlaw studio unit and a friend has been sleeping on it for two years now and says it's pretty comfortable. He folds it up about half the time and it's quick. I don't think it's a terrible idea.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:55 PM on June 3, 2016

Best answer: I know people who do this, but it's because they have studio apartments with absolutely no room for a couch and a bed. You have a bedroom, so you can have a bed! I think you'll be really pleasantly surprised to find how nice it is to have a real bedroom and not a futon or two twins pushed together. A queen size bed is a good idea rather than a king.
I think you should look at space saving by drastically down sizing your office furniture (and possibly dressers - you could share one large dresser, or use a second dresser as a tv stand in the living room*). Desks are true clutter magnets. You mention that your partner doesn't even use a desk, which is really common. So his desk should go. If you need a desktop computer and like two monitors and a printer, then you may need a desk. (Although even then, I bet you can get by with a smaller desk than you have now). But if you just need, like, a laptop and a wireless printer, then I suggest your desk could be a console table behind the sofa in the living room. You could have a small bookshelf as a night stand or end table to store papers and schoolbooks.
Overall, I just really suggest making your sleep space as comfortable as you can, because good sleep is going to help your school and personal life so much more than the nicest desk or futon would. If you want some ideas of a shared office/living room space, try a search on apartment therapy. Congrats on the new place!

*I mention dressers because clothing is also a huge clutter source. You mention multiple dressers, which caught my eye because I think that's difficult in a small apartment. You're both going to need to downsize your clothing - and I think men can have more trouble with this than women. Pack off-season stuff and store it in rolling Rubbermaid containers under your bed (another advantage to a bed). A small dresser can double as a nightstand. The coffee table in the living room could be a steamer trunk packed with purses,shoes, etc.
I hope this helps and is not overwhelming. Do you have any friends who are great organizers that could help you plan? I say that because I love it if one of my friends askes me for organization help. Cleaning out someone's closet is like a party for me. If you have a neutral party who can come over and help downsize and pack before the move, it might help you and your boyfriend negotiate this together.
posted by areaperson at 5:34 PM on June 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

What you need is a murphy bed with fold down desk. That would let you have two desks and a bed in your bed room.

Generally speaking a murphy bed even without the desk is a much better solution if layout allows than a folding bed. Even in your living room as long as you have space to clear your couch (even if the couch needs to be moved on casters). You can use any old mattress and they can fold up while the bedding is in place.
posted by Mitheral at 6:36 PM on June 3, 2016

If your boyfriend wants to use a lap desk on the futon anyway, get rid of his desk*. I'd get a real bed -- it is a lovely luxury to have a proper bedroom.

I say this as a person who has a dedicated office in her home with desk and all and NEVER USES IT because I like to work on the sofa in the living room. My office is now a closet. If your boyfriend is a Sofa Worker, embrace it!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:42 PM on June 3, 2016

Best answer: I've done this. What you want is an Otis futon. They are innerspring and foam futon mattress that you can buy through the internet (they're available on amazon). I had a full Otis Moonbeam which remains the most comfortable mattress in our home ten years later (it's now the guest bed/basement sofa). We bought a queen moonbeam when we got married and only got rid of it because a ceiling leak caused mold. Both were more comfortable than our current $3,000 mattress.

I've had and slept on other futon mattresses, and a bunch of ikea sofabeds, and none of them are comfortable long term solutions. An Otis bed works as a normal bed and is fine as a sofa on occasion (some of them are a little tricky to fold but you still can). I have evangelized them for pretty much my entire time on metafilter because they are really that good.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:52 PM on June 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have that ikea couch/futon/bed. We slept on it for a couple of nights when we first got it and it was fine, but even then I wouldn't have wanted to sleep on it for much longer. Now that we've had it for ~1 year, it's gotten a bit softer in the places where we normally sit, which is fine for sitting, but would be uncomfortable for sleeping, I think. We actually had someone sleep on it recently and they said that it was ok, but that they wouldn't want to sleep on it for much longer.

I did have a futon in a previous apartment, and despite never making my bed before or since, I did make the bed nearly every day. It was a hassle though, and I was out of that apartment as soon as I could be. The futon itself was the Beddinge from Ikea, and was pretty comfortable. I used the mattress pad that went with it, but I don't think it would have been necessary. I did get the model with the spring mattress (as opposed to foam), which was totally worth it. I slept on it for 2 years and it was totally comfortable.

Honestly, having been a grad student in a somewhat similarly sized apartment, I would just bite the bullet and have desks in the living room. It'll look a little ugly, but you'll get used to it and the rewards in terms of helping you turn off work at bedtime seem like they'll be worth it, at least to me.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:27 PM on June 3, 2016

Desks in the living room and a real bed (with whatever kind of mattress you like, spring, foam, or futon) in the bedroom seems much nicer and more livable for any length of time.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:45 PM on June 3, 2016

I tried every configuration in my 500 sq ft studio over time (futon, good quality pullout sleep sofa, a full size bed in the living area) and the winner is: a Murphy bed, hands down. I regret wasting money and time on the other options.

I have a friend who installed a Murphy bed in a closet, without the surrounding furniture frame, and put vertical, sliding doors to conceal it. I prefer a cabinet that looks like an armoire, flanked by bookcases, but that gets a little pricier, depending upon material, and can take up more room.

Even were I to suddenly win a three bedroom home, each bedroom would have a Murphy bed, they are that comfortable and that practical.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 11:46 PM on June 3, 2016

It seems to me that having a separate bedroom meets your needs about 80% of the time. Have you thought about getting a platform or captains bed for the bedroom? Then maybe use panel dividers to divide the living area into a home office/ guest space?
posted by oceano at 10:31 AM on June 5, 2016

Response by poster: So it turned out that fitting two desks in the living room with a regular loveseat + reclining chair was no big deal! And the twin beds fit nicely in the bedroom, so we're just regular folks for now.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:49 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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