Despite a boom in popularity, futons still draw distaste from those Americans who are accustomed to beds with posture-enhancing pockets and spongy pillow-tops. Still, these versatile mats, favored by students and fans of Japanese culture, have been adopted and adapted by U.S. connoisseurs for more than a century.

The futons Morse describes are quite different from those now gracing urban apartments. Quilted comforters that were encased and stuffed with cotton or silk, traditional futons were spread on the two-inch thick tatami mats that lined the floors of Japanese houses. Sleepers could use another futon as a cover and rest their heads on small pillows stuffed with buckwheat hulls. When the night was over, the futons were quickly folded and stored in waiting closets, leaving rooms clean and bare.

The Beauty and Use

The futons' disappearing act was only part of the Japanese home design emphasizing space, light, and natural elements. Movable screens, or fusuma, separated rooms from one another or from the outside; by rearranging them, owners could transform the size, function, and feeling of an area. The tatamis, each about three by six feet (the size of a reclining person), served as both padding and units of architectural measurement. Houses were built to contain a certain number of mats per room. Fabric edging on each mat created rectangular floor patterns, echoing the posts supporting the building and the ceiling beams.

Decorations were simple and few, often celebrating natural elements such as flowers, birds, and trees. These spare aesthetics , which ran directly counter to the overstuffed American and European drawing rooms of Morse's time, have since strongly influenced U.S. design.

Futons themselves began to appear in bohemian crash pads in the late 1960s. Students of Asian culture made the mats by hand for friends because they were cheap and saved space. These cottage industries have become corporations in the past 30 years, subject to federal restrictions and boasting a glossy trade magazine, Futon Life.

The Futon Difference

Space-saving futon furniture makes any room bigger. Sofa by day, bed by night - versatile and functional futon sofa-sleepers are ideal in that extra room for overnight guests, or as a primary sofa or bed anywhere in your home. Comfort, simplicity and space-saving efficiency are qualities that appeal to young and old alike.

The Futon Furniture Switch Is On

Millions of people who originally bought futon furniture for a spare room or TV room sofa discovered just how comfortable they are - and have switched from traditional mattresses and waterbeds to futon mattresses for their primary sleeping surface.

Quality Unfolds With Real Value

Quality-made, durable futon furniture is an excellent value - it's considerably less expensive than a traditional convertible sofa bed, and is available in a range of styles to fit any budget and decor, giving you a real value for your home furnishing's dollar.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a futon?

A: In a traditional form, the futon mattress is a pad of cotton batting that is flexible and therefore easily folded. Designers of today are incorporating more comfort and luxury into futons by combining cotton fibers with natural rubber, open cell foams, and innersprings.

Q: What is latex?

A: Englander has trademarked the name "Laytex" to differentiate it from petroleum-based latex. The difference between latex and Laytex-TM is that the former is composed of some natural rubber and some petroleum products and fillers. The mixture varies from one producer to the next. Englander's latex is composed of 100% natural rubber from a Rubber tree plant. This product is naturally anti-microbial, hypoallergenic, dust-mite resistant, and has a very long, useful life when compared to any other sleeping or sitting surface.

Q: Why is a futon better than a sleeper sofa?

A: With a futon, we don't include the notorious "Bar in the middle of your back," making it the obvious choice for those prefer sleeping comfortably to tossing and turning all night and waking up with a sore body. Sleeper sofa mattresses cannot compare to even a middle-line futon in terms of comfort. With a futon, it's also easy to change the upholstery and the mattress. You can purchase a second upholstery cover and change the whole look of any given room. Finally, one person can disassemble or move a futon without difficulty.

Q: How do I take care of my futon?

A: Flipping your futon regularly (once a week is recommended), keeping it on a slatted surface so that air can circulate through it and airing it out every once in a while are the keys to futon longevity

Q: How long should my futon last?

A: Depending on how well you treat your futon (See Question 4) and how firm you like your sleeping surface, it should last you between 5-15 years, 10 being about average. Futons get firmer with time, so if you like a really firm sleeping surface, then you'll probably hold on to your futon for a good long time and may even think it gets better with age