Buying Guide – Shopping for the Best Sleeper Sofa
A sleeper sofa is a sofa that converts into a bed. Sometimes referred to as a fold-out couch or sofa bed, the sleeper sofa has dual functionality as a place to relax and sleep. Sleeper sofas look like a traditional piece of living room furniture, but when they are folded out, rearranged, or pulled out, they provide a cozy place for you and your guests to rest.
Sleeper sofas are generally used as a guest bed or primary bed in homes with limited space. Their ability to serve multiple purposes makes them a go-to choice for urban and apartment dwellers.
Sleeper sofas are similar to other hideaway beds, like murphy beds and trundle beds. They come in many variations, ranging from futons, to pull-out sofa beds, to expandable chaise lounges. While they have always been a handy addition to a home, they have improved in style, ease-of-use, and comfort.
The original U.S. Patent for a sleeper sofa was awarded in 1885 to Sarah E. Goode, a former slave, who was also the first-ever black woman to be awarded a patent. Her “Cabinet Bed” was designed to be a bed that folded into a desk, saving space for Chicago dwellers who were cramped into urban apartments.
Different Types of Sleeper Sofas
There most popular types of sofa bed are convertible, lift-and-pull, and daybed.
Convertible Sleeper Sofas
The convertible-style sleeper sofa involves folding down the back of the sofa to create a flat surface for sleep. Some convertible sleeper sofas have an extra setting that also allows for a back that leans at a 45-degree angle for comfortable lounging in addition to sleeping flat. Futons fall into the convertible style of sleeper sofa. Most convertible sleeper sofas feature a more minimalist, modern design. They tend to fit well into rooms with a contemporary or eclectic look.
Lift-and-Pull Sleeper Sofas
Lift-and-pull sleeper sofas are the traditional type of sleeper sofa. They feature a classic sofa style with pillows that support the back and individual cushions that support the seat. In order to get to the bed, you pull the frame up and out from the well of the sofa and unfold it. Lift-and-pull sleeper sofas are considerably more comfortable than they used to be, with innovations in mattress technology to support a better night’s sleep.
The daybed is a simple sleeper sofa that is more of a twin-sized bed that sits horizontally along a wall than a true sleeper sofa. Still, there are many designs today that echo a sofa feel and therefore still fall into this general category. Daybeds sometimes feature a trundle bed, which is a second twin-sized bed that pulls out from under the frame. Trundle beds allow for two people to sleep next to one another on individual mattresses.
Construction, Features, and Style
There are different styles of sleeper sofas. Many convertible-style sleeper sofas fit in contemporary interiors, as they tend to have minimalist design and are low to the ground. They are most often seen in starter homes, dorm rooms, in an office, or a second room. They can be dressed up with throw pillows and blankets, but they are simplistic at their core. However simple they are, they still make for a great night’s sleep thanks to advances in filler technology and furniture design. Lift-and-pull styles feature a more traditional couch look, with rolled arms and cushions both below the seat and behind the back.
Newer mattress technology has transformed the experience a sleeper has on these beds, but their conversion from sofa to bed takes some work. Still, the integrity of the sofa is not compromised in return. Often fluffy and comfortable to sit on, they are a cozy experience when in sofa mode.
There are three main features of a sleeper sofa: the frame, the mattress, and the open-close mechanism. Your needs and personal taste influence how important each feature is to you, however, they are all important to keep in mind.
Sleeper Sofa Frames
It’s important that a sleeper sofa has a sturdy frame. Solid frames are among the strongest frames for any type of sofa, but furniture-grade plywood frames work well too. Sleeper sofas can also have tubular metal frames. These types of frames are largely found in the lift-and-pull variety of sleeper sofa. Whichever frame you choose, make sure that the frame is durable.
Sleeper Sofa Mattress and Cushioning
The padding that you sleep on can have the most dramatic impact on your sleep experience. Lift-and-pull sleeper sofas allow you to choose any sort of mattress you like. Memory foam mattresses squeeze and fold easily, and maintain the integrity of their shape when expanded. Air coil mattresses combine the technology of air mattresses with the coil, allowing the mattresses to tuck away more easily when folded, yet still provide a great night’s sleep.
Sleeper-Sofa Open-Close Mechanism
Make sure that the mechanisms that lift your bed up and out do not squeak or stick. The same goes for any clicking mechanisms that pull the back of the sofa down. Units that have a lock-down bar to ensure proper closure and easy opening are solid bets for the longevity of the bed. The better the open-close mechanism, the less of a chance that edges are uneven and get sheets and blankets caught in the process.
Finding the Right Sleeper Sofa
Finding the right sleeper sofa is a balance between design, functionality, and cost. It’s also important to consider the reality of the types of humans that may sleep on it. Washable covers are great for pets and kids, and a longer bed is definitely necessary for taller sleepers.
Consider how the bed will be used. Do you have a long-term guest who may be sleeping on it for a few months? If so, a daybed or convertible type of sofa sleeper may be best. Comfort is a top priority for repeat and longer-term guests. If you have less frequent visitors, you may be able to sacrifice a little bed comfort in the name of a better style sofa.
Children don’t need as much space to sleep on as adults, but durability and removable covers, for cleaning, are key. Kids love to jump on beds and have a way of spilling food and drinks. If your sleeper sofa is intended for a more sensitive body, such as an elderly parent, it may be best to choose a model that is more bed than sofa. Daybeds are fantastic for such duties, as well as sleeper sofas whose bottom cushion is simply a twin mattress turned sideways along a wall.
Sleeper Sofa Care and Maintenance
The materials used to cover your sleeper sofa will determine how to clean its surfaces. Mild detergent or soap with water will generally do the trick. Some cushions may have detachable, machine-washable covers. As for the frames, it is possible to re-order rusted or worn frames. Make sure that mechanisms properly lock and fold as needed. Do a yearly routine yearly check to make sure that all parts are working correctly. Check the frame for any stripped bolts, creaking hinges or loose legs. Double check all folding and locking mechanisms to make sure they open and close properly. Inspect any metal framing for cracks, rust, or dents. The smallest of breaches in the integrity of your sofa sleeper’s construction can lead to falling off, or through, your sofa sleeper so it’s best to be proactive.
What Else Should You Consider When Buying Sleeper Sofas?
Your new sleeper sofa will likely be one of the hardest-working pieces of furniture in your house. Once you set your budget, be honest with yourself about your needs and how you want that piece of furniture to look and function in your home.