The American Futon
Everyone remembers the futon, weather in their first apartment as a dual-purpose couch, or on a visit as a convertible guest bed. Futons pepper the living rooms, bedrooms, and offices of our lives, our memories of youth and travel. The futon has become part of the American experience, even though the idea for the Futon came to America from Japan, like most of what we import, we have made it distinctly ours. The Futon?s place in the traditional Japanese home is very different than the way we come to know the Futon as a contemporary furniture piece.
In Japan, Futons are much thinner and more portable than they are in America. Traditional Japanese homes have soft tatami flooring, which the futons are placed directly onto at night for sleeping. In the morning, futons are rolled up and stored in cupboards so that the room can be used for other purposes.
In America, furniture is rarely moved, and we like to sit and sleep off the floor, which presented a problem for William Brouwer, the man that would bring the futon across the Pacific. Brouwer recognized the need for space in his native Boston, as well as the difficult, inconvenient hide-a-beds that were popular at the time. He made the mattress thicker and designed a three-fold, slatted wood frame that could slide down into a bed position or up into a couch position. In the years following the futon?s debut, others have added easy-conversion mechanisms, designer frames and mattresses made with modern foams and materials.
Today, the futon has become an American staple. Inexpensive futons can are frequently purchased by collage students and young people starting out. High end futons are made of sturdy hard woods and durable materials that can be used by families for decades.