Primer Futon Frame History

In-Depth Primer~Futon Frame History

The Futon Frame History

The American version of the futon mattress started out on the floor, mimicking its Japanese cousin. As time passed, futon mattress makers began to see the potential of the futon frame as a new design alternative to the conventional sofa bed. Although a multitude of frame types and styles now exist, in the early days it was the team of Irv Wieder and William Brouwer who developed the first convertible futon frames.

The convertible futon frame has made the North American industry what it is today. The development and growth of the frame market is the heart of futon history. Early on, simple frames that looked like shipping pallets worked well for college students. Unfortunately, this type of product has created a lasting negative impression of the futon, which has been difficult to shake.

The advent of the Brouwer bed by William Brouwer was an entirely American idea. The frame was made to fold the futon into a sofa, and has a simple design. (see picture top right). The sofa can then be converted into a bed. The mattresses were still made out of high loft linter cotton.

The Brouwer bed was initially a high end product targeted to an elite clientele. But other manufacturers saw the potential for the potential customers looking for a low budget solution to their furniture. The early budget futons were of very little quality.

As the industry matured, manufacturers developed many beautiful hardwood frame designs. These products helped the futon industry make major inroads toward the traditional home furnishings market and also toward true legitimacy as a product category.

A second major development occurred in 1985 with the creation of the T.H.I.S. frame by Ron Massey. Massey developed his frame to hinge along the length of the mattress at the request of a Canadian consumer for whom he was making non-converting futon frames. This development was a major advance and probably was the single most important factor in jumpstarting the growth that followed. (Ron Massey is still making solid wood frames. His company is called Horndove.)

Another addition to the market arrived in 1987. Nippon, a Danish company, introduced the first all-metal convertible futon frame with a sturdy all metal mechanism. Many other companies have developed metal frames with metal mechanisms and solid wood frames with metal mechanisms as well. The frame was also incorporated into a bunk bed configuration. The bottom bunk is a full sized futon that doubles as a sofa during the day and a full-sized bed at night.

The Evolution
of the Futon Frame

The following definitions are our attempt to help anyone with the terminology associated with the futon furniture and sofa-bed industry.

Slat Rack:

Slat racks are the platforms on which the futon rests for both convertible futon sofa-bed frames and stationary platform beds.

Seat Rack:
The seat rack is the slat rack on which the user sits when a futon sofa-bed is in the sitting position.

Back Rest:
The back rest is the slat rack which the user leans back on when a futon sofa-bed is in the sitting position.

A convertible futon sofa-bed frame that utilizes three slat racks. The futon mattress can hang over the back of the frame, be folded under itself on the seat rack, or lay flat as a chaise lounge style seat. The tri-fold allows the futon mattress to fold twice along its
usually shorter width.

A convertible futon sofa-bed frame that utilizes two slat racks. The bi-fold allows the futon mattress to fold once along its length.

The kicker is usually a small piece of wood or plastic that wedges itself between the seat rack and the back rest so the frame can be returned from a sleeper to a sofa in a simple, fluid motion. Several industry patents have been granted for the kicker.

A wall-hugger is a frame that can open to a sofa-bed without moving the base of the frame away from the wall. We categorize wall-huggers by their tolerance. A zero tolerance wall-hugger can be placed directly against the wall and still not touch the wall when converting. Other wall-huggers must be placed a short distance from the wall. These are called two, three, four etc. inch tolerance wall-huggers. Be sure to ask your manufacturer about the tolerance of their wall-hugger.




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