A futon is an extremely versatile piece of furniture which originated in Japan. A Japanese futon is simply a stuffed pad which lies directly on the floor or on a slightly raised base, and is barely more than a pallet. A Japanese futon is made to be stored easily during the day, and can be rolled or folded when not in use. If the Japanese futon is placed on a base or frame, that base will also stow away during the day easily. The cover of a Japanese futon is usually a cotton cloth.
Western civilization has adopted the design and made several modifications, changing almost every traditional aspect of the futon. The cover materials, filler materials, size, and application have all changed.
Typically, a western futon sits on a wooden or metal frame. That frame is mounted to swing-hinges on the side and fold-hinges in the middle. The hinges allow the futon frame to be supported by the head and foot of the futon. This allows the frame to be configured as a couch or bed, and can be changed from one to the other quickly and easily. Western futons are usually much larger and thicker than Japanese futons, and do not require as much maintenance.
Western futons are generally sold by specialty shops and department stores, and usually are not expensive. A typical futon can be found for about $200.00, and there are cheaper models. There are many frame options, such as wood or metal, designer or basic, and of course plenty of color or finish options. All in all, a futon is a great way to conserve space with a decorative, multi-use piece of furniture.