Where Have All The Futons Gone?

I want to replace a futon. It is the old, thick cotton kind that became popular in the ’80s — no foam, no springs. Ten years ago you could look in the back of the sleazy local “alternative” newspaper and find ads for futon shops that would sell you a plain 8-inch-thick cotton futon for a modest price. Now I look and the shops are gone. On the Internet “futon” means a piece of furniture that incidentally has a mattress that kind of, sort of looks like the same type of thing that used to be called a futon. You can google “futon mattress” but these are now mostly pseudo-mattress contraptions containing springs or foam. I have slept on a foam-containing futon and it was comfortable, but I prefer all-cotton ones, in part because they all feel the same and therefore I know what I am getting. Further googling, on the term “Japanese futon”, yields better results, but the Japanese-futon merchants seem to be selling a much thinner futon than what I am looking for. They appear also to be charging a premium for the authentic Japanese-futon experience, which involves a tiny Japanese apartment where you sleep on an authentic Japanese futon on top of an authentic tatami mat and then roll everything up in the morning to make the most of your limited space. Thanks but I thought we had moved past that here. To use a cotton futon comfortably on a conventional slatted bed frame the futon needs to be at least six inches thick, preferably 8 or 9 inches. This is an American futon. But are they even available anymore? I can’t tell if the market has changed or if I am merely looking in the wrong places.

36 thoughts on “Where Have All The Futons Gone?”

  1. Six inches futons sound good in winter or with air conditioning, but all that cotton would absorb and store the body heat in summer. Here in Thailand they sell one inch mats that they lay on a reed mat placed on the floor. Very comfortable and cool! Especially if you’re living in a Thai style raised house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO6RygPVmZU

    In the short winters and rainy season when it’s cooler you pile on covers and clothing. ;)

    Have used western styled mattresses over here and their pure hot without air-conditioning.

    Same with padded furniture.

    Remember when I was young looking at pictures of royal Chinese furniture, it looked like lacquered hard wood and had no padding, always wondered how it could be comfortable, but in summer the wood is cool to the touch until you’ve sat for a while, then you can shift to a cool spot. In winter you can add cushions.

    Not trying to hijack your thread, just thought the contrast might be interesting.


  2. I noticed that futon shops, especially those that were small businesses, began to quietly disappear in the late 90s. This was right around the time we all began down the path of conspicuous consumption hysteria. You know granite, chrome, stove that costs more than three month’s wages (gross)! But somehow during all this, and I don’t know when it happened, we moved back to modernism. One thing that is also interesting about this time, is that a lot of college students went up market in terms of their expenditures for off-campus rents and their furnishings. Now in our so called post-modernist world, too many people are buying blocky, unimaginative, MODERNIST-inspired furnishings. One problem though is that this modernism has even infected China, India, Thailand, etc.

    Got to go– I have an appointment to buy some good ag-land that I can sell to the next landfill developer. In about five years they are going to need someplace to pile all this junk.

  3. The futons I remember from my student and medical resident days were lumpy, hard and uncomfortable. And yet, I have very fond memories of those “just starting out in life” days.

    I agree with AT Sherwood. I grew up in a college town and what I hear is that the old dorm culture and renting a single room has gone the way of off-campus apartments with cable, internet hook-ups and destination weddings for the young starter marriages. I am being a jerk. The kids are sweet, it’s just the zeitgeist of the times. Hence magazines like Living Simple and the endless pop-culture memoirs about simplifying your life and, er, living simply.

    I always liked mid-century modern until it became more Mad Men and less Billy Wilder.

    – Madhu

  4. Er, slightly edit the above to read: “I am being a jerk, I know. The kids aren’t the problem. They ARE sweet. It’s just the zeitgeist.

    Be careful sharing your stories of renting rooms, sharing an apartment or taking a couple of part-time jobs making ends meet. The NYT will discover it as a new “sign of the times” and do a lifestyle section article on it.

    When did the early sweet beginnings of a young working life with its have-the-friends-over spaghetti dinners and futons become so horrible? I know I always harp on Apartment Therapy around here and on my currently in hibernation blog, but I love that the people on that site are creative and thrifty. Beauty is a thing you can create all by yourself with what you find around you. A swathe of paint in an amazing color, an unusual photo ripped out of a magazine, and a funky garage sale frame – and there you go. You create it, you make it, it’s really very pretty that way.

    Why wouldn’t you rather rent your own room and do your own thing than back in with the parents? Although, I totally lived with my parents in college for a few years. Saved a bundle.

    – Madhu

  5. Here is where I used to shop for stuff like this in Chicago. They had a couple of stores, but I haven’t been in one for years, but they apparently won an award so are still in business. Check them out.


    Also I was right out of college and bought a futon that was never delivered for $300 and I was pretty pissed off and went after a store for a long time. That was probably about 1/2 my net worth at that era.

  6. I’d personally take an internet hookup over cable TV. A connection can easily be shared via WiFi (and possibly with the use of cantennas), thus cutting costs for a group of people. It’s even better with a resellable commercial connection.

    There are a few cell phone plans that allow unlimited 4G access (while acting as a WiFi hotspot), so that’s always an option.

  7. Assuming they still exist, even though they have a listing:

    Whatsa Futon
    824 Winchester Rd,
    Lexington, KY 4050

    (859) 255-0871

  8. Don’t know about futons but I had (am having) a similar experience with with hibachis. I used to have a heavy cast iron grill about 15 inches square that would take enough charcol to let me cook a steak. Can’t find one anywhere.
    No futons, no hibachis, maybe it’s a conspiracy!

  9. Move to Jersey. Anything, and I mean *anything*, you could possibly want you can find retail here. There are 2 separate futon stores on Rt 46 less than 5 miles from where I live.

    One of them is a little foo-foo (futon mattresses with inner springs? please, no) but the other is more ‘traditional’. Not too long ago we bought an 8″ all cotton mattress to replace the one on the ‘couch’ (also the bed, it’s my futon from my single days) in our spare bedroom/office.

  10. We’ve had an LL Bean futon couch for, gosh, 10 years now (I had a futon in college in the 80s) and I see they’ve gone to the foam-core critters you mention.

    Well, luckily I am in NJ so if/when I need to replace that I shall give i to the Siren call of Rt. 46…

  11. TO: Jonathan
    RE: Get Thee….

    ….a good wife…who can sew. Or to a good seemstress.


    [Who can find a good wife. Her worth is greater than rubies. — Proverbs 31]

  12. We bought a futon back in 2004 from a local furniture store here in a small town in Rhode Island — wood construction built by a small company in (I believe) Maine with the kind of thick non-spring mattress you are talking about. We liked it so much and found it so comfortable and practical that we bought a second one. These are not like those hundred dollar flimsy things you might find in a storefront discount furniture shop in a college neighborhood; this is solid construction and costs around eight hundred bucks. The furniture store where we bought them — Sheldon Furniture, Main Street, Wakefield, RI — has been owned and run by the same family since 1852. You are probably outside of their delivery zone, but just wanted to let you know that what you are looking for does exist.

  13. Greg: “Move to Jersey. Anything, and I mean *anything*, you could possibly want you can find retail here.”

    The Traveling Wilburys » Tweeter And The Monkey Man by Bob Dylan

    Tweeter and the Monkey Man were hard up for cash
    They stayed up all night selling cocaine and hash
    To an undercover cop who had a sister named Jan
    For reasons unexplained she loved the Monkey Man

    Tweeter was a boy scout before she went to Vietnam
    And found out the hard way nobody gives a damn
    They knew that they found freedom just across the Jersey Line
    So they hopped into a stolen car took Highway 99

    And the walls came down, all the way to hell
    Never saw them when they’re standing
    Never saw them when they fell

    The undercover cop never liked the Monkey Man
    Even back in childhood he wanted to see him in the can
    Jan got married at fourteen to a racketeer named Bill
    She made secret calls to the Monkey Man from a mansion on the hill

    It was out on thunder road – Tweeter at the wheel
    They crashed into paradise – they could hear them tires squeal
    The undercover cop pulled up and said “Everyone of you’s a liar
    If you don’t surrender now it’s gonna go down to the wire”


    An ambulance rolled up, a state trooper close behind
    Tweeter took his gun away and messed up his mind
    The undercover cop was left tied up to a tree
    Near the souvenir stand by the old abandoned factory

    Next day the undercover cop was-a hot in pursuit
    He was taking the whole thing personal
    He didn’t care about the loot
    Jan had told him many times it was you to me who taught
    In Jersey anything’s legal as long as you don’t get caught


    Someplace by Rahway prison they ran out of gas
    The undercover cop had cornered them said “Boy, you didn’t think that this could last”
    Jan jumped out of bed said “There’s someplace I gotta go”
    She took a gun out of the drawer and said “It’s best if you don’t know”

    The undercover cop was found face down in a field
    The monkey man was on the river bridge using Tweeter as a shield
    Jan said to the Monkey Man “I’m not fooled by Tweeter’s curl
    I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl”


    Now the town of Jersey City is quieting down again
    I’m sitting in a gambling club called the Lion’s Den
    The TV set was blown up, every bit of it is gone
    Ever since the nightly news show that the Monkey Man was on

    I guess I’ll go to Florida and get myself some sun
    There ain’t no more opportunity here, everything’s been done
    Sometime I think of Tweeter, sometimes I think of Jan
    Sometimes I don’t think about nothing but the Monkey Man

    (Repeat Chorus)

  14. Six inches futons sound good in winter or with air conditioning, but all that cotton would absorb and store the body heat in summer.

    I guess it all depends on the climate where one resides. I’ve been sleeping on the same futon mattress on a bed frame I made twenty years ago. Under the sheet I place an absorbent “pad” that I replace every two years or so. It also helps that in the high country of Colorado, night time temperatures rarely exceed 20 degrees C (70F).

  15. Odd that you would google “futon matress” but not “8 inch cotton futon”, which captures more of your criteria… and gives me links to much of what was mentioned above, plus Amazon.

  16. If all the above tips don’t work, during my time on Okinawa the place to get futons was Korea. They were considered the best quality for the price.

  17. Jonathan:
    You made the big time.

    * AUGUST 23, 2010
    * Is Obama ‘American Enough’?: Suddenly, it’s not “racist” to criticize the president.

    Questions Nobody Is Asking

    * “Can New York Save Lindsay Lohan?”–headline, New York Times, Aug. 22
    * “Where in the World Is Patrots [sic] Nation?”–headline, Boston Globe, Aug. 22
    * “Where Have All the Futons Gone?“–headline, ChicagoBoyz.net, Aug. 21
    * “Emma Thompson: A National Treasure or Britain’s Most Annoying Woman?”–headline, Daily Telegraph (London), Aug. 21
    * “Can Dead Wrestlers Sway a Senate Race?”–headline, TheDailyBeast.com, Aug. 19
    * “Are One-Quarter of Americans Freakin’ Morons?”–headline, Time.com, Aug. 20
    * “[Former Enron Adviser] Paul Krugman Is a Liar: Does the New York Times Care?”–headline, AmericanThinker.com, Aug. 23

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