Part sofa, part bed...futons are the furniture equivalent of an indecisive person. These handy convertible couches are natural for dorm rooms and small apartments. Even in a larger home, setting up a futon means you have an extra bed when overnight visitors come to stay. What's more, a futon is an inexpensive furniture choice, especially when you make it yourself.
Making your own futon frame is a wallet-friendly solution for your furniture needs. There are construction plans available (either for free or for purchase); the detailed plans will outline what materials you'll need and the step-by-step process for constructing your futon frame.
Frames range from the most basic, utilitarian models to more styled versions that might blend in better with your other pieces of furniture.
Regardless of style, the main components of your futon frame are the slat racks (seat rack and back rest) which support the futon mattress. You'll also need a mechanism that allows the futon to convert from bed to couch. Most futons employ a nylon roller system while some use a metal mechanism; you can check with your local hardware store to see whether they have either of these in stock. Alternately, you can use a kicker, which is a piece of wood or plastic that wedges in between the slat racks when in couch mode.
When choosing the materials for your futon, don't be tempted to buy the cheapest things on the market. While cost is usually a concern, you also want a product that's going to last. Choose a sturdy wood, such as southern yellow pine, that's going to be able to withstand wear and tear.
When making your own futon mattress, you could simply stitch a futon-sized pillow and stuff it with batting. It would be serviceable, but it would also be highly uncomfortable. Futon mattresses have come a long way from the thin, unpleasant-to-sit-on varieties that used to flood the market. Now you can buy mattresses with different layers of foam or even springs. When making your own, comfort and durability should be your priorities.
Foam rubber makes a good core for your mattress. You can ramp up the comfort level by adding cotton batting above and below the foam rubber, but be warned that cotton batting tends to clump after time. The fabric for your mattress should be sturdy and durable. Canvas works well, but your sewing machine may not be able to handle it. If you can't use canvas, a cotton-base fabric will work as well.
The fabric you choose for your slipcover is your chance to show your personal style. Choose a style and colour that you like, and look for coordinating fabrics for throw pillows. If you're willing to put in the extra work, you can even make two or more covers so you can alternate your style.
For an easy solution, you can sew two flat sheets (or upholstery fabric) on three sides and use Velcro or a zipper on the fourth side so you can insert your mattress.