Sleeper sofas have had a recent makeover in design, function and construction since the launch of the industry more than 25 years ago. I reviewed sleeper sofas for Consumers Digest’s Best Buy awards and in all price points, the ever-changing sleeper sofa world has launched new designs yet again.

NOT NECESSARY TO SPEND $5,000 ON A SLEEPER SOFAsleeper-sofa

Sleeper sofas are once again popular because they look nicer than the
clumsy-looking sleepers of the 80’s. Sleepers are also a way of stretching your dollar by providing a multifunctional use. Sleepers have historically appealed to budget-savvy types who just want a comfortable bed once in awhile for their guests. Many big furniture chains now like Room and Board and Pottery Barn devote floors to sleeper sofas, and have extensive selection on their sites. One real problem with sleeper sofas today is the high pricetag, which keeps going up. Furniture stores believe they can sell customers the notion that they are getting more value for their money with a sleeper. But you will overpay for that value. A smart, much less expensive alternative is the good old futon, that some stores have renamed “eurosleepers”. The new eurosleepers have come a long way in looks, and prices have stayed low relative to other types of bed/couch options.

FURNITURE STORES HEAVILY MARKETING FANCY SLEEPER SOFAS

I have been in the market for a sleeper sofa for a student who will be living at my home for a few weeks. I already have a sleeper sofa from 15 years ago, but my kids tell me that they can feel the bar below that makes it uncomfortable for sleeping. The kids used it as a trampoline in their younger years. My sleeper was a very standard sleeper at the time I bought it. It has a paper thin, standard cotton mattress and that awful bar beneath. Times have changed in the sleeper sofa world.

TODAY’S SOFA BED REPLACES THIN, JUNKY MATTRESSES OF YESTERDAY

comfy-sleeper-sofaPaper-thin cotton mattresses having no compatible sheet set options have been replaced by fancy synthetics that make you think you’re sleeping on a real bed, not on a flimsy sleeper mattress. I am seeing sleeper companies using a lot of foam and coils, and a wider range of today’s more pleasing-looking fabrics that really often aren’t worth the hefty pricetags. Foam may be a suitable replacement that can take more wear and tear than a standard pull-out sofa, and foam keeps its shape for a longer time—not bad for a mattress that needs to be hidden most of the time. Key benefits of foam are the new, lighter-weight foams that don’t lose their shape and keep the seat of the couch comfortable, not hard as a rock as with older models.

Mitchell-Gold-+-Bob-Williams-chairAt Mitchell + Bob’s (formerly Mitchell Gold), I admit I was tempted by the thickness of their mattress (thicker than the mattress on my bed), so I climbed into the bed to test it.  In the couch position, the seat was hard and uncomfortable. The mattress, on the other hand, looks thick and inviting, but I question whether it will stay firm over time because it felt a bit awkward and lumpy. I’m petite, but wonder how a larger person would be able to sleep in this bed for many consecutive nights.

SOFA FABRIC “GRADES” AND THEIR CONFUSING PRICING

Fabric pricing is a big mystery to me, as I comb through racks of neutral-colored, mediocre-quality fabrics. This is true at 90% of the big box retailers right now. Most furniture chains have at least 10 grades of fabric. The difference between Grade 1 and Grade 10 can cost more than $1,000. Here’s how it works: each fabric grade has a corresponding price. At the higher price point, I’d expect to find fine leathers, wools and velvets, but that isn’t the case. I don’t notice much fabric quality difference from the lower grades to the higher ones.  Of all the retailers with sleeper sofas I have visited over the years, Mitchell + Bob’s fabric quality and choices left me especially stumped, and for more than $5,000 I would expect a much higher fabric quality level to match the hefty price tag. I might advise in this case to get your own perfect fabric elsewhere and buy a sleeper sofa at a store that won’t take advantage of you by charging you a fortune when you bring in your own fabric.

ROOM AND BOARD A GOOD OPTION FOR SLEEPERS

Room-BoardThe sleepers at Room and Board were very comfortable, made with thick foam mattresses and offering decent and neutral fabric choices. The $3,500 price tag is within the ballpark of most of the big box furniture stores right now. The quality is good, the sofa comes with a warranty and the salespeople are knowledgeable and friendly. I think I am going to take a ride back over to Room and Board…

Jennifer Litwin