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Alternative Beds: New Concepts

Best Buys in Air Mattresses, Futons & Sleeper Sofas

Sleeper sofas that are more comfortable than ever before also now are easier to open. Meanwhile, air-mattress manufacturers are finding new ways to give you an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Andover Mills

When it comes to alternative beds, consumers today have a wider selection than ever before and aren’t limited to just conventional sleeper sofas, air mattresses and futons either.

For example, recently, we saw the arrival of a double-decker sleeper sofa, sleeper sofas that fold over—so you don’t have to remove the cushions—and even a sleeper ottoman. In 2014, Norwalk Furniture introduced the Monterey Ottoman Sleeper (starting at $1,750). It has a foam mattress that Norwalk says is just under twin size that includes a gel-infused top layer and a nonremovable mattress cover. It folds up in a size that isn’t much larger than a conventional storage ottoman: 20 inches by 45 inches by 32 inches.

Meanwhile, manufacturers of conventional sleeper sofas and futons continue to tweak their products with regard to their ease of assembly and mattress options.

OPEN SAYS ME. Manufacturers of sleeper sofas continue to look for ways to make their products easier to convert from a sofa to a bed and back again.

American Leather’s mechanism has been notable for its capability of opening from the back of the sleeper sofa. This has meant that you can fit a queen-size mattress in about a foot less of floor space than you require on a conventional sleeper sofa. What’s even better, the company recently made the mechanism easier to open than before. Lighter materials in the hinge and changing the design were the keys to that, says Molly Tracy of American Leather.

Natuzzi introduced two easy-to-open sleeper sofa collections in the past 3 years—Night & Day for its Natuzzi Editions sleeper sofas in 2014 and the Ready Bed mechanism for its Natuzzi sleeper sofas in 2016. The company says its sleeper sofas can be opened by using one hand, by grabbing a handle that’s in the back of the sofa seat in the Natuzzi models or even just flipping down the back of the sofa and rolling the whole bed open in the Natuzzi Edition models. We tried the Natuzzi Edition mechanism and found that the bed rolled open easily. Natuzzi’s system is also a space-saver. You don’t have to take the back cushions off, and mechanisms create more sleeping surface in less space in a room—about the same as American Leather’s design.

Easy-opening sleeper sofas by these two companies start as low as $900, but you typically will pay at least $3,000 to get such a model.

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Easier to open still is a new breed of sleeper sofa. Instead of pulling out a frame and mattress from beneath the sofa’s cushions, you instead just fold out the cushions themselves on the floor, to make up the bed (think: a cross between a sleeper sofa, an air mattress and a click convertible without the click). Such queen-size models start at as low as $699.

You should keep in mind, however, that the bed isn’t the only thing that’s close to the floor with these models. We found that such models have a seat height of about 16 inches, including the cushions, compared with about 20–21 inches on a typical sleeper sofa, which we believe could cause discomfort for older or taller people.

Of course, comfort is a prime consideration for a sofa sleeper, and experts whom we interviewed say consumers now have more sleeper-sofa-mattress options than ever before. Previously, we reported on the entry of gel-infused foam mattresses. As of press time, we found at least six manufacturers that provide gel-infused mattresses as an option, which is up from two in 2012. In addition, we found at least seven manufacturers that now provide viscoelastic, or memory, foam sleeper-sofa-mattress options, which is up from four previously.

Unfortunately, prices haven’t changed much on models that provide such mattress options. Sleeper sofas that allow you to buy a memory-foam mattress as an option start at $1,299, compared with $1,275 previously. Sleeper sofas that provide a gel-infused foam mattress as an option start at $799, which is the same as before.