History of the Sofa Bed (The Perfect Solution for Downsized Living)



The sofa bed is one of the greatest furniture innovations of the past century, especially if you don’t have a lot of space in your home and have no spare bedroom for when guests sleep over. One minute your couch is a comfortable place to sit for two or three people, and next it’s transformed into a bed for two for the night.

Did you ever wonder where, how, why and when the sofa bed came about?

In this post we’ll take a brief look at the history of the very versatile sofa bed, as well as look at a few advantages of having a sofa bed in your home; in particular if you live in an apartment or have downsized your lifestyle.


History of the Sofa Bed


Historical Facts About the Sofa Bed

Beds in all their forms have been around for as long as any historian can remember, and couches and sofas have been in existence for centuries as well, but it was only far more recently that someone came up with the idea of combining the two.

It was really during the 1800s that new and innovative designs crept into bed manufacturing, and the idea for a sofa bed really evolved from the invention of the folding bed.

Right at the very end of the 19th century in 1899, American inventor, Leonard C. Bailey, managed to land himself a patent for his design of the folding bed. It was based on a diagram he drew of a metal frame bed that had hinges in the middle so it could be folded in half. This included a relatively thin mattress folding up with the bed frame as well.

The design was very similar to many simple folding camping beds on the market today, and it was actually the US Army that helped mass produce Bailey’s clever design.

It was only a few years later in 1908 that the pivot bed was invented and created by a guy named William Murphy. He was living in a rather cramped one room studio apartment in San Francisco at the time and was really short on available space. In fact, space was so limited that he felt he couldn’t even have guests come over to visit.

The solution he came up with was a hinged bed that folded up into a wall cavity when not in use, thus freeing up all this space in his one room unit.

The Murphy bed Company was formed and the company still manufactures pivot beds today.

So what do these snippets of bed history have to do with today’s modern sofa bed?

Well, it was innovations like these that got other people thinking, and these inventions helped inspire and pave the way for sofa beds.

Bernard CastroAn Italian man named Bernard Castro emigrated to the United States in 1919. Inspired by modern innovations at the time, as well as the study of historical furniture pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Castro dreamed up the idea of a sofa combined with a bed in 1931.

What was really unique about the way Castro was building his sleeper sofas was that the couch didn’t look like it had a fold out bed tucked away in it, hidden beneath the cushions. It looked for all money just like a regular couch.

This was a big drawcard and selling point, as many people were into the “high end” furniture look, and didn’t want their new sofa to resemble some sort of ugly hybrid between a couch and a bed.

Castro’s sofa bed designs looked beautiful and this is the main reason the sofa bed caught on like wildfire and is still a major seller in today’s market.

Apart from modern designs and aesthetics, there really isn’t a lot of difference between sofa beds today and their functionality, as compared to the original concepts Castro came up with all those years ago. Apart from tweaks and improvements, the design and functionality remains very much the same.

One area that has improved out of sight – both with modern day sofa beds and in bedding in general – is mattress design and comfort. There was no memory foam or high density foam back in Castro’s day, nor were there any individually wrapped coils both inside mattresses, or in the base supporting the mattress.

Admittedly, a sofa bed can only still have a mattress so thick or rigid, as it still needs to be able to fold in thirds to retract back into the sofa, but in modern times you really can get sofa beds with superior comfort in their design.

So that’s a bit of a brief history of the sofa bed. Let’s now quickly cover just a few advantages of having a modern day sofa bed in your home or apartment.


Best Sofa Beds for Small Spaces


Some Sofa Bed Advantages and Benefits

We mentioned at the start of this post that owning a sofa bed is a fantastic way to save space if you don’t have a lot of spare room where you live, and that’s really the biggest advantage of a sofa bed.

These days a sofa bed doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy a couch with a pull out bed either, as many futon designs are also on the market, and these simplistic couches simply have armrests and backrests that fold back to form a comfortable bed in super quick time.

Check out the following post for some inspiration:

Best Sofa Beds for Small Spaces

Our best of list contains some really good, traditional styles of sofa bed, as well as some stylish looking futons. The quality is high and the prices are really reasonable.

If your living room doesn’t have loads of space, but there is enough room to fold out a sofa bed or flatten out a futon, then opt for a 2 seater sofa bed or love seat. At least this way the couch isn’t eating up a lot of floor space when it comes to its width.

Another advantage with modern day sofa beds and futons is they are covered in materials that are very quick and easy to clean, such as PU leather; which is much like real leather only way, way cheaper.

Check out the following post for sofa cleaning tips:

Top Tips for Sofa Cleaning

One advantage of getting a futon over a traditional style of sofa bed is they are nowhere near as heavy. While a sofa bed is super handy, they are known to be pretty weighty if you need to move them about or you’re moving house. Not great to haul up staircases.

Even still, futon of sofa bed, if you need sleeping options but don’t have a bedroom with a spare bed, a sofa bed really is the best answer to the dilemma, so it’s well worth investing in one.