The sleeper sofa is a workhorse of apartment living—a tried and true way to accommodate overnight guests in even the tiniest home. They're complex pieces and the market is full of good and bad options. Here's our guide to shopping for a well-designed sofa bed to fit your space and your budget.
Small, Medium, or Large?
Measure your area based on the size of the sofa bed when open. You want to make sure there's enough room to comfortably unpack the bed without rearranging your whole apartment. In a tiny space, you may only have room for a small twin sofa bed (generally measuring around 56 x 90 inches open) or even a twin sleeper ottoman. A larger space might be able to accommodate a full sized sleeper (about 72 x 90 inches open) or a queen (about 84 x 90 open).
If your space is really limited, try an ottoman that folds out into a bed. We briefly tested and liked BoConcept's $500 sleeper ottoman, a slip-covered box that easily unpacks into a twin mattress.
Crate and Barrel
They're a good source for affordable, quality furniture, and they carry a bunch of sofa beds and twin sleeper chairs (also known as chairs and a half). New York blogger Aaron recommends the Troy Twin Sleeper Sofa for $999.
Design Within Reach
The Twilight Sofa ($1,880) is a smart design that converts from a daybed to a queen or a set of twin beds. It's made the list of Apartment Therapy's best sleeper sofas for several years in a row.
Check the Quality
The frame is key to a sleeper sofa's quality. Look for a kiln-dried hardwood frame. Kiln drying removes moisture from the wood and stabilizes the frame to avoid cracking or warping, so it's especially important for a sofa bed with movable parts. Strong metal frames can also work well for more modern designs. Mattress quality is equally important. Test for comfort by lying down on the mattress in the store or, if you're shopping online, search for reliable customer reviews.
Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams
This store is known for its high-quality sofas, and they carry a good selection of sleepers. Prices are mid-to-high, on par with stores like Room & Board or Crate & Barrel. The Reese Sleeper Sofa (shown left) has a hardwood frame with mitered corners.
Room & Board
This store makes everything in the US from quality materials. Their sleeper line offers two good mattress solutions: the Air Coil, a combination air and coil mattress that comes with an air pump, and the Comfort Sleeper, a high-density foam mattress with no bars.
The Nomade Express is the most popular sleeper sofa at this high-end modern store. It's a hinged design with a foam mattress (no springs or bars) and the upholstery covers can be removed for dry cleaning. The price is expensive, around $4,200.
Unless you're buying used or looking for a small-scale sleeper ottoman, expect to pay at least $1,000 for a quality sofa bed. Another way to save money is to buy a daybed. Simpler than a sleeper sofa, a daybed is basically just a mattress with bolster pillows that can be used for sleeping or seating.
More Sleeper Sofas on Apartment Therapy:
• Sleeper Sofas of the Week
• Maxwell's Modern Sleeper Sofa and Sofa Bed Reviews
• Best Sleeper Sofas and Sofa Beds 2009
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Photo: Twilight Sleeper Sofa from Design Within Reach