House to Home: The fabulous futon — Staple of 1970s decor makes a comeback

Ah yes, it was so hot in the ‘70s. If you were a starving student or just managing to scrape it together in your first apartment, you had a futon. With (or, more likely, without) a frame, the futon operated as your bed, couch, desk and dining table. Graduating to more “grown-up” furniture — a real bed and a proper couch and table — came later.

The futon is once again making tracks as a must-have home purchase, but there are style and comfort improvements that have moved this versatile mattress up several notches. Comfort is the first consideration, and there have been major advancements in the mattress industry. Using environmentally sensitive materials that are layered to suit a variety of sleep postures, you have your choice of the original cotton pad, memory foam, coil or wool-wrapped futons. Futon frames now come in a variety of good-quality woods, including teak and oak, as well as metal. They easily convert from bed to couch and will fit into any style of decor. The huge range in futon covers makes it easy to switch your look from summer to winter as quickly as changing your bed cover.

It’s worth checking out the possibilities at your neighborhood futon or furniture store, or do some investigating on the Internet. Shown here are Gold Bond’s Soft Touch double and single futons set up in a cozy country living room. You can find futon covers in every style, from kids to contemporary.

One other aspect that appeals to me, given the awkward staircases I’ve had to contend with, is that even a queen-size futon mattress and frame is foldable and easy (in comparison) to move into those top-floor flats or basement apartments.

Q. I’ve got a teak dining table that is quite marked up. It’s been well used by the family for 30 years. I hate the stains and would love to update the look. Can it be painted? It’s been oiled regularly. How do I remove the oil pre-painting? Thanks for any help and ideas.

A. With any solid-wood table, it is possible to remove the stains and nicks by sanding. Just like a hardwood floor, it can be refinished. However, it sounds like you want a complete change. Before you paint, sand and wash to remove the oil, then prime with a good-quality high-hide primer that will cover up the stains. Now you are ready to paint. Finish with a couple of coats of varnish for protection.

Q. I have a two-story house and would like to put some color on the walls. There is oak wood trim on the doors and windows. Do I have to paint my wood trim white? I’d hate to do that, but I’m getting tired of my plain walls. Thank you for helping me with my dilemma.

A. There is no reason to cover up the wood trim. Traditional homes are filled with colors and patterns that complement the natural wood tones. Do some research into the historic color palettes, and you will find shades that will light up your home. Sage green, warm pinks or soft blues should all work well. Be careful with yellow, as it is not so easy to blend with certain wood tones.

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please e-mail your questions to