Modern Vs Retro Sleeper Sofa - A Detailed Comparison

Sleeper sofas are somewhat like futons but they do not lay out flat. Rather, they have an in-built mattress you can pull out when you need to use it as a bed. In this guide, we will compare modern versus retro sleeper sofas and their main characteristics and traits.

Modern Vs Retro Sleeper Sofa

Modern Versus Retro Sleeper Sofas

A sleeper sofa is a convenient piece of furniture that is practical, functional, and also money-saving. This piece came into existence around the 1930s, when its invertor Bernard Castro first used the term convertible sleeper sofa to describe this creation.

Unfortunately, sleeper sofas got a bad rap in their early days. Even today, when you use the word sleeper sofa, some people might still roll their eyes. They are not too wrong, for they inevitably conjure up images of sinking mattresses, armrests digging into your back, and stale bread crumbs in every nook and cranny.

Thankfully, sleeper sofas have come a long way now. As a result, the earlier reputation of this furniture piece is slowly fading away.

Today, you can find many practical, comfortable, and aesthetically appealing sleeper sofa styles on the market. The main thing is that people have started seeing sleepers as sofas and not as beds. They are increasingly being considered as multifunctional divans with a space-saving and aesthetically pleasing design.

Whether you have a small or large space, you will love the sleeper sofa. The best part is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on one.

In this guide, we will compare modern and retro sleeper sofa styles. This comparison will help you make an informed choice especially if you are in the market to select one.

Let us begin with the modern sleeper sofa.

Modern Vs Retro Sleeper Sofa

Modern Sleeper Sofa

Modernism is the movement introduced in the late 19th century, and the furniture pieces from this period are called ‘modern’. This style of furniture was born out of necessity, since materials were scarce during the Post-World War period.

The result was that designers moved away from the use of rich, patterned fabrics and darkly gilded wood and towards using polished and economical metal for creating furniture.

Thus, modern sofas are invariably characterized by minimalism. All decorative and design elements of earlier styles seen in other styles of sofas are replaced with the use of materials and styles that focus on saving money, time, labor, and materials.

The main materials you might see in modern sleepers include molded plywood, faux wood, certain plastics, and metals. These materials are all characterized by the fact they can be produced en masse, making their high-quality styles accessible to all as well as sustainable.

Here is a summary of modern style sleepers:

The use of geometric figures and patterns

This is one of the most prominent traits of modern sleepers. You might see geometric prints on the upholstery and even angles, triangles, and other geometric shapes on the fabrics used. They do not use decorative and ornamental patterns and prints.

Lots of metal

Most modern sleepers tend to use metal frames. Commonly used metals include aluminum, nickel, steel, exposed wood, etc. Blackened metals are especially popular.

Compact and functional

This is the most important characteristic of a modern sleeper sofa. It will focus heavily on saving space and might even offer some extra storage. This feature makes sleeper sofas especially practical in small spaces.

With modern sleepers, you will have plenty of open space left because of the ‘less is more’ approach.

Simple and neutral colors

A significant feature you will see in a modern sleeper sofa is its simplicity. You will see a heavy use of neutral and natural colors. In furniture pieces like sofas, modernism relies on blush tones instead of beige or dark colors.

Modern Vs Retro Sleeper Sofa

Retro Sleeper Sofa

Retro furniture is derived from the mid-century-modern movement of the 1950s to 1980s. The word retro means something outdated or aged but still very stylish and appealing. In short, retro furniture is the style of furniture that has made a comeback after having aged.

A classic example of retro, as far as fashion is concerned, is the comeback of large sunglasses, bell-bottom pants, and even miniskirts.

The thing with retro furniture is that it is a very personal and often whimsical style of designing. Some people love it while others might find it too bold for their taste.

Here are the characteristics of retro sleepers:

Evoke nostalgia

One of the main traits that define any retro furniture piece is that it takes you back in time. A retro-style  sofa will remind you and your guests of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and/or the 80s.

It is whimsical and surprising

Retro sleeper sofas will have whimsical prints, colors, and patterns. They might even take inspiration from pop-cultural, fashion, and current events.

Bright and bold colors

One of the most common elements of a retro sleeper sofa is the use of bright and bold colors such as avocado green, mustard yellow, a combination of white and black or orange and red, etc. Purple, pink, and magenta are other favorites in retro sofas and furniture.

Complex and cluttered

Compared to modern, the retro-style sleeper sofa will be slightly more complex. The focus will be on utilizing the entire space. That is why such furniture pieces might seem bulky and overwhelming. Retro sleepers, for this reason, may be more suitable for larger apartments/homes.

The use of uncommon materials

Your retro sleeper sofa will be broad, elongated, and have plenty of brightly-colored pillows each competing for the limelight. You might even see uncommon materials like plastics or linen in these pieces.

It is unusual!

Certainly, the retro sleeper is only for the bold individuals who like to take risks. It is a cheerful, bright style to decorate in, but not many would appreciate it. It is definitely unusual and not for people who like to play by the rules.

Modern Vs Retro Sleeper Sofa

Here are some tips to help you decide whether you should go for a modern or retro sleeper sofa:

Study the two styles

Study both styles well. Consider the colors of both styles. Ask yourself ‘Which colors make me feel good?’ You must also consider the furniture pieces that will accompany your sofa.

Ensure that the style, size, and colors match the rest of the furniture, art, and other design elements.

If needed, use a scrapbook and collect pictures of both styles of sofas. This will help you narrow down your options.

Size and space available

Do a deep evaluation of the available space. Measure it before you go out to shop for your sofa. Also, make sure you decide on the sofa’s placement. If you have limited space, then make sure the chosen sofa fits the space without cramping it. Modern sofa styles are often a sensible choice since they are more compact. However, these days, retro sleepers are also available in compact sizes.

As stated before, you must also evaluate the existing colors and furniture. In case you will decide on the wall color later, speak to your designer to ascertain if your retro sleeper sofa will look good against your chosen color.

Your budget

This is definitely the first thing to consider before you shop for a sleeper sofa. With the retro style, you might want to change things after a few years. Modern sofas can last for several years before they go out of fashion.


In case you have pets and kids, or often have people staying over, then you might want to consider a sturdy and durable sofa that is also practical. Avoid expensive materials that require maintenance regularly.

If you entertain often, then you can go in for the more expensive materials in your sofa.

Your personal style

The decision of selecting a sleeper sofa is yours and yours alone. You will be using the sofa quite a lot and your guests will use it at night. For them, comfort is of the utmost priority, but you will be seeing the sofa on a daily basis, so aesthetics and your likes are important too.

What Qualities Should You Look for in a Sleeper Sofa?

Irrespective of whether you select a retro or modern sleeper sofa, it is a great decision. You can use the sofa as a seating area during the day and convert it into a bed at night.

Here are the qualities to consider in sleeper sofas:

Mattress comfort

The sofa is only as good as the mattress. Select a comfortable mattress with spring or memory foam. The latter is much more comfortable and can prevent backaches in the user. High-quality air mattresses have additional padding which enhances the user’s comfort, although they can set you back by a couple hundred bucks.

Look for a lightweight sleeper with easy-to-clean materials.


Select a high-quality frame with either kiln-dried materials that resist moisture or metal which is durable and rust-resistant.


Buy the right size sleeper which can easily accommodate a standard-sized adult. Sleepers are available in twin, king, queen, and full mattress sizes. They should fit the available space and easily pull out into a bed without making the room feel too small.

Mechanism of opening/closing

Sleepers have a mechanism to allow you to transition from sofa to bed. Make sure that this is a smooth one and does not come with any snapping, squeaking, etc., or cause injuries. The assembly and disassembly should be smooth, simple, and straight forward.

Try it out

Before selecting your sleeper sofa, sit or lie down on it. Make sure it feels comfortable. Ensure that the cushions are durable, comfortable, and easy to sit on. Also, consider your guest’s comfort and try laying on the pull-out sofa.


What is the difference between sleeper sofas and sofa beds?

Sleeper sofas have a mattress enclosed in their design which you can unfold to transition from a seating to a sleeping area. Sofa beds are like futons where you can pull out the mattress to lay it on the floor. The mattress part covers the backrest as well as the seating area.

Can you sleep on a sleeper sofa every night?

Sleeper sofas can be a bit uncomfortable and could lead to backaches if you have to sleep on them night after night. The pillows also tend to be heavy, and could be too high – a feature that could cause neck issues. The sleeper sofa’s armrests can sometimes dig into your back and, depending on the size, the sofa may be too small for some people.

How can you make the sleeper sofa more comfortable?

Here are some tips to make the sleeper sofa more comfortable:

  • Add a mattress topper – Try adding a sleeping bag, a comforter, memory foam, etc. over the mattress. This could make it slightly more comfortable. You can also get mattress toppers made of breathable micro-fiber or gel.
  • Add fresh sheets – This will remove food smells and make your guests more comfortable especially if people have dropped food crumbs on the sleeper.
  • Replace worn-out sofas – avoid sleeping on (or letting people sleep on) squeaky, noisy, splintered, worn-out sofas. Replace sleepers with stained, frayed, and/or dull mattresses.


A sleeper sofa is a great, economical, and space-saving way of converting a living room into a bedroom. You can entertain on it and then convert it into a bed for your guest to spend the night upon.

The retro and modern sleeper sofas each have their unique style, colors, and prints. Study both styles well before you buy one. We’re sure there’s a perfect futon out there for you!

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