Should I buy a chair bed or a sofa bed? How to work out which is best for your home and guests this Christmas

Give your guests the gift of a comfortable night’s sleep

A white boucle sofa bed
(Image credit: Habitat)

Whether you have guests staying for Christmas or you want to prepare yourself for when your mother-in-law invites herself to your home out of the blue, you might be interested to know the findings of our chair bed vs sofa bed debate.

Over the years, the Ideal Home team has tested the best sofa beds and the best chair beds on the market. During our testing, we've found them to be excellent options for those who want to bring their guest bedroom ideas to life or those who want to turn their living room into a spare bedroom during the festivities. But which one will suit you better?

Below, we dive into everything you need to know about chair beds and sofa beds, including how you can choose the best guest bed for your own personal needs and requirements. 

Chair Bed vs Sofa Bed

If you’re a hostess with the mostest and looking to provide your guests with a comfortable night’s sleep, you may be torn between a chair bed and a sofa bed. But how should you choose one over the other?

We’ve pitted these two options against each other to help you choose the one your guests will love, taking into account everything from size, comfort, style, and affordability. 

Chair bed vs sofa bed: What’s the difference?

To understand which one wins the chair bed vs sofa bed debate, we need to understand a little bit more about what they are and what makes them different. Of course, their names are a good indication of their functionality.

A sofa bed is a sofa that has the ability to become a bed, and this piece of practical furniture can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. In fact, you can buy everything from two-seater and three-seater sofa beds as well as corner sofas that turn into sofa beds. 

Usually, you’ll find that most sofa beds come in either a pull-out design (where you quite literally pull out the bed from underneath the sofa cushions) or a click-clack design (where you can fold down the sofa into a bed position). Both have their pros and cons, which we’ll go into a bit later. 

A chair bed is a bit different, though. Unlike a sofa bed that has space for two people, a chair bed is primarily designed to suit a single occupant both in chair form and bed form. In fact, it’s essentially an accent chair that can be turned into a bed. 

A cream upholstered wooden futon sofa bed in a cream living room

(Image credit: Dunelm)

Chair bed vs sofa bed: Which one is bigger?

With that in mind, you probably already know the answer to this question. As chair beds are usually only designed for one person, sofa beds are the bigger of the two. However, that doesn’t mean that chair beds are too small for your needs. 

If you’re buying a chair bed to complete your nursery idea or for when your child has sleepovers, this single option could be exactly what you need. Plus, these chair beds aren’t always that small. 

For example, the Darlings of Chelsea Weymouth Loveseat Chair Bed may be a chair bed, but the loveseat size means that it’s slightly larger than some of the smaller alternatives on the market. And if you’re looking for a chair bed that’s even bigger than that, the Darlings of Chelsea Bromley Loveseat Sofa has an extra 20cm of width to give your guests even more space. 

Darlings of Chelsea Waverley sofa in pink set up in bed mode with white duvet cover with grey stripes

(Image credit: Darlings of Chelsea)

And in her review of this chair bed, our E-Commerce Editor, Amy Lockwood, said, ‘The roll-action design also means this model is able to offer a longer mattress than most pull-out options, with a 190cm length sleeping area that taller guests will appreciate. And, at 12cm, the mattress is one of the deepest that pull-out sofa beds can be equipped with, also offering options of pocket spring or memory foam construction for enhanced comfort.’

If you know for sure that a chair bed won’t be big enough for your needs, a sofa bed is your next best bet. And what Amy loves about these sofa beds is the fact that many of our tried-and-tested favourites come in various different sizes, so you can tailor them to your needs. 

Dunelm Mito Single Futon Stripe Pink

(Image credit: Dunelm)

She was particularly impressed with the Dunelm Mito Double Futon, which she crowned the ‘best budget buy’ - and not just because it comes in 10 different colourways. She also loved the fact that this sofa bed comes in two different sizes. You could opt for the 137cm wide double futon, or you could go for the smaller 76cm chair bed.

But you know what they say: go big or go home. And if you have the space to give your guests the king-size treatment, the Oswald Sofa Bed from Heal’s is the height of luxury. 

Amy said, ‘This is one of the most comfortable and generously proportioned options we've come across, with the mix of hyper-soft foam layers over a high-resilient foam and pocket-spring core giving the closest feel to a 'true' mattress and a king-sized sleeping area offering a luxurious amount of space to stretch out.’

Of course, a bigger sofa bed means that you need to have enough space in your home to squeeze it in - and this may be an issue for those with a smaller house. So, you need to figure out how much space you can realistically work with before you buy a sofa bed. 

Chair bed vs sofa bed: Which one is comfier?

Similar to when you buy the best mattress, finding a comfy guest bed is down to personal preference. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes when it comes to firmness, with some preferring a firmer bed and others opting for a softer slouch.

When it comes to the comfort of these two options, though, it’s less about the chair bed vs sofa bed debate and more about the pull-out vs click-clack debate. That’s because pull-out sofa and chair beds normally come complete with a mattress, while a click-clack sofa or chair bed is normally a bit firmer as you’re essentially sleeping on the sofa or chair itself. 

However, it’s important to understand that comfort shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in the chair bed vs sofa bed debate, as there are so many ways to make a sofa bed more comfortable. In fact, Ideal Home’s Deputy Editor Rebecca Knight has made her Made Haru Sofa Bed more comfortable by adding one of the best mattress toppers into the equation. haru sofa bed

(Image credit:

Chair bed vs sofa bed: Which is more affordable?

With everything going up in price, we understand how important decorating on a budget is to many people. And if you’re looking for the cheapest guest room option, chair beds are much more affordable. 

The cheapest chair bed we’ve tested is the Mito Single Futon from Dunelm, which retails at £175, and the cheapest large sofa bed is the Habitat Kota 3 Seater Fabric Clic Clac Sofa Bed, which retails at £525. 

However, if you’re looking for a mid-range guest bed that falls in between the chair bed and sofa bed category, the Mito Futon from Dunelm for £209 could be a good option. It’s slightly smaller than a double bed, but larger than a single bed, too. 

Habitat Kota sofa bed in orange upholstery in front of a Crittal doorway - tried and tested review

(Image credit: Habitat)

Final verdict: Which one do you need?

While we’d love to say that there was a winner in the chair bed vs sofa bed debate, we just can’t pick one. That’s because they could both be the perfect option for different people. 

For example, if you have a small house and know that you’ll primarily be hosting solo guests, a chair bed is exactly what you need. On the other hand, if you have space to spare and plan to host duos, you’ll need a sofa bed - otherwise, you might have people sleeping on the floor. 

Dani Burroughs, Head of Product for Snug, says, 'A sofa bed could be a good investment for a living room or spare room - these are bigger than a single bed, so allows you to host even more guests! We do find a chair bed is easier to place into an existing room scheme, as you can pick a statement colour or choose something that matches your current sofa.'

Dani isn't the only one who thinks so, either. Ashleigh Ellis, Director of Upholstery and Furniture at ScS says, 'In terms of aesthetics and room design, sofa beds often blend seamlessly with the overall design of a living room and may look more cohesive, while chair beds might be more suitable for nooks or corners as accent pieces.'

So, ultimately, you need to decide what works for you, and what you need from your guest's sleeping quarters. 

The best chair beds and the best sofa beds

If you’re still not sure whether you’re team chair bed or team sofa bed, we’ve pulled together the best chair and best sofa beds the Ideal Home team can vouch for. 


Is it better to have a sofa bed or bed?

If you’re hosting guests, we’re sure they’d always prefer to sleep in a bed. However, if you don’t have a spare room and have limited space available, that’s not always an option. 

Thankfully, there are so many amazing sofa beds out there that make a great alternative - and you could even use them as your main sofa in your living room if you wanted to. These sofa beds normally offer a pull-out mechanism or a click-clack mechanism, so it’s best to do your research and figure out which one works best for you and your aesthetic. 

You should also consider chair beds, too - especially if you only need a small guest bed for one individual. 

What are the disadvantages of a sofa bed?

Adding a sofa bed to your home is a great choice, but it’s important to understand that there are some downsides to this piece of furniture. 

They’re not as comfortable: Nothing will ever come close to the comfort of a real mattress, so this is something you need to consider when buying a sofa bed. However, it’s unlikely that it will be used on a regular basis, so this might not be too much of an issue for you.

They can be fiddly: Sofa beds are transformers, and no matter whether you go for a pull-out option or a click-clack option, you may find that they’re incredibly fiddly and difficult to turn from a sofa into a bed. 

Not as stylish: As sofa beds have to house a sleeping space, they’re often quite boxy and clunky. To some, this means that you might have to compromise on style. 

They can be heavy: If you plan on moving your sofa bed when your guests come to stay, you should be warned that this piece of furniture can get pretty heavy. After all, you’re trying to lift both a sofa and a bed at the same time! 

So, will you be buying a chair bed or a sofa bed for your guests to enjoy?

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.