The Beauty and Use
The futons' disappearing act was only part of the Japanese home design emphasizing space, light, and natural elements. Movable screens, or fusuma, separated rooms from one another or from the outside; by rearranging them, owners could transform the size, function, and feeling of an area. The tatamis, each about three by six feet (the size of a reclining person), served as both padding and units of architectural measurement. Houses were built to contain a certain number of mats per room. Fabric edging on each mat created rectangular floor patterns, echoing the posts supporting the building and the ceiling beams.Decorations were simple and few, often celebrating natural elements such as flowers, birds, and trees. These spare aesthetics , which ran directly counter to the overstuffed American and European drawing rooms of Morse's time, have since strongly influenced U.S. design.Futons themselves began to appear in bohemian crash pads in the late 1960s. Students of Asian culture made the mats by hand for friends because they were cheap and saved space. These cottage industries have become corporations in the past 30 years, subject to federal restrictions and boasting a glossy trade magazine, Futon Life.
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