The sofa bed that revolutionized the sofa bed

Tapio Anttila

ON sofa bed is perhaps my most famous product. When it hit the market in 2007, it was completely different from what we were used to. Such a product always has its risks - and the biggest one is how consumers adopt a completely new concept. How did it all start and how has the journey progressed?


When I started the design sometime in 2006, I noticed that decorators who accommodate their guests had a clear problem. All sofa beds work with different mechanisms and were therefore always a double bed. When the guests are not couples, that drawback can be very troublesome. Mechanized sofas are also often physically and visually heavy, the mechanisms wear and jam and press through the cushioning on the back of the sleeper. This can be a feature that repels guests. So there was clearly an opening for a sofa bed on the market.

I set out to find a solution to that concrete need - to create something that doesn't exist yet. In other words, a sofa bed that does not have a mechanism and should be made into two separate beds, but also a double bed. I also wanted to make the sofa look as light as possible. Pretty quickly an idea ripened in my head - what if there were two beds on top of each other? After that, the structure and design took shape quickly. The light veneer bent parts gave the look and the ends function conveniently as the legs of the uppermost bed. After a few prototypes, the thing was ready for presentation.

Photo: ON sofa bed, Marimekko fabric / Manufacturer Pedro 2007-2016


At first, I thought that the design of the sofa was aimed more at young people. This turned out to be a complete miscalculation. When we presented it to the public for the first time at Habitare 2007, the first customer walked into the booth and ordered a sofa from that sitting. She was the older lady who found the sofa perfect when her grandchildren visited. The interior design editors immediately chose it for the "Editors' Dozen" exhibition at the fair. The problem was that there was exactly one sofa, and of course we couldn't give away the only sofa in the exhibition stand. During the night, a new one was made at the factory, which then went on display. The sofa immediately attracted attention with its never-before-seen structure and design.


" I often heard comments that this is the first sofa bed that doesn't look like a sofa bed!"


Next, we presented the sofa to the retailer, who stated that yes, they could take it, but that it would not be worth expecting more than 50 pcs annual sales. This also turned out to be (fortunately) a miscalculation, as the sofa was sold ten times as much per year as compared to the estimate. In its first year, Avotakka readers chose it as the recipient of the "Furniture of the Year" award. Even today, I can't say any specific age that could be named as a target group. It has consistently appealed to different generations, which I am particularly drawn to. This is one of the secrets of its popularity.

Photo: ON sofa bed, versions with fabric ends / Manufacturer Pedro 2008-2016

At first, we used Marimekko fabrics for the back cushions, which gave the sofa a certain look. It's fun to still see them on social media or on the website (otherwise, the resale value has remained pretty good). Pretty soon I also designed a version of the sofa with fabric headboards and backrests. It was intended for decorators who wanted a slightly calmer and standard "sofa-like" look without wood. There were several versions of the fabric sofa.

At the very beginning, we placed sickle mattress pads inside the armrest cushions, which was also a completely new innovation and solved storage problems familiar to everyone. Also, I wanted all upholstery fabrics to be removable and washable or replaceable. This is naturally responsible and increases the lifespan of the sofa.

Photo: ON sofa bed, fabric version with Story fabric / Manufacturer Interface 2016-2022

The sale of the ON sofa bed has remained fairly steady all these years and it has found its place in many homes, living rooms in apartment buildings, guest rooms in detached houses, leisure apartments and sauna guest cabins, as well as many types of holiday apartments. I constantly get feedback on its functionality and design.

The sofa has been manufactured by a couple of different manufacturers under license, but in autumn 2022 its rights were transferred to the company that manages my collection, which now manufactures and sells the series exclusively. In this context, we renewed and improved the sitting and sleeping comfort of the sofa. Earlier versions only had suspension in the uppermost bed - the lower bed had a plywood base and was therefore harder. Based on feedback from consumers, we also added springs to the lower bed. We also changed the layout of the backrest cushions and made them softer. We named this improved version the ON2 sofa bed.

Photo: ON2 sofa bed / Manufacturer Tapio Anttila Collection 2022 >

I have been looking for my own track as a designer for a long time. The mission has been to solve everyday problems of ordinary consumers by means of design. I don't want my work in a museum display case, but actually for people to use. My sofa beds are the best examples of mission fulfillment and finding one's own path. Judging by the popularity of my furniture, the direction has clearly been right. All this time, however, I have been afraid of skiers following me on this trail I opened and even had to take measures to prevent it. Still, right now, I can hear the skiers' breath behind me on my neck - unfortunately.

- Tapio