Thursday, June 17, 2010

The princess and the pea. (Resting easy on a $69.5K mattress.)

Personally, I’m a believer in a good, solid, comfy mattress.

About 10 years ago, I took a bad fall down a flight of icy steps, which resulted in a bit of minor embarrassment – nothing like being sprawled on the brick sidewalk in front of your house at 7 a.m. – and more than a bit of major backache.

I decided that our crappy old mattress wasn’t doing my aching back any good, so we went out and bought a TempurPedic.

Now, I know that TP’s aren’t to everyone’s liking, but they are to mine – and my back’s. (Zzzzzzzzz.)  We paid plenty for that mattress – at least by our standards. But apparently, when it comes to things-mattress-y, our standards are pretty darned low.

As part of what appears to be a regular us vs. them bit of reportage, The Wall Street Journal the other day had a piece about stratospherically upper-end mattresses that make the TempurPedic look like an army cot. (Access to this article may require a subscription. I believe online comes with a paper subscription, if you’re thinking about creating your own mattress by stuffing ticking with a bunch of old newspapers.)

You don’t have to spend $69.5K, by the way, to get something decent.

For a mere $33K you can get:

E.S. Kluft & Co.'s hand-tufted, king-size Palais Royale mattress and box spring, currently the most expensive American-made mattress set on the market. The company says it has sold about 100 since introducing it in 2008…it takes 10 craftsmen about three days to make the Palais Royale, which contains 10 layers and more than 10 pounds of cashmere, mohair, silk and New Zealand wool that has been washed, dried and crimped

Or you can hold out for the Kluft Sublime model at $44K, scheduled for release by end of year.

(In addition to all the other goodies, the Sublime contains some “horsehair for resiliency.” Hey, they’re the mattress boffins, but the one and only time I slept on a horsehair mattress it was as hard as a rock saddle.)

By the way, I don’t want to quibble about the name Palais Royale, but I’m a-guessin’ that in the real Palais Royale the mattresses were featherbeds. But that’s quibble – and what red-blooded American democracy-lover doesn’t believe that he or she occasionally deserves the royal treatment. (Apparently the red-blooded Americans at E.S. Kluft hold this truth to be self evident. Their motto is “The Royal Standard.” Let’s forget for a mo’ that sometimes the royal standard means getting shoved into a tumbrel and rolled off to the guillotine, after which the royal head-y will never again go beddy-bye.)

As for the Sublime model, at $44K it better be.

Of course, if you’re a Europhile, where they really get royalty and sublimity, you can get yourself a Vividus king for $69.5K from Hästens Sängar of Sweden.

Just what is it with royalty and mattresses? Hästens’ motto is “sleep like a princess”, and they claim to be “purveyors to the Royal Court.” Of what, it’s not clear.

Hästens has all kinds of dandy stuff on their site – like ten sleep tips (e.g., “If you can’t sleep get up…when you’re tired go back to bed,” and other breathless hints about sleeping in the dark, etc.). The picture that goes along with the tips shows a woman in full make-up and a pair of what appears to be 4 carat diamond earrings. If I’d written those ten tips, I’d have put one in that said “Don’t get into bed wearing something that could hurt you if you roll over on it.”

There’s also an iPhone app from the Hästens “mind spa”.

Of course, you’d expect a company from Sweden, where it’s night six months out of the year, to know beaucoup about sleeping. Certainly more than the folks at Kluft, which is located in Southern California, where there are all kinds of other things to do – like play beach volleyball – rather than sleep. (Years ago, I had a colleague in California who told me that he thought it was kind of pathetic that people on the East Coast were interested in politics, read books, and watched professional sports. People in his ‘hood, he explained, had better things to do with their time – namely, playing beach volleyball.)

I’m a bit disappointed that there’s no Hästens store around here. But my Chicago relatives are in luck: you can get one downtown, on N. Wells, or in Winnetka.

While they haven’t climbed anywhere near Kluft territory- let alone into the terra incognita (by me, at least) occupied by Hästens - good old Sealy (of Posturepedic fame) has come out with a new high-end offering to their higher-end Stearns & Foster line. The Golden Elegance goes for about $5K, and I am pleased to report that a cursory look at the Sealy site reveals nary a royal utterance. (Born in the USA! Born in the USA!)

And I will say that while Sealy doesn’t quite have the modern touch of Hästens, what with the iPhone app and what-not, they do have ZZ as their ticker symbol – a bit of clever marketing, that.

The WSJ article catalogs some other pricey mattresses, including one “covered with fabric containing 22-karat gold.” (Why?)

Speaking of why:

Exactly how much better will a person sleep on a super-expensive mattress, a shopper might ask. Not much, according to one sleep expert, Clete Kushida, medical director of the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center. "For the vast majority of people who are generally healthy, bed surface won't make much of a difference in terms of their sleep," Dr. Kushida says.

Of course, as with oh so many other luxury goods, there’s a lot of “because I can” that likely goes into the purchase decision.

I can believe that a $5K mattress is better than a $500 mattress, and that there’s a difference between a $10K mattress and a $1K mattress. But I’m guessing that people are dreaming if they think that having 22-karat gold infused fabric is going to get them an objectively better night’s sleep. (I will concede that there may be a comfort factor of knowing you’re rich as Croesus that lets some high end mattressers sleep better at night.)

Anyway, one thing we’re sure of, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, we’ll continue to see more and more “stuff” from the luxe end of the market – and probably from the dead end, as well. (Mattresses stuffed with corn husks, anyone?)

Meanwhile, for those of you poor slobs who don’t have $69.5K to drop on a mattress, remember you can always:

Take Sominex tonight and sleep, safe and restful, sleep, sleep, sleep.

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