The $50,000 Bed Arrives in the City That Never Sleeps

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The New York Sun

Once upon a time, mattress shopping made for the most mundane of bedtime stories: a few bounces in a fluorescent-lit showroom, perhaps, or a phone call to a 1-800 number, and the job was done. These days, the overworked and overtired are lusting desperately after a good night’s sleep — and they’re willing to pay four, or even five, figures for it.

Next month, New Yorkers in the market for a new bed can try out the Vividus — featuring a flax-lined, solid pine frame, and two mattresses, made of “virgin steel” coils and filled with hand-teased horsehair, cotton, and wool. The Vividus, assembled by hand at the Hästens workshop in Köping, Sweden, will retail stateside for a cool $49,500.

Rationalize it this way: Sleep on that bling-bling bed every day for its warrantied 25 years, and the Vividus, which includes brass plaque engraved with its owner’s name, costs about $5.40 a night.

A 49-year-old financial analyst, Marc Ravitz, said that kind of equation helped him get over the “sticker shock” when he purchased a Hästens bed for about $6,000 earlier this month.”It’s a big purchase, but then you think about how important sleep is, and how much time you devote to it,” he said.

Mr. Ravitz said he has been exceedingly happy with his purchase, and that he can’t imagine sleeping more soundly on a pricier model.

Most Americans aren’t prepared to buy a Vividus bed that costs about $5,000 more than the nation’s median household income. But sleep-deprived shoppers have proved willing in recent years to spend more money on their mattress–box spring combination.

Since it opened in April, the Hästens SoHo store — with the exception of the Vividus, Queen-size beds start at $3,750 and go up to $16,450 — has sold between 20 and 30 beds a month without embarking on a major advertising campaign, the chief executive of the store, Tom Rasmussen, said. The luxury mattress market is the final furniture frontier, he said. “For years, the furniture industry has sold you headboards and footboards, without concentrating on one of the most important parts of daily life, which is sleep.”

Just as Americans have grown accustomed to spending $30,000 or $40,000 on a car, they’ll get used to paying more for their mattresses, he said. “It will probably take several years,”he said.”One day it will be a natural fact that bed costs so much.”

It’s not only high-end European bed companies like Hästens, Duxiana, and Hypnos making inroads in the American market. Homegrown, massmarket mattress companies are also establishing a foothold in the luxury category. This year, Serta introduced its $1,300 Vera Wang Marquise Euro-Top bed; Simmons began selling its $1,450 W Hotel pillow-top, which had been available exclusively at the hotel chain of the same name; and Dormia unveiled the $3,500 Ambrosia, with signature “memory foam.”

These beds are becoming increasingly popular for some of the same reasons that shoppers are abandoning their neighborhood grocery stores in favor of Whole Foods and local green markets, Dormia’s chief executive, Michael Zippelli, said. He explained that Americans, especially the baby boomers among them, have come to associate sleep with a healthy and active lifestyle.

In New York, where it can seem like every other person is on a “hypnotic” sleep medication like Ambien, there’s an ever-higher premium on a good night’s rest. Referring to the demand for luxury beds, Mr. Zippelli said, “It’s thanks to a rising general awareness about how important sleep is, and it’s not hurt by sleep medications like Ambien and Lunesta banging the drum.”

But expensive beds won’t cure most sleep disorders, an instructor at Weill Cornell’s Center for Sleep Medicine, Dr. Matthew Ebben, said. “If you’re sleeping on a bed of nails, maybe a standard bed would be an improvement, but that’s not what these bed companies are talking about,” he said. “Whether you spend $5,000 or $40,000, I don’t know of any controlled studies showing that one particular type of bed is more effective than any other.”

Dr. Ebben said many of the common sleeping problems from which Americans suffer — insomnia, sleep apnea, and periodic limb movements — would be better treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, not a new bed.

Still, retailers report that customers are spending more on their beds, never mind what studies say (or don’t say). Duxiana of Sweden, which offers queen-size models that are available at price points ranging from $4,045 to $7,525, now has 32 American stores, including seven in the Tri-State area. At the two Manhattan locations, up to 30 beds are sold a week, a Duxiana sales associate, Susan Fay, said.

And just three years ago, the average 1-800-MATTRESS purchase was about $500; today it’s more than $850, according to the company’s senior vice president of merchandising and retail stores, John O’Connell. He said the market for high-end beds began to widen in the 1990s, when the four-figure Tempur-Pedic “Swedish Sleep System” expanded into the American market. “It’s opened our eyes to the amount of disposable income people have,” he said.

But even consumers who don’t have an abundance of disposable income are spending more, according to Mr. O’Connell. “Now it’s an investment,” he said. “They’re investing in the next 10 years.”

That’s how a 58-year-old construction foreman, Philip Lund, justified buying an Ambrosia bed six months ago. “I don’t have money to burn, but my sleep is worth it and my health is worth it,” Mr. Lund, who has suffered from chronic back pain, said. Since the purchase, Mr. Lund insists he sleeps more soundly — “I wake up in pretty much the same position I went to sleep in,” he said. Another benefit: His wife reports that he snores less.

The New York Sun

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