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Mon 23 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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Back to bed

Designers are often accused of favouring form over function, but nowhere does this impact the end user’s experience more acutely than in the selection of the bed, says Selina Denman.

Designers are often accused of favouring form over function, but nowhere does this impact the end user’s experience more acutely than in the selection of the bed, says Selina Denman.

When an interior designer thinks of a bed, they think aesthetics. They think in terms of headboards, four posters and side tables. The mattress is often an afterthought," commented Panicos Panayiotou, president of Cyngbel, the official distributor of Dux beds in the UAE.

Perhaps because they are so uniform in their appearance, or so complicated in their make up, mattresses are seldom paid the attention they deserve - particularly considering their unparallelled importance in ensuring guest satisfaction in a hotel setting.

Look at a mattress that is comfortable and not too hard. Durability and flexibility are key. The feature of being able to separate a king size Dux bed into two singles and the ability to change top pads allows a hotel to offer the customer exactly what they want.

"Generally, interior designers tend to concentrate on the aesthetics of the hotel room within the given budget. As far as we are concerned, hotel patrons spend most of their time on the hotel bed, so a durable, healthy, comfortable mattress that meets the appropriate standards should be a high priority," agreed Aly Dhanani, director of Neo Living, the UAE distributor of Magniflex mattresses.

Hotel owners and operators are increasingly aware of the impact that a good night's sleep can have on both guest satisfaction and loyalty.

"At Six Senses we put a lot of thought into bed comfort. We start with a good solid frame and a firm mattress, over which we then put a fluffy mattress topper several centimetres thick. A duna is enveloped in natural cotton, which is also the sheeting material. We use a combination of king-size pillows and regular-sized pillows on each bed, all with natural cotton slips," said Rochelle Kilgariff, general manager of Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay Oman.

"The importance of a good sleep has lead many hotels to look to similar bedding as created by Six Senses. Firm mattress without toppers are becoming a thing of the past," Kilgariff continued.

 In an attempt to capitalise on this movement, bed manufacturers are designing products that specifically cater to the needs hotels and their increasingly demanding, and discerning, guests.

"Several of our beds have been designed for hotel rooms, from the most luxurious, like the Accademia collection, to the simplest and the easiest to maintain, like Notturno, Peonia and Magnolia, to the design ones by Magistretti, Bellini, Dordoni and Colombo, which have been chosen by interior designers for boutique hotels all over the world," explained Massimiliano Messina, general director of Flou, the Italian producer of designer beds. Springing to life

Increasingly advanced technologies mean interior designers are greeted with a plethora of options when it comes to mattress selection. But matching the right mattress to the right project and budget means wading through a world of orthopaedics, memofoam, polyurethane, interlocking springs and active spinal support.

As an ever-evolving science, mattress technology has been the source of major investment over recent years. The general trend has been towards premium, advanced mattress technologies that combine environmentally-friendly material and generate minimal waste, explained Hassan Al-Hazeem, managing director of Intercoil, the Dubai-based orthopedic sleep products manufacturer and distributor.

The bed is the centrepiece of any hotel room. A notably well designed and comfortable bed will always leave a lasting good impression with guests. An ‘important’ bed is especially memorable. Look at the construction and look for classic design and finishes rather than gimmicks which can quickly go out of fashion.

The only mattress company in the UAE with ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001 accreditation, Intercoil operates seven outlets in the country, and recently opened two new stores - in Al Ain Mall and at The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residences in Dubai.

"Intercoil has been at the forefront in embracing technology and innovating products to world standards. Furthermore, to maintain its cutting edge in quality, durability and cost, it has launched an in-house testing facility and laboratory," Al-Hazeen said.

Stringent testing is complemented by detailed customer feedback to ensure that Intercoil mattresses are continually being enhanced, and a recent re-engineering of all its products is testament to the company's commitment to progress.

"Customers are approached through an elaborate seven-way communication and feedback programme that provides a clear and precise understanding of each customer and each customer segment," Al-Hazeen added.

"Thus, each mattress is a result of customer preference and choices, and in the unlikely event of a mattress not coming up to the customer's expectations, the same will be scrapped by the research and development department."

Intercoil mattresses are orthopaedic, which essentially means that they adapt to the contours of the sleeper's body.

"Researchers, orthopaedics and chiropractors around the world have undertaken extensive research on sleep and attest that an othopaedic sleep system provides the right kind of rest," Al-Hazeen explained.Meanwhile, Neo Living's Magniflex collection is made up of spring-free mattresses.

"Magniflex produce a range of orthopaedic, latex and memoform foam mattresses. Each product has individual characteristics and provides corrective spinal support and/or adapts to the shape of the body," explained Dhanani.

"In particular, the advanced memoform mattresses relieve pressure from the body to aid circulation, relaxation and even alleviate aches and pains. In addition, Magniflex was the first to patent its vacuum packing technology to facilitate mass export throughout the world from the factory in Italy."

Dux beds use a unique, patented technology of interlocking springs. "To make one bed, we use up to 3km of steel wire, which is used to make up to 5,000 springs. It was proven by an independent study that people who sleep on a Dux bed go into deep sleep earlier - and stay there up to one hour more longer - than with other conventional beds," Panayiotou explained.

Quality check

The quality of material used is as important as the type, Panayiotou maintained. "A spring mattress that uses poor quality steel and iron will lose its shape very quickly, sometimes as quickly as three months," he warned.

Intelligent mattresses will also make allowances for the fact that the body is not the same width from top to bottom.

"It is wider at the shoulders and hips and narrower at the waist and legs. Beds need to adjust to the shape of the body. A good mattress will give way where the body is wider and push up where it is narrower," he added.

And while comfort is a key catalyst in driving mattress design, there are other issues to consider. "People are now looking carefully at what goes into a mattress because of issues of hygiene and allergy," noted Andy Hills, managing director, And So To Bed.

Hypoallergy, anti dust mite features, fire resistance and ease of washability must all be taken into consideration. A high quality cotton will breathe, where synthetic materials will not, and a filtering system is necessary to ensure that air is circulated but dust is not.Environmental concerns are also driving the development of the mattress industry. Magniflex, for example, has introduced a new Geo-Ethic range of products which takes inspiration from the environment and utilises natural materials with inherent health benefits, such as soy and bamboo.

Mattress manufacturers essentially realise that flexibility is key to keeping hoteliers - and their guests - happy.

"We believe that we have mattresses to suit any hotel. Mattresses can be tailor made with respect to foam, fabric, firmness, size and to suit a variety of budgets. Our top-end mattresses are good for suites and/or mattress menus," Dhanani maintained.

Taking things one step further, Magniflex has even produced the world's first gold mattress, "a memoform based mattress with a 22 karat gold fabric cover, which is perfect for any palace or seven-star hotel royal suite."

Duxiana also has models made specifically for hotels. One is a king size bed that can be separated into two twins in a matter of minutes. It is made up of two distinct layers, a split base and a top pad which can be easily removed and replaced with two twin-sized pads.

"This is a huge advantage for hotels. The one difficulty that hotels have is anticipating the need for single or king size beds. Duxiana is very innovative and has solved this issue," said Panayiotou.

The company can also offer flexibility in terms of the consistency of the mattress.

"Our beds can be fully adjusted in terms of softness and hardness. What I advise is that hotels go for the standard top pad and then have a stock of firmer top pads for those customers that prefer a firmer bed. The pad is easy to store."

For hotel use, Dux beds come with a five-year warrantee but actually have a much longer lifespan. In fact, said Panayiotou, "this is a bed that can last a lifetime and is often passed down from generation to generation. Frank Sinatra put his in his will." All shapes

While much more attention needs to be paid to the functionality of beds, that's not to say that aesthetics should be abandoned altogether. The centrepiece of any hotel room, the bed should make a dramatic statement.

New and inventive lines and shapes, mixed with a diverse palette of materials, including woods, leathers and rich fabrics, can transform this most functional of furniture pieces into an imaginative design element.

"Alongside the need for ‘multiples' of beds, large hotels are increasingly wanting grand centrepiece beds to style premium accommodations with unique boutique interiors. And So To Bed supplies both the volume product and grand one-off beds. We offer specifiers a fully bespoke design service. And So To Bed is unique in the sheer breadth and variety of our range, which offers specifiers a ‘one stop' shop and the best class in each category," he added.

The company recently launched its new Backlift model, a luxurious, adjustable bed. Also new from the company is the Floral Collection, which features flowing, curving forms carved with trailing tendrils of flowers and foliage.

The bed's headboard can be caned or upholstered in a range of fabrics, from silk brocades to simple linens, and a range of accessories are also available.

Italian furniture designer, Laura Meroni broke into the bed business last year, with the launch of BD22, a double bed made from strong, solid, square bocks in solid Tulipier wood, with a padded headboard that can be upholstered in either fabric or leather.

Introduced to complement the company's collection of high-end furnishings, BD22 features simple, well-structured lines that are not overly heavy and do not over impose themselves on a space.

"We decided to insert a bed into our collection to complete the range of items we offer. Its defining characteristics are simple yet original lines and the warmth of the material, which shapes the entire bed," explained Massimo Maggioni, owner of Laura Meroni.

Flou prides itself on offering an extensive range of beds and accessories.

"Our production is actually a "system" including beds, mattress supports, mattresses, duvets, bedlinen sets, all matching in order to offer the best customisation and the best comfort. It is possible to choose among 40 models of beds in fabric, wood, leather, hide and other materials, in 11 widths, from the "small" single bed, 85 cm wide, to the "large" double bed, 200 cm wide, hundreds of fabric covers, and different kinds of leather that the final client can combine. This is also virtually possible on our website," said Messina.

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