Suite spot

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 August, 2009, 12:00am

Few guests might ever go there, but given all the time we spend in our bedroom - one-third of our lives, on average - surely it's the one room that warrants tender loving care during the design stage.

And that extra attention should go beyond looks alone. Picking a good mattress is essential when decorating your home. Thankfully, designers have realised that too, so the 'right' mattress can now look as good as it feels.

If it's years since you've shopped for a bed, you're in for a big surprise. Mattress technology has improved a great deal in the past decade, and finding the right one for you is now a fairly straightforward process.

One thing you do need to allow for is time. It's no longer a good idea just to bounce up and down a couple of times on a mattress and declare that it's the one for you. These days, retailers encourage potential buyers to stretch out on their offerings for as long as they like.

How long is enough? Ideally, three hours, says Campbell Yule, design manager at New Zealand bed manufacturer Design Mobel, who was in town to open the new Okooko concept store in Ap Lei Chau recently.

The store has a screened-off area with mood lighting where buyers can test various mattresses. Yule says if a customer dozes off while checking out one of its mattress, so much the better.

Like some other bed brands, Design Mobel has designed an interactive 'tool' to customise the perfect bed. Its Body Fit Sleep System is based on a range of considerations, including a person's weight, height, gender and any existing back or neck problems. Rarely will two people be a perfect match, so if you share a bed, different sides can be custom made to suit respective partners.

Design Mobel's stylish beds, such as the Nest, are as glamorous as they are hi-tech.

'A bedroom is a really emotive space to be in,' says Yule. 'Frame of mind is important to achieving a good night's sleep. It's all about unwinding, and creating the right environment so we can disengage from wakefulness.'

The brand's new collection has just been launched, integrating mood lighting, sound (from built-in speakers) and remote-controlled reading lamps to create the perfect ambience for a good night's sleep.

Yet customers won't be sold on looks alone. Chris Ho Wing-tin at Sealy Asia (Hong Kong), says today's bed shoppers have become more sophisticated.

'In the past two years, we've met lots of customer who were almost experts on mattresses,' Ho says. 'They are familiar with most mattress brands on the market, [including Sealy] as they've tried them all ... in [luxury] hotels.

Sealy claims to have the largest and most advanced sleep research and product development centre. Its website offers useful information such as how to achieve correct back support, regardless of preferred firmness, and how to know when it's time to buy a new one.

Indicators that your old bed may be worn out include 'you wake up feeling more tired than when you went to sleep', or even the obvious - 'the couch feels more comfortable than your bed'.

In a nutshell, says Ho, if you don't wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated - or if you feel any pain or discomfort - 'you've definitely waited too long.'

To stop everyone tossing and turning so much, Sealy has also designed its famous Posturepedic mattress - a patented coil design that supports the shoulders, back and legs, helping to maintain proper spinal alignment, blood flow and circulation for a restful and restorative sleep.

Rival bed manufacturer Simmons first patented its pocketed coil system in 1925. It has created a range of hi-tech sleep systems, including the famous Beautyrest brand, with a patented memory foam that dissipates heat and responds instantly to body contours and movements.

Another established player in the bed industry is Swedish brand Hastens. It's been around since the mid-19th century and still makes its mattresses by hand, using natural materials such as horse hair. 'No machine can surpass the skills of a master craftsman when it comes to building a bed,' the company says.

If your budget doesn't stretch that far, there are mid-range beds at department stores such as Ikea or Wing On - or Price Rite if your budget is tight. Online store also offers brand name beds at factory direct prices.

So now that you're suitably inspired, a new era of beauty sleep awaits. But what should you do with your old mattress?

Some brands (such as Simmons during promotion periods) may take old mattresses off your hands and dump them in landfill.

If they're good enough to be used again, some local charities will accept them. The second-hand service run by the Hong Kong government can be found at https://wasteexchange. /items_get/items_get_view.php