Sleep tight

Sleep is something we never seem to get enough of.

Who hasn’t yearned for a day off that includes sleeping in  — or a lazy afternoon when a nap is the only thing on the agenda?

Such thoughts certainly were in mind when WAG was invited to “Discover The Art of Sleep” at the opening of The Hästens Store Chelsea, the international company’s new Manhattan flagship.

As live music added a festive touch to the serenely designed space, we gathered around craftsmen flown over from Sweden specifically to demonstrate the Hästens production methods.

One craftsman, needle and thread in hand, worked on a mattress edge, while another showed the way the bed’s layers are put together, explaining that it takes a team of eight craftsmen an entire work week to produce just two customized beds.

We chatted briefly with Susanne Vennerstrand, the global PR manager for Hästens, which also has a showroom in Greenwich.

“This store concept is a bit new to the U.S.,” she said. “We call it a sleep spa.”

The space is set up as a series of zones, each featuring different lighting and ceiling heights, in which customers are encouraged to shop at a leisurely pace.

“Trying out a bed should not be rushed,” Vennerstrand added. “It’s really a personal experience so we recommend you do take the time.”

After all, she said, the benefits of sleep are being more appreciated in our ever-stressful world.

“A lot more people are getting more interested,” she said. “It’s an investment, an investment in yourself, in your health.”


And that was the theme more fully explored when we had the chance to sit down for an exclusive interview with Jan Ryde.

The company’s executive chairman and fifth-generation owner of the Hästens Group has been with the family business for 28 years. A personable man with a quiet manner but charming sense of humor, he told me that the company — which began in 1852 Sweden as a purveyor of fine saddles before launching hand-sewn beds — is now spreading its message in 40 countries.

“Sleep is so fundamentally important,” Ryde said, calling it “the reason for what we do.”

Sleeping well contributes to overall health, both physical and mental, and to Ryde, that’s what drives Hästens.

“We do it because we can bring value to people on the planet. We can improve the lives of so many people.”

And that’s something Hästens has been doing for decades. We chuckle with Ryde about how today we think we have it harder than any generation before us.

Life couldn’t have been this stressful in the good old days, right?

But, as Ryde playfully reminds, the need to sleep, to refresh one’s body from whatever the day has brought, is enduring.

“It’s human behavior,” he said with a smile. “We haven’t changed.”

And neither has Hästens, as a quote on one of the spa’s walls explains, “The world changes around us but our focus remains the same.”


And that extends to the methods that produce the signature blue-and-white checked, all-natural premium product.

“There aren’t any compromises whatsoever,” Ryde said.

Of course, he added, you can choose a bed quickly and cheaply — but that’s not what Hästens is all about.

“It’s a lot of money,” he said. But, “we want people to understand it isn’t expensive or ‘luxury.’ It’s value for the money.”

The handcrafted approach, he said, makes the difference and is “the reason, the story.”

Ryde shared that the company struggled in the 1960s and ’70s, when mass-produced mattresses hit the market, wonders of new plastics, cheaper prices and, consequently, plenty of sales — but Hästens did not cave.

“We kept doing our thing,” he said, with the company, then as now, continuing to work with only sustainable natural materials, including horsehair, cotton and wool, flax and northern pine.

The beds, which do last for decades and might not seem to change, are, Ryde said, ever-evolving.

“It’s not a high-tech product. It doesn’t look much different on the outside.”

But the company’s product-development team is always at work.

“We make every bed a little better every year.”

And today, it seems Hästens is having a moment, attracting those caught up in the ever-growing craze for all things handmade. But, Ryde noted, Hästens has been there all along.

“We’ve had it as a part of our story because we noticed the health benefits of our materials as opposed to other materials.”

Even with a worldwide presence, Ryde said word of mouth is still the company’s best advertising, with him calling happy customers “ambassadors.”

He proudly told of visiting the company’s Beverly Hills boutique and hearing of a customer from nearby Inglewood, Calif., who, he said he was told, had saved for “seven years to buy the entry-level bed, to buy our starter bed.”

It was a story that brought not only a genuine smile to Ryde’s face but, we imagine, also one more ambassador to spread the Hästens word.

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