Current trends in bedding, bed decor and mattresses—and measures hoteliers can take to protect their sleep investment.
By Don Douloff
Legendary playwright George Bernard Shaw once remarked that “the great advantage of a hotel is that it is a refuge from home life.” While Shaw’s statement rings true, it’s also true that guests’ sleep experience should equal, if not surpass, that which they enjoy at home.
“Bed comfort is really at the very top of guest satisfaction,” Robert Bailey, principal of Vancouver-based Robert Bailey Interiors, tells CLN. “The bed is really one of the most important elements in hotel decor. Most often it is the largest element in the room. It has to reinforce the style of the room and hotel, not only in terms of its bed dressing but also in terms of the way it is made—casual with a puffy duvet; [or] formal with a sharply folded top sheet/blanket, et cetera.”
Bailey, who did design work for OPUS Vancouver hotel, says a king-size bed with pillow top is “pretty much expected in all room types.”
When it comes to bed frames and headboards, Bailey says the trend is to upholstered bed heads, in leather or faux leather, which are clean and easy to maintain and offer comfort for the guest while they’re reading or watching TV. “Functional upholstery keeps its appearance and looks new longer,” he adds.
Also seen in hotels are beds sitting on a raised platform—instead of a box spring with a metal bed frame—without a bed skirt, says Judy Henderson, principal and owner of Inside Design Studio Inc., a Vancouver-based firm responsible for between 50 and 60 hotel renovations. She says platform beds are also easy to clean, feature a more residential look and can be finished either in wood or upholstered box spring covers. “It is a modern detail and makes the bed appear to float in the room.”
“White bedding for a hotel is essential, sometimes detailed with piping or a contrasting flange,” says Bailey. “White is also the most functional choice for the hotel in terms of laundry service. It has to be pristine and send a message of detailed care for the guest.”
Heidi Luber, president and owner of Lubertex, a Montreal-based supplier of bedding and bedding supplies to the hotel industry, also says white reigns supreme, since it’s easier to launder and boasts a clean, fresh look. But while decorative sheets are usually white, they can also sport a pattern such as jacquard or stripes, she says. Triple sheeting, which employs multiple layers of sheets, blankets and bedspread-like covers, is common.
Triple sheeting with a clean tuck on beds is popular and printed top sheets are a way to create a nice look while eliminating the need for a scarf, says
Elizabeth Hueston, director of corporate accounts and marketing at Sysco Guest Supply Canada Inc. The printed pattern supplies the decorative element “and the hotelier saves the cost of a scarf as well as the labour and laundry costs associated with that item.”
Hueston says Sysco’s customers are looking at heavier-weight decorative top sheets that drape well on the bed.
Higher-end luxury hotel brands usually prefer 100-per-cent cotton bed sheets, even though they’re costlier to buy and wash than cotton blends and wrinkle more. Luber says this is because natural-fibre sheets are more breathable and are a guest-pleaser. Preferred thread counts, at higher-end properties, range from 200 to 400.
The comparative ease of laundering and reduced wrinkling makes cotton blends (with, for instance, polyester) more attractive for chains and mid-level hotel brands, she notes.
During the past 12 to 18 months, there has been a growing trend among hoteliers “toward increasing the utility and efficiency of accent items,” says Michael Starrett, vice-president and general manager of Eden Textile, an Edmonton-based company specializing in bed linens and mattresses.
One example is the 100-per-cent polyester top sheet—either in plain white, in a decorative pattern or with the accents printed or woven right into the sheet—offering a clean, contemporary and customizable look, says Starrett.
“The polyester construction not only means that it holds up very well against an aggressive laundering cycle, but also resists both stains and wrinkling, saving time and lowering costs,” he says.
“Over the last several years, hotels have been buying more upper-end bedding products, including pillow tops and euro top products,” says Chris McKeough, director of sales, hospitality, for mattress and bedding manufacturer Simmons Canada. He adds this is happening at luxury and full-service hotels and also at limited-service properties “looking to improve their beds.”
Henderson says custom bedding prints are trending. Hotels can have their logo or custom brand design printed on the duvet cover, pillow or top sheet, she says. Properties can still have white bedding, but with texture and graphics that can withstand repeated washing.
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Many hotels, including “a few national chains,” are switching back to mattresses featuring the two-sided, easy-flip construction, rather than the one-sided, no-flip construction which was introduced six to eight years ago and experienced rapid growth, says Christine Pella, national accounts, Serta Hospitality Canada.
“Hoteliers are finding now they want to be able to flip the bed, and the cost savings over such a long period of time are not worth losing the option,” says Pella, who adds that if the beds are flipped once a year, they will last twice as long and noted that it’s easier to lift and tuck sheets into two-sided mattresses.
“We are starting to see more products with specialty foams, such as memory foams and foams that are gel-infused,” says McKeough.
Hueston says many of Sysco’s customers are purchasing micro-gel mattress pads with fitted skirts—offering the luxurious feel of a pillow top mattress pad—when their mattresses are not at the point of replacement but do need to be refreshed.
Taking guest comfort to a new level is the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, which in March announced that it would be introducing, in phases, during the next three years, a fully customizable bed. Featuring a mattress system developed by Four Seasons in partnership with Simmons, the bed will offer guests a choice of three different levels of firmness and a variety of pillows and bedside amenities.
Some hotel brands have created their own signature mattress, says Henderson, who cited Westin’s Heavenly Bed as an example. Hotels are also selling their branded mattresses to guests for home use.
Zip-up mattress encasements are gaining traction as hotel management takes measures to protect this key investment, according to Marc de Grave, vice-president of business development, Protect-A-Bed Canada.
“As awareness of sleep environment hygiene grows, hotel owners and operators are becoming increasingly convinced of the need to protect mattresses and pillows against dust mites and bed bugs,” says de Grave.
“Hoteliers save cleaning and labour costs and secure their mattress warranty by protecting their assets from human damage, stains and deterioration. Encasements also allow the property to recycle mattresses at the end of their life cycle, which contributes to the hotel’s sustainability objectives.”
De Grave says hotel customers are, as a first step, also purchasing waterproof mattress protectors.
In addition to mattress encasements, Mike Heimbach, director of business development and marketing, Abell Pest Control, says box spring encasements are showing up in hotel beds.
If left on, unopened, for six months, mattress and box spring encasements will contain any bedbugs that may be lurking within, he says. By the six-month point, the bedbugs typically die, making extermination quicker and less expensive and also eliminating the need to replace the mattress.
As an added protective measure, hoteliers are also employing pillow encasements, which Heimbach says don’t affect guests’ comfort.
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On the bed top, Bailey reports that “faux fur or wool bed throws are often used to add decor or colour interest and add to the feeling of ‘home away from home’.”
Luber says throw blankets, placed at the end of the bed and often sporting accent colours tied into the bed or room decor, are finding favour.
Decorative accents such as scarves and pillows “providing a pop of colour” on white beds are a popular look, says Hueston. “Bed scarves and decorative pillows are now available in fabrics with some very interesting textures and colour blends that create a subtle, yet modern multidimensional look.”
Programs providing a selection of soft and firm pillows on each bed “are very popular with many of our hotel chain partners,” she says.
Some higher-end properties will replace bed scarves with more textural throws and blankets to create both colour and comfort and a more luxurious look, says Henderson, who adds that toss pillows also provide comfort and colour.