Matching habits with duvets for the luxury bed
Francis Higney finds an interesting variety of guest sleeping habits emerging for boutique hotels to consider as he takes a look at trends in bed linen products.
With winter fast approaching, it might come as a shock (or maybe not!) to some hoteliers that it is the stiff-upper lipped Brits who are the most likely people on the planet to sleep naked.
One-in-five are happy to divest themselves of cumbersome clothing and hop between the sheets in their birthday suits, according to new research from bed manufacturer Sealy UK.
And in true Brexit style, we Brits buck the norm in most of northern Europe where it is usual for couples to sleep with individual duvets, even in a shared double bed. They believe the British are crazy for even contemplating sharing a duvet with another person – especially a naked one.
It’s just another consideration that must be taken into account when preparing bedding for an increasingly sophisticated and discerning customer base that expects his or her individual needs and expectations to be taken into account when booking a stay.
But now even fussy European visitors can have their every whim catered to by the discerning luxury b&b manager with the introduction of a duvet that can be heated to two separate temperatures – and will even make itself in the morning.
The Smartduvet Breeze duvet uses separate air chambers to deliver different levels of hot or cold air to each side of the bed. It can also be set to automatically make itself at a specific time each day, using inflatable tubes to snap itself into shape ready for the evening – all controlled via a smartphone app.
The Canadian manufacturers claim that the Breeze could significantly lower energy consumption by allowing its users to heat or cool their body directly instead of the whole room. As well as ending couples’ arguments over room temperature, the manufacturer says the feature could also help people suffering from arthritis and other conditions affected by temperature and humidity. And obviously a bed that makes itself has obvious advantages in an industry that is time-constrained.
“The luxury boutique hotel industry has been growing exponentially in the last decade. With that comes a fierce competition to attract high-end customers to visit your hotel. We believe Smartduvet can show that little extra attention to the guest’s comfort and help make the client’s experience a more personalized one. Of course, the technological aspect of the Smartduvet can also help hotels take a leap into the future,” says Tina Cayouette, founder of Smartduvet.
And it is the case that many high-end hotels and bed and breakfast establishments have gone to extensive lengths to ensure that this extends to providing the ideal sleeping environment.
Okay, you might not need go so far as four-time Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, who solved the dilemma of what to buy his long-time ally Vladimir Putin by getting a custom-made duvet cover for his 65th birthday which featured a lifesize image of the two men shaking hands, with a backdrop of Russian and Italian landmarks.
But there’s little doubt that it is in the magic of the mattress and the dopamine effect of a good duvet is where the secret of a good night’s sleep lies. And a guest that has enjoyed a good night’s sleep is one that is most likely to rebook and tell all their friends of the wonderful and relaxing experience they enjoyed at your establishment.
It’s surprising then that one of the biggest areas for complaint, according to The Hotel Guide, is the bedroom, with 59% of complaints about the bed being saggy or uncomfortable and 48% of comments about poor-quality bedding.
“It’s so important to feel comfortable and calm when you’re cosying up in bed, both in the appearance of the room and the naturally calming materials you’re surrounded by, says Jen Hing, a buyer with the French Bedroom Company.
“The indulgence of relaxation itself is something really special, and beautifully relaxed 100% linen is the new luxury in bed linen. Our Lisbon and Olivia bed linens are firm favourites.
Both the Lisbon and Isobel linens claim a naturally fluidity and generous weight, giving rise to a most luxurious drape in the fabric, she says.
“For us, it’s all about the superb quality of the linen, the finishing touches of the relaxed ruffle edges of the Olivia bed linen, and the pallet of pinks, greys and whites you can combine which create the most perfectly tailored cocoon,” adds Hing.
It is common knowledge that the feel of a mattress, duvet, pillows, sheets and even pyjamas affects the quality of sleep. There are some natural thermoregulators, such as merino wool and silk. But there are also some very advanced man-made thermoregulators such as Outlast. Duvets that have moisture wicking abilities (Lyocell) can also improve sleep by reducing humidity at the skin surface level.
And some firms have out of this world products – very apt in the case of the Rested Outlast All Seasons which is the world’s only duvet that uses a Nasa-designed, thermo-regulating fabric which cleverly reacts to the fluctuating temperatures of the body, absorbing heat when too hot and dissipating it back when body temperature drops.
But customer demand is increasingly moving towards natural and sustainable products and hoteliers and the high-end of the market can no longer afford to overlook this.
Essentially, there’s a choice of natural fibres (such as duck or goose feather and down, wool, silk or cotton) or synthetic fibre-filled duvets. While natural fibre-filled duvets are seen to be the more luxurious option, with advances in technology and how fillings are produced, many people believe synthetic products have now surpassed natural filled products as they both feel softer and are remarkably resilient over a long period of time.
But with 67% of consumers preferring products from sustainable sources, according to a recent Nielsen survey, ignoring this preference could prove costly to your business.
Duvets using down and feathers have an advantage here as they are a natural byproduct of the food industry. So recycling them into warm comforters means the down and feathers do not end up in our global landfills. Since down and feathers are a natural fill material, they have a lower carbon footprint than products made from synthetic fill materials. They are biodegradable, long-lasting so don’t need replacing so often and these factors will appeal to the environmentally aware guest.
Silk duvets are indulgent, hypoallergenic and long-lasting. And as a natural heat conductor and an exceptionally breathable fibre, it adjusts to the body’s temperature as well as to the temperature in the room – making it a great choice for those that can sometimes feel cold, but other times can feel clammy and hot. But not all silk fibres are equal, with A-grade long-strand mulberry silk considered by many as the best you can get.
However tussah silk is gaining wider acceptance in the industry. Unlike mulberry silk, the tussah silk worm is capable of surviving in the wild. The Rested quilt is 100% tussah silk-filled and provides the important qualities of natural temperature regulation, moisture absorption, breathability, and a luxurious feel, but remaining “lightweight and floaty”.
The White Company of London prefers to go out on a wing with its high-quality duvet filled with 80% luxuriously soft goose down and 20% plump goose feather, which makes it feel light and comfortable to sleep beneath.
It claims that being encased in a luxurious 329-thread-count cotton percale and finished with an internal box construction for even warmth (meaning no cold patches), this duvet keeps the perfect temperature all night. Complete with button holes and cufflinks, it means that you can build your own tog rating by joining two duvets together for the coming winter months.
For the more discerning customer, ethically sourced, softest Pyrenean Duck Down provides a filling of the highest quality. Sourced from one of the coldest mountain environments imaginable, some believe it the best down filling available in terms of performance, warmth, feel and quality.
Trendsetter International bedding company takes a long-term view of the impact of its business, and suppliers are carefully selected with a high priority placed on fair working conditions.
It is also very active in driving change in the responsible sourcing of feather and down, with higher focus on animal welfare. Its Smartfil product, included in the Boutique Silk range, is a range of tough fibres that are “silky-soft to touch” and include SmartfilAir for duvets and SmartfilClusters for pillows.
Its Breathe duvet, it claims, is highly breathable and exceptionally light, as the 80% Smartfil Air filling is blended with 20% modal, a fibre derived from natural wood pulp, which helps to wick moisture away from the body, helping to create the optimum sleeping temperature.
The Boutique Silk Duvet has a 100% cotton jacquard cover, making the feel of this duvet more like a traditional natural duvet, the cotton cover being similar to those used on feather products, giving the duvet a crisp, fresh finish, with an elegant jacquard design.
Sara Nolan, Business Development Manager at The Fine Bedding Company Hospitality, a division of Trendsetter, says: “As a company, we’re committed – and in fact we are leading the industry – to sourcing responsibly sourced feather and down. This, along with sustainably sourced cotton, is a strong message to take to hotel guests.
“We aim to give hoteliers a wide choice to meet their needs, hence our range includes natural fill bedding products through to synthetic duvets that can be washed, dried and back on the bed within a day.
“We spend a lot of time talking with housekeepers and bed & breakfast owners specifically to understand their needs and challenges then brief this into our product development team to find solutions. This drives our continued innovation.”
The Old Rectory at Stewton in Lincs is one of an increasing number of luxury bed and breakfasts that offers a choice to the customer.
“All our bedding is 100% cotton and all the beds have down duvets and pillows but synthetic bedding is available for those who prefer it,” says proprietor Alan Palmer.
Sumptuous fabrics with unique feature beds, finished to perfection with crisp white Egyptian cottons and perfectly plumped pillows, are just some of the reasons why The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn, was declared AA Hotel of the Year for Northern Ireland 2017-2018.
Head Housekeeper, Michael Joesph explains: “My team is trained to deliver an exceptional level of housekeeping, but this can only be attained by using an excellent quality product to impress our customers and ensure they wish to return again and again. We take great care to source quality fabrics for each of the bedrooms and each room is thoroughly inspected prior to guest check in, to ensure superior standards are maintained. In a world of increasing allergens and air particles, each room is very carefully prepared.”
Indeed we are living in an age where allergies seem to be all too prevalent. One of the most common forms of this ailment is an allergy to dust mites. This is something suppliers and hoteliers have been looking at much more carefully with regards to linen and duvets supplied to the hospitality industry.
One solution is to look to Merino Wool. It is naturally resistant to dust mites, mould and mildew as well as being a sustainable source. It is also capable of absorbing 35% of its own weight in moisture, so aiding body temperature regulation.
A spokesperson for the London-based Rested company says: “Wool is a product that excels in all aspects and we have carefully selected our Merino wool to create duvets that perform and feel soft and supple with excellent drape.”