Hi ho, Hi ho, a mattress shopping we go…

Two months ago I decided I wanted a new, bigger bed; my full size just wasn’t cutting it anymore. In the process of mattress shopping, I would have to replace my furniture. As it would turn out, selecting furniture would be significantly easier than selecting a mattress. The mattress industry is one of the most convoluted, complicated, mixed up, upside down industries with dozens of manufacturers and retailers producing or selling the same thing, essentially, with minor variations. It’s a miracle they manage to stay in business.

To give you an idea of the large number of mattress manufacturers, let’s look at a sampling list below:

Let’s start with the “S” brands:serta

Next, let’s look at some of the other brands, perhaps you’d call them a “boutique” brand:

Finally, let’s look about the über high end of mattresses. These mattresses can run you many thousands of dollars:haastens

It is worth noting, there are dozens of other brands not listed above.

Let’s say you were mattress shopping, looking at models online, reading some reviews, etc… If you look into the varying models of any of these brands, you’ll find a plethora of options and no doubt you’ll be confused by the end. At this point. you’d probably have to go to a mattress store where you’ll you will quite likely be introduced to a well trained, aggressive, salesman who thinks he knows what you want, and while coaxing you and perhaps your partner, to try a few mattress manipulates you for information. Often, the first few mattresses you’ll be directed to are the more pricey models, and while you’re horizontal, he will undoubtedly tell you why this mattress is nice, what makes it great, perhaps some brief history on the company. In the spiel, he’ll probably ask what you have now, what you’re looking for, do you prefer firm, soft, medium? Typical sales questions but quite possibly mixed in with some deception. It can be quite a tedious and intimidating experience with many people pressured into purchasing something they may not have needed.

Of course it would be unfair to say all mattress buying experiences are this nightmarish. There are honest mattress sales people, just as there are honest car salesmen. In the two months of my quest for a mattress, I encountered a few and went out of my way to look at some offerings.

I began my quest buy checking (what is, in my mind) the most obvious choice for a mattress:

ikea_orlando2007

IKEA’s Orlando location is the closest to me, about 2 hours drive, and a sensible choice for modern to contemporary lower cost furniture, much of which I have in my home. Over the years, IKEA and I have had a tumultuous relationship. About 4 years ago when I bought the mattress I have now, I wanted an IKEA foam mattress. Also, about 4 years ago, I knew next to nothing about mattresses, foam quality, latex, or even springs. This was my downfall. After bringing the mattress home, allowing to to expand, I found it was far too thin for my weight. Being a larger person, thin memory foam tends to turn into a pancake rather quickly, and this wasn’t going to work.

We returned the mattress a day or so later. Between the cost of gas there and back for the original trip + there and back for the return, I’m sure it was more expensive than the mattress was, hah. The return trip was a bust, initially, as IKEA, known for their shit customer service refused the return. I understand their reasons, hygiene, bait & switch by a customer, etc, but the entire interaction sticks in my mind like a nail. Their staff were rude, condescending, and made it very apparent they didn’t care how you felt about the way you were treated. If you didn’t like it, they’d show you the door. The following weekend, using unethical methods (my Mother, to whom one should avoid using the word ‘no’), they issued us a gift card.

In the time between the attempted return and my Mom being able to compel IKEA to refund their mattress, I scoped out a mattress on overstock.com and purchased it. It was also in this time period I was able to read more about memory foam, a little about the industry, history of products, etc. I decided it was a better idea to purchase a thick mattress, this time 13 (or was it 14) inches. I also had a nice Overstock.com coupon, netting me a decent price:

overstockmattress

To this day, I have that mattress, and I even bought one for my parents for Christmas that year, except a “medium firmness” and Queen size, it was only a few dollars more! That said, their mattress has not held up, it’s now softer than mine, a tad misshapen, and definitely needs replaced soon. I later learned the Overstock mattresses tend to vary in quality and I either got a good one or just got lucky, especially since it’s held up for almost 4 years. If the mattress were $200 cheaper and you were an adventurous person, I’d suggest giving it a try. Otherwise, it’d be a last choice.

Let’s flash-forward to the present, after all, this article is about my two month quest for a mattress, and should really cover more current experiences. As I said, the reason I’m shopping for a new mattress is because I wanted a larger one. This is only a half truth, of course, I also bought new bedroom furniture and along with that came the opportunity for a new bed frame.

I ended up with a few pieces from the IKEA “Tarva” collection:

tarva

It’s a nice collection, solid pine, not the IKEA particle/fiber board nonsense, also easy to assemble.

When it comes to the mattress, which is why you’re probably here, I had a vague idea of what I wanted, but with so many variations it was hard to pinpoint. That is, after all, the point of shopping around though!

If I’m to offer any advice, we’ll have to start with the basics. Mattresses come in numerous varieties:

  • Innerspring, aka your traditional mattress
  • Memory foam (Tempur-Pedic comes to mind, but they aren’t the only one)
  • Latex, rather new to the market, still very expensive, but has it’s pros
  • Hybrid mattresses; these usually have innerspring on bottom, and memory foam or latex (sometimes both) on top.

Ultimately whatever you get will be up to personal preference, so I won’t even attempt to say which is better. However, here’s a pro/con chart:

Pros: Cons:
Traditional
Innerspring:
  • The “traditional bed”
  • Often less expensive
  • Readily available at almost any furniture retailer
  • Breathes better and is cooler than memory foam
  • Easier to shift and move around
  • Can be noisy
  • Motion isolation can be limited, partner may feel you roll over,
    etc
  • Usually lighter in weight, easy to move around, rotate, flip
Memory Foam:
  • Widely available, memory foam beds are increasingly popular
  • Good motion isolation
  • A wide variety of foam densities, wieght, and thicknesses can
    make for a custom mattress
  • Next to no noise
  • Some memory foam beds have a chemical smell due to the way the
    foam was manufactured
  • High heat retention, can be very hot/sweaty for some, although
    gel infused memory foam professes to help alleveiate this
  • Can be difficult for “marital relations”
  • Thicker mattresses can be heavy, making them difficult to move
    around
  • Can be quite expensive
Latex:
  • Somewhat customizable
  • Higher quality latex is quite durable
  • Cooler than memory foam, doesn’t hold heat as heavily as memory
    foam
  • Often marketed as the organic or “green” choice
  • Still new to the market, not that readily available; a
    speciality item
  • Can be very expensive
  • Often heavy
Hybrid Bed:
  • Best of both worlds (foam/latex + spring)
  • Fairly readily available
  • Available in a wide variety of comfort levels
  • Can be very expensive; many of the hybrid models are in the
    “luxury bed” category
  • Can be very heavy (foam + latex + springs + ticking + misc
    materials = weight)
  • Not very easy to move around

This would be the part where I considered going into great detail the types of springs, foam, and latex, describing the qualities, pros and cons, of each. However, a few things came to mind. The first being, it would be an incredibly long post, unlikely to hold most people’s attention. The second being, most of the information I’d be able to provide would be copied/slightly edited/pasted. The end result being – I’m not the most qualified individual to go into detail about that subject, As such: I refer you to the following website: The Mattress Underground.

If you have questions, need input, advice, or just need to research, the site is a veritable treasure-trove of information, with a great community behind it.

Looping back to the IKEA trip mentioned earlier, we specifically went to look at the following mattresses (as well as the aforementioned furniture):

holmsta hultsvik

As you can see, the key difference between the two (aside from price and at first glance, of course) is latex v. memory foam. Visually, there is a pillowtop on the Hultsvik, where the Holmsta is more of a euro top (the pillow top encased in the outer covering). Truth be told, the Holmsta is a tad more firm than the Hultsvik (to me), despite what the item description states. What you don’t know, however, is any details about the foam/latex in the bed, ILD, density, weight, quality. IKEA fails to provide this information and MSDS sheets aren’t available.

Now, if you’re the type of person to buy a new mattress every couple of years, this *might* be a good purchase for you. For me, it wasn’t something I was interested in despite IKEAs clever “25 year Warranty” and “Love It or Exchange It” policies. It is interesting to note IKEAs memory foam mattresses use a foam product from Mountaintop Foam, which appears to be a quality product from a cursory glance. It’s the springs in the IKEA mattresses that worry me. Are they tempered at all? What gauge wiring is in there? Let alone the foam quality or type. A conversation with the guys/gas at Mountaintop Foam, as nice as they were, didn’t reveal much information about the subject. Not a big plus in my book.

We spent about an hour talking with the IKEA guy about the two mattresses, asking all kinds of questions, including some he couldn’t answer. I have to say, he was probably the nicest IKEA team member I’ve ever encountered. The Hultsvik was my favorite of the two, however the one they had on the showroom- floor had been out for a few months. With all of the people passing by and laying on the mattress, it tends to get broken in pretty quick. On top of that, the pillow top had begun to bunch up in the middle and it just seemed like it may fall apart rather quickly, a big turn off.

More research was needed, it would seem, and I was led to two sites. One I mentioned above, The Mattress Underground, as well as Sleep Like The Dead. I’ve already mentioned how helpful The Mattress Underground community is. Not mentioning Sleep Like The Dead would be a disservice at this point. There is so much information there, you have to take it in slowly, like good bourbon. Otherwise, you get knowledge overload. After said research, I decided it was time to take a little trip.

fox_mattressFox Mattress came highly recommended from a few sources, including a local friend. They are “old school” and make most of their mattresses on-site, which is nice. We went down this past Saturday, June 7, 2014 and worked with Mic and Trena. Their customer service lives up to it’s expectation, as they are super helpful and very knowledgeable about the products. Interestingly, they had one bed in the store not made by them, a Kingsdown Engleman bed. While it was very nice, it didn’t have high marks on the internet for quality and reliability and of the 4 or 5 mattress stores I visited, each of them had terrible things to say about that brand.

The other mattress which caught my eye was a hybrid bed, spring on bottom, followed by latex, then memory foam, and a plush pillow top with nice tickings! It was a king size bed, and while they had a queen of the same configuration available, they were both the same price. In that situation, the king size wins out in value. I’ll freely admit, I really wanted that king size bed, but I also didn’t want to make any snap decisions.

On our way home, we stopped buy a local mattress retailer, Best Mattress Jacksonville. Mike, the owner, and his team are also quite helpful and very knowledgeable about their products. While there, I tried on a bed from Sherwood Bedding, the Lumina Opus Luxury Plush Euro Top. See last page of the PDF for more info.

Lastly, I decided to stop at a chain place, Mattress1One. The store may have been dead, but the manager was all too happy to help us. He was very non pressure and knowledgeable about his products (which he should be!). The mattress I found at Mattres1One was the Sealy Posturepedic Hybrid bed. It was supremely comfortable, and supremely expensive. I also believe it was supremely under-constructed. Again, I decided to sleep on it.

Finally, Sunday, June 8, 2014, I woke with a fresh set of eyes, if you will. I decided on Best Mattress Jax’s Sherwood Bedding – Opus bed in a Queen. The friendly people at Sherwood, built in Orlando, 20 year, non-prorated warranty (which was very easy to read and comprehend). The new mattress should be delivered in a few days, hopefully it goes well. From there, Expect a review shortly after the break-in!

As usual, if anyone has comments or questions, use the form here.

Update! The mattress has arrived. Tonight will be the first night we sleep on it. I’ll update this post with observations over the next few days to weeks.

sherwood-lumina-opus-in-ikearoom

Above is my bedroom. It really should be in an IKEA catalogue. The flooring, bed frame, 2 night stands, 2 lamps, and the taller lamp, plus the curtain and curtain rod, as well as 2 dressers behind me, are from IKEA.