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Hästens, the ultra-luxe Swedish mattress company recognized for its blue check pattern and unrivaled comfort, was founded by Pehr Adolf Janson in 1852. The company is still family-run, operating out of its original headquarters in Köping, Sweden. For the past 30 years, owner and executive chairman Jan Ryde, a fifth-generation family member, has overseen its handmade bed and mattress manufacturing, as well as the production of accessories like linens, pillows, pajamas, down boots, robes, slippers, and towels.
A handmade mattress is no small feat, with details like coiled springs hand-sewn in, and sheets of purified horsetail hair, wool, and cotton evenly layered throughout. With a flip on each side every three months, a mattress is also guaranteed for 25 years—whereas most mattresses only have a lifespan of seven to ten years. Last summer, we had the dreamy opportunity to travel to Sweden to not only see the Hästens production up close, but experience a night’s sleep on their legendary mattress for ourselves.
Hästens began in 1852 by creating saddles, with Janson certified as a master saddler by King Oscar I of Sweden. Janson’s mastery of saddles and harnesses led to making horsetail hair mattresses and leather goods, a skill only an expert craftsman could achieve. It wasn’t until 1917, after third-generation cousin Paul Janson designed a horse logo, that the company began to focus exclusively on making beds. They had a small mill for horsehair processing, where the hair was selected, washed, boiled, and spun for use. In 1920, while traveling the world in search of the finest horsehair, they found Egypt’s Arabian horses to be the quality they were looking for.
Four years later, the brand settled into its headquarters in Köping, and in 1952, after a century of business, Hästens was named the Royal Purveyor of Beds to Sweden’s royal court. The famous Hästens blue check was introduced in 1978 by fourth-generation family member Solveig’s husband, Jack Ryde, who was an art and design aficionado. Today, the headquarters remains a factory of dreams. Its entrance is lined with historic ephemera like photographs and handwritten testaments. Sweet letters of gratitude from happy customers and royalty are framed, guiding you from the business wing of the building to the atelier.
Inside, the atelier is drenched in sunlight from skylights above, accented by a Hästens blue stripe around the perimeter, and welcoming with wood floors. It is remarkably quiet—so quiet that we could hear the humming of an oversized sewing machine stitching the top of the fabric, while the side construction was done by hand. Employees work in unison and alone at tidy stations spread throughout the two-floor building. The brand produces approximately 17,000 beds a year, and all are made only after an order is placed. After a request is made, the customer must patiently wait approximately four to six weeks to receive the mattress. Each is made from wool, cotton, and horsetail hair, separated by springs sewn in individually by hand. A cooperating spring system makes for the desired mix of comfort and support—a set on top features soft and flexible springs, and a set of more firm springs accents the bottom.
After seeing the bespoke process in action, we took a turn at hand-stitching one side of a mattress with an oversized needle—a task that takes six months to a year to master alone. To complement its time-honored technique, the brand has an ability to maintain a level of expertise among its employees thanks to an unparalleled training commitment. Hästens provides ongoing professional coaching to all of its employees, including lessons on product development, personal development, and the importance of continued philosophy and health. Additionally, 70 employees travel to Sweden each month for private training with a coach.
Following a trip to the atelier, our experience of the Swedish mattress-maker was rounded out with a visit to its first showroom down the road for two glorious hours of testing. Bouncing from mattress to mattress, we sampled sleep on a variety of acclaimed designs, settling (à la Goldilocks) on the Vividus, which takes nine people over 320 hours to make. The model, deemed by the brand as the “best and most luxurious” mattress in the world, is stacked double-height and made with double the material. The lead Vividus craftsman has been crafting the beds for 31 years, and still sleeps on the very first one ever made.
After putting on our blue-checked mask and down boots, we dutifully inspected the merits of the product with an eagerly awaited nap. When we awoke well rested, we realized we were the first to fall asleep, the last to wake up, and hadn’t even slept with a pillow. Guilty of side-sleeping, we didn’t feel a single ache in our shoulders, back, or neck, and weren’t uncomfortable temperature-wise.
The downside: We’re forever ruined by the best mattress we’ve ever dreamt of—and on.