Make your bed
What makes the perfect bed? We talk to product designer Yesul Jang about how to build the best nocturnal throne and explore the new world of luxury sleep accessories.
Words by Sam Bradley and illustration by Alexandra Francis.
Can you design a good night's sleep? While some of us would probably pay good money for a guaranteed decent kip, most don't consider seriously investing in the architecture of the bedroom. Increasingly, however, designers and manufacturers are trying to persuade the public that we can enjoy their products while we're unconscious.
To find out more about how designers look at sleep, and what makers, creators and manufacturers bear in mind when trying to create the perfect bedroom equipment, we spoke to designer Yesul Jang. A graduate of the École cantonale d'art de Lausanne (ECAL) in Lausanne, Switzerland, Jang has created the Tiny Home Bed - a compact prototype unit that serves as bed, storage space and desk. Designed to provide young urban dwellers with freedom, space and a decent lie-down, it's a luxury bed for our generation of renters.
"Beds are an essential piece of furniture, but they take up most of the space in a room," says Jang. "I was interested in the idea that I could make one bed that included a storage system or even a desk and chairs, so you could have all the functions you need inside your bed, and have a single piece of furniture in your home."
“Having a bed is like having a monument or sculpture in your room. But I don't need a big luxury bed. I don't even need a mattress to sleep well.”
Jang says that designing beds - compared to other areas of product design, and even other kinds of furniture-making - has some unique challenges. She says: "I think the main difference compared to designing other furniture is that the bed is really big, and people also have to lie down. It's not like how they use other kinds of furniture, they have to be supported by it. And the furniture itself is also related to relaxation. It's not just about sitting or using something like a laptop or keyboard - there's a psychological relationship."
"The bed is for younger people who live in tiny houses because they don't have money to buy bigger places," says Jang. Accordingly, the Tiny Home Bed is built to be cheap, light, and easy to assemble and reassemble, for renters moving between apartments.
Everyone needs to sleep, and people spend more time with their beds than with any other kind of furniture or product.
Jang says that having a bed is like having "a big sculpture or monument in your room."Despite that, even as a designer of beds, Jang says her own tastes are pretty spartan. "I don't need a big luxury bed. I don't even need a mattress to sleep well. Ideally, I think I'd like something very simple, with lots of functions - hanging clothes, storing things underneath. And it would be made of wood, which makes me feel more cosy."
While designers like Jang worry over how to build the perfect platform for nocturnal rest, a whole industry around sleep has recently arisen.
If you've been anywhere near the London Underground, then you'll be familiar with mattress companies Casper, Simba, Eve and Emma. They all have unthreatening brand names that make you think of the undead, dynastic lions and naked women in gardens, and they are all desperate to deliver a mattress to you in the post. They're just foam mattresses, but buying one is supposed to be some kind of life-changing experience that will compensate for the end of social mobility and the rise of fascism.
Earplugs are a tried-and-tested solution for tired humans wishing to block out the noise at bedtime, but you can now buy yourself a pair of perfectly engineered earplugs that pack the sort of tech you'd expect to find in the helmet of a fighter jet pilot into your head-holes. Flare Audio's Sleeep earplugs promise uninterrupted shuteye with "revolutionary sound blocking" and are made from high-grade titanium. Meanwhile Bose offer a pair of wireless earplugs that can stream soothing sound (white noise, jungle calls, rain, you know the drill) - and wake you from your slumber with an in-ear alarm - all for a cool £229.95.
There's a whole range of products on the market based on the idea that sleepers may experience better bed rest beneath a lamp beaming out light from parts of the visible light spectrum that calm the brain. For instance, Philips' Somneo Light is a lamp that simulates a sunrise, bathing the sleeper in different shade of light throughout the night before rousing them with an artificial dawn. Meanwhile, Dodow sell a device that will "re-educate your brain to fall asleep" using blue lights.
Designer Lena Saleh created a set of modern ritual objects to help distract would-be screen addicts from their smartphones before bedtime. Based on ancient Egyptian sleep temples, Saleh's objects - including the Breath Lux Light, an amber light designed to encourage breathing exercises, and the Roma Olfacto, a diffuser that sprays sleep-encouraging scents - aim to get sleepers to adopt new, healthier sleep rituals.