Choosing the right bed

Brent Cooper, bed expert at Marshall & Stewart – purveyors of luxury, handcrafted British beds – gives us his tips on choosing the right bed…

There is a growing recognition that sleep health is just as vital to our well-being as maintaining a balanced diet and exercising regularly. With this new focus on sleep health and sleep science, choosing the right bed is essential. People are finally waking up to the idea that the bed is the most important piece of furniture in your home – you will not use anything else as much, and nothing will have as much of an effect on your day-to-day life. (Image: The White Company)

bed by The White Company


The key to finding the right bed is to look for support. Cast away old-fashioned ideas like “firm beds are good for you” – support is very individual. Most people are on beds that are way too firm for them. If a bed is too firm, your body is forced to act as the support, not the bed. This will result in involuntary movement to relieve stressed and fatigued muscles and joints, which in turn will interrupt your natural sleep cycle and reduce the quality of your sleep. It is no surprise that people often wake up after a full night’s sleep and complain of being tired and sore – this is because they have been fighting to support themselves as they sleep throughout the night.

A supportive bed should also be comfortable. Most of the top echelons of manufacturers use luxurious materials, such as horse hair or wool, to create a surface layer of softness to add to the feel of the bed. The support itself is best supplied by a spring system using individually nested and pocketed springs, but you can also get support from mattresses made of memory foam, old fashioned open coil springs, latex or waterbeds. Heavier people should look at firmer beds, very light people at soft, but there is no hard science regarding this. If in doubt, medium tension or support beds provide the most versatile levels of support. (Image: Button & Sprung)

mattresses by Button & Sprung

Try out the beds that you are interested in and take advice from a real bed specialist if possible – just because someone is standing in a bed department does not mean that they can advise you on the science of sleep. Take your time while trying the beds, roll over and create the pressure points at the hip and shoulder and see how your body interacts with the bed – you should feel little or no pressure on your shoulder and hip, and the rest of your body should be contoured by the mattress – if it does not, the mattress is wrong for you.


When choosing a bed look at not only the support it gives, but also how it fits in with you as an individual. If you sleep warm, memory foam or latex beds are not a great idea since they do not allow easy movement of perspiration away from your skin, which does not allow your body to cool. If you have allergies, then man-made materials might be the direction to go in, although most of the natural materials used in good beds have been washed to the point that no animal skin or oils remain in the material and thus rarely cause a reaction. Natural materials also allow good ventilation and temperature regulation in a bed, as well as feeling more luxurious than other types of mattress. (Image: Hypnos)

natural materials by Hypnos


Like with all things, you get what you pay for. Cheap beds may feel adequately supportive and reasonably comfortable in the showroom but will quickly deteriorate and you will find yourself suffering from poor sleep very quickly. Investing in a high-quality bed not only provides a more comfortable night’s sleep on day one, they are built with longevity in mind, and some top-quality beds come with up to 25-year guarantees.


A sprung base will always give you a better feel to a bed than internal slats or a firm base. Getting a full size divan and mattress set is optimum, and many stylish frames are made as “surround” frames, which will slot fully around your bed. You can also utilize a headboard to contribute towards your overall look. Although space is often at a premium in homes these days, having drawers or other storage as part of your divan will reduce its efficacy and alter the feel of your bed by shortening the springs inside, so think twice about using this sort of storage solution.


People are often too quick to compromise on the comfort of the bed because of aesthetics. Do not sacrifice good support and a luxurious night’s sleep for aesthetics – your priority should be on your sleeping surface over any visual considerations, although it’s worth remembering that achieving a great night’s sleep is not exclusive from obtaining the look that you are aspiring to in your bedroom. (Image: Darlings of Chelsea)

bed by Darlings of Chelsea

Marshall & Stewart creates luxurious handmade beds. Each bespoke bed is crafted in England using the world’s finest natural materials. For a complimentary bed consultation with Brent Cooper, visit or call 020 7384 2020

Other suppliers

And for other mattress manufacturers, go to the Mattress & Divans listings on The House Directory. For suppliers of wooden beds, sleigh beds, four-poster beds, brass or iron beds, bunk beds and many others, have a look in our New Beds category.



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