The $50,000 Bed: Could It Possibly Be Worth It?

Everyone loves to turn off the alarm and hop back into bed ... but would snoozing be any sweeter if you shelled out $50,000 or more for a place to sleep?

A small but growing number of Americans are purchasing beds from Hollandia, an Israeli company that offers “off-the-shelf” beds from $10,000 to $50,000.

But that's without options. The beds can then be tricked out to include built-in plasma-screen TVs, speakers, MP3 players and computer mounts. Total cost: upward of $69,000.

“Once you sleep on it, it's really hard to go back to the old ways,” said Luna Frank, 50, a psychotherapist from Cedarhurst, N.Y., who owns three of the less pricey Hollandia beds, from $12,000 to $17,000.

The “poor man's” standard $50,000 model includes a base swathed in mohair, ventilated aloe vera-fiber mattress covers that promises a “fresh mattress” feeling every morning, form-fitting latex mattress filling, an adjustable frame that lets the bed do your sitting-up for you, 12 vibrating massage functions — and even motion sensors so that your cat or baby doesn't get squashed by the mechanisms underneath.

First-time users who tested out the $30,000 Hollandia bed — identical to the $50,000 model but for the mohair, according to company officials — were impressed by the number of functions but underwhelmed when they learned what the price tag was.

“I injured my back a few weeks ago and I've been having trouble sleeping — the firm mattress feels great, and I could sleep all day,” 32-year-old Web-site developer Tater Read said. But when he learned the price he added, “Fifty-thousand dollars?! Does it come with girls included?”

Eugenia Parisi, a 35-year-old equity research analyst, thought the bed was ideal for people with injuries, but was disappointed with the controllers for adjusting the bed and turning the massage function on and off.

“I could not figure out the massage feature, and the controls are too low-tech,” she said. “For this amount of money, it should be voice-activated.”

Hollandia was founded 25 years ago by Israeli artichoke farmer Isaac Barssessat, who was inspired to start his company after a trip to the Netherlands led him to a bed that helped relieve
his chronic back pain.

“The idea is that people spend 50, 60, 70, $100,000 for an automobile they're proud of, but if they're in it for more than two hours a day, they complain they were in the car all day and their back hurts,” said David Ashe, CEO of Hollandia International U.S.

“You spend eight hours a day in our bed, you don't wake up with stiff shoulders, tingling arms or a sore back. Isn't it worth spending a bit more to guarantee yourself a good night's sleep?” he added.

Hollandia has been selling beds in the tens of thousands worldwide, but they are new to the U.S., so they can't release sales numbers just yet. But in the last decade, the gap between your average twin and the kings of king-sized has been yawning wider than ever before.

According to the International Sleep Products Association, the trade organization for bed and bed-component manufacturers, wholesale revenues for the domestic mattress market have increased every year since 2001, primarily because more and more bleary-eyed consumers are buying high-end beds above $1,000.

“Based on everything we've seen to date, the market for luxury bedding — and better bedding in general — will continue to grow,” said Nancy Shark, vice president of communications and spokeswoman for the ISPA.

Anyone who's ever watched late-night or Sunday-afternoon television lately is probably already familiar with some of the big names out there touting new “sleep systems” that will supposedly revolutionize the way you spend the horizontal third of your life.

Tempur-Pedic, for example, did away entirely with the steel-spring mattress and used a proprietary tempered material that conforms to the sleeper's body shape.

The company's products range from queen-sized sets at $1,500 all the way up to $6,000 luxury models — all based on the idea that a good mattress should be different things to different people.

“There's no standardized way to measure sleep,” said Rick Anderson, president of Tempur-Pedic North America. “Sleep's a very personalized experience. We clearly believe there's a consumer who's willing to pay for better sleep and higher-quality sleep surfaces.

At Serta, innersprings still can play a part — the company's innerspring mattress luxe fetches up to $3,900, for example — but it's been putting more emphasis on its partnership with big-name designer Vera Wang, who co-brands a line called the Serenity Collection that costs between $999 and $1,600 for a queen-sized bed, and has just introduced a line of latex mattresses.

“If you look back five years, you wouldn't have seen these,” said Maria Balistreri, vice president of brand management for Serta International. “Latex has been around, memory foam has been around, it just hadn't taken off. But with demand for a better night's sleep and as America gets busier and busier, we need a better night's sleep with less hours.

If you're torn on whether to spend next year's salary on a sports car or a fancy bed, don't expect too much guidance from the medical profession — you'll get the same advice your grandmother gave you: When it comes to mattresses, firmer is better.

But then, grandma never had a bed that could give her a massage.