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Sleeping beauties

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Beds are turning into pods, cubes and hi-tech getaways. Forget counting sheep or Ambien: nodding off just took a different turn altogether. By Gillian Drummond

Tucson's first sleeping pod. Photo by Liam Frederick Photography

The sleeping ‘cube’ developed especially for Susan Chandler. Photo by Liam Frederick Photography

Like so many brilliant ideas, it started on a napkin. Susan Chandler, a long-time difficult sleeper, sketched her idea for a sleeping area with a difference. Susan is sensitive to light and always sleeps with a mask on. She based her sketch on two things: a step-up bed design she had once seen in an historic house; and a magazine photo of a home in Costa Rica with an enclosed sleeping area.

Inside the Chandler's home. Photo by Liam Frederick Photography

Inside the Chandlers’ home. Photo by Liam Frederick Photography

Tucson architects and designers Bil Taylor and Darci Hazelbaker came up with the goods: compact three-walled sleeping quarters with room – just – for a bed and built-in night stands. There are two doors and the fourth ‘wall’ is a remote-controlled roman shade, which is lowered at night and whenever Susan wants to take a nap.

The added genius of this room-within-a-room room is the fact that it means Susan and her husband Appy can use the rest of the master bedroom space – an addition to their 1940 midtown Tucson home – for entertaining. They pull down the shade of the sleeping cube and guests pull up seats at a long mesquite table for drinks, eats and a movie, spilling out onto the patio outside.

Enclosed sleeping areas are nothing new, of course. Four-poster beds, with their columns, drapes and ‘ceilings’, date back 600 years or more. But, thanks to new technology and a general lack of sleep, now they come with 21st century twists.

The HiCan, made in Italy by Hi-Interiors, takes the idea of a four-poster or canopy bed and turns it into a movie theater and games console. With the tap of a button, users can watch a film, listen to music, play on an XBox, talk to the hotel reception or check email. Blinds enclose the bed (nickname: the ‘i-Bed’), which is made of wood, lacquered MDF and leather. The frame comes in a choice of eight colors.


The HiCan bed, made in Italy. Photo courtesy of Hi-Interiors

The HiCan was designed by Edoardo Carlino from creative studio Think Future Design and so far has sold in the USA, Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UK. “It originates from an R&D project we financed at the University of Calabria with the aim of exploring the idea of integrating the best Italian design with state-of-the-art technology. We focused at the beginning on the bedroom to reinvent this experience,” says Ivan Tallarico, head of the HiCan team.

The response? “So far it’s enthusiastic. I think our clients like the idea of retiring and resting inside a cocoon after a very stressful day,” he says. In the USA,  Avant Gallery in Miami carries the HiCan, but Ivan says the company’s target market is individuals – specifically a “very successful and rich” businessman.

Lest you are not one of the rich, a stay at Qbic Hotels may be more attainable. QBIC offers affordable and chic rooms at its two locations in Amsterdam and London (prices from £69 or $116). There’s a similar cocoonish feel to them, thanks to the cube-like framing that’s part of the bed. (The rooms are even called a ‘cubi’.) The  bed – with aluminum frame  – comes with a 32-inch Skype-ready ‘smart’ TV, mood lighting and reading lights.

Qbic London

The bed in a ‘cubi’ at Qbic London. Photo courtesy of Qbic Hotels

Image courtesy of Qbic Hotels.

Photot courtesy of Qbic Hotels.

Image courtesy of Qbic Hotels.

Photo courtesy of Qbic Hotels.

The Cubi is the IKEA of the hotel world. The bed structure comes as a flat-pack, takes a day to install, and thus speeds up hotel development, says Qbic’s Paul Janmaat. The whole idea was triggered by the increasing vacancies in office buildings, he says. “The major advantage is the building speed – it takes only six months to create a hotel – and a reduction in investment cost.”

The Once Upon a Dream bed, made in France, is getting a lot of attention from stylistas. It was originally designed to cure jet lag, for guests of the Hotel du Marc at Rheims. Hotel du Marc is part of the House of Veuve Clicquot, a private hotel offered to Veuve Clicquot friends, members and VIP guests. And while there’s little chance of some of us lesser mortals visiting, we can always dream. Which is exactly what its creator, French designer Mathieu Lehanneur, is hoping for.

Describing the bed as somewhere between “the Sand Man and home cinema”, its makers say it was designed using tried and tested data gathered in studies for treating people with chronic insomnia. Once Upon a Dream operates in four stages. First there is automatic curtain closure. Then the temperature falls to between 2C and 19C. The user then brushes up against a hanging plant – reminiscent of the briar that protects Sleeping Beauty – which activates an automatic light dimmer gradually over the next 15 minutes. At the same time, l0w-volume white noise isolates the sleeper from external sounds.

“It goes beyond a bed,” says Mathieu. “Veuve Clicquot aimed to put their customers in a dream world. The people who come and spend a night in this hotel are mainly guests and VIPs working with the brand. They usually arrive from one point of the world, spend a single night, and fly to another point. You can easily imagine the high level of jet lag distortion in their physiology.”

Mathieu, a Paris-based designer whose other clients include Issey Miyake, Nike and Pullman Hotels, collaborated with a hypnologist and sleep disease specialist to better understand the human brain and how sound, light and temperature affect sleep. He describes the one-of-a-kind bed as “the ideal context to get amazing dreams without any drug'”.

“Users love it,” says Mathieu. “In a way, I didn’t design just the room but also the dreams in the brains of the guests.”
Photo courtesy of Veuve Cliquot

The Once Upon a Dream bed, exclusive to Veuve Clicquot. Photo courtesy of Veuve Cliquot

Lack of sleep is a public health epidemic, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, medical errors, and diseases like diabetes, depression, obesity and cancer. The evidence is clear that adults and children are not getting a good night’s sleep. That’s one of the reasons Christopher Lindholst, co-founder of MetroNaps, advocates napping during the day.  “It’s tough for me when I don’t,” he says of his daily power naps. He has trained himself to take a 13.5 minute nap, which is all you need, says he and the research, to recharge our batteries.

Metro Naps EnergyPod

MetroNaps’ EnergyPods are made of powder-coated steel and fiberglass. Photo courtesy of MetroNaps

Christopher’s napping pods were launched in 2004 in New York City as part of a napping place for tired city workers to recharge. The aim was to develop these napping stations across the USA. But his company had immediate interest from businesses and took the company in a different direction, installing its space-age looking pods in offices like Google, Cisco Systems, fitness centers, and at the baseball stadium of Phoenix’s Arizona Diamondbacks.

“It’s for the players, to help them mitigate fatigue. They have busy travel schedules and changing time zones. And there’s good research on the importance of short term rest on an athlete’s performance,” says Christopher of the Diamondbacks’ pods, which can cost $8000 to $12000 each.

Taking naps during the day still has a stigma attached to it, admits Christopher. But that is changing, he says. “When we started 10 years ago people thought we were crazy to condone sleeping on the job. But with growing evidence and awareness of the importance of sleep and, frankly, growing incidences of work fatigue and insufficient  sleep, people are being made more aware of [its benefits] and corporate awareness is changing. We’re trying to convey to people there’s nothing to be proud of if you only slept three hours. You might as well be drunk.”

* For more details about Susan and Appy Chandler’s remodel, click here.

Energy Pod

MetroNaps’ Energy Pod. Photo courtesy of MetroNaps


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