Investing in Rest: Up Close & Personal with Mary Pat Wallace of Chicago Luxury Beds
Who: Mary Pat Wallace
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Occupation: Owner, Chicago Luxury Beds
Since resolving to have a healthier and happier 2015, we’ve explored and invested in new exercise routines; a variety of wellness programs, procedures and products; and recipes for good health—all the usual avenues for looking and feeling our best. And while they are undoubtedly having a positive impact, we realized there is one aspect to achieving our goals that we’ve been ignoring: our beds.
Despite the many ways sleep (or lack thereof) affects our health and happiness, for some reason, it isn’t immediately obvious to all of us that a high-quality mattress is worthy of serious investment. In fact, it turns out that even Mary Pat Wallace, owner of Chicago Luxury Beds—which, as the name suggests, carries the most luxurious mattresses available—had to convince her husband that spending upwards of $10,000 on one was a sound decision.
“People’s concepts of what’s important in our culture just aren’t focused on sleep.”
“He said, ‘No. Nobody I know would spend that on a mattress, and if my friends found out they would laugh at me,” Wallace says. But when she pointed out all the other things in their home that they never use, versus the bed, where they spend eight hours a night, his mind started to change. “People’s concepts of what’s important in our culture just aren’t focused on sleep,” Wallace notes. “But if you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you’re not happy or productive the next day.
In addition to factoring in how and where one spends one’s time, if you add up all health and fitness-related expenses—think gym memberships, personal trainers, juicers, massage therapists, etc.—researching and purchasing the perfect mattress that will last for decades makes sense—even if the price tag is tens of thousands of dollars.
Wallace’s husband, for one, has no buyer’s remorse. After sleeping on their new mattress for just a few months he was wowed (and free of the back pain that had been plaguing him). Credit, of course, goes to his wife, who spent years honing her eye and understanding of what is a worthwhile investment while working in Chicago with Holly Hunt. As Hunt sought out the best of the best for her showroom, Wallace learned to “find the jewels,” and in the bedding world that means Hästens, a company based in Sweden that has been handcrafting bespoke beds since 1852, and Vispring, a London-based custom bed company founded more than 100 years ago.
“You feel like you are buying a piece of history.”
A visit to the Hästens factory in Sweden convinced Wallace to focus her career on luxury beds. The quality, natural materials, and construction of their products, she says, make them the gems of the mattress-making world, and spending time there seeing the mattresses crafted in a tradition that has been passed down and perfected for generations further proved that the beds are heirloom-quality pieces. “I love to travel and I love taking staff on trips, because you get to see the heart and the soul of the company,” Wallace says. “You get such an appreciation for the family that is doing it, and you feel like you are buying a piece of history. I don’t think you see that by reading the catalog.”
Wallace’s employees understand this as well: members of the Chicago Luxury Bed staff travel to the factories to see the mattresses crafted firsthand. “Not only does the team go there to learn how they are made, but they get put on the assembly line, they see how difficult it is,” Wallace says. “It takes years to train to learn how to make a Hästens bed and a Vispring bed. And they see all these materials—the cotton or the wool, the cashmere, the silk, the angora, the levels of quality in the raw materials. It’s such an education. And these families are so passionate that they walk you through every element.…You can give somebody a book to read, but when you are actually there and you are interacting with these people, the staff gets so excited because they just want to share it with everybody.”
“When people come in to try the beds, we say, ‘If you can, check your cell phone at the door. You need to listen to your body.’”
Those who wish to experience a bespoke mattress firsthand should pay a visit to the Chicago Luxury Bed showroom—and be ready to stay awhile. “When people call to make an appointment, we tell them to dress comfortably, because most people are in the store anywhere from one to four hours,” Wallace says. She compares the experience to that of a runner trying on shoes for the perfect fit or a skier seeking the perfect boot. “It’s so much about the fit and that fit is going to be different for everybody, because your foot is different and your ankle is different, your calf is different,” she says. “And if you are going to be out there for 8 hours of the day skiing, then it’s all about the boot.”
To help people find the perfect fit, staff members move customers around to the different brands and the different tensions within the brand, and it becomes evident to most people fairly quickly that their body is either suited to a Vispring or a Hästens. The next step is trying a different model or a different tension within the line. The process can go on for multiple visits, which is fine with Wallace. “It is an expensive purchase and we want to make sure that they are doing it right,” she says. For Visprings fans, an additional trial opportunity is available, and it comes with a perk: Six guest rooms at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Chicago have a different Visprings mattress in each, so a customer can spend the night on a Vispring. If they decide they like it, they can go back to Chicago Luxury Beds and buy the mattress and the cost of the hotel room will be covered.
So as we work toward living healthier, happier lives, we’re going to keep in mind that one-third of said lives will be spent on one piece of furniture—so we may as well enjoy it.
Chicago Luxury Beds // Chicago, IL // 312.527.5337