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Once Upon a Mattress

Martha Stewart Living Television

What is your idea of the perfect bed? Do you want a mattress soft enough to cradle your body, or do you prefer firm support? Are you happy to cuddle up in a cozy full-size bed, or are you looking for a generous king-size? Whatever your particular needs, there is a bed that suits you perfectly. Today Martha is joined by Ted Marschke, owner of Beckley Bedding in New York City. He explains what to look for when buying a bed and offers tips on keeping your bed in top condition.

There are four key things to look for when choosing a mattress: size, comfort, support, and durability. The ideal size will depend, of course, on who will be sleeping in the bed; a mattress should measure at least six inches longer than the tallest person sleeping on it. Twin and full-size beds are 75 inches long, queens and kings are 80 inches. For taller people, a style called California king, measuring 84 inches long, is available. And don't forget to take space considerations into account when choosing a size.

Comfort is a highly subjective quality, so you really need to visit a showroom and actually lie on various beds to choose the best one for you. In general, people who sleep on their backs prefer firmer mattresses, while those who sleep on their stomachs or sides prefer softer ones. Since mattresses soften with age and wear, it's a good idea to buy one that's somewhat firmer than what you are used to. When looking at mattresses, you will see a range of thicknesses, from seven to 18 inches. Keep in mind that the thickest mattress isn't always the softest one, so again, test them and judge for yourself.

To gauge the support of a mattress, check for coil count. Look for a bed with at least 375 coils; the more coils, the better the bed will conform to your body. The coil wire should be thick -- number 13 or lower -- and should be "turned" at least five times in each coil. A tighter coil will provide good support and will also be more durable. Other visual clues for durability are straight seams; tight, uniform quilting; and good, sturdy handles on the sides.

In a good bed, the box spring is as important as the mattress. It acts as a shock absorber, provides support, and adds to the durability of the mattress. Check that your box spring is well constructed, both inside and out. If you opt for a bed frame without a box spring, it's important to be sure the frame itself provides adequate support for the bedding.

Once you've invested in a good bed, you'll want to take the best possible care of it. Always use a mattress pad, both for purposes of hygiene and to protect the mattress. There are many types of mattress pads available; many are thick and fluffy and make sleeping even more comfortable. To encourage even wear on your mattress, you should flip it regularly. With a big bed, this can seem like a daunting task, but Ted has a simple method: Working with one person on each long side of the bed, grab onto the handles and turn the mattress perpendicular to the box spring. Then slide the mattress partially off one side, bringing the end that was at the foot of the bed up, and let the other end fall to the floor so the mattress is standing on one end. Then simply let it fall back onto the bed, and turn it back into place, with the end that was the foot now at the head. Follow this simple technique every four to six weeks, and your mattress should last for years to come. Just remember: No jumping on the bed!

Resources

Beckley Bedding, Bronx, NY, 718-665-2218

Elizabeth Eakins Rugs, New York City

Ron Cacciola Antiques, Westport, CT

George Glazer Gallery, New York City

John Derian Company Inc., New York City

Sleepy's

Leonards New England

Garnet Hill, 800-622-6216

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