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Dream bed fit for a king? Only 27,500 Zzzzzzzs

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (MCT) — Barbro Sjotun approached the bed.

"Good morning!" she chirped.

Where had the night gone?

Disorientation and panic set in. Soon, shoppers would be arriving at Atrium Court in Fashion Island. Yet here I sat, in public, still in my blue-checkered jammies.

Sjotun, manager of Hastens, a Swedish maker of upscale beds, placed a coffee and a pastry on the nightstand.

I sat up in a medium-tension Hastens 2000T. It's a king-sized bed handcrafted from all-natural materials, including horsehair, and built to last at least 30 years.

Retail price: $27,500.

Sjotun could barely wait to ask:

"So," she said. "How was it?"

We spend a third of our lives in bed — or try to.

Yet how many of us not in the bed business pay attention to how good or bad our mattress is?

Until recently, I hadn't heard of Hastens. But the family-run company has been making beds in Koping, Sweden, since 1852.

Kings and queens sleep on Hastens beds, which are renowned for their comfort and durability. The company's testing is rigorous. Mattresses are dragged down dirt roads; kids are encouraged to use the beds as trampolines.

Still, despite this whiff of rugged exclusivity, Hastens isn't just for the filthy (or sleepy) rich, Sjotun says. The cheapest model (the curiously named "Naturally") goes for $3,500 — a steal if you consider that the top of the line, the King Vividus, sells for $70,000.

"Some people may find these prices offensive," says Sjotun. "But when you buy a Hastens, you buy a bed for life."

John Wurmlinger, 51, of La Jolla, Calif., spent three months researching the beds last summer before he and his wife bought a 2000T.

"This bed changed our lives," says Wurmlinger, a janitorial supply salesman. "If our house caught on fire, one of the first things we'd drag out would be this mattress."

Good luck — it weighs 480 pounds.

Hastens opened in Newport Beach, Calif., in May 2006, attracting mostly aging baby-boomers with disposable income, Sjotun said.

"Our typical customers are people in their 40s and 50s who are starting to get aches and pains and who get the point of needing a good night's sleep."

The 2000T is Hastens' top-selling model. It's 2 feet high with a bottom section, a thick spring mattress in the middle, and a thinner top mattress. The bed takes four days to construct by hand.

Would it be the stuff of my dreams?

"Put these on," said Sjotun, handing me a pair of plump, goose-down slippers when I arrived for my sleepover.

Sjotun, 47, owns a 2000T. She looked suspiciously well rested.

"Get on the bed," she said.

I laid down on my back and stuffed a pillow under my head.

"You need to learn how to use a pillow," Sjotun said.

"You never want it under your shoulders. The pillow's job is to keep your head and neck straight and relaxed."

She fluffed the pillow. It kissed my ears.

"Well?" Sjotun asked. "What's your first impression?"

"I feel good," I said.

The bed seemed to rise up to meet me, gently molding itself around me. My body felt in perfect balance, as if I were being held.

"The bed is receiving you as it should," said Sjotun.

"When you find the right bed for you," she added, "you don't notice you are on a bed. You just feel comfortable."

I closed my eyes.

"You're getting sleepy," Sjotun said. "The bed is knocking you out."

She powered down the store computer, turned off the lights, and left — locking me in for the night.

I changed into my store-supplied pajamas (looking like a human tablecloth) and, around 10:45 p.m., went to bed.

Typically, I struggle to find a comfortable position for sleeping. But the Hastens 2000T sort of found me.

I felt good on my sides or back. I felt no need to endlessly twirl like a hot dog on a 7-Eleven rotisserie.

Still, was it the bed, or was I being hypnotized by the outlandish price?

I opened the thick, slick Hastens catalog.

I read a lot about springs. The 2000T has three distinct spring systems. Some offer support, others absorb movement. And, when some springs are depressed (as in pushed down on, not sad), others are unaffected and don't scrunch down.

I also read that Hastens stuffs its beds with horsehair. (What? Not unicorn?) I even read that the bed channels moisture, keeping contact with your own sweat to a minimum.

On and on the catalog went, extolling the virtues of an environmentally friendly bed that is free of chemicals, foam or latex. The catalog even suggests the bed is an investment that should be taken more seriously than a car.

While trying hard not to obsess about the price tag, I

Zzzzzz.

Then I woke up.

The problem wasn't the bed. But Atrium Court, after closing, is not a sleepy place. Cleaning crews crank up all manner of machines that, while no doubt cleansing, are not conducive to sleep. And music (scratch that; Muzak) doesn't stop when shoppers are gone.

Still, time passed. And, eventually, the music and cleaners fell silent. And then came sleep — sweet, blissful sleep — until 8 a.m., when Sjotun arrived with coffee and a pastry.

"I love the bed," I told Sjotun. "But sleeping in a mall isn't a good idea."

How does one put a price on a good night's sleep? Was the Hastens 2000T worth it?

That's the $27,500 question.

"I can't sell a person this bed," Sjotun said. "I can only educate and inform. Someone has to be on board with every aspect of our beds to make this kind of investment."

She mentioned a couple who recently paid $16,000 for a Hastens bed despite worries about the economy.

"They told me, 'At least we'll sleep well at night,'" Sjotun said.

OK, but could I ever justify spending $27,500 on a bed?

I'll sleep on that.

DREAM BED?

About Hastens

Founded: 1852

Headquarters: Koping, Sweden

History: Started as a saddle-maker, with mattress-making as a sideline. Privately held, family-run business.

Location: There are 16 Hastens stores nationwide.

Cost of beds: $3,500 to $70,000.

Fun fact: Official supplier of beds and mattresses to His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

Fun fact No. 2: "Hast" is Swedish for "horse."

More info: www.hbeds.com and www.hastens.com, or call (949) 719-0877.

ABOUT THE 2000T

Retail price: $27,500

Weight: 450 pounds (king size)

Filling materials: Horsehair, cotton, flax, wool (no flame-retardant chemicals)

Height: 23 inches (without the wooden legs)

Design: Three-part bed, with a bottom section that has two layers of springs, a thick spring mattress in the middle, and a thinner top mattress

About the name: Designed in the 1990s, "2000T" is meant to signify the bed's relevance in the 21st century.

Fun fact: The 2000T is Hastens' top-selling bed

Source: Hastens