To Know Is To Love
When Linda Evangelista uttered the immortal words that she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 she probably was draped across a Savoir bed. “It would be easier to think of famous people who don’t sleep on one of our beds!” says Savoir Beds’ chief executive Alistair Hughes. “After all, our raison d’être is to be the best beds in the world.” Nowadays you are more likely to be holding a laptop than court in bed but Savoir continues to instil a sense of majesty in the piece of furniture on which you spend one third of your life.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, Savoir has launched a limited edition of the Royal State Bed. Designer Mandeep Dillon looked to Hampton Court Palace for inspiration. The result is a half tester, a reinterpretation of the palace’s Angel Bed. Its side curtains are flat, not gathered, and padded to give a tailored finish which accentuates the five metre height of the bed. A high base and mattress maintain the regal proportions. It takes craftsmen over 600 hours to make the Royal State Bed – 70 hours alone go into the crest embroidery. Taking account of the workmanship, the visible materials (silk damask drapes) and the hidden (blond Latin American horse tail and Mongolian cashmere wool in the mattress), little wonder it costs six figures, a king’s ransom, to buy.
Alistair started working life as a management consultant before deciding he “wanted to do something different”. We are on a tour of the “bedworks”, surely London’s most pristine workshop. Craftsmen are tidily engaged in intricate tasks, box springs and toppers under construction resembling abstract artworks. “A workshop should be clean,” he believes. “How can you produce something great if the environment is cluttered? It would reduce efficiency, otherwise. Besides, we still get clients coming to visit us here. People like to see us at work.” For those who don’t make it to the bedworks, there are showrooms on Wigmore Street and on the King’s Road plus a concession at Harrods. The company which was first started in 1905 to produce beds for the Savoy Hotel has gone worldwide. “We’re opening our third Chinese showroom this year,” Alistair confirms.
He bought the company in 1997 when ownership of the Savoy Hotel was being broken up and has gradually rebuilt the brand, opening a further bedworks in Treforest, south Wales. “Heritage, quality and craftsmanship” are what make Savoir tick – and ticking. “Our beds are fitted to clients’ needs, just like a Savile Row suit. Every bed is ‘bench made’.” In the UK mattresses tend to be zipped and linked for double beds, each side different. Americans apparently prefer whole mattresses. The Trellis Ticking, woven from linen and cotton, was designed by the founder’s wife Lady D’Oyly Carte and is still used. “It’s a fantastic industrial design,” enthuses Alistair. “The grid pattern enforces symmetry and provides a structured guide for where to stitch on other parts like the handles.” She clearly wasn’t just a pretty name.
“We’re not wedded to the past though. We exploit what’s best, embracing advances in technology where appropriate, while using natural materials.” Headboards are totally bespoke and unusual requests range from designs in the shape of burlesque dresses to airplane wings. “However most people opt for the house style they see in our showrooms,” he says. “I like very simple things myself. In St Petersburg, gold claw feet are popular. Horses for courses – the sky’s the limit!” Many of the supremely high quality fabrics used are from John Boyd Textiles mill in Somerset. Savoir has worked with most top designers. Nina Campbell and Mary Fox Linton are just two of them. Check the mattress label the next time you’re in a top hotel and there’s a good chance it will be Savoir. Chewton Glen and Home House are just two of them.
The business model is that, again like a Savile Row suit, work only begins when an order is received. “We don’t keep stock,” says Alistair. At completion of each stage of manufacturing a double check is made. The bed is then fully assembled, checked a final time and photographed as a reference for setting it up. If its onward journey is far, a wooden carrying case is made. “There are 700 springs in a single bed,” explains Alistair. “Three sizes of wire are used depending on the firmness of mattress required: 1.6 millimetres in diameter for a firm mattress; 1.4 millimetres for medium and 1.25 for soft. That’s only 0.35 millimetres difference between the two extremes and yet it makes such an amazing difference.” Spooky, Alistair’s Boston Terrier, has her own bed in the bedworks. Savoir, of course.