Alistair Hughes, owner of Savoir Beds, is explaining the role of the royal bed in late 17th century England, which was apparently more than just a construction to sleep in — it was a symbol of the monarchy. “Charles II would travel around the country with a vast bed,” he says. “His friends would all sleep with him in it and courtiers would bow to the bed whenever they entered.”
Hughes is giving context to Savoir’s latest creation, the £125,000 ($192,000) Royal State. Only 60 of the beds will be made and three have already been bought by Qatari clients. “It is truly a magnificent piece of work. The labor intensive mattress and box spring cost around £70,000 [$107,000], the frame £50,000 [$76,000] and the crest £3,000 [$4,600],” he says with unerring self-belief. “This is our homage to historical tradition,” he says. “And by the way, Charles II’s bed would today cost £30 million [$46 million], the equivalent to ten London town houses.”
Hughes and his partner bought Savoir, the company that makes the world’s most expensive beds, from the Savoy Group in 1997. “Back then it was called the Savoy Bed Works, a company that was founded in 1924 and had previously been called James Edwards. When we bought it, we called it Savoir as a nod to the previous owners.” And no doubt the fact that he and his partner “knew” what they were doing.
Bedding the customer
“I started with two and a half men and a sewing machine,” he laughs. He now makes 600 units annually, with a turnover of £7 million ($10.7 million). This figure excludes the Royal State beds, which if sold would generate revenues of £7.5 million alone ($115 million). The regular range — again excluding the Royal State — cost between £7,000 ($10,750) and £70,000 ($107,000). Half of Savoir’s beds go abroad with 10 percent ending up in the GCC. Frank Sinatra owned one, Emma Thompson loves them and the King of Morocco ordered 24 after sleeping on one.
Surely they can’t be that good. “You might think paying thousands of pounds for a bed is a lot,” says Hughes, “but our entry level bed works out at around £1 [$1.5] a night over 25 years. Our customers, 70 percent of whom are private individuals, have no complaints.”
Savoir has just opened two showrooms in China and one in Qatar, where he is still working out how to encourage couples to “try” beds in what is a traditionally conservative region. “For couples we are considering closed off areas, and we are training female staff so women shoppers can feel more comfortable.”
Lebanon, with its affluent and discerning consumer base, is also on Hughes’s radar, and he is toying with the idea of opening a showroom in Downtown Beirut.
For anyone wanting to try a Savoir bed, they can be found in the Riverside suites at London’s Savoy Hotel. “You would be amazed, considering how much they have to endure, how little hotels invest in beds,” says Hughes running through a list of the some the world’s most famous establishments and how much each spends on their mattresses. “Don’t quote me on those figures but let’s just say the international average is £300 [$460]. It’s quite staggering when you think about it.”
He admits that the beds, while at the very pinnacle of luxury items, are not toys in the way that cars, boats and watches are. Still, he was thrilled to hear that in a recent poll conducted by a men’s magazine in which women were asked what was sexier: a man who boasts he drives a Maserati or a man who sleeps in a $20,000 bed, the majority opted for the latter. Now that’s a selling point.