Furniture specialists La Casa have added a new outlet in King Street to their range. This one is dedicated to Hästens beds, a Swedish brand famed for its attention to detail and equine family history. Emily Moore reports
IF you saw a family jumping around on top of their bed, you might think that they were taking part in a boisterous game. However, it could be that they were carrying out the maintenance instructions of the bed’s manufacturer.
‘There are hundreds, if not thousands, of springs within each Hästens bed and jumping around every now and again is a fun and effective way of ensuring that each one springs back into position to give you the best possible night’s sleep,’ smiled sales assistant Nicole Castle.
Having moved to the Island in 2009, Nicole’s first love was interior design. But, when the Broadhead family decided to open a Hästens store in King Street, she was excited by the opportunity to help launch this exclusive brand in the Island.
The store is managed by Nicola Broadhead, whose parents, Clive and Anne Broadhead, launched their first furniture store near St Thomas’ Church in 1987.
‘Dad was always interested in antiques and, gradually, that interest widened to encompass all forms of furniture,’ Nicola explained. ‘He founded La Casa about 25 years ago and it moved to its current site in St John about 12 years ago.’
The largest furniture showroom in the Island, La Casa features a wide range of furniture, all of which, Nicola is proud to say, is locally exclusive to the company.
‘Exclusivity is a core part of the business strategy,’ she explained. ‘It is very difficult to remain competitive if customers can find the same items in multiple locations in the Island. While some of our brands may be stocked by other retailers, we ensure that, in these cases, our product range is exclusive.’
But while securing local exclusivity, the company does compete with online suppliers. ‘A lot of furniture companies’ core business is now carried out online but there are significant advantages to buying such items locally,’ she continued. ‘If you buy a shirt and it doesn’t fit, or you don’t like it, it is easy to arrange the return. If you buy a 100kg sideboard, that is much more difficult to put back in the post.
‘There are also huge advantages to seeing and trying furniture before buying it. This is especially true if you are buying a bed, as it is so important for your overall health and wellbeing that you buy the best product for you.’
While La Casa carries a wide range of beds, including famous names such as Hypnos and Vispring, the family’s new town store is solely a Hästens showroom.
‘Dad discovered the brand a few years ago but, between looking for the right premises and responding to the pandemic, it has taken a while to bring it to the Island,’ Nicola added.
Another family brand, Hästens was founded in Sweden in 1852. And anyone who speaks Swedish may wonder why a company, which produces some of the most luxurious beds in the world, has a name which means horses.
The answer lies in the company’s history and in the career choice of Pehr Adolf Janson. Living in poverty – a state which, at the time, drove a third of the country’s population to America in search of a more prosperous future – Pehr’s father instilled in his six children the importance of mastering a craft.
His touching words to his children were: ‘I want you to be better than me. To learn and master a profession of your choosing that will let you give people something they need. And, by doing so, always be able to look after the ones you love.’
Thus inspired, Pehr set out with the intention of becoming a master saddler and, in 1852, he received his certificate from the King of Sweden.
At that time, the role of a saddler extended beyond creating tack for horses and included making the finest horsetail-hair mattresses and leather goods.
As Pehr’s business developed, his children and grandchildren followed in his footsteps, and it was the second and third generations of his family who ventured into the world of bed manufacturing.
‘In 1917, the family decided to concentrate solely in making beds,’ explained Nicole. ‘And, from those early days, the pursuit was always for the highest quality possible.’
So dedicated were they to ‘achieving excellence’ that the family planted its own woodland and set up its own mill where the horsehair – which remains an integral part of the beds – is spun.
‘The attention to detail is incredible and leads to a unique sleep experience,’ Nicole added. ‘Because they place so much importance on giving people the best night’s sleep possible, every aspect of the bed’s production is important. This includes the direction that the horsehair in the mattresses faces.’
With a strong focus on nature and sustainability, the Hästens family is committed to minimising its impact on the environment.
‘The woodland outside Köping, where the company is based, was planted in 1905,’ said Nicole. ‘It takes up to 120 years for the trees, which are used for the bed frames, to grow to the point at which they are ready to be harvested. At this stage, they have reached about 30 metres in height and the carpenters will then select the wood which is used.’
Ane, even here, the criteria are precise.
‘The planks of wood must be straight, even and stable and there cannot be more than three twigs per length,’ she smiled.
The attention to detail continues, with the company using only natural fibres at every stage of the process.
‘From the horsehair to the flax and the cottons, all the materials used are natural,’ Nicole continued. ‘This is important because when you have a fabric against your skin, your skin breathes it in and you don’t want to be absorbing any chemicals during the night. That’s the time when your body recovers from the day and prepares for the day ahead.’
Despite selling beds around the world, Hästens remains a small family-run business.
‘Because quality is the top priority, they employ only around 40 carefully selected craftsmen, all of whom take a tremendous pride in their work,’ Nicole adds.
The pride in the product is shared by the Broadhead family, whose members are excited both by the brand and their new King Street premises.
‘While we have owned many shops in the past, we have never had a property on the high street before,’ said Nicola. ‘This is a really exciting opportunity for us to try something different and bring some really high-quality products to the town centre. This move towards the luxury end of the market will also be supported when Flannels opens, bringing its high-end fashion offer to Islanders.
‘Although this is a challenging time for retail, there is tremendous potential, as is evidenced by the investment that companies such as Hettich, Flannels and ourselves are making. It is really exciting to be among the businesses breathing new life into the town centre.’
The Broadhead family’s investment led to a six-month refurbishment of the former Top Shop store.
‘We gutted the store completely. The ceiling is the only original feature left,’ said Nicola. ‘Everything else is new and has been designed specifically to show off the beds and the various wood and fabric finishes available. Overall, there are about 20,000 different options for people to choose from, a range that doesn’t exist with any other bed manufacturer. But that is what sets Hästens apart. It is all about finding the right bed to allow each individual to wake up feeling the best possible version of themselves.’