How to find the perfect pillow
The Benjamin hotel in New York City offers guests an extensive pillow menu. Their sleep experts tell us how to find the perfect pillow for sweet dreams.
At New York City’s The Benjamin, a luxury hotel in Midtown East, everyone takes a good night’s sleep very seriously. To that end, the hotel has instituted the Rest & Renew sleep program, which offers everything from blackout drapes to earplugs to a pillow menu. All front-desk staff are trained to help guests find the perfect pillow. This innovative program is headed by sleep medicine expert Rebecca Robbins, a professor and co-author of the book Sleep for Success!.
Here are some of Rebecca’s tips for finding the perfect pillow for the best possible sleep.
1 Spend as much as your budget can afford
“A mattress and pillow are the foundation of a good night’s sleep,” Rebecca says. “When folks come to me, I say, spend as much budget as you can afford on them. We spend one-third of life sleeping; the more tailored to your sleep and the more luxurious the pillows and mattress are, the better the quality of your sleep. It’s a win-win.” And a big part of the experience is the pillow, she says.
2 Figure out how you sleep: Side, back or stomach
“A pillow menu is increasingly common in the hospitality industry,” Rebecca says. “Often they are gimmicky, but for The Benjamin, I was very excited that we can educate guests about sleeping positions so they make informed decisions.” Rebecca and The Benjamin segmented it into three sleeping-style types: namely, back, stomach and side sleepers. The underlying premise, according to Rebecca is that back sleepers need a firmer pillow, side sleepers a moderate-thickness pillow, and stomach sleepers need a thinner version.
3 What about “mixed” sleepers?
I explained to Rebecca my own habits: I start out on my side, and inevitably wake up on my back. “We typically say the position you start out in and feel coziest is the one you usually stay in. So you’re probably a side sleeper,” she says. “In that case I would recommend a pillow of moderate thickness,” she says. Personal preference will play a role too, she says.
4 What’s a common pillow purchasing mistake people make?
A common pillow-purchasing error: “Getting distracted by a nice package,” Rebecca says. Focusing on the size, colour, fabric, and even the brand of the pillow without awareness of how you are sleeping is a big no-no, she says. People get caught up in trends and latest-and-greatest promises, without a thought as to how they actually spend their time sleeping, resulting in a pillow choice that isn’t right for their sleep habits.
5 When is it time for a new pillow?
Pillows need to be replaced every one to two years, she says. A pillow protector will dramatically extend its life, possibly up to three years. As a reluctant pillow purchaser, I am shocked. “But I wash mine regularly even though I don’t replace them,” I protest. “That will keep the dust mites down, but try the pillow fold test,” she says. That entails folding a pillow in half. If the pillow bounces back to its flat state, it’s still good. If it stays folded in half, it’s time for it to go. “Try it tonight,” she says. I do. My clean three-year-old pillows all fail.
6 Test the new pillow
Make sure you test-drive a new pillow before purchase, Rebecca says. That means trying it out in the mattress or bedding store. “One thing to keep in mind is that price is significantly related to quality,” she says. Bargain pillows won’t be much of a bargain if they cause poor sleep or if you have to replace them quickly.
The Benjamin’s pillows
Perhaps you’ve stayed at a hotel with a pillow menu. The pillows have wry or sophisticated names and make big promises about improving the quality of your sleep, but they don’t always provide information on how to match the pillow to your sleep style. The Benjamin’s pillow offerings will give you an idea of the variety of pillows on the market today -- it’s not just the feather fill of the pillow fights of yore. High-tech (and low-tech) materials, surprising ingredients and tailored shapes will take you by surprise if you haven’t shopped for a pillow lately.
Here’s how the experts at The Benjamin break it down:
This pillow features a whopping 10 million air beads to keep your head cool and provide firm support for back sleepers.
If you love listening to music to put you in a restful state, but your sleep-mate objects, the Lullaby pillow is one of the coolest new offerings on the Benjamin’s pillow menu. You can actually hook up your MP3 or iPod to this thinner pillow for stomach sleepers.
The Anti Snore pillow helps to lift the chin up to alleviate snoring. It’s great for back sleeping snorers as it helps to keep the airway open at night.
Swedish Memory Foam
Memory foam isn’t new on the market, and those who love it swear by it as it molds to comfortably cradle the head during sleep. This pillow is for side or back sleepers.
Good old-fashioned water fills this pillow that is recommended for stomach sleepers. A vinyl cushion is filled with either cold or warm water and can be adjusted for firmness or support levels. It also can help reduce headaches or neck pain.
Sleep for Success side pillow
This pillow style is probably closer, in shape and description to the pillows you’re used to. Which can be a good thing if you’re a picky side sleeper looking for a pillow that is similar to the ones you’re used to. This one features a two-inch baffle design.
Sleep for Success back pillow
A firmer version of the previously mentioned side pillow, this one has a firm outer chamber and a soft center chamber.
Five-foot body cushion
Even pregnant women and post-surgery patients’ needs are considered at The Benjamin. This five-foot long cushion is great for aligning the spine and relieving joint pain.
Tour this Vancouver home's modern eclectic look.
This Vancouver home's modern eclectic look is a testament to the power of a sister act.
Now that the dust has settled on their massive whole-house renovation, homeowners Anna Wright and Alistair Sale – both busy professionals and parents of Lewis, 10, Freddie, 8, and George, 6 – each have their favourite features of the new interior. For Alistair, the cook of the family, the open kitchen is the (long-awaited) best part. Anna is most excited about the master ensuite bathroom she doesn’t have to share with the kids. And for the boys, it’s their bigger playroom in the finished basement.
The Vancouver family lived in the 3,700-square-foot 1920s home for five years before embarking on the huge overhaul. “I’m so glad we lived in the house for a while first and figured out what we wanted,” says Anna. “If we’d done the renovation right away, we would have done things very differently, and those decisions probably wouldn’t work for us now.”
The crisp white brick fireplace surround, built-ins and original wood panelling set off the dark grey on the upper walls of the den. Leaded glass cabinetry doors are another original feature. The antique chandelier was picked up at a London flea market.
A contemporary pale orange sofa pops against the white panelling and dark grey walls. The Mid-Century Modern desk was a lucky find at an antiques store a few years back, as was the Tolix chair.
Going vintage is often a more economical decorating idea than buying brand new, says Sophie.
The birdcage pendant light adds another unexpected dose of colour and whimsy.
In the dining area, an antique zinc-topped table from a French flea market pairs well with mismatched colourful Eames dining chairs. “We thought the different hues of the dining chairs would be quirky and fun,” says homeowner Anna Wright.
The designer pendant light was a pricey find from London, England.
Expanding the existing skylight and adding more windows above the sink brought loads of natural light into the white painted kitchen. Homeowner Alistair Sale greatly appreciates the bigger sink, but extra kitchen counter space, double wall ovens and a gas cooktop were at the top of his must-have list.
French doors lead out to a newly enlarged wraparound deck off the open kitchen/dining area, making the backyard much more accessible. The kitchen peninsula is perfect for casual breakfasts and homework time.
The zinc top on the antique dining table can take plenty of wear and tear from everyday family meals; the stark white modern dishware strikes a pleasing contrast against the patinated surface.
A desk area in the kitchen serves as the family workspace and offers plenty of storage space for the kids’ paperwork and school supplies. Inspirational photos and small pieces of art bring personality to the nook.
The new master ensuite bathroom is Anna’s retreat from hectic work and family life.
The matching gold mirrors in the master ensuite are a glitzy big-box score.
Grey and white cement floor tiles provide ornate pattern in the otherwise serene white room.
The bathroom floor tiles themselves weren't very expensive, but shipping the from California was.
Learn how to style your open-concept space.
Learn how to decorate your open-concept space with these helpful tips and tricks.
The 1,100-square-foot main floor of this Vancouver family home boasting a modern beach house look has a lot going for it, namely all the light. The large open-concept space consisting of a kitchen, living area and dining room is flooded with natural light thanks to five skylights and plenty of windows. “It’s so bright, even in the grey West Coast winter,” says one of the homeowners. But such a spacious undefined layout doesn’t come without its challenges – when a great room is too great for its own good, how does one make it cozy and livable? The homeowners worked closely with architect Jonathan Katz of J+R Katz Design & Architecture and designer Melanie Finkleman of Hazel + Brown Design Company to come up with a design that accomplishes just that. Here are eight ways they made this open floor plan shine.
1 Paint everything one shade: Sticking with one paint colour throughout an open-concept space prevents a disjointed appearance. On the main floor, designer Melanie Finkleman selected the same crisp white for the walls, ceiling, trim and cabinetry. The result is a bright envelope that emphasizes the home’s light-filled modernity.
2 Use uniform materials: It’s not only paint colour that will provide a cohesive look. Design elements like flooring, cabinetry, trim and fabric should also coordinate. In this house, the driftwood-look oak floors run throughout the space, and the grey Caesarstone countertops in the kitchen complement the concrete-topped coffee table in the living area.
3 Keep it casual: Open-concept living marries well with a laid-back lifestyle. This family-friendly home has nothing too precious or breakable and boasts plenty of hard-wearing choices, such as hardwood floors and leather chairs.
4 Define separate areas: Large open spaces can feel cavernous if specific zones aren’t demarcated according to their function. Here, the furniture arrangement defines the living area, while the Caesarstone-topped island delineates the kitchen.
5 Decorate with texture: In an expansive monochromatic room, texture is key. “The ceiling-height brick fireplace and the geometry of the built-in shelving unit add visual interest without distracting from the minimal aesthetic,” says Melanie.
6 Keep the aesthetic consistent: “Since the kitchen is visible from every angle, we used simple materials – matte grey Caesarstone for the countertops and grey back-painted glass for the backsplash – so it would seamlessly integrate with the rest of the space,” says Melanie. Such a neutral backdrop means the look is consistent when viewed from any area on the main floor. “It’s calming because your eye doesn’t bounce around too much.”
7 Choose simple window treatments: Barely-there white roller shades control light and offer privacy. “They block out the southern glare while maintaining the airy feel of the space,” says Melanie.
8 Include ample closed storage: No matter how much we all strive to live minimally, having some stuff is inevitable. “We were realistic about wanting to hide visual clutter in the kitchen since it’s so connected to the living area,” says Melanie. Plenty of closed cabinetry means everyday dishes, small appliances and various odds and ends are out of sight, giving the entire space a tidy appearance and allowing the pops of colour in the living area to shine.
4 eco-friendly home improvements
Scott McGillivray offers four smart eco improvements to save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.
Photography by Ashley Capp
1 Landscaping and hardscaping
Homeowners put a lot of work into making the insides of their homes green, but the outsides are just as important. By incorporating more hardscaping features, such as patio stones, onto your property and by planting native plants (rather than sod or seed), you can significantly reduce the maintenance and water needed to care for your lawn. Strategically placed trees and shrubs will also provide your property with more shade, which can reduce the amount of energy needed to cool your home.
Replacing traditional light bulbs with energy-efficient ones is a no-brainer. LED bulbs are the best choice as they last the longest, save the most energy and don’t get hot. They’re more costly but have a lifespan of 25,000 hours, so you may never have to replace them. Go a step further by installing dimmer switches–it’s an easy job and you can save a lot of money by keeping your lights at 80 percent of full power.
Your outdated appliances may still work, but they could be costing you. An efficient new fridge can save you up to $200 a year on your energy bills, meaning you will recoup the purchase price in only a few years. Energy Star-compliant dishwashers use not only 50 to 75 percent less energy than older models but also less water–as little as 11 litres per full cycle. And don’t forget the laundry room: Front-loading washers can cost just $20 a year to operate, especially if you run loads with cold water. Energy Star French-Door Ice & Water Refrigerator, GE Appliances, $3,499.
Replacing the old windows in your home with eco-friendly versions can have a big payout. Double and triple-pane windows insulate much better than single-pane styles, in turn reducing your energy bills. They can also come with glazing -– a low-emissivity, completely transparent coating that reduces harmful UV rays. But remember: If you’re installing new windows and want to get the full benefit of their eco-efficiency, spend the money on brick-to-brick replacement rather than retrofitting, because while the windows themselves are efficient, the window frames are likely not. Next Generation Ultimate Double Hung Window, Marvin Windows and Doors, from $675.