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Berlin's Secret to a Good Night's Sleep: The Horsehair Mattress

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified May 06, 2015 01:03 AM
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by Sarah Lonsdale last modified May 05, 2015

A few days ago I found myself lying on a horsehair mattress on the floor of an 1840s unfurnished apartment in Berlin deciding whether I preferred horsehair from the mane or the tail. Both were exceedingly comfortable, but being a fan of firm support, I settled on the latter. It was Gallery Weekend in Berlin, a large, annual contemporary art event, and fourth-generation mattress maker Daniel Heer of Manufaktur Heer was using the occasion to announce his new studio, Werkstatt Schoneberg. I had spotted his work a few weeks earlier when I had just arrived in Berlin—I was walking down a street in the happening Mitte neighborhood and Daniel was standing in his workshop in his trademark Dries van Noten sleeveless tweed jacket, needle in hand, stitching a mattress. Even from afar, his craftmanship and the level of handwork was obvious.  Heer's family has been creating rosshaarmatratzen, horsehair mattresses, in Switzerland since 1907, when his great-grandfather Benedikt Heer opened a saddlery in Lucerne (making saddles and mattresses once went hand in hand). There are now only seven practicing horsehair mattress makers in the whole of Europe, and Heer, who grew up in the business, is hoping his new studio will allow people to come appreciate the mattresses, and, if they want, to also learn the craft.  Above: Daniel Heer in his recently opened Berlin studio in Mitte, where he makes each mattress by hand. In addition to offering supreme comfort, horsehair is known for its strength and durability; it's also breathable and naturally absorbs moisture and conserves heat. Pricing starts at $2,000—undeniably steep, but, as Heer points out, if properly maintained a mattress can last beyond a lifetime. (He advises owners to air their mattress once a year in the sun, and have them refurbished by an expert every 15 years.) The largest size he makes is a queen (though he's made one king by special request).   Above: Heer stitches a mattress. Each rosshaarmatratzen begins with approximately 33 pounds of horsehair—hair from more than 40 horses. The foundation is created by sculpting the horsehair into three layers that are two feet high; they're then sheathed in virgin sheep fleece before being covered in fabric. The edges are first sewn into rolls to give the mattress its basic form; the shape is then refined with careful needlework around the edges. Above: Heer's  Classic Sleeping Mattress , covered in woven cotton-wool ticking from England, measures one meter by two meters (approximately 3.3 feet by 6.5 feet) and requires more than 1,000 stitches. The tufts and buttons, made by deconstructing the warp and weft of the leftover fabric, hold the horsehair interior in place. Above: Heer's fabrics and tools. Elsewhere in the studio, he keeps wooden crates full of horsehair and fleece. Though best known for his mattresses, he also works with leather—he currently makes hand-stitched bags and furniture with leather seats. Above: A wedge-shaped  Bolster . For cushions such as these and the daybeds, Heer uses a gabardine-quality wool from Danish textile studio Kvadrat.   Above: Heer's Keil Daybed , made in collaboration with Thomas van Asseldonk, is available from Matter in New York. (Keil means "wedge" in German and is an artisan’s method for joining components by locking them together.) Working with van Asseldonk, Heer uses the method to make wood and leather furniture without glue or nails; their series includes the daybed, as well as the stool and table. For more on Heer's products stateside, visit Matter . For general inquiries, contact Manufaktur Heer directly. And read more about Heer in  The Craft and the Makers, Tradition with Attitude , a new book published by Gestalten with Heer on its cover. Horsehair can be found in other everyday items, such as these  fabrics  and brushes .  In need of more sleep? We can relate—see our wellness guru Jackie Ashton's  10 Secrets for a Better Night's Sleep .    More Stories from Remodelista Bath Accessories from Magazin in Germany Sneak Preview: The Bklyn Designs Fair Current Obsessions: Rustic Charm






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