Less is more. That’s not just some interior design philosophy or a new responsible lifestyle approach.

It is a tenet that is getting inside the typical mattress. Let us slip our hands into this trend

Take the extra away and throw it out. Any minimalist worth her/ his salt would swear by that ideology. In fact, s/he would even toss the extra salt away. It is not hard to understand why. Not anymore.

In the last few years, this mantra of minimalism – that was a creed that some interior designers and architects followed – has made its way into the life of an environment-conscious and stress-averse consumer. This is the kind of consumer who wants to simplify one’s life and who loves the anti-materialistic credo.

As described by Euromonitor International, the ‘Minimalist Seeker’ is a kind of consumer category that focuses on living a minimalistic lifestyle and places a lot of importance on sustainability and community issues. This kind of consumer would rarely buy non-essential products and is unlikely to make impulsive shopping decisions.

Other attributes are that these Minimalist Seekers place importance on quality and are willing to pay more for this. It translates into longevity. These consumers would fix items rather than spend money or time in purchasing a replacement. Minimalist Seekers are unlikely to place importance on their image. Interestingly, they make a good target demographic for product innovations and new brands if one can align well, or speak clearly to their core Minimalist Seeker’s values.

This kind of customer is thoughtful in spending on, and using, any product. They cannot be lured by discounts or aesthetics. They have a discretionary approach. They prefer timeliness, usefulness, and versatility to redundancy and showing-off. They want returns on a product and sometimes, these returns can be as simple as sustainable or green product values.

If we look at a report by Price Waterhouse Coopers, ‘The New Consumer Behaviour Paradigm: Permanent or Fleeting’, we would see that as many as twenty-five percent of 18-27-year-olds shared that their shopping behavior has ‘changed significantly’ and another 47 percent expressed it has changed somewhat.

Why pile up unnecessary stuff when you can easily live a comfortable life with minimal stuff – that’s what these consumers ask and force the brands to consider too. And interestingly, there are producers and marketers who have started listening to this question. They have even started designing their products around this philosophy. They want to appeal to this new-age customer with a new model: • Responsible sourcing of materials • Minimal/optimal use of materials • Simplicity-oriented design of products • Preference to function over frills • Long-shelf life of products • Environmental-friendly approaches to design and manufacturing • Importance to end-user comfort and the minimalism-oriented lifestyle This shift has started emerging in the mattress industry too. Your beds may not be getting only cushier but ironically, a lot thinner.

The Minimalist Bed-Maker

Catching up on the new-found wake-up call of minimalism a few players in the market have started designing beds and sleeping products with a new approach. The era of extra-deep mattresses that were 16 inches thick is now finding its way into a small lane. Brands like Lucid 5-inch, Signature, Zinus Ultima, Modway Aveline, Ikea, Linenspa, MustMat, FULI, Memoir are crafting thin mattresses at a quick pace. On one hand, they serve the bigger idea of simple design and on the other hand, they are great for people who have special back-support needs, or who have a different budget constraint, or who have a low ceiling bedroom or a minimalist interior vibe that a mattress should find a groove into. Also, these mattresses take up less space and are easy to dust off, move around and maintain. They regulate temperature and are not hot as they are made of fewer layers of foam. Unlike a low-profile mattress which is usually for a crib or a guest room, a slim mattress can be used by adults or for regular sleeping needs.

A typical mattress can have 3 to 4 layers of foam. Each layer/s has a different material that defines the final cushioning comfort, feel sinkage, firmness, contouring, support, and height of a mattress. The base layer and comfort layer are two key layers. The base layer dominates most of the thickness part of a mattress. It decides the durability of the product. In inner-spring or hybrid mattresses, this part is made of coils. In memory foam mattresses, it is made of poly-foam. In latex mattresses, it can be latex or poly-foam.

The comfort layer can be made of wool, cotton, memory foam, or polyfoam. It a soft material that is stitched and packed with the cover. It is usually 2 to 3 inches thick. Some mattresses can have more than one comfort layer. The layers beneath this layer are transition layers. They can cater to specific support needs of various body parts. In a minimalistic mattress, this typical construct can be challenged or looked into with a fresh eye.

Here’s how is the minimalist sleep product achieved: • Use of open-cell foams • Platform beds with a minimalistic feel to the room-décor • 4 to 5-inch size of foam with compact design • Thin foam material size inside the mattress • Low-lying beds • Mattresses with easily foldable padding • Special material like rush grass, nonwoven fabric • Lightweight support • Beds with integrated storage • Platform beds with edges that extend beyond the mattress so that it functions as a table or dining-spot • Bed alternatives like futons • Ground-hugging bed-frames • Japanese inspired bedroom designs • Beds made from renovated material and reclaimed parts • Mattresses made with upcycled materials • Sofa-beds with flexibility and minimal material usage • Shrunk tiers of construction • Mattresses with high-density foam as a base layer with high rebound and edge support

A thick mattress is expensive but can be good for people of a certain weight, medical condition, or preference. A thin mattress consumes less material and may/may not fit the body requirements of the sleeper but it is easy to lift and manage.

Skeletal or stripped-down?

It is hard to dismiss that minimalism is a trend that is gaining weight. But there are some challenges and doubts that envelope this go-thin direction even now.

What about issues around shrinkage? What if the mattress starts showing lumps after some time? What if it is not comfortable or aligned to the spine? These are questions that makers have to take into cognizance. And the most important one is – what if the customer gets bored of the philosophy of minimalism?

Ashoo Advani, Strategy Director at Interbrand augurs that ‘Minimalism’ is a micro-trend and will remain like that for a long time. This is worth noting as compared to augmented-health propositions which is a microtrend but will become a major trend soon.

Ankur Bisen seconds this line of thought. His views are poignant – as a retail industry expert and also as an author on environmental subjects (his first book was about some India-specific issues and was titled ‘WastedThe Messy Story of Sanitation in India – A Manifesto for Change’). Ankur Bisen feels that the definition of home has definitely changed during the pandemic. “Now there are at least four workstations at any household and people are scrambling for space. So the way they plan and choose furniture and home-improvement would be a marked change. Income trends and pricesensitivity have also seen a shift due to Covid-related employment effects. Yes, a lot of people have become aware about environment but still, there is a long way to go. People will take time to figure out how they can contribute. The idea of ‘minimalism’ would be less from an ideological sense and more from a practical and need-based angle. People will lean towards frugal, and sparse, consumption choices in many areas. Discretionary spends might be postponed. That’s how I interpret ‘minimalism’ to take effect. The environment-friendly product is a niche area and there is still a long way to go before it grows substantially.”

The pandemic has redefined a lot of industries and made people introspect seriously on how they affect the environment. Being conscious is great but what matters is how well this awareness is translated into actual consumption models. This is a job that is outlined for consumers and producers alike.

What will ultimately decide the durability of this trend is whether there is an actual substance inside or just hot air – and that applies to the bed and the minimalist consumer’s demand – both.