Doing Things Properly with Naturalmat
Over the last few years we've shined a spotlight on some fantastic people and brands through our Doing Things Properly interview series, from chocolate makers to coffee roasters and many a food and drink innovator in between. We love getting to know what makes other businesses tick, and are delighted to be kicking off the year with a brand in a different space, who are, and have always been, doing things properly.
We hear from Naturalmat founders Mark and Peter about the importance of a good night's sleep, why the little details matter, and how a childhood in sailing kickstarted what is now a very successful, natural mattress company.
The team have been kind enough to extend our readers an exclusive 15% off all Naturalmat bedroom and nursery products, using code PROPER15. So if you're looking to upgrade your sleep set-up, head to their website to see their full range.
Can you tell us a little bit about Naturalmat and how you found yourself running a mattress company?
My father designed and built powerboats from our family boatyard in Topsham, Devon, so I grew up surrounded by all things marine. I noticed over the years that whilst people were more than happy to spend huge sums on their boats, one thing that was almost always lacking was the quality of the mattresses on board, so we set out to plug that gap in the market.
We found that the traditional mattress making materials - slabs of cheap polyurethane foam - were just about as bad an option for the damp, dark cabin environment as you could get, sucking up heat and moisture like a particularly uncomfortable sponge. We started looking for more appropriate materials and discovered that natural fibres were perfectly suited. They’re inherently more breathable, durable and comfortable than their man-made equivalents.
We began working with wool, cotton and the fibres from the husks of coconuts (known as coir) amongst others, and the first Naturalmats came from there. 20 years later we now make them for bedrooms, nurseries, hotels, campervans…just about anywhere you can sleep actually.
What do Naturalmat products consist of and how do they set themselves apart from others?
I think our strapline does a pretty efficient job of summing up what we do and how we do it. Organic, Local, Sustainable. You might find others who’ll tick one or two of these boxes, but our combination of the three is what sets us apart.
We make all of our beds, bedding and mattresses from only the very best organic and natural materials, which we source from responsible, certified suppliers. Everything we make is handcrafted in Devon by our incredibly talented local team, under one roof in the same family boatyard I mentioned earlier. This is all done with the health of the planet and our immediate environment as a priority, as it has been since day one.
What impact does choosing the right mattress really have on our daily lives?
Surviving on just a few hours sleep used to be a badge of honour, but the links between good sleep and our mental and physical health are now just too widely recognised to be ignored.
It goes without saying that your environment plays a huge role in ensuring quality sleep - from temperature, natural light (or moreso, reduction of blue light), to the right mattress and bedding for you.
We’ve all had awful nights’ sleep on uncomfortable mattresses in cheap hotels or neglected spare beds, but if this is a problem at home, every night, there’s no doubt it will go on to have a negative impact on your daily life.
You started the business over 20 years ago when sustainability was barely on the customer agenda, let alone at the top of it. How have you felt that change over the years since you started?
Well from a customer perspective there has been a huge shift. As people make changes to their everyday lives with the health of the planet in mind, it is no surprise that this has filtered into their purchasing habits as well.
Luckily for us we’ve been environmentally conscious since day one as a byproduct of what we wanted to achieve. We powered our workshop with solar panels, we supported our local organic farmers to ensure the best wool for our mattresses, and we opted for natural, biodegradable materials because they were the best suited to our aims.
It has been interesting to watch others play catchup, and it’s also given us a big head start that’s allowed us to push even further. As I said, we’ve been working directly with organic sheep farmers for over a decade now - and recently we’ve launched a regenerative farming initiative which will help our local farmers to build healthy soil systems that give back more than they take out.
Something we’re really excited about is your Mattress for Life Initiative™, please tell us more.
Thank you, we are really proud of it. In essence it’s our push to ensure that Naturalmats never become part of the truly staggering mattress waste problem, with over 5 million going to landfill each year in the UK alone.
When your Naturalmat reaches the end of its life, which is typically around the 10 year mark, we come and collect it from you and give you three options - to either refurbish, recycle or donate your mattress. We are the first to offer a scheme of this sort and there have certainly been a few bumps in the road in terms of getting it up and running, but we passionately believe that it is down to businesses like us to help solve these problems. You can see all the ins and out of it on our website.
What have been your biggest challenges since the launch of Naturalmat?
Between sourcing all our materials, manufacturing everything ourselves, marketing it, selling it directly to our customers online and from our showrooms, and then finally delivering it in our own vans, it’s probably just the act of keeping all these plates spinning at the same time. Particularly managing all of this juggling act whilst looking to develop, innovate and grow. There are a lot of links in our chain that all come down to us.
And your greatest achievements?
Hearing from our satisfied customers who we have helped get a better night’s sleep continues to feel like a huge achievement for me. We’ve had some great accolades over the years, our Queen’s Award For Sustainable Development being a recent highlight, but hearing the positive effect on people’s lives from the thing I have nurtured and built over the years is still at the top of my list.
What does a day in cups of tea look like for you?
Very simple really - it’s a cup of English Breakfast tea at about 7am, between shouting at the dogs and getting everything ready. Come 5pm I reach for a cup of Earl Grey as a little afternoon pick-me-up to get me through to the end of the day.
As you know Doing Things Properly is something we work by, as well as talk about outwardly. What does ‘doing things properly’ mean at Naturalmat?
Well as I’ve said, doing things properly for Naturalmat starts with doing everything ourselves. This approach allows us a level of attention to detail and quality control that we couldn’t exist without. We leave nothing to chance, from the buttons on our duvet covers to our reusable mattress delivery bag. It means we do better for our customers, our team and the planet.
What is top of the agenda for Naturalmat for the year ahead?
We are within touching distance of our B-Corp certification, and hopefully by the time this comes out we will have already been able to announce it! We have a new factory (still in the same boatyard) currently under construction, and plans to venture further north with a new showroom. Watch this mattress space!
To find out more about Naturalmat, and to shop their collection of beautiful mattresses, bedding and beds head over to their website.
Looking for some expert tips on how to achieve a better night's sleep (don't we all!) then check out 'A Bedtime Routine To Improve Your Sleep This January' from Naturalmat, featuring our Good & Proper Chamomile tea.