Take a Cotton to Nontoxic Mattresses

Seattle stores offer an array of chemical-free natural bedding.

Decades ago, our parents and grandparents slept on mattresses stuffed with natural materials, such as feathers, natural latex from rubber trees, straw and wool. While modern polyurethane foam may add a certain bounce to our beds, it comes with trade-offs. Specifically, the chemicals used to improve foam performance or to make it flame retardant.

Jackie Cuddy, a 35-year employee of Wallingford’s Bedrooms and More, which sells natural alternatives to polyurethane mattresses, says many customers visit the store after having a bad experience—in particular, with memory foam products. People complain to her about odors, teary eyes and shortness of breath after being exposed to polyurethane products. “Memory foam…is polyurethane foam that’s been tweaked so it’s even more toxic,” she says.

Erika Schreder, science director at Seattle’s nonprofit Washington Toxics Coalition, says the subject of toxics in mattresses is complicated, particularly because most companies don’t disclose what chemicals they might be using in their products, and because they don’t usually make the foam, but purchase it from another manufacturer, who may or may not have treated it with flame retardants.

The subject of toxics in mattresses is complicated, particularly because most companies don’t disclose what chemicals they might be using in their products.

“The safest bet is always natural materials,” says Rachel Koller, a Seattle environmental health consultant and owner of the website Healthy Home Focus. That means mattresses, futons, crib beds and pads that are made with wool and/or natural latex—both of which are naturally flame retardant enough to meet government guidelines—and free of vinyl and toxic flame retardants.

Even if toxics aren’t your first concern, you may be interested in avoiding petroleum products, or might just prefer the feel of more natural materials.

When shopping for natural bedding, it’s easy to go into option overload without a few pointers, as some product labeling is misleading. For example, dozens of synthetic products are labeled “latex,” although only those labeled “botanical natural latex” are guaranteed to come from a tree, and not a chemistry lab. Cuddy suggests asking a few key questions: Do you want certified organic wool or cotton, or can you go with a standard fiber? Will botanical latex suffice, or do you want only that from a certified organic forest, which guarantees that the rubber trees are sustainably managed and harvested? Would you like to support locally owned producers? Those decisions may affect the price of the mattress, if not the quality of your sleep.

Illustration by Joyce Hesselberth

At Bedrooms and More, latex beds start at $699 for a twin. One of the company’s all-botanical latex best-sellers is a mattress made at a company in Tualatin, outside Portland. Layers of naturally flame-retardant wool and organic cotton flank three layers of latex ($1,699 twin, $2,799 king). A less costly bed, the Therapedic, is made from organic cotton and regular wool ($699 twin, $1,299 king). All mattresses at Bedrooms and More meet flame-retardant mattress safety requirements using either a rayon/Dacron pad, flame-retardant wool or cotton with a boric acid wash. No other chemicals are added.

Cuddy says she’s lucky enough to snooze on a mattress from Organic Mattress Inc. (OMI). OMI uses only organic materials and maintains fastidious manufacturing practices at the company’s California headquarters, including an ozone chamber to keep wool and cotton clean, and a no-fragrance policy for its employees. The fire-retardant organic wool is quilted to the mattress, and the mattresses pass more stringent European certifications without added chemicals. OMI mattresses run from $1,299 for a twin to $10,895 for a king.

At Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company on north Queen Anne, mattresses are hand-built on site using three natural materials: latex, organic cotton and eco wool, increasingly from local sources. Soaring Heart’s wool, for instance, comes from small farms in Oregon and Washington. Mattresses range from $980 for the twin-sized Cottonwood, made from organic Dunlop latex surrounded by a thick layer of organic cotton, wool batting and organic cotton ticking, to $3,910 for a California King Madrona, made from latex wrapped with organic cotton ticking and wool batting, and a thick, wool, organic-cotton-wrapped topper. It also sells crib mattresses ($355‒$560) and futons.

Jason Goessl, sales manager at Soaring Heart, says people worry that wool will be hot, but explains that’s probably because many wool items in the United States are actually cut with polyester, even if it isn’t listed on the tag. Not at Soaring Heart. “Polyester reflects body heat right back at you,” he says. “Wool is not hot—it helps regulate your body temperature. It keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter.”

We lose about 1 pint of water, oils and salts each night, and much of that will go into a bed unless it is topped with a mattress pad. A cotton-topped, Gore-Tex-lined mattress pad at Bedrooms and More is $39.95, and a washable wool pad inside cotton is $149 for a queen size. At Soaring Heart, waterproof pads made from organic Northwest wool are $80 for crib size, $140 for twin and $200 for queen.

If the luxury of a natural bed doesn’t give you more restful sleep, at least you can be sleeping on wool while counting sheep.


Bedrooms and More

Wallingford, 300 NE 45th St.

Soaring Heart Natural Bed Company
Queen Anne, 101 Nickerson, Suite 400

Healthy Home Focus
A Seattle resource for nontoxic home issues and products:

Washington Toxics Coalition
A nonprofit that provides information on toxics in home products and what to avoid

Mazama Mountain Cabin Makes a Cozy, Stylish Retreat: A Home Tour

Mazama Mountain Cabin Makes a Cozy, Stylish Retreat: A Home Tour

In Washington’s North Cascades, a wood-paneled vacation home provides access to views and outdoor activities
| Posted

This article originally appeared on Houzz.com.

This house nestled in the North Cascades mountains in Mazama, Washington, reflects the rugged landscape around it while also possessing a modern, airy and stylish vibe. The remote vacation house is owned by a Seattle couple who were instinctively drawn to the beautiful setting of pine forests, crystal clear rivers and diverse topography, and where they spend their free time skiing, rock climbing and hiking. 

Big Rock House
Photo by Johnston Architects - Search rustic patio pictures

Walkways lined with concrete and bluestone surround the back deck. An outdoor fire pit and teak chairs from a friend create a timeless setting for entertaining.
Metal fire pit: custom made by Alpine Welding and Equipment

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple who live full time in Seattle and work for Boeing
Location: Mazama, Washington
Size: 1,370 square feet (127 square meters); two bedrooms, two bathrooms

After finding a 1-acre plot with killer views, the couple collaborated with Mary Johnston of Johnston Architects to build a second home that would be cozy and easy to maintain. “All of the finishes used add to the rich simplicity of the home,” Johnston says. Although the site was challenging, Johnston and her team were able to incorporate the location’s spectacular views into the planning of the 1,370-square-foot residence, which has an open-plan living area, two bedrooms and ski-in, ski-out access.

Big Rock House

The unpretentiousness of the foursquare house begins with its exterior. The cedar siding and bluestone and concrete walkways also are durable and low-maintenance materials. Since most of their time is spent engaging in the outdoors, the couple felt it was important to have designated areas for storing sporting equipment. A long bench provides a spot for removing skis and boots. A contemporary glass door contrasts nicely with the adjacent metal grating, which offers a surface on which to lean skis and bikes while providing some lightness and texture.

Big Rock House

The clean look and rustic design continue past the front door and concrete floors of the entry, providing an unobstructed view to the back of the house. Pine-paneled ceilings flow throughout the house. At the far end of the hall, a custom sliding barn door leads to a gear room where the couple store sporting equipment and can sharpen their skis. The other oversized doors lead to a closet.

Paint throughout: Camouflage, Benjamin Moore

The warm wood tones are punctuated by blackened-steel pendants on the entry hallway ceiling.

Pendants: Caravaggio

Big Rock House

A dining room table and chairs sit between the kitchen and great room. The shelving was custom made to display accessories such as teapots, photographs and books. The couple wanted to have some fun with their other lighting choices, so instead of selecting traditional recessed lighting, they opted for black outdoor sconces that are typically used for signage lighting.

Lighting: B-K Lighting; dining room table and chairs: Room & Board

Big Rock House


In the sitting area of the great room, a sliding barn door hides a flat-screen TV and video equipment. A built-in bench runs the width of the room, inviting guests to curl up with a book or take in the fabulous mountain views. It is also long and deep enough to convert into a bed for two children.

Bench cushion and pillows: custom made by Manning & Son Upholstery, Seattle

Related: Cleaning Tips for Leather Furniture 

Big Rock House

Brown leather chairs and a sofa provide ample seating for gazing at the landscape through rows of expansive windows. A wood-burning stove brings a collected feel to the home and keeps it cozy and warm when temperatures plunge. “The homeowners spend very little time inside, but they wanted to make sure that it was very comfortable when they did,” Johnston says.

Sofa, chairs and tables: Room & Board; stove: Rais

Big Rock House

Sliding glass doors open the great room to the back deck.

Deck: ipe wood

Related: Why You Should Install a Sliding Barn Door in Your Home 

Big Rock House

The couple kept the master bedroom clean and sparsely decorated with only a bed and two end tables. Adding a bit of drama, the fir wood paneling was continued from the wall onto the ceiling.

Bed and end tables: Room & Board

Big Rock House

Mesh fencing on the master bedroom balcony keeps the space from appearing too dark.