If you’re a child of the ’70s or ’80s – or your home is in serious need of some renovations – you know what it’s like to sleep on a water bed.
While we can’t deny sinking into the water is comfy, most of us wouldn’t trade our old-fashioned mattress for one of these kitschy models. But people did buy them in droves, with waterbeds accounting for 15% of the mattress market in 1986.
Today, waterbeds make up only a measly 5% of mattress sales, but the man behind the fad is looking to put them back in the spotlight 50 years after they hit the market.
As we described before, Charles Hall was a graduate student looking to ace his thesis project when he designed the first waterbed in 1968.
The mattress was stuffed with cooking starch and weighed over 300 pounds, but it was much comfier than most spring models.
The novelty of Hall’s invention, combined with a decidedly unwholesome marketing gimmick, made the waterbed a household name. Who could resist trying the mattress with a tagline like, “Pleasure is a waterbed.”
But competition from copycats and a laundry list of complaints hurt the bed’s image. If you’re looking to relive your childhood, we have good news, because Hall says this year the waterbed is back and better than ever.
It’s hard to put a finger on why the waterbed died in the first place, but the risk of bursting and flooding your bedroom was probably a big reason.
To this day, some cities won’t let you put a waterbed in a rental property unless you take out special insurance for it.
Hall also blames the way waterbeds were used as jokes in lots of ’80s comedies. For the record, he’s still perfectly happy with his invention.
“In each house I have a water bed,” he said. “And you know what? I wouldn’t sleep on anything else. They are the most comfortable bed around.”
Yes, despite the waterbed’s short-lived popularity, Hall’s invention (and his 40 other patents) have made him rich. Now, the inventor says his most famous creation is due for a comeback.
He says now that time has passed people can appreciate the comfort and benefits of a waterbed without the bias we had against the fad.
“I don’t think a millennial has ever seen one,” he says about the beds.
His company will also be releasing new and improved models this year. They feature improved temperature control, design changes to stop uncomfortable “waves,” and don’t need a bulky wooden frame.
But Hall has another, far-out idea about why 2018 could be the year of the waterbed.
“But I have this theory that it’s a Northwest kind of thing. I feel like a lot of us spawned in a waterbed,” he told the Seattle Times. “And so those younger types, maybe they want to visit the spawning ground.”
Should we leave this fad in the past, or give it another chance?