Sheffield bed firm finds a new place to rest away from shops set for demolition

A bed company which is part of a row of shops set to be demolished in Sheffield is on the move to a new home after nearly 30 years.

Thursday, 24th March 2016, 10:00 am
Peter Benin and Kay Wallace, owners of the Natural Bed Company, at their new premises - 125 Fitwilliam Street Sheffield Picture Dean Atkins

Peter Bennion and Kay Wallace started selling their wares on Devonshire Street in 1987.

Now their business, the Natural Bed Company, is about to undergo a rebirth – by the end of this month it will have moved to a showroom nearby on Fitzwilliam Street.

The decision was made after much soul-searching – the firm is the first to leave the row of shops since demolition was approved.

”We love the character of Devonshire Street just as much as the people who tried to save it from the owners’ proposal to redevelop but when planning permission was granted we were left in a place of uncertainty,” said Peter.

“Even if we had renewed our lease our long-term future here was not guaranteed. It was time to do what we had put off for years – move to bigger premises.”

The new 3,000 sq ft location – under the new apartments at Devonshire Point – offers a contemporary setting for the bed collection, plus globally-sourced bedding, mattresses, furniture and homewares.

An official launch event is happening on April 7 at 6.30pm.

The roots of today’s business were put down 42 years ago. When Peter became a research chemist, it seemed he was set for the world of academia – but after three years he turned his back on a sensible career at Sheffield University and decided to explore his creativity by making bed frames from recycled wood. He was inspired by the Seventies phenomenon of the waterbed – in 1974 they were the latest thing, but no-one had one in Sheffield.

Peter sold his beloved VW Beetle for £500, bought a Mini van for £150, and used the balance to set up shop in Oakbrook Road, Nether Green.

He named it Freewheelin’ after a Bob Dylan album, scoured demolition yards for old ceiling joists and began creating original pieces of furniture. Peter was soon joined by Kay, and they diversified into handmade exotic furniture, textiles and clothing from India and the bazaars of Marrakech.

They started travelling around the world and in 1978 the firm had become Bringing It All Back Home, an Aladdin’s Cave on Glossop Road named after another Dylan album.

A few years later they started making a new style of bed – the futon – and in 1987 opened The Futon Shop on Devonshire Street. The versatility of the Oriental-style, folding mattress bed, and adverts in the Guardian created a healthy mail order side and sales across the country. The pair clicked on to the need for a website in the early 1990s and sales expanded again.

They developed the collection, incorporating modern, solid-wood beds and in 2000 the store was renamed the Natural Bed Company.

That same year, Peter and Kay committed to a Millennium pledge to donate £1 from every bed order to a fund for people in need across Northern India and the Himalayas – so far over £10,000 has been donated.

Their current collection boasts more than 20 bed designs, ranging from the Japanese-inspired Kumo bed – their original bed design – to the contemporary four-poster inspired by the one Peter’s wife Bev spotted on a holiday in Scotland.

Beds are hand-crafted in the company’s workshops in Attercliffe by a team of 10, using ethically-sourced timbers such as oak, walnut and ash. The company has held the Made In Sheffield mark since 2011.

Peter said: “We are excited to be moving with the times again, but our ethos is what it’s been since I made that first waterbed 42 years ago: keep it simple, keep it different and make it perfect.”

The Devonshire Street shops – also home to bookshop Rare and Racy and the Syd and Mallory clothes emporium and Rag Parade vintage store – will be replaced with flats, restaurants and cafés under controversial plans approved last year.

A bid by campaigners to launch a judicial review of the decision was rejected.