Looking for a mattress: very firm, for a couple. Considering between T&N, BB, and shikifuton

I’m 5’11" and 145 lbs, she’s 5’4" and 115 lbs. We want our mattress to be firm, to feel like we are sleeping on it rather than in it. Our price range is around $1000. Because we are sharing, we want it to have good support on the ends (looking at Full-sized mattresses) and to not leave impressions or mold too much to our bodies. We are located in NYC. She sleeps on her side, and the best sleep she’s ever had was on a “carpet, with a blanket underneath and a blanket above me.” So, really firm. I sleep on my back, and the best sleep I’ve ever had was when I was in Japan sleeping on a shikifuton + platform setup.

Speaking of which, I noticed there’s nothing in the pinned topics about purchasing a shikifuton such as this one (amazon.co.jp, in Japanese), and then getting a bed foundation such as the $100 from Ikea. Add to any frame. Really cheap, highly breathable.

Is there any issue with shipping from overseas that would affect the quality of a high-density cotton/polyester blend?

As for traditional mattresses, I am looking at T&N for $500 or Brooklyn Bedding Firm version for $750. Still, I feel they are hard to justify given I could get the shikifuton + foundation for under $300 including all shipping costs.

We’re complete newcomers to this, as we are moving into a new apartment from our homes and have never had to purchase a mattress/bed on our own. Any input would be welcome. Thank you.

Hi plusfuture,

Wow … you certainly like firmer mattresses than most people would be comfortable with … especially if they were side sleepers but of course individual preferences can vary widely.

I would use the same guidelines in the mattress shopping tutorial for purchasing a shikibuton as for any other mattress. There aren’t many people who would consider a shikibuton and a sleeping surface that firm would be much more popular in Asia (particularly in Japan) than they would in North America. I don’t get many questions on the forum about them so a topic about shikibutons wouldn’t be appropriate for a pinned topic (which are more general interest guidelines than about specific category of mattresses or sleeping systems) but a forum search on shiki (you can just click the link) will bring up all the forum posts that mention them.

I personally wouldn’t put a shikibuton on an Ikea foundation and would tend to use a foundation that had a more evenly supportive surface with more slats and without the cardboard (which isn’t breathable) or use it on a more traditional Tatami mat. There is also more maintenance involved in using a Shikibuton as well (airing and/or drying on a regular basis).

While western futons are different from the traditional shikibutons … they are usually much firmer than traditional mattresses as well and there are some sources for futons in post #2 here that may be helpful.

Post #2 here also includes the better local options or possibilities I’m aware of in the New York City area (subject to the quality/value guidelines in post #13 here).

None that I can think of with normal shipping and packaging precautions (I would make sure it was rolled rather than folded).

Both of these are certainly high quality/value choices and you can read more about both of them in post #3 here about the new “breed” of “simplified choice” mattresses.

I would also make sure that you talk with both of them about firmness before you make a purchase since I would suspect that neither the Tuft & Needle or even the firm Brooklyn Bedding #BestMattressEver would be as firm as a traditional shikibuton.

If you are looking for a more traditional mattress then the first place to start your research is the mattress shopping tutorial here which includes all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that can help you make the best possible choice … and know how and why to avoid the worst ones.

Of course you are already looking two good quality/value options and if they aren’t firm enough for you then they both have great return policies so there would be little risk in trying them.


Thank you so much for your prompt and informative reply!

It’s not surprising that we both prefer firm surfaces–we are both of Asian after all :stuck_out_tongue:

Regarding foundations with “more evenly supportive surfaces and slats,” would you have any inexpensive recommendations? Could I perhaps just use one of the frames from Ikea?

Medium firmness mattresses don’t hurt us in any way. It’s just that we prefer firmer ones. At many high-end hotels I’ve been to in the US, I’ve noticed that while the support from the beds is fine, and my sleep is fine, I sink much more than I would like to.

I went through your other post where you recommended several futon resellers–could you perhaps comment on the differences between 100% cotton and cotton with foam inserts for the futons? I’m concerned about QC differences across companies–which have good reputations, and which don’t? I’m also unsure of what would separate a “high-quality” futon from a lower-quality one. For example, the Gold Bond 6" All Cotton is really, really inexpensive. But this scares me (much moreso than a similarly priced futon from Japan, which I’m inclined to trust).

Also, I noticed that the Japanese futons I was looking at seem to have 100% polyester as the majority of their material internally: what would this mean in terms of firmness, support, comfort, and breathability? Is this the same as polyurethane foam? The description, transliterated from Japanese is “polyester cotton,” with an accompanying image that looks like cotton ball stuffing, but is labelled as polyester.

Thanks again!

Hi plusfuture,

There are some foundation suggestions in post #1 here but a good foundation that would provide suitable support for a shikibuton will almost certainly cost significantly more than the Ikea foundation that you were considering. With a sleeping system as thin as a shikibuton I would suggest closely spaced slats that are no more than 3" apart and closer yet would be better to prevent you from feeling the individual slats and to prevent the shikibuton from sagging into the gaps.

If the height of a foundation isn’t important to you then you could also use something like the bed rug here (or a tatami mat) directly on the floor.

Foam inserts would be softer than densely packed cotton. Polyfoam will also soften over time while cotton will become firmer over time as it packs down and compresses.

A sleeping system (such as a mattress or a futon) is only as good as its construction and the type and quality of the materials inside it regardless of the name of the manufacturer on the label. Different grades of cotton with different fiber lengths would be more or less costly (and organic cotton would be more costly than non organic cotton) and the cost of the materials would also depend on how the cotton was cleaned, processed, and made into batts (vs raw cotton which would be lumpy), how it was layered and tufted (to keep the cotton from shifting and getting lumpy) and the type and quality of the fabric that enclosed it. Having said that the “raw material” or “commodity” cost of the materials in a sleeping system aren’t always reflected in the price of a mattress and different manufacturers can also sell very similar products for different prices (see post #14 here).

Gold Bond is a reputable manufacturer that has been in business for over 100 years and are one of the oldest mattress/futon manufacturers in the country (see post #3 here).

Polyester is a synthetic fiber made from petrochemicals that is used for batting (like cotton) or to make fabrics (also like cotton). It is very cheap so it is often used to replace natural fibers to lower the cost of a product. It is completely different from polyurethane foam which is a foam not a fiber. Like all fibers polyester will become firmer as it packs down over time while foam will get softer. In most cases cotton and polyester fibers will be blended and the greater the percentage of polyester the lower the cost would generally be. Other types of natural fibers (such as wool) will be even more costly than cotton.

Polyester doesn’t absorb moisture like natural fibers and natural fibers are much better for temperature regulation than synthetic fibers. Natural fibers are also more durable and don’t break down as easily as most synthetic fibers as well.

I can’t speak to the comfort or support of a futon or mattress for any particular person (especially if I haven’t slept on it myself) but there is some general information about about primary or “deep” support and secondary or “surface” support and their relationship to firmness and pressure relief and the “roles” of different layers in a mattress in post #2 here and in post #4 here that may also be helpful in clarifying the difference between “support” and “pressure relief” and “feel”.

You are also the only one that can feel what you feel on a specific mattress/futon and there are also too many unknowns, variables, and personal preferences involved to use a formula or for anyone to be able to predict or make a specific suggestion or recommendation about which mattress/futon or combination of materials and components would be the best “match” for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) based on specs (either yours or a mattress) or “theory at a distance” that can possibly be more accurate than your own careful testing or personal sleeping experience … hopefully using the testing guidelines in the tutorial post (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here).

There is also more information in post #2 here about the different ways to choose a mattress/futon (either locally or online) that is the best “match” for you in terms of PPP that can help you assess and minimize the risks of making a choice that doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped for that are involved in each of them.

When you can’t test a mattress/futon in person then the most reliable source of guidance is always a more detailed phone conversation with a knowledgeable and experienced retailer or manufacturer that has your best interests at heart and who can help “talk you through” the specifics of their mattresses/futons and the options they have available that may be the best “match” for you based on the information you provide them, any local testing you have done or mattresses/futons you have slept on and liked that they are familiar with, and the “averages” of other customers that are similar to you (although choosing a thin and firm futon would put you outside of the averages that most people would be comfortable with). They will know more about “matching” their specific mattress designs to different body types, sleeping positions, and preferences (or to other mattresses that they are familiar with) than anyone else.