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He said: “Michael, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my stores talking with people about sleep. I’m convinced that the time is coming to bring back the waterbed, and you’re just the guy to do it.” Keith and his brother Kevin opened a bean bag and waterbed store in Ft. Lauderdale in 1971. Today the company has evolved into a fast growing, $500 million/year Florida home furnishings company called City Furniture. In the 1970’s and 80’s, Michael and his partners built one of the largest waterbed manufacturing companies, which they sold to the Ohio Mattress Company, later known as Sealy Inc., and today known as Tempur-Sealy.
“OK - I’m in, but if we’re going to do this, we need to get Charlie involved.” Michael was referring to another old friend, Charlie Hall. In 1969. as a graduate design student At San Francisco State, Charlie invented and later patented the waterbed. Charlie and Michael had worked together over the years producing innovations in waterbed design and technology that resulted in over 20 waterbed-related US and foreign patents. Charlie, Keith and Michael formed Hall Flotation LLC in 2016 with a simple mission: reinvent the waterbed.
The first waterbeds used a clunky wooden box that was a challenge to get in and out of, but they delivered a unique body-conforming comfort and temperature control that made waterbeds famous. Other later types eliminated the wood box, but added so much cushioning on top it the comfort wasn’t the same. Still, many waterbeds remained in continuous use for as long as 30 years – longer than other types of beds. After all, water never sags. There was a lot to like about the early waterbeds, but the question was: what could make a waterbed even better?
Charlie and Michael researched materials that were not available during the waterbed development era. Their number one design objective: deliver the same body-contouring comfort, support and precise temperature control of the very best of the original waterbeds, but with the versatility of matching any furniture décor.
There were other improvements to be made as well, including home energy savings, hypo-allergenic cleaning capability, making the bed more impervious to dust mites and bed bugs than ordinary mattresses and simplifying and improving the assembly and moving of the waterbed. Many of these improve are currently patent-pending. It took over two years, but by June 2018 Afloat – The New Waterbed - was ready to unveil.
The first public showing was in three of Keith’s Florida showrooms. This was attended by the news media as well. You can see the event on YouTube in part of the CBS Sunday Morning segment “History of Waterbeds”. Afloat immediately started selling and Afloat first adaptors were ecstatic. By late 2018 we all knew that Keith had been right when he told Michael: “The time is coming to bring back the waterbed”, but better than ever.