All the comforts of HOTEL

With guests clamoring to buy this pillow or that comforter, many upscale lodgings have started their own catalogs.

Focus On Decor

April 15, 2001|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,Sun Staff

From the moment Teresa Bryan sank into the large, comfy bed with pristine, white sheets at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, she knew she had to have it.

Chronic back pains often kept her up at night. But during the two nights that she slept in Westin's "Heavenly Bed" last fall, her slumber was blissfully uninterrupted.

"It was like lying on a cloud," said Bryan, 47, co-owner of a computer software company in Thomson, Ga. "I had tried waterbeds, air mattresses and cushions but nothing worked. Then we spent the weekend there and I was like, 'Man, my back hasn't hurt the whole time I've been here.' "

So, Bryan simply picked up a Westin catalog, forked over more than $3,000 and bought her own Heavenly Bed -- pillows, down blanket, sheets and all.

Bryan's experience is the latest trend in shopping -- both for your home and yourself. Looking for new sheets or a funky throw cushion for your living room? Instead of just heading to Ethan Allen or Ikea, these days you might do as well trying a Ritz-Carlton, Westin or W Hotel.

It wasn't too long ago that hotel items found in people's homes probably had gotten there through seemingly harmless pilfering. But today, with more and more hotels venturing into retail as a sideline, chances are that bottle of Ritz-Carlton liquid soap and those flip-flops that say "W Hotel" were acquired through the age-old -- legal -- practice known as shopping.

From pillows to shampoo

Some hotels even have extensive glossy catalogs that sell everything from golf caps bearing the hotel insignia to red, faux fur throw pillows and baby bedding. So you really don't have to sneak that Ritz-Carlton shampoo into your bag before you leave any more. For $22.50 a bottle, you can buy your own.

"So many people would go into Norma's [the hotel restaurant] and say, 'I love your this' or 'I love your that. Where can I get it?' " said Steven Pipes, general manager for Le Parker Meridien in New York, which began selling items like vases, cocktail shakers and spatulas from its chic restaurant a year and a half ago. "Instead of always running in the back to get one of them and then trying to figure out a price for it, we figured we would just sell them."

Peter Keim, a vice president with hotel-advising company PKF Consulting, said the hotel-as-retailer trend first began in resorts, where guests sought T-shirts or mugs with hotel logos as mementos. But retailing at hotels recently has grown to include furniture, home accessories and even nonlogo clothing as upscale and boutique hotels have gotten in the business.

"You won't find a lot of this at Holiday Inns," Keim said. "You'll find this at high-end hotels or ones that are a little bit unusual, rather than the run of the mill. Guests want to buy something that documents the fact that they were there."

The trend also has been fueled by Americans' increasing interest in creating luxury and comfort at home, said Anne Engelerdt, Ritz-Carlton's corporate director of retail.

"Lifestyle has become much more important," said Engelerdt, whose company puts out a catalog with an array of home items that go beyond what's in Ritz-Carlton rooms and includes Italian linens, gilded, decorative eggs and mouth-blown glassware imported from Sweden. "Look at how Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein evolved into the home business as well. Ritz-Carlton just followed the retail trends."

And for those who want luxury at home and don't necessarily have the time to put it all together, some hoteliers see themselves as pseudo-interior decorators.

"We can help you set up your own room," said Linsey Harris, general manager of two tres chic boutique establishments -- Whitelaw Hotel and Hotel Chelsea -- in Miami's hip South Beach neighborhood. "The idea is for you to walk in, enjoy your stay -- and get ideas for your home out of it."

Harris said so many guests have asked about purchasing furniture in her two hotels that she recently put up lists in both lobbies on where to buy items such as couches, bath fixtures and chandeliers. She also is considering a glassware line because guests keep asking about the hotel's unique bar glasses. These retail items from hotels usually are a little pricey. An egg timer from Norma's restaurant at Le Parker Meridien, for example, costs $17, and a handcrafted, wooden chess set from W Hotels will put you out $350. But guests such as Bryan -- who liked her Westin Heavenly Bed so much she bought her son one, too -- don't seem to mind. Westin has been selling an average of four Heavenly Beds a day since it created a catalog in June.

"It was nice that we could actually try out the beds when we stayed at that Westin for two nights," Bryan said. "When you go buy mattresses, you feel it and you think, 'Yeah, this feels good' but you don't really know until you sleep on it. I've been stuck with a lot of beds that I thought would feel good but then you sleep on it one night and you can't walk for three days."

Loyalty pays off

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