In New Jersey, a hotel’s dreamy bed


The Strip House, a restaurant decorated with images of Jersey natives and sultry models, juts off the lobby of the Westminster Hotel, November 13, 2011. (Andrea Sachs/THE WASHINGTON POST)
December 2, 2011

The sun’s rays had barely dipped below the horizon, yet I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed. Let me rephrase: Burrow into the mattress.

Guests typically coo over high-thread-count sheets from exotic lands and towels as thick as polar bear fur. But at the Hotel Westminster, the object of my attention was the under-appreciated mattress.

The hotel in Livingston, N.J., 20 miles west of Manhattan, claims to be the first U.S. hotel to have outfitted all its standard rooms and suites with Hollandia International mattresses and sleep systems, the Bentleys of bedding. The Israeli brand costs between $4,000 and $12,000 — minus 20 percent for guests who wish to purchase a mattress of their own from the company’s store in Short Hills, N.J.

I’m no connoisseur of mattresses; I sleep on a giant slab of shale from Ikea. Yet from the description of the Hollandia International — a double-sided cushion of spring and foam infused with aloe and propped up with a shoulder rest — I imagined a personal masseuse whom I would not have to engage in conversation or tip. (No offense to the experts in the downstairs spa; I’m sure they do wonders with deep tissues and knotted backs.) My sleep aid even came with a commanding name: Morpheus.

When I entered the room, one of 182 in two connecting buildings, I did everything in my power to avoid the bed. I didn’t want to fall under its spell — just yet.

To distract myself, I surveyed my surroundings. I started in the bathroom, where two cherry lollipops and a giant red daisy bloomed from a hole in the shelf above the sink. In the main space, a console contained the fridge on one side and provided outlets on the other, so that I could lounge on the adjoining settee and stay charged. For further comfort, I unearthed a large square footstool parked beneath the nightstand.

Dancing around the bed, I inspected the dark wood bureau and desk. I peered into the many openings, good for filing papers or hiding dirty socks. I spun around in the office chair. Then I grew bored.

In the hotel’s notebook of information, I came across a page describing the Westminster Art Collection. Now I had purpose.

I sat through four viewings of Walter Koessler’s “September Sunset,” a photograph that covers the back wall of one elevator, before “September Sunrise,” the complementary image that papers the second elevator, finally opened on my floor. On the ground level, I detoured into the pool area, a hydro-artful space with classical columns and a copy of Matisse’s “Icarus.” In the lobby, I stood before Scott Hole’s “Hugs and Kisses,” which the hardened eye might confuse with a tic-tac-toe board. By comparison, I had little trouble guessing the framed images sprinkled around the Strip House, a high-end steakhouse: Bruce Springsteen, Meryl Streep, Nathan Lane, John Travolta, Frank Sinatra.

The hotel opened in 2003, taking over a Holiday Inn, so I assumed that the famous personalities were not former guests. (Big clue: Sinatra died in 1998.) A manager provided me with the Aha! moment: They were all Jersey natives.

I also learned a bit of saucy history that has left archival traces on the floor and in the hands of diners. At the chain restaurant’s other outposts (Las Vegas, New York, Houston, etc.), silhouettes of buxom women grace the wallpaper, the rugs and the menus. But apparently, a frequent guest at the Westminster complained about the R-rated shapes, and the frolicking Bambis were removed — for the most part. Here’s a hint: Look closely at the carpet, and ask to see a menu.

Eventually, the restaurant’s dim lighting and brothel-red furnishings started to affect me like a strong dose of Ambien. It was time.

Back in my room, I pulled back the white duvet and slid in. I stretched out, waiting for the magic. I flopped over, impatient. Then it happened. The mattress took hold of me. It was soft but not squishy, and soothing like a warm glass of milk. I fell, without protest, into its dream.

Westminster Hotel

550 W. Mt. Pleasant Ave.

Livingston, N.J.

800-388-2741

www.westminsterhotel.net

Rates from $149.

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