At Chic Hotels, You Can Take It With You
Monday, December 5, 2005
Jennifer Candotti's husband recently gave her a gift: a quiet night away from him and their baby in a Bethesda hotel.
"It was such a great night," she said. "I was by myself. I was so, so comfortable."
The next morning, she reflected on what made her feel so cozy -- the featherbed mattress pad, the down comforter, the feather and down pillow, the 300-thread-count sheets and even the bed skirt, because it matched so nicely. Ultimately, her stay produced sensations associated with royalty. "I just didn't want it to end," she said.
It didn't have to. Candotti went back to her home in Brookeville, in northern Montgomery County, and did something thousands of hotel guests now do every day: She logged on to the hotel's Web site and went shopping. She ordered, for $1,500, just about everything her body touched. By the end of the week she had the goods, which she used to turn her guest room into a hotel at home.
The days of hotel guests stealing Ritz-Carlton towels are gone. Now they just buy the room or even the lobby -- the shower curtains, the lamps, the carpet, the chairs, the chaises, the desks, the TVs, the beds, the bedding, the soap, the dishes, the flatware and pricey artwork on the wall. The hotels sell all this in an effort to tap into the dreams of the American consumer, who has already been rapidly trading up to other high-end products such as $60 bottles of vodka, $200 designer jeans and pricey chocolate.
"Hotels are probably the best design showrooms for beds and home furnishings that exist right now," said Ross Klein, president of W Hotels, a division of Starwood Hotels. "People can experience luxury with us for a night or two, then decide what they want for their home. You know, it's awfully hard to spend the night at Bloomingdale's."
Among the furnishings being bought and sold are Marriott's red acrylic teardrop lamp ($190) and Kashwere Chenilla chaise ($1,795). From Westin Hotels and Resorts, guests can buy a California king-size bed ($1,450) and the Heavenly shower curtain and liner ($35). The W Hotel has acrylic I-beam side tables ($290 each). The Nine Zero Hotel in Boston is offering a Macassar veneer desk ($3,600), a pair of wall sconces ($2,400) or an 18-by-18-foot area rug from the lobby ($14,000).
For many guests, staying at a fancy hotel is an introduction to sophisticated interior design and how it can translate to living a certain lifestyle, said Joanne Kravetz, who chairs the interior design department at the Art Institute of California in Los Angeles. They check out of the room but keep a lifestyle -- of the hip, urban W Hotel or the clean and modern Marriott or the cosmopolitan haven of Boston's Nine Zero.
"The hotel has now brought that lifestyle into your realm of reality," Kravetz said. "You can have this. There's no barrier in between. You don't need a decorator. You don't need a designer. And for the hotels, this is just another way for you to plunk down some money and have what you want if you want it."
Direct-to-consumer hotel merchandise sales topped $60 million last year, according to Hospitality Design magazine, and industry observers think that figure will grow quickly, with several companies popping up to market and sell furnishings for hotels, which can then focus exclusively on guests.
Already, the W Hotel in New York has taken the trend further, opening a store in Manhattan where guests can buy furnishings right off the shelves. Westin recently began selling its custom-designed Speakman dual showerhead -- five adjustable jets, providing light mist to massaging needles -- through Nordstrom. Price: $130.
"The interest in our furnishings has just been overwhelming," said Thomas Holtmann, the operations manager at Nine Zero, where rooms run upward of $400 a night. "Hotels used to be a nice home away from home. Now guests feel like they want to take our ideas home with them."