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One hotel room, to go

Like that suite's bedroom set, barware or chair? Now when you check out, you can take it all with you -- for a price.

September 16, 2004|Janet Eastman | Times Staff Writer

Call it prefab luxury decorating: If you like what you see in a cushy hotel suite, take the whole thing home. You can buy the tables, chairs, towels, martini glasses, even the bed. About the only thing you can't take with you is the maid.

As the idea of making a home look and feel more resort-like has caught on, interior designers, furniture manufacturers and landscape contractors have cribbed ideas from hotels and scaled them down to fit residences. But over the last year, more hotels have started selling their furniture and smaller items for the home.

Westin Hotels & Resorts may have inadvertently pioneered the trend. If they had a spare nightstand, they would sell it. After the hotel chain upgraded its beds five years ago, there quickly was a long waiting list of guests who wanted to buy the new custom mattress, padding, pillow and linens. This year, the Westin expects to sell guests $8 million worth of bedding.

When Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica finishes its remodel early next year, it will introduce a custom line of beach-house tables and headboards and offer them for sale.

At the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, a glossy brochure glowingly describes the hotel's chairs, rugs and barware, with prices included. Call a toll-free number or jump on its website, and you can order a 9-by-12-foot wool rug for $4,200 that can be delivered in a few weeks.

The impulse to want to shop in a plush hotel room is easy to understand. What's not to like? Rooms with fine furnishings look like they've jumped out of the pages of a design magazine, and you can try out the hand-rubbed mahogany cupboard without lugging it home first.

"Buying hotel furniture for a home is a logical extension of walking away with the toiletries," says Kathryn H. Anthony, an author and architecture professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who specializes in environment and behavior.

"A certain scent from the shampoo used at the Hotel del Coronado may help bring us back there, at least for a moment. So too might sleeping in one of the hotel beds. It may be an attempt to re-create the entire sensual experience -- not just the visual, but the sense of smell and touch as well. It's also a way of mentally distancing ourselves from the present, where there is terrible news going on in the world."

Peter Greenberg, travel editor of NBC's "Today" show, has taken the concept of hotel comfort at home to the extreme. When his Sherman Oaks home was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, he decided to build a new one and fill it with the best from around the world.

He cashed in his frequent-flyer points and went shopping, not in furniture stores, but to the places he knows best: hotels.

"When I stayed at these hotels, I would see something and think, 'That would be great at home,' but I never did anything about it," he says. "Then the earthquake hit and I had to start from scratch, so I thought, 'Why not?' "

He liked the teak work carved by artisans at the Four Seasons in Bangkok and had them make 300-pound doors for his parlor. His bathtub is from the Hong Kong Peninsula, light sconces from the Park Hyatt Sydney, door locks from the St. Regis in New York and a shower head the size of a dinner plate comes from the Savoy in London.

"There are other shower heads like it now in stores," says Greenberg, "but it's not the same."

In total, he cherry-picked from 47 hotels. Some hotels sold him the items, while others put him in touch with their vendors.

Now hotels have made the buying easier. Starwood, which includes the Westin, W, Sheraton and St. Regis hotels, is a leader in turning its guest rooms into showrooms.

The company promotes its products for sale in its advertising, catalogs, in-room TV channel and on its website. It even displays fully fluffed beds with a price list in some of its lobbies.

Few people object to the idea of being marketed to while they're paying for a room, says a concierge at the Westin in Seattle. In fact, she says, people check in specifically to check out the beds before they buy.

Mattresses are the hotel industry's best sellers. Usually manufactured by well-known labels, these versions are made to be extra comfortable and durable.

Since introducing its Heavenly Bed five years ago, Westin has sold 4,000 Simmons mattresses, and 30,000 cotton sheets and goose down pillows, says Nadeen Ayala, a spokeswoman for the hotel chain. A complete Heavenly Bed, all 10 layers, is $2,565 for a queen package.

The eternal quest for a good night's sleep is probably behind the mattress sales. People don't want to make a costly, long-term mistake so they buy a mattress they have already test driven, says Cary Schirmer, president of Boxport, a San Francisco-based company that provides furnishings to top-tier hotels and their customers.

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