- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

HONOLULU — Like that curved shower rod in your hotel bathroom? The embroidered pillow on the bed? The martini glasses you saw at the bar?

The latest vacation souvenirs may be as close as a hotel Web site because just about everything in the room can be bought.

Designers call it “hotel-at-home” decorating, pioneered five years ago by Westin Hotels & Resorts’ heavily marketed “Heavenly Bed,” which was supposed to bring a little bit of luxury to travelers who wanted nothing more than a good night’s rest.

The trend is much more than selling people the bed in which they just slept or even giving them a legitimate way to keep a towel with a hotel logo. It’s about selling the feeling of bringing the vacation home.

“When we did the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, we used a beaded curtain with a traditional Hawaiian hula dancer on it as the closet partition, and guests loved it,” says Holly Boling-Ruiz, associate senior designer at Philpotts and Associates, a Honolulu design firm.

Vacationers at Hawaiian resorts want to know where they can get everything from chairs to coconut-shell dishes. “In the old days, hotels put up signs that said, ‘If you really like this robe, it’s for sale in the gift shop,’ ” says Robert Mandelbaum, who researches hotel industry trends for PKF Consulting in Atlanta.

“It’s not just robes,” he says. “Hotels are becoming more residential in feel, and guests can afford to pay a premium to bring that concept of comfort home.”

The Heavenly Bed, a cushy, 121/2-inch pillow-top mattress that the Westin sells, costs more than $3,000. More than 6,000 consumers have plunked down the bucks for feather-filled comfort. Mark Flaharty, 37, first discovered the bed when his job on the sales side of advertising for Yahoo took him on the road.

Then his wife tried it, and they were hooked.

“We own three of these things,” Mr. Flaharty says. “It was so revolutionary when they first came out. We just liked the bed. So we bought one and then another one and another one.”

Ariane Steinbeck, senior vice president of the Gettys Group, a Chicago firm that specializes in hotel design, says hotels “have sold their wares openly, or not so openly, for many years.”

Guest requests aren’t just about bathrobes or shampoo. They want area rugs, flooring and even the laundry detergent.

Traditional retail venues also are becoming part of the trend. Westin’s signature Heavenly Beds can be bought at Nordstrom stores.

One man liked the smell of a hotel’s detergent so much that he ordered it — in 55-gallon containers.

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