In some hotel gift shops, style is the hot commodity
Next time you breeze through a great hotel lobby, check out the gift shop. You might notice a change. Packs of chewing gum: gone. Logo T-shirts: not there. Plastic lighters: zippo. In their place, you're likely to spot regional crafts, chic place settings, hand-dipped candles, even four-poster beds and luxe linens. What's happening?A number of savvy hoteliers have figured out that guests are looking for serious acquisitions. Oh, you can still get a pack of gum—they're hidden behind the counter.
Mondrian 8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; 800/525-8029 or 213/656-9689, fax 213/650-5215. It's no coincidence that the buzzword pleasure is etched on the door of the Gold Kiosk, in L.A.'s hottest hotel. WHO GOES: Minnie Driver, Leonardo DiCaprio. Insane splurge: Lucien Pellat Finet summer-weight cashmere sweaters in lavender and buttercup ($1,500). FEELING NAUGHTY?Agent Provocateur bustiers ($95 and up). FEELING NICE?Belgian linen nightshirt with dream embroidered on the pocket ($350). Look for: Cigarette girls (and guys) who prowl the pool by day with trays of sunblock and Pucci swimsuits ($295-$350). At night they roam the Skybar with smokes and mints. NO TOOTHBRUSH?Pick up the $26 model by Philippe Starck, who designed the hotel and shop.
The Metropolitan Old Park Lane, London; 888/272-3002 or 44-171/447-1000 (phone and fax). A mega-mod emporium that Prince Charles would hate: not a shred of historic bric-a-brac in sight. But with the minimalist fad sweeping London, there are plenty of eager clients browsing the pearwood display cases. RARE FIND: One-of-a-kind red lacquer rice pots from Burma ($745). BATH TIME: Foaming mineral muscle mask from Kiehl's (official outfitter for the guest bathrooms). BOARDING PASS: Cashmere travel pillows by Donna Karan Home Furnishings ($115), perfect for the flight home.
Château de Bagnols Bagnols 800/735-2478 or 33-4/74-71-40-00, fax 33-4/74-71-40-49. Hone your taste for the ancien régime at this 13th-century château in the Beaujolais region, surrounded by vineyards. La Boutique Bagnols is stocked with everything a budding aristo could desire. SET YOUR TABLE: Handblown glassware, based on an 18th-century Burgundy design ($60); custom-made Limoges paste china ($40-$75 per piece); pistol-handled Sheffield silver cutlery ($66-$75 per piece). SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS: A set of Bagnols's house-brand linen sheets ($1,150). BATHING BEAUTÉ: Signature lavender bath essence ($40). Forgot to buy a dozen oyster forks?Order from the boutique's Web site at www.bagnols.com/boutique/home.html.
Four Seasons Hualalai 100 Kaupulehu Dr., Big Island; 800/332-3442 or 808/325-8000, fax 808/325-8053. Staffers "talk story" about the Hawaiian handicrafts: each item, made using native materials and techniques, reflects an aspect of old island life. FASHION STATEMENT: Kristi Kranz's silk kimono ($450). IT'S A WRAP: Hand-painted silk pareus by Joan Blackshear ($225-$300). FORBIDDEN-ISLE FINDS: Shell earrings and necklaces from the sacred island of Niihau ($24-$4,000). ART HISTORY 101: Prints by John Kelly, whose Hawaiian portraits are displayed throughout the resort ($17-$100).
Mandarin Oriental 5 Connaught Rd., Central; 800/526-6566 or 852/2522-0111, fax 852/2810-6190. The Cohiba Cigar Divan, on the hotel's ground floor, is a haven for Americans who crave the heady fragrance of a vintage cubano. Owned by cheroot aficionado David Tang, it carries an unparalleled range, including Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, and Partagas. The shop, filled with Spanish furniture and an ornate bar, looks like an old-time Havana smoking salon. CUSTOMS WILL LET THESE IN: Travel-size humidors (from $375), ashtrays emblazoned with the Cohiba logo ($84), sterling cigar cutters ($32-$64). FAVORITE WIDGET: Electronic hydrometer, to measure the humidity level in your humidor ($50). COLUMBUS DAY SPECIAL: A box of 50 "1492" cigars for $45,185. Since you can't bring the stogies home, light one up in the lounge and store the rest in the shop's walk-in humidor.
Amandari Kedewatan, Ubud, Bali; 800/447-7462 (212/223-2848 in New York City) or 62-361/975-333, fax 62-361/975-335. Ubud is the design capital of Bali, so it's no surprise that the Amandari Gallery stocks antiques and artifacts, some locally made, some from remote parts of the Indonesian archipelago. SEXIEST SARONGS: Gold-threaded songket ($700-$5,000), decorated with plant, vegetable, and animal motifs. TIE ONE ON: Knotted ikat scarves from Tenganan ($2,000-$6,400). SPEECHLESS IN SUMATRA: Balinese theatrical masks ($500-$3,000). The type with no mouth is for performers without speaking parts. KRIS OF DEATH: Heirloom daggers from Java and Bali ($1,000-$8,000).
Ballymaloe House Shanagarry, Midleton, County Cork; 353-21/652-531, fax 353-21/652-021. Like the vine-covered Georgian mansion next door, the gift shop at Ballymaloe exudes Irish charm. In a stone farm building, you will find the work of the country's top craftsmen, some hailing from the rocky shores of Donegal, others from the green hills surrounding Kilkenny. SLEEPOVER: Sacha Whelan's native hardwood beds ($700-$1,675). BEST BOWLS: Nicholas Mosse spongeware ($6-$90) and Stephen Pearce's blackened pottery ($7-$98). THE LOOK O' THE IRISH: Tweed walking jackets by Weave of the Irish ($250). WHEN IT RAINS: Marianne Flood's jaunty waxed cotton hats ($33).
Hotel Cipriani Giudecca 10, Venice; 800/223-6800 or 39-41/520-7744, fax 39-41/520-3930. The privileged few ensconced in the Cipriani's new $1,248-a-night Palazzetto suites can send their private butler, Giovanni, over to the main hotel to pick up life's little indulgences. Mere mortals make their own way to the glass-enclosed Signature Shop. LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE: Venetia Studium's Fortuny silk hurricane lamps, in ruby and wine ($170). BEST COLLECTION: Exquisite glass pieces—bowls, pitchers, goblets—from Venetian artists. If nothing strikes your fancy, the concierge will arrange a half-day outing to the Murano glassworks. Expect to be picked up in a private water taxi and, as one Cipriani staffer puts it, "robbed down to your underpants." But who cares?Giovanni can simply deliver a new wardrobe.
Las Ventanas al Paraíso Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur; 888/525-0483 or 52-114/40300, fax 52-114/40301. Just bought a beach house in Malibu?Head for the gift shop at this Baja resort, which stocks some of Mexico's best decorative accessories. WHO GOES: Raquel Welch, U2, Paula Abdul (she flipped for the bamboo-and-bone necklace). ON FIRE: Twisted iron candlesticks ($46). TOP ART: Federico López Castro's whimsical puzzle paintings ($140-$400). And to carry it all home: Hand-tooled leather tote bags ($66-$345).