DALLAS – Hotel rooms are no longer just a place to shower, sleep or maybe indulge in a breakfast in bed. They're now also spots to pick up a souvenir — and no, we aren't talking about stealing the towels.
Like that painting over the bed? How about that drawing next to the TV? At hotels around the globe, guests now have the option to purchase the art work in their rooms.
For several years, hotels have invited local artists in to decorate hallways, lobbies and other public spaces. It's a way they can distinguish themselves from the cookie-cutter chains and offer guests a sense of their unique city or town. Now, they are taking that partnership one step further and turning bedrooms into mini-salesrooms.
The recently-opened Omni Dallas hotel features more than 6,500 original pieces of art from 150 local artists in guest rooms and public spaces. The art is one of the reasons the property doesn't feel like every other hotel stayed in on past vacations. It also gives guests the option of taking a bit of Texas culture home with them.
And the Omni Dallas is not the only one.
The Lancaster Arts Hotel, in Pennsylvania, sells art — and even some furniture — found in guest rooms, its own gallery and common spaces, all from local artists and craftsmen.
The Principe Forte Dei Marmi in Tuscany, Italy, actually hosts an artist in residence for several months. Guests meet and interact with the artist and then can custom order a piece of art. The guests can even handpick the materials to be used in sculptures.
Some chain hotels trying to distinguish themselves are getting into the art business.
At the Renaissance Arts Hotel in New Orleans, a Marriott property, don't expect to see price lists in the rooms. But guests who ask the staff can learn how to buy the various pieces of artwork, such as the glass sculptures in the bathroom that go for about $300. Each room features an original picture and the hotel is also able to refer guests to the artist or gallery if they are interested in other works.
Guests at the new Conrad New York can't take home the hotel's signature piece of art, Sol Lewitt's "Loopy Doopy (Blue and Purple)" which fills 13 stories of the lobby. However, each room has a tile representing part of the work. The gift shop sells the same tiles for $95.
Sherry Quinn, of Lisbon, Md., near Baltimore, recently purchased a painting, "Orange Moon over Lemmon Avenue," while attending a security-related convention at the Dallas Omni.
"It was the most unlikely place I would think I would purchase art," Quinn said. But the nighttime scene of the city just called to her. "I just felt like there was something magical about the painting."
Quinn had three days to debate buying the 32-inch by 32-inch painting. When she spoke to the gift shop staff — the hotel has a digital catalog of all its artwork there — she learned that the artist, Kelly Megert, actually worked there part-time. The next morning, she met Megert and spent $350 on the painting.
"I got to talk to her about she came about painting it," Quinn said. "I did love the painting itself, but the fact that it was a local artist kind of clinched the deal for me. It means something to me that an artist is painting about their city."
Ed Netzhammer, managing director of the Dallas Omni, notes that his hotel has "more art than a lot of the galleries and museums around the country."
"It makes it fun and interesting and adds a whole different level of energy to the hotel," Netzhammer said.
Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's hospitality school, said any savings hotels see from not having to furnish rooms is lost by the adding liability and staff needed to rotate the art.
The push for local art, he said, is coming from younger guests who don't want to see the same thing in a hotel in New York and San Francisco.
"This age group has a special appreciation for local sensitivity," Hanson said. "That would be things like helping local artists, helping local growers whether that's produce or bakeries or wine producers."
So leave a little extra room in that suitcase this summer — you never know what will be coming home with you from vacation.