Boutique hotel specialists and founders of luxury travel site Mr & Mrs Smith, James Lohan and Tamara Heber-Percy, chat with Holts about stylish hideaways frequented by fashion insiders and how to travel like a pro.
HR: What’s behind the name Mr & Mrs Smith?
JL: It’s an irreverent nod at naughty weekends away. In the UK, we have a saucy tradition of checking into hotels as ‘Mr & Mrs Smith’ on amorous escapes in order to stay anonymous. Since the company is all about romantic trips for couples, the name fit perfectly and, we hope, conveys our sly sense of humour.
HR: What makes Mr & Mrs Smith different from any other travel website or high-end travel agency?
THP: We travel the world seeking boutique hotels that are unique, special and memorable for the right reasons – and span the spectrum of taste, price and location. Our team knows every hotel in our collection: we visit each not once, but twice. After we’ve visited and added a hotel, we dispatch an anonymous couple to write a witty, first-person account of the hotel. Members receive special gifts when they check in, and earn money back on every booking. And though we guarantee that our rates match (or beat) the lowest numbers out there, we’re not a one-and-done flash sale. We stand behind our hotels year-round.
HR: What does a hotel need to do to be included in the Smith collection?
JL: A hotel in our collection not only has to have an unmatched ambience and hit the right style notes, it has to tick our ‘certain something’ box: the welcome should be warm, without fuss or formality; rooms should be seductive and supplied with thoughtful extras; drinks must be perfectly mixed and dinners delicious.
THP: We don’t operate a star or rating system; I’ve always felt that people want different things at different times. We represent all types of hotels, from three-room B&Bs to luxurious mansions, and the thing they all have in common is that you feel special the moment you step through the door.
HR: What are your favourite hotels, and why?
JL: The Soho House Group hotels always make a trip pleasurable. We represent their entire collection, which includes three hotels in London, a country house in Somerset and stylish stays in New York, Berlin and Miami. Another one of my favourites is Blakes in London. It’s discreet, small and seductively designed by Anouska Hempel. It’s incredibly romantic, which is why I married Tamara there.
THP: My (current) favourite hotel in our collection is probably the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California, which has secluded, cliff-edge rooms fashioned in repurposed redwood. The views are simply breathtaking (but not for vertigo sufferers). However, my country of choice at the moment has to be Brazil, where I could happily live at Uxua Casa Hotel in Bahia– the owner used to be the creative director of Diesel and he has got the ideal mix of laid-back luxury.
HR: What’s your must-have accessory for travel?
JL: I don’t travel without sunglasses, a fully loaded iPod and a freshly pressed shirt
THP: I pack my new iPad, a cashmere wrap for chilly flights and a DVF dress I can dress up or down.
HR: How would you describe your travel style?
JL: Easy. I always pack light. I rely on simple pieces in a few staple colours so that I can mix and match. Linen is a great holiday option, as it doesn’t crease.
THP: I opt for comfort. Jimmy Choo makes phenomenal flats that are incredibly comfortable for sightseeing. I love getting dressed up for dinner so I pack a great jumpsuit for evenings, too.