Feature: Sourcing your B&B’s luxury furnishings

The first hurdle when buying or replacing furnishings for your B&B is often establishing just where to begin. Bill Lumley looks for shortcuts

The planning stage of furnishing your multiple-bedroom high-end property can be daunting, but getting it right it is of critical importance to you and your business. Fulfilling a project to furnish your luxury property is one of those areas where it is very easy to find yourself unable to control the spend of alarmingly high sums of money that can mount up very quickly.

You may be fortunate enough to have no deadline and an unlimited budget to spend on ensuring you bring the furnishings in your property up to the levels you would like. However, such luxuries are uncommon, and early on in the process you need to work out what your budget is and try to stick to it.

You may have easy access to a high-volume antique furniture store, or you may have inherited a substantial number of well-kept furnishings. Otherwise you are pretty much on your own.

You can go online to visit companies such as made.com, which produces design-led furnishings at affordable prices, or, if your budget allows, maisonsdumonde.com, which provides furnishings in a variety of styles including industrial, modern, seaside chic and vintage glamour.

One-stop-shop

Another solution to enriching your property with luxury furnishings that have the wow factor is to approach an all-encompassing, luxury one-stop operation to oversee the achievement of your furnishing goals.

Brentford-based RHA Furniture is a family business with 25 years’ experience in supplying contract furniture and custom-made joinery to the leisure, hospitality and luxury residential sectors. The company is thus familiar with the needs and expectations of the kind of individual seeking to replace or upgrade their luxury B&B’s furnishings.

Sales and marketing director Liese Brandt says the business offers guidance to a luxury B&B owner starting with a clean slate on choosing furnishings that are most appropriate for the type of property in question – modern, Edwardian or Victorian, for example.

And for such a huge task, with so many considerations to take into account – lead time for delivery, upholstery complications, discounts for bulk purchase and choice of style, to name but a few – she is very much of the view that the best approach is to appoint a professional to oversee the project.

“Otherwise it becomes a bit of a mish-mash of styles,” Brandt tells Luxury Bed & Breakfast magazine. “There is very much a difference between furnishing a home and furnishing a luxury guest house or hotel. Even though people want the home from home look, it still needs to look as though it has been put together with a certain degree of theme.”

It is crucial, she stresses, that you as a luxury B&B owner keep budget in mind. “There is such a wide range of furnishings available varying both in price and quality,” Brandt says. “My first piece of advice would be to enlist the help of an interior designer, as they have the professional eye and can help you make the most of your money.”

Many homeowners would hesitate to assign a budget for such a facility. Brandt says: “This is one of the reasons we don’t generally work with domestic property owners because we almost always work through interior designers. We do not have people on the road, reps for example, and an individual project such as the refurbishment of a luxury bed & breakfast would need a site visit.

“It would therefore be best to get a meeting set up with furniture suppliers, so they can see the premises, the style and the surroundings to enable them to best suggest an offer from their ranges,” she says.

If in the process of selecting overall luxury furnishings you find you already have certain items that would blend well with the new style you are going for, but which are in need of some attention, then RHA can provide a reupholstery service. However, she warns that if this entails collecting and then returning one or two isolated pieces of furniture then employing the company for this service may not be the most cost-effective approach for you to take. “You may find it a lot more practical to take such items to a local upholstery professional,” she suggests.

“If we are supplying all the bedroom chairs but the B&B owner has four bedroom chairs that need reupholstering then yes, we will do that. We are a one-stop-shop, so you can have reupholstering, new and bespoke.”

This one-stop-shop approach should appeal to quite a few luxury B&B owners looking to undergo a major refurbishment, not least because they simply don’t have the time to go through the rigmarole of visiting individual warehouses or antique stores and arranging delivery of individual items of furnishing.

Brandt says: “With costing it is better too, because the bigger the order the more significant the discount that can be offered. It is also just one transport and delivery you are having to deal with: you’re not having to get six chairs from one person and then having to co-ordinate delivery days, then from somebody else get two chairs and someone different again the tables. We would run the project as a whole.”

The only aspects of a refurbishment that RHA Furniture does not get involved in are bedding and soft furnishings such as carpet and curtaining. “We leave that to the specialists in those fields,” she says.

Style and heritage

One of the biggest aspects of a B&B refurbishment project is choosing the right type of furnishings wisely to complement the style and heritage of the building, she says. “Decide on a scheme, and then stick to it. If you have a modern building in a city centre you aren’t then going to make it look like a country house hotel. It should be in keeping with the design, style and era of the building.” She does not look favourably on the type of B&B owner who decides to make each bedroom individually themed. “As a business, that doesn’t save them money. If you buy one chair in one fabric then another in a different fabric, you aren’t getting the best price because everything is priced on quantity. Even fabrics may be £25 for one to three metres, after which the price may go down to £18 per metre for three to five metres and so on. Therefore, you aren’t going to save money if you do too much of a mish-mash of styles and designs.”

Resisting the approach of individually styled rooms makes both your job and that of the furnishings supplier that much easier, she says.

The range RHA Furniture supplies consists of essentially any furniture for the hotel and leisure industry ranging from bedroom lounge public areas through to meeting rooms and external terraces. “Our ranges are from Italy, Portugal or Spain and nothing further afield because we have a very good relationship with all of our suppliers. We have personally visited each factory and met with the owners and checked them out thoroughly. We therefore have full trust in our suppliers that we can then pass on to our clients. Furthermore, the lead times aren’t those of a container from China, and tend to be six to eight weeks maximum,” says Brandt.

The meeting with the suppliers on their home turf alone is a powerful selling point. “We are a family business, and a lot of the factories we work with are family businesses, so there is that extra passion and reliability.”

The company she says has considerable experience working with individual high-end country hotels, some of it bespoke and made to fit in with the style of the hotel. “We also have a factory in Portugal where we manufacture a large number of pieces, whether these be joinery or upholstery.

“There is a whole range of pieces of furniture that work with it whether it is a sofa bed or a bed end or the arm of an armchair,” she adds.

Trends

Given the enormity of the range of styles and categories of furnishings that the company provides, she is reticent to single out any fashionable trends. “The trend seen at present is still ‘home from home’: luxury and comfort in the form of small and comfortable bedroom chairs as well as bespoke desks or dressing tables.”

One emerging trend of which she does not approve is for shopping for luxury furnishings online. “Sadly, I see an increasing amount of internet purchases that are not commercially viable and come with no service. The key to our business has always been service, helping to advise and guide clients in the right direction with design, budget and fabrics and so forth.”

There is no particular brand that can easily be singled out as being of the height of fashion, she insists. “There are so many different ranges and styles of furniture. We sell it all, and there is no particular range or style that may or may not work in any given luxury B&B.”

She concludes: “Budget management doesn’t mean scrimping on costs. A cheap or badly made piece of furniture will stand out, and clients expect where they are staying to be of a higher quality than their homes.”