Interiors PR consultant Juliet McDonald believes that too many B&B owners misunderstand the luxury market and would love to see more ingenuity and attention to quality in the furnishing of guest house bedrooms. It’s an effort that could be well worth the investment as it impresses visitors and brings in more business.
Choosing furniture for your B&B is a challenge, but a fun and exciting one. It’s a chance to create the special ambience that marks your guest house out from the next, but whilst you’ll want to invest in attractive pieces you’ll also want to think about functionality and durability. It’s no good adding a wardrobe if it doesn’t have enough storage and a beautiful bed easily becomes a negative if the mattress is shockingly uncomfortable.
The luxury end of the market is particularly tricky because your guests are likely to have sophisticated tastes and will be disappointed if they are offered a style of decoration that is ubiquitous or furniture they’ll have seen in high-street chains. Not that a well-chosen piece from a department store can’t be judiciously used (it can!), but just that the overall effect shouldn’t feel mass market. One of the reasons that people enjoy staying in boutique B&Bs is because they’re looking for an experience and they’ll be expecting to have their imaginations stimulated.
Familiarity isn’t always a bad thing. There are brand names that people love to see and even have quite an emotional response to. Look at some of the well-priced iconic designs that are still made today. Thonet, the creator of the famous Vienna coffee house chair, still makes its bentwood chair today as well as many other practical, stylish designs. Eames DCR, Verner Panton’s all-plastic Panton and Hans Wegner’s Wishbone are all examples of much-loved chairs.
Signature pieces It can be costly to fit out an entire property with high-end designer furnishings, but not every piece utilised has to be a star; there can be ‘supporting cast’ as well. The key is to introduce a signature piece as a focal point, mixing and matching it with basics from other sources. No-one is going to protest that a floorlamp comes from IKEA whilst it’s sitting next to an easy chair that’s been recovered in the most sensational fabric if the pairing is well considered. Aim to shop from a broad range of suppliers and consider all the outlets where you might find original pieces; exhibitions where young designers display new work, online designer platforms such as made.com or bespokeglobal.com, second-hand shops, auctions and even the workshop of a local artisan.
Study the projects of some of the country’s most talented interior designers as to how they tackle the decoration of a room. In a recent London townhouse project (see above/ right/ below), Studio Indigo has commissioned bedside tables in parchment and a vintage-style horsehair traveller’s chest – to hide the TV in – from bespoke furniture maker Simon Orrell. If your budget doesn’t extend to commissioning your own pieces, you can still emulate a designer’s general approach seeking out interesting materials, textures and having fun with historical influences. Try to give each room the feel it has been put together over time rather than an overly matched scheme.
Small original accessories Interesting and quirky accessories can help to give the sense of a room that’s been layered over time. Whilst you wouldn’t want to overclutter an interior, useful pieces such as mirrors, valet stands and lighting will enhance a scheme. Bespoke wood designer Alex MacMaster is a regular at design shows such as Grand Designs, 100% Design and Ideal Home – all excellent sources for discovering emerging design talent. His lighting collection, available in oak and walnut, is eco-friendly, using only sustainable sources, and is inspired by nature.
(Bedside trunk by Simon Orrell, photographed by Andreas Einsiedel)