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James Lohan has putting the 'Mr' into Mr and Mrs Smith since 2003. As co-founder and CEO of the iconic hotel reviewing and booking site, James's entrepreneurial passion and keen eye for detail have earned him, and the brand, a well-respected reputation at the forefront of the boutique hotel industry. Speaking at Decorex in just three week's time, and with our competition launching today, we caught up with James to find out more about his plans for the show, and to take an inquisitive look at what the future holds for Mr & Mrs Smith.
What first drew you into the world of boutique and luxury hotels?
We started out as a guidebook – the idea came when I took my girlfriend Tamara (we’re now married) away for a weekend in the Lake District, but the hotel wasn’t anything like what we’d been led to expect from the guidebook we’d used. It was really disappointing, all chintz and Corby trouser presses. That was 2003, when boutique hotels were first appearing on the scene. We knew that other people must be looking to stay in the same kind of place we were – somewhere stylish, unique, a bit different.
There wasn’t a boutique hotel guidebook out there that we felt we could trust, so we decided to create our own. We published our first book in 2003 and then moved to become an online booking service in 2005. We now have more than 900 hotels in the collection, all over the world.
Areias do Seixo, portugal
If you could describe Mr & Mrs Smith in 3 words, what would they be?
Unique, romantic escapes.
What is the biggest challenge in your working life?
In 10 years we’ve grown significantly and now have offices in New York, Melbourne and Hong Kong. Being global brings its challenges; ensuring the brand is consistent but works across different markets is probably one of the toughest things to get right.
The Wheatsheaf Inn, Cotswolds
Where is your favourite boutique hotel?
Tough question! Blakes in London is one of the originals and it’s where we stayed on our wedding night. I also love Babington House in Somerset, but there are some incredible places all over the world, like Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island in Australia – it’s very chic and sits on the cliff overlooking the sea – a spectacular natural environment.
As a speaker in this year’s Decorex Seminar program, could you tell us a little about your plans for the show?
I enjoy a good walkabout at Decorex. As we’re a hotel booking service we don’t exhibit ourselves, but it’s a great source of inspiration and keeps me up to date with the latest design trends, which is important when looking at potential hotels for our collection. It always attracts an influential audience too so it’s a good place to catch up with old acquaintances and meet new people, and to see what’s out there.
Areias do Seixo, portugal
If you could sum up Decorex in 20 words, what would they be?
A gathering of the most exciting leaders in luxury interiors, showcasing inspiring future trends and great, ground-breaking modern design.
In line with our Hidden London seminar at the V&A, what is your favourite place to be in the city?
I love Kew Gardens – it’s just a short walk from our house in Chiswick – as it’s wonderful for long walks and getting away from it all. For some interiors-based retail therapy, we enjoy digging around at Alfies Antiques Market in Marylebone in search of something unique for our home.
The Wheatsheaf Inn, Cotswolds
What does the future hold for Mr & Mrs Smith?
We’ll be continuing to develop our hotel collection, and build the brand internationally. This year, we launched a whole new site, Smith & Family – our collection of hotels that are great for kids but have something special for adults too – so we’ll be rolling that out globally next year. We’re also looking at further brand extensions – we’ve just launched a range of interiors paints, named Mr & Mrs Smith – At Home, and that we hope will lead to other interiors and lifestyle products.
Mr & Mrs Smith At Home paint range
Can you tell us more about the new paint range?
It’s called Mr & Mrs Smith - At Home and it’s a palette of 28 colours, all inspired by the places we’ve been over the course of our 10 years in travel. It’s divided into three colour collections – City, Country and Coast – and each shade is intended evoke a particular destination, from Amalfi to Ubud…
The Mr & Mrs Smith At Home colour palette
I like any idea that’s solution-based, and we’ve launched the range alongside the iPatch, which is an innovative paint sampling swatch that’s set to replace messy tester pots as the clean, quick and easy way to test colours in your home. It’s one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ ideas. The patches come in all 28 colours and they’re the exact colour match – the real paint. You just peel off the back and attach the iPatch to the wall, and they leave no residue so you can reuse them, then put them in your bag and take them shopping to match your fabrics.
The Mr & Mrs Smith At Home iPatches
We’re selling the paint online through our partners at Colour & Paint (www.colourandpaint.com/smith)
Does this signal a move into interiors for Mr & Mrs Smith?
If people like our first toe-dip, then hopefully yes. Watch this space.
To celebrate our eagerly anticipated “In conversation with” session between James Lohan and Neil McLennan, Acting Editor of Living etc. we have an exclusive prize to give away, courtesy of Mr & Mrs Smith!
Win two nights bed and breakfast with one night’s dinner included at the gorgeous Oddfellows hotel in Chester.