As more people join our glorious glamping movement, many new glampsites are popping up across the UK. It’s fair to say that some popular structures look much the same from the outside, sometimes they look pretty much the same on the inside, too. And that’s fine, if there is something else about the glampsite that sets it apart from the rest. But what if there isn’t?
There are several ways to create a unique glamping offer, one of which is by making clever use of design and accessories, so this blog is about the importance of using them to create a ‘unique selling point’ – which basically is what sets your accommodation apart from the rest and makes a guest book with you instead of another place. You might be unconvinced about this, and wondering ‘how can a throw and a few cushions make any difference?’.
To be honest, I don’t think a throw and a few cushions would make any difference either! However a good design scheme along with relevant accessories can make all the difference, by adding interest, creating comfort and epitomising a certain style.
Good Design is good business, because with good design, bland, off-the-peg structures are given a totally unique look, creating marketing appeal, a better guest experience and increased rental fees.
Not all levels of glamping need or use design and accessories, but for those that do, it is worth choosing them carefully, as their use (or misuse) can have a huge impact. You might think that they don’t matter but trust me, if the accommodation is anything other than a ‘cookie cutter’ set-up, they do. And increasingly so, as the glamping industry develops.
Demand for Design
Thanks to the media, more of us are design-aware these days, and take an interest in how we express our taste and personalities through our living spaces; which in turn affects where we spend our leisure time. In response to this, Hotels, B&B’s, holiday cottages and restaurants are revamping dated interiors to offer competitive and stylish environments. Magazines about interior design and lifestyle abound, and a range of TV programmes has emerged either dedicated to, or including, interior design. Take Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ for example, each episode involves a dramatic interior design make-over as part of his business review, so the future success is dependent on the whole experience, not just what’s on the plate!
It would be remiss of me not to mention the TV programme George Clarke’s ‘Amazing Spaces’ and its various spin-offs, which have brought the innovation and magic of small-scale accommodation out of the eco-community and into mainstream awareness.
This interest in design can also extend to our choice of holiday accommodation – especially in certain styles of glamping. While some people won’t book anything that doesn’t have a particular facility, others book by affordable price or style (which don’t appear together ‘on stage’ too often). As such, when we do market our glamping as being something special – in terms of style or offering a particular experience – we need to deliver, especially when we are usually charging hotel rates for it.
Some structures lend themselves to certain styles, country furniture and enamelled plates sit happily in a rustic cabin, whereas a geodesic dome virtually demands contemporary furnishings. Some structures, however, are a blank canvas (pun intended) where you can imprint any style you want onto, and into them. Design and accessories can transform the plainest of accommodations, and unless the structure is particularly unusual, it’s the furnishings and accessories that will add personality – your personality – if you have the ideas and initiative.
UK glamping is way ahead in terms of glampsite numbers, but overall we play safe with our design. There’s no need, in fact, your glamping accommodation will shine brighter if you carve out your own style, don’t be afraid to express some personality. If you want to D.I.Y. but design isn’t your strong point, depending on what you are trying to create, some of these tips might help:
- Firstly, get inspired. Check out Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram and Google images, look up related lifestyle magazines and blogs. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, but at the same time, don’t recreate a style that’s been done to death in glamping.
- On a tight budget? Get creative! Scour charity shops, boot sales and auctions, get painting, upcycling and re-purposing. Create something totally unique (but please – don’t paint over good antiques!).
- Have a big budget? Hire a designer, aim high: add designer features. Add luxury and create something totally outstanding.
- One of a Kind, for complete uniqueness commission your own structure, furniture and accessories, if you have the skills, build your own.
- Work within a tight colour palette (unless you specifically want a rainbow look). Use a colour wheel and the co-ordinating rules.
- Choose fabrics first and then plan everything else, like paint colours and accessories, around them – trying to find the right fabric to match a paint shade is a nightmare.
- Use appropriate furniture & accessories to validate the scheme, ensure they are relevant and ‘talk to each other’.
- Tempted to follow a current design trend? Use inexpensive, easy to remove items which can readily be replaced when it becomes passé.
- Think big. Sometimes one or two well-placed, oversized pieces add interest and a sense of extravagance.
- Most of all, create something you love, and would want to stay in yourself, genuine enthusiasm creates inspiring results.
In all the excitement of pulling together ‘the look’, let’s not forget that design and accessories also need to be practical. Will the scheme suit the visiting guest profile, will it work within the location, and structure? Before we buy that perfectly co-ordinated accessory: will it be a devil to clean, is it going to get bashed about, will it need replacing regularly and if it’s expensive, do the rental fees justify that? Accessories also need to be easy for guests to live with, and where appropriate, use. It might sound like common sense but these things can be overlooked in the final rush to pull a glampsite together, trust me, it happens all the time.
One thing I would recommend is to leave treasured, valuable items out of any rental because accidents happen, you’ll be upset and your guests will feel awful. If your scheme requires antiques and vintage items then use affordable reproductions. If you add genuine vintage accessories, display them out of reach, they’ll add character but are less likely to get broken. It doesn’t matter if they were cheap, if they’ve survived decades already they deserve a little respect, they are the antiques of the future.
Here are a few of my personal, practical tips:
- Suit the use: family accommodation interiors needs to be robust and durable; whereas a couple’s retreat can be more refined and less hard wearing.
- Add rugs, they create a cosy atmosphere, reduce noise, and add warmth, colour and interest to boring floors.
- Candles, lamps and fires are an essential part of some glamping, adding oodles of atmosphere. Style and function are imperative around any accessory that involves fire, this is one area where ‘looks’ might have to take a back seat. N.B. safety precautions – heatproof candle holders, log-stove fire guards / sturdy fire braziers – plus fire safety equipment. There are also some great battery operated versions on the market now.
- Use easy-clean materials on high-use furniture (leather sofas are particularly popular in family accommodations).
- If the accommodation accepts pets, easy-wash rugs are a must, one can ask guests to keep pets off furniture but occasionally you’ll still find paw prints and fur on the bedding, so thin, easy-wash throws are advisable.
Setting a Good Example
Glampsite owner Jenna Turnham took a self-build kit and created a glamping wagon with a unique look by using strong colours and hand picked accessories, the resulting wagon, Seren, is the feature image at the top of this blog. It’s a bold design scheme, and a great example of what can be achieved from an off-the-peg structure. Yes, you’ll have to put hours of work into it, these things don’t magically appear at the bottom of the field overnight (wouldn’t that be great?!) but the result is you’ll have something totally original at a fraction of the price.
If you don’t have the time or creative inclination, another avenue to explore is bespoke and luxurious, maybe so much so that you, literally, have no competition. This is what Bryony, owner and creator of ‘Starbed Hideaways’ did, by commissioning a specially designed glass roofed hut and using designer interiors. The resulting glamping perfectly maximises the clear night skies, and echoes the heritage of its National Trust location. I think you’ll agree that she has set the bar of luxury glamping to a new notch.
So there you have it, a few thoughts about the importance of using design and accessories to create something that will set your accommodation above the rest. I hope this has given you a few ideas, and do send photographs of your finished ‘look’, I’d love to see what you created.
Alternatively, get in touch if you’d like me to design something with you, let’s bat some ideas around and create something amazing!
And finally, if you’d like to join myself and Carwyn Jones, winner of Channel 4’s ‘Cabins in the Wild’ competition, we are giving a seminar at the Glamping Show about design on September 23rd – we’d love to see you.
Till next time, Kate
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