Standing out with furniture in your B&B
Bill Lumley talks to One World managing director Jason Bensohn about assembling a high-end look and feel when furnishing a luxury B&B
If you have attended major hospitality exhibitions in London recently you may be familiar with exhibitor One World, which provides the kind of out-of-the-ordinary furniture as the illustrations you see on these pages – beautifully crafted and curated ranges of furniture.
One World sells higher-end pieces, but also the kind of pieces that are unusual, if not quirky. It does not compete on the same level as providers of standard pieces of hospitality furniture, for example: it is more about the prints for the walls, or some of the chairs or table lamps. “When we have been involved in supplying luxury B&Bs or boutique hotels, we often find that those kinds of customers come to us because they are looking for something different. They want to put their own stamp on the space they are designing, and they feel One World can help them achieve this,” says managing director Jason Bensohn.
The company’s evolution has been fairly organic, he says. “One World has been going for 20 or so years, but in that time we have largely sold to retailers – independent stores or large department stores. Those are looking to sell the product on – rather than the end user,” says Bensohn.
“We have been working with interior designers for years – but more recently we have found they are coming to us as a one-stop-shop, when they are working on a project; whether that be a B&B, a hotel or a residential property. It no doubt has a lot to do with how our offering has changed over the years. These days we are arguably less about individual items that are commercially a great buy, and more about achieving an overall look and aesthetic.”
He says it is hard to determine quite when the company developed its focus on upmarket hospitality businesses such as luxury B&Bs.
“It has been an ongoing process. We first exhibited at the Paris trade fair Maison et Objet four years ago and met a whole bunch of boutique hotel owners and luxury B&B owners from all over the world at the show. Off the back of that show we did a number projects for small hospitality businesses. We have more recently exhibited at the Independent Hotel Show, which has been a great place to meet more of these types of customers closer to home”.
He says he finds it rewarding to work with B&Bs and other hospitality operations. “We’re lucky that we have a diverse range of customers from independent stores to interior designers, but if we had to choose a favourite type of customer, then definitely the projects where we can work closely with an interior designer on the end product are the most rewarding and tangible for us.”
If you are a guest in a luxury B&B you will want to feel you are staying in something that is a bit special, a bit different, and that is the look that One World achieves, he says.
“That’s the attraction of it – that you are not staying in a homogeonised hotel environment. That is what One World sets out to fulfill. B&B owners can pick and choose the products and at the same time put their own stamp on the venue – an industrial look, for example, or something contemporary, or something more traditional, for example. There is something for everyone.
We carry a lot of products and change the products all the time, and we have a lot of interior designers that come to visit the showrooms regularly, perhaps once a month, and there is always something new for them to see or a one-off piece that may spark some interest that keeps our offer fresh.”
He says it is hard to get an accurate number of luxury B&Bs in the UK that display One World’s products because interior designers do not always disclose where they will be presented, but many of them will be B&Bs, he says. “And increasingly we have done projects with boutique hotels,” he adds.
One World’s two fastest-growing categories are wall prints, he says. “This category seems to just grow and grow. They are a good example of the kind of item that works well for a B&B. We recently had a customer designing a 12-bedroom B&B who bought four different style prints to share across the rooms. That’s a quick and easy way to put a stamp on a guest bedroom.”
The other growing category is storage, he says. “We are doing a lot more hooks and individual shelving units. For whatever reason this category is just getting bigger, and I think B&Bs are finding them to be quite useful solutions where they need additional space on the walls, in the bathroom or wherever it might be.”
Lighting meanwhile has traditionally been the company’s strongest category, closely followed by mirrors.
So how would B&B owners sprucing up their property look to in the first place in order to go about creating that enticing and unique look and feel they wish to present? Bensohn says: “We would firstly suggest they come to our showroom in Chessington. Some customers are quite clear in their minds about what they are looking for. Others will share floorplans, pictures of the property and even images of what they are looking to achieve from tools like Pinterest. Our showroom presents all the different looks in one place, so is a great environment to work in.”
It can sometimes be quite tricky for B&B owners to choose the items they like, he says. “But ours is a working showroom and what we have done in the past is measure out a part of the showroom to the scale of one of the rooms in the property they are working on – and then start playing around with bedside tables, lamps, perhaps a chair for the corner of the room etc.
“We are careful to retain a brand identity and our look – but within that scope we carry a lot of products and a variety of ranges. Whether you are looking to achieve a relatively clean aesthetic or are looking for something a bit more traditional or possibly more industrial, we cater for various styles.
“We are a small company, but we are eager to help and work closely with our customers. We have found working with B&Bs to be some of the most fulfilling and interesting projects to do. It’s always good fun to be involved with these kinds of projects and we can be as involved or uninvolved as the customer wishes,” he concludes.