Contemporary Glamping

Kate Morel guides us through contemporary design in glamping and how to work it in the
wildest of environments

If you are in the accommodation business, even if it’s not glamping, I hope this piece inspires you to take a fresh look at a style that is sometimes overlooked – contemporary design.

This style might be more often associated with executive apartments, city hotels, or ‘Grand Designs’ properties, but it also has a valid and welcome home in the glamping portfolio. While cool and contemporary might not be the quaint or rustic image that we immediately associate with glamping, this doesn’t exclude it from providing a ‘back to nature’ holiday experience, far from it. Let’s not forget ‘futuristic’ either, which takes ‘contemporary’ a step further, exploring visionary possibilities of how dwellings might look in years to come, time-warping us into a realm of futuristic fantasy.

It’s not all about looks; glamping’s core ethos was (and some argue, should still be) to provide a low-impact, sustainable option that brings people into closer contact with the natural environment. Contemporary glamping structures can still deliver this, combining the use of traditional and sustainable materials, with cutting edge technologies and new construction methods.

TreeHotel Mirrorcube, Sweden
TreeHotel Mirrorcube, Sweden
Pic: Detlef Schobert
Bubble Dream from Cabanon
Bubble Dream from Cabanon

Reasons to embrace modernity
Even though there are now more suppliers of contemporary structures, I still feel that they are an under-utilised option in glamping right now and possess untapped potential. These structures and styles create an extraordinary experience for guests, and are an effective way for us to differentiate our business in an increasingly competitive market. Creating a unique, contemporary or futuristic glamping offer is a bold (maybe even brave) move, but it
produces a particularly strong, unique selling point.

Perhaps due to their rarity, and the guest profile they attract, contemporary designs can command higher rental fees and enjoy better occupancy rates, although obviously my usual caveat around ‘variables’ applies. Also, because of their neutral style they don’t become unfashionable or dated, all that might be required to maintain occupancy rates
and fees is a periodic interior refurbishment or the addition of a new activity.

Leading edge structures
The ‘tiny home’, ancillary domestic accommodation, and glamping movements have created new markets worldwide for small scale, contemporary structures. In response, build companies have stepped up to the mark by creating innovative new designs, so while geodesic domes are possibly the best known modern design, there are plenty more to choose from.

A lot of suppliers can also create something especially for you, and contemporary glamping really comes into its own when we go bespoke. Structures such as the ‘Treehotel Mirrorcube’ in Sweden admirably reflect what can be achieved when imagination and budget are no object. Another structure that blew me away was Blue Forest’s ‘Quiet
Treehouse’. It is totally inspired, adding function to the form to set itself apart.

The Firmashell from Tree Tents International
The Firmashell from Tree Tents International

Inspirational Structures
For a taste of what’s happening around the world, check out the following designer/builders:

  • Echo Living, UK, in its definitive style, is creating modular, modern cabins, and are also happy to work to commission.
  • Tree Tents International, UK, is adding to its innovative structures with units based on aeroplane shapes, such as the new ‘Tree Wing’ and ‘Fuselage’.
  • Autonomous Tents, USA; its armadillo style tent amazes me every time I look at it.
  • Cabanon, France, produces great tents, but for this piece I wanted to mention their futuristic and fun, ‘Bubble Dream’ structure.
  • Archiworkshops Korea, who are creating cool, space-age structures for their growing glamping market.

In Stark Contrast
With their clean lines and unfussy interiors, contemporary structures are in stark contrast to most traditional glamping styles, and can be an exciting accommodation option. I say ‘exciting’ with genuine enthusiasm, because the setting of a super-modern structure within an untamed landscape is simply too delicious for words. Take, for example, this year’s ‘Epic Retreats’ initiative which placed eight bespoke contemporary cabins within the rustic
Welsh countryside.

One photograph that epitomised this wonderful juxtaposition for me, was the shot of Carwyn Jones’ ‘Dragon’s Eye’ – its illuminated interior shining out from a darkened, dramatic Snowdonia landscape. Where else could we experience such an incredibly designed space, and comfort, within such a wild, rugged location?

The Firmashell from Tree Tents International
The Firmashell from Tree Tents International

Cool and contemporary interiors
If going the whole hog with a super-modern or bespoke structure feels too bold a step, or the budget doesn’t allow, some traditional glamping structures might stand a modern twist. British-made yurts such as those by Sacha at ‘Yurts For Life’, provide the perfect blank canvas (pun intended), lending themselves nicely to any modern interior style.

Alternatively, a smart combination of ‘old and new’ could provide your structure with a unique character, although this isn’t the easiest style to get right and requires a good eye. For affordable contemporary furnishings check out online stores such as Dwell and FurnitureMind; a slightly larger budget is required for GoModern. A few well chosen pieces from Mr Cool & Contemp, Tom Dixon, will always add style.

We could dilute the look further, if needs be, because ‘contemporary’ doesn’t have to be blatant. Creative lighting accessories can sometimes be enough, check out Original BTC, and individual pieces such as the Luce Plan Curl Lamp by Material-Life.co.uk. Or we could add a little fun with things like the illuminated cube at One Foot Taller. Integral mood lighting is an intrinsic aspect of contemporary interiors, seek out an electrical installation company that can play with lighting. Hidden light sources and other illuminative sorcery create atmospheric effects that photograph well and look impressive, both online and in use.

The Tree Wing from Tree Tents International
The Tree Wing from Tree Tents International

Business boundaries
It’s always great to see designers and manufacturers pushing boundaries when it comes to structure design. As a prospective glamping owner, however, when creating a particularly unusual accommodation, a crucial decision is how far we can push those boundaries while still creating commercially successful businesses. When it comes to
‘contemporary’, the answer seems to be quite a way.

There are several variables that can influence success, and media exposure is no small contributor when it comes to innovative contemporary glamping. In the absence of TV show coverage and/or marketing via a well-connected agency, most glamping sites remain at the mercy of their chosen USP or own marketing efforts. It’s important, therefore, to evaluate if ‘contemporary’ suits the site, destination and guest profile. Having said that, this
design concept seems to be something that guests will travel for if it really appeals to them.

Examples

  • The Garden Rooms, Shropshire
    The Garden Rooms, Shropshire

    The Garden Rooms is a development attached to the Baron at Bucknell, a public house and restaurant in South Shropshire. I first visited Debra and Phil two years ago. A paddock sitting mostly unused behind the pub’s patio garden had great views toward the Shropshire Hills but was otherwise, as I call them, ‘a blank green canvas’. It needed a strong USP. The resulting development – three smart modern garden rooms and a natural swimming pool – opened this year, enjoying great occupancy rates for a first season.

  • On The Rock is a futuristic glamping development in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, which includes structures designed by Achiworkshops. It’s an innovative resort development with attention to every detail, even the outdoor dining shelters are specially designed to co-ordinate with the accommodations.
  • Ecopod, Argyll
    Ecopod, Argyll

    Ecopod is a boutique, thoroughly modern retreat on the stunning coast of West Scotland with gorgeous cutting-edge facilities and furnishings. I love the way they have echoed the shape of the geodesic domes inside by using a curvy partition to section off the bedroom, and circular shower room. Definitely on my ‘hit list’.

  • Buubble is a particularly inspiring glamping offer and not just because it’s a contemporary bubble dome, but because of how the structure works so beautifully with the location. It’s in Iceland which, as you probably know, is the destination for Aurora Borealis watching. I can but imagine what it must feel like to stay in this
    when the night sky is in full flow overhead.
  • Brocklock Treehouse is a curiously shaped cabin on stilts, which echoes the shape of a caravan for which the site had permissions. It’s a popular destination as can be seen from the full calendar. Also located in Scotland, on an eco-site near Kirkpatrick, this is an Echo Living UK commission, and beautiful on the inside as
    well as out.

Overall, contemporary glamping has a lot to offer, to guests, the industry, and business owners alike. It provides a unique way for guests to experience ‘the great outdoors’, and who knows, might even encourage those who would never consider such a holiday to give it a try. It creates new, unique and exciting structures, pushing the boundaries of innovation. And last, but not least, it provides interesting, satisfying and profitable businesses for those who have the location, space and initiative to create such developments.

Till next time, Kate.


Kate MorelABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Morel provides a completely independent advice and design service to individuals, estates and companies looking to create a successful glamping business. She is well qualified and connected to provide advice on every aspect of creating, operating, marketing and upgrading glamping accommodations or developments. www.katemorel.com / info@katemorel.com 

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