Designer Zoe Hewett explains why interior design should be a priority for glampsites.
Interior design for outdoorsy glamping pods might seem a bit of an extravagance. Isn’t it all just chintzy floral patterns and cushions everywhere? Well, interior design can look like any of myriad different styles but as one of your first opportunities to impress and entice guests it has to represent you and your brand in the best possible light.
With online directory and booking agency sites being the main source of traffic for hosts, having fabulous marketing photographs of your interiors is paramount to success. Promotional interior photos are your shop window on the web. Standing out and getting noticed is more important than ever and as the number of new sites opening grows this can become more difficult without investing in the interiors.
There’s no requirement to simply choose lots of bold, bright, and visually loud furnishings in order to attract attention though. Your interior design also needs to be authentic to you, your brand, and the site. People are done with identikit hotels that all look the same which is precisely why they are looking at you.
Perhaps you simply want an interior scheme that is well presented, practical and easy to clean that will appeal to city dwellers who don’t want anything extreme to stay in, just a nice and tidy outdoorsy retreat for the weekend. That is absolutely fine, but it is worth noting there is so much opportunity in creating a really rich interior design scheme based on a sense of story – the story of the structure, the site, the people who once owned the land and so on. People just love visiting spots with a sense of history, an interesting name or tale associated with it. Talking points.
Old farms and estates often have a wealth of visual story-telling potential in the form of unusual and highly patinated artefacts lying around in the barns. Maybe it isn’t so much the location that is of interest but the structure itself, for example a 1930s train carriage – it would be almost criminal not to stick to the era with decorating somewhere as special as that. Places like this have the hugest potential for looking eye-catching in those essential publicity photographs that will have browsers stopping mid-scroll.
Another benefit of really going for it with interior design, particularly if you have multiple structures to stay in, is that it keeps guests coming back. Tried the green bell tent already? Why not come back and experience the blue hut this time? If you had 10 identical off-the-shelf bell tents there would be little gain from decking them all out in the same way. There is great scope for creating excitement with 10 different ideas to create a buzz among the guests.
Kitting out numerous glamping pods can get expensive quickly but if you set a budget and stick to it by using design thinking to make solid, confident choices and by planning everything carefully before starting you can save money in the longer term by getting the design right first time.
Giving the interior design of your pod a professional touch can also help raise your prices and of course therefore profit margins. Whether there is a focus on high end luxury or that extra sense of the unique or special (or perhaps a combination of both), either scenario can enable the testing of a higher price for a night’s stay.
Dome Makeover at Tractors and Cream
One site that sought professional design input to give their glamping pods the edge is Tractors and Cream in Somerset.
Proprietors and YouTube stars Vicki and Bryan were seasoned glampsite owners having already run two yurts and a geodome for a few years, but when it came to investing in a new, larger geodome, Claas Dome, the stakes felt a little higher. Wanting to create a unique space that looked and felt a little more luxurious than the others, they set about choosing the colours of the curtains and insulation, and found it difficult to settle on the right combination. Asking their Instagram following to help generated lots of comments which is fantastic social media interaction but ultimately did not elicit the concrete answers they were looking for. These choices can’t be made by committee. Sometimes it is better to show leadership too. The pressure of investing considerable money in a new structure can make it hard to be decisive, for fear of getting it wrong.
Having already taken part in the BBC TV show My Unique B&B, offering up their first, smaller dome for a makeover treatment they had already seen that other creative minds would be able to generate ideas they most probably wouldn’t have. Vicki knew she wanted the new Class Dome to feel more elegant than the others, and less rustic. Having settled on a neutral wall insulation colour and navy blue curtains she felt intimated by the rest being so plain and the challenge of transforming it into something ‘more’. So, we decided to work together.
Since lockdown rules were still in force at the time we used online questionnaires and email to capture all the information about the new dome, its location and the brief. My job was to research design possibilities, compose a scheme, source and specify the items required to make it and of course to convey the ideas in my imagination to Vicky and Bryan through the medium of moodboards, fabric and paper samples, design sketches, and a handy spreadsheet with all the pricing and supplier information. All sent by email.
Thinking about the blue curtains that had already been chosen and the layout which included a small bathroom behind the obvious position for the main bed, the decision was made to create a feature of the flat wall as a headboard.
In a geodome, the sloping walls are not conducive to being easily decorated, so an attractive wallpaper was found with the intention of it being the main interior focal point, perfect opposite the window to the lovely country view outside. With a blue colourway to compliment the curtains and a whimsical tree motif with gold stars, it spoke to the outdoors surrounding the dome and also a touch of magic that would appeal to any children excited to be spending their summer holiday there. Partnered with uplifting yellow and easy going grey, the blue based scheme made for a balanced colour palette that is alluring and interesting but not overbearing.
Vicki and Bryan followed the design plan to the letter and worked very hard to get it all done in time for the new season opening. Happily they, and their guests, are pleased with the results.
“Having an interior designer massively reduced the stress when it came to building our new dome,” said Vicki. “I wanted the space to be completely unique but a dome is a such a blank canvas that the choices for colour combinations can be overwhelming. Zoe took the stress out of that completely and came up with a design that we and our guests absolutely love. It has definitely enabled us to increase our nightly rate as the dome has been so popular and a lot of that has been down to having a well thought out design”.
Being such avid YouTubers, Vicki and Bryan have put together a video of the whole process from start to finish so you can see how getting interior design input can help with your transformations.
Many designers will offer a range of services to cater to different budgets and different appetites for DIY. If you are too busy to take on a refurb or a new interior install you can likely outsource the entire project. If you don’t mind getting stuck in yourself then you might benefit from consultation instead which would furnish you with the ideas and information you would need to go forth and finish your interiors with confidence.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zoe Hewett is an interior designer, founder of boutique studio Stylemongers Of Bristol, and can be seen on the BBC TV show My Unique B&B designing unusual rural retreats. Zoe also offers design resources to help glampsite owners to create their own unique spaces. www.stylemongersofbristol.co.uk