As people with impeccable taste (for hotels especially, but not exclusively), we at Smith are often on the lookout for fellow style insiders to impart their top tips. Over at Hot Brands, Cool Places, Kaye Thorne is doing just that – hand-picking brands and places she loves then spreading the word…
When did you start your hunt for hot brands and cool places? What made you do it?
I’ve always been fascinated by brands, and I love magazines. The opportunity to combine both and the freedom to create something new was very seductive. My daughter (and co-founder) Louise and I have a very wide range of passions and this was a way of gathering them all up in one place. Luckily, other people seem to like it too. Setting up Hot Brands, Cool Places also coincided with the growth of many new and exciting small businesses, and we are proud to have been able to showcase many of them.
What were you up to before your tastemaking days?
I was running a consultancy, working with large organisations, helping them develop their employer brand. Louise was running her own creative media business and other online companies – this venture has meant we can combine our expertise. We love how you never know who’ll contact you next, or what new brand will be launched.
What are the advantages of an online magazine?
Online content is very accessible, and there’s the immediacy: we’re able to update the site daily, we can promote events the week that they are happening or we can publish a review in the week of publication. With so much choice on the web, the feedback we often receive is that people love the fact that our site is edited. We help people by presenting in one place content that we think they will find interesting and will meet their needs – very similar to Mr & Mrs Smith!
We’re always on the look out for the best places near our hotels to grab a quick lunch, settle in for some cocktails or several courses of fine dining – have you got any hot tips on any cool places you’ve discovered?
Living and working on the south coast, we are very fortunate to have some stunning beachside locations. Some very talented chefs have started their careers down here. One of our favourites is Branksome Beach seafood restaurant – it’s open all year, and whether you go on a blustery day in the winter or a balmy summer evening, it’s a fabulous venue, literally beside the beach. In London, one of our favourites is the Wolseley. However busy they are, they usually manage to find us a table and you always feel special. We feature any new places we discover in our weekly newsletter.
Can you give us any tip-offs on cultural cool you’ve heard about on your travels?
The V&A is so inspiring, and I love the Tate St Ives in Cornwall, which has stunning views out onto the surfing beach at Porthmeor. There’s also the Eden Project and the open-air Minack Theatre. There’s probably a theme here of buildings beside water… other favourites are the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the Sydney Opera House.
Many of our hotels make great wedding venues. Are there any places or services you’ve come across that would guarantee stress-free ceremony-planning?
When my daughter got married they searched everywhere for a venue, until they discovered Boconnoc, an absolutely stunning house near Lostwithiel in Cornwall, with a lovely church in its own grounds. Choosing somewhere that has history attached can make the day even more special. Both English Heritage and the National Trust have a range of wonderful buildings that can be hired. We do a front page every year called This Month We Love Weddings. Our next one is in June. It’s one of the most popular entries on the site, and Mr & Mrs Smith honeymoon venues are always an important part of that.
We love a hotel that’s eco-conscious. Are any of your hot brands or cool places setting themselves apart with their eco credentials?
We’re also hearing great things about The Scarlet in Cornwall. As well as being eco-friendly, it has two log-fired hot tubs/seaweed baths on the edge of the cliff looking out to sea. We feature Organic Places to Stay as one of our collections.
How do you spend your downtime? Are there any hot events you think we should know about?
Like many people who run their own businesses, work and leisure often blend together. I really enjoy researching trends, new companies, and reading books and magazines for our reviews. We are also quite creative and love making things, from puppets to cakes. We also love interior design; our dream project would be for someone to let us loose on a house they want to revamp. Every week we receive suggestions for either weekend events, such as the Affordable Art Fairs or holiday ideas.
We all need a relaxing retreat from time to time– have you encountered any incredible spas or treatments you can report back about?
We have some wonderful brands such as Champneys, Unlisted London and TenPilates. Rhodes to Heaven, Oskia and Nougat are some of our beauty favourites, as well as Gielly Green, the boutique hairdresser. We run a beauty products round-up every quarter, which means we get to sample fabulous products such as Elemis and Clinique, as well as new brands.
Now, we do profess to be experts on this subject ourselves, but are there any cool places to stay that we’ve missed?
For us it’s not so much where as how. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some of the loveliest hotels around the world, but whether it’s a five-star stay or a local restaurant, it’s the way you are welcomed, the ambience, that ‘aah’ moment when you take that first taste of food, or sink into a bed, pool, or spa that really makes a place special. The places that take time to understand who their guests really are, and tuning into their needs makes a place cool to us. Restaurant Terrazza Danieli, on the top floor of the Danieli Excelsior Palace in Venice, has magnificent views of the lagoon, the island of San Giorgio, and beautiful sunsets over the Grand Canal as it flows into Saint Mark’s Basin. We absolutely adore it.