Jet Set: Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s latest guide for stylish travel, The Global Shortlist

I was simply thrilled when I was first approached by Mr. and Mrs. Smith about establishing a partnership a little over a month ago. We share a common love of travel and boutique hotels, so I was immediately intrigued. Mr. and Mrs. Smith was named and established long before Brad and Angelina became Brangelina.

The real couple behind the pseudonym is actually comprised of Tamara Heber- Percy and James Lohan, an incredibly well-traveled couple with the vision and gusto to have their first book, Mr. and Mrs. Smith UK/Ireland published after it was rejected several times because several publishing houses simply didn’t understand it. Eventually, the pair persevered, and have published several books, including their most recent, The Global Shortlist, a must-have collection of the most beautiful and unique hotel properties in the world. They have also gone on to establish themselves as authorities in the world of stylish travel. Their website, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, is an invaluable tool for anyone looking to plan a vacation. On the website, one can research a multitude of destinations, read reviews by their review panel (I am hoping to review some hotels!) and card-holding members who receive many perks (such as complimentary tours, discounts on hotel stays, cocktails, and upgrades), and of course, book their stay at hundreds of stylish boutique hotels across the globe.

I recently had a conversation with co-founder, Tamara Heber-Percy, who so graciously agreed to share some of her favorite travel memories and destinations with the readers of La Dolce Vita.

Co-founder Tamara Heber-Percy

LDV: Why did you decide to start Mr. and Mrs. Smith?

THP: As a couple, James and I were always looking for hotels to get away to from the city for a weekend. We found time and time again that the glossy brochures and lovely pictures a lot of hotels put forward were nothing like the real thing when we arrived. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a disastrous weekend we had been looking forward to for a while. When we arrived everything started to go wrong – from the impersonal, indifferent service to the dirty bedroom and chintzy décor – we just couldn’t wait to get out of there. At that point, we realised that to avoid any future hotel calamities we needed a hotel guidebook we could trust. There was nothing out there at the time that offered the kind of recommendation you’d get from a friend – so we decided to write it ourselves.

The Dylan Hotel in Amsterdam is one of several boutique hotels designed by Tamara’s favorite interior designer, Anouska Hempel.

LDV: What makes a hotel worthy of being part of your collection?

THP: We actually wrote a blog post about what makes a boutique hotel that outlines the criteria we apply when visiting places. We don’t operate a star or rating system – I always felt that you want different things at different times. On some occasions, you might go somewhere lavish and luxurious, but if you are looking for a quick weekend getaway you might find a country inn or a stylish farm stay more appealing. We represent all types of hotels, from three-room bed and breakfasts to luxury hotels, vacation rentals and rock-star villas – and the thing all of them have in common is that you feel special the moment you step through the door.

The Duomo, Florence’s Foremost Treasure

LDV: What is your favorite city in the world?

THP: That’s a very tricky question. For the buzz and the action I would choose
New York. For the lifestyle (and my great family support network ) I’d pick London, and for sheer romantic spectacle, it would have to be Florence.

Rough Luxe Hotel in London

LDV: Do you have a favorite hotel?

THP: I’m not sure I’m allowed to, am I? I love them all. Seriously though, I love new things so my current favorite is the small but eccentrically formed Rough Luxe in London. It’s radically designed, visually arresting and totally unique. My favorite city hotel of all time has to be Blakes in London and my favorite holiday hotel is Ca’s Xorc in Mallorca – both of which I got married in (same husband each time, I should add!)

Melbourne, Australia

LDV: What do you predict will be the hot destination of 2009?

THP: Well, Mr & Mrs Smith are heading to Asia Pacific this year – we are opening an office in Melbourne, I think that Australasia and the Far East are going to be big this year.

The Beautiful Amalfi Coast

LDV: Do you have a favorite travel memory?

THP: Eating at La Tagliata, a tiny, family-run restaurant on the hills overlooking Italy’s Amalfi Coast. We stumbled on it looking for somewhere to have lunch – it was buzzing, packed with locals, and served great wine, seemingly endless antipasti and an astonishing quantity of delicious grilled meat. We must have been there for hours.

LDV: What three items can you absolutely not travel without?

THP: A good book, some earplugs, and my husband. But not necessarily in that order.

Romantic Splendor in Paris

LDV: Where are you most looking forward to traveling next?

THP: Apart from Australia, James and I are planning a short trip to Paris in a couple of weeks’ time. There are a few new boutique hotels opening so we’re excited about scouting them out, and we’re also booked into lunch at my favorite restaurant, Le Benoit. Food is definitely the way to my heart!

The Ca’s Xorc in Mallorca, Spain
LDV: Who are your style icons?

THP: I love Anouska Hempel – not just her interior design which can be seen at several hotels in our collection (Blakes, London; The Dylan Hotel, Amsterdam) but also her clothes – at the age of 15 I was given a second hand dress made by Anouska and have loved her ever since!

LDV: What is your idea of living “La Dolce Vita”?

THP: Being able to spend time with friends around a dinner table covered in Italian food and great red wine.

Stay tuned as I have teamed up with Mr. and Mrs. Smith on a trivia contest and giveaway that will begin on the first of March!

6 thoughts on “Jet Set: Mr. and Mrs. Smith

  1. Thanks so much Paloma, some great questions. I love seeing the images – makes me want to go back to all these amazing places.

    I’m really excited about going to Melbourne in April because I’ve never been before. Have you? Any top tips?

  2. You will love Melbourne! I live in Sydney however it is one of my favourite places. (there is a rivalry between the two cities). Melbourne is known for the little lane-ways with hidden treasures; teeny tiny bars, eclectic boutiques with art, jewellery and vintage finds. There is so much to do and see but I love shopping on Chapel Street (mix of high-end designer stores, chain stores etc), the beach at St Kilda is worth a look especially on market day and you must go to Lygon Street for the yummiest Italian food! I could go on…

  3. Hi Paloma,

    I was approached by Mr and Mrs Smith as well. Don’t you just love their company and their entire philosophy? Wonderful interview, by the way!

    All the best to you! And did I already tell you how much I enjoy your blog?

    -Jen of Folie à Deux

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