Finding The Heart In A New Kind Of Holiday Home Rental


The pandemic irrefutably changed the travel industry in many ways, but one outcome was the rise in travellers discovering the natural beauty on our own doorstep. With this rise in UK staycations, the past three years have also seen a boom in the home rental market, with holidaymakers wanting the flexibility and privacy of a home-from-home, rather than a hotel stay.

One new company tapping into the demand is Quince, which offers a specialist collection of British holiday homes available to rent in Kent, Hampshire and Oxfordshire. The collection of properties, dotted across the south-east of England, might have a quirky, individual design ethos, reflecting their differing locations, but all have been restored to the same high standards by founder Sarah Wood before they are put on the holiday-home rental market.

From luxury barns in a nature reserve, just moments away from The Cotswolds, to a World War II coding hut, in the prestigious Beaulieu Estate in the New Forest, Quince places a high priority on showcasing off-the-radar British locations.

The brand also celebrates local gardeners and craftsmen rooted in each region, with each home offering a chic aesthetic, crafted by local artisans, resulting in a boutique-style interior design. The Lock Keeper’s Snipe, for instance, is found in the Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve, west of Oxford. Its courtyard garden was designed by local horticulturists to ooze a wild botanical aesthetic, with tall grasses, fragrant herbs and delicate flowers weaving in the breeze. Inside the converted barn, eeach of the six bedrooms have their own look and feel, with antiques and vintage furniture mixed in with sumptuous velvet throws, fine linens and luxury bathrooms.

Quince’s founder, Sarah Wood, also launched Mulberry Cottages, a highly successful holiday lettings business, and has 25 years’ experience in the sector. Here, exclusively for Forbes, she reveals more about how Quince is shaking up the home-rental market.

What is the USP of Quince? How do you stand apart from others?

At Quince our USP is definitely how identifiable we are. We’ve worked hard to curate the best quality products we can find throughout each property. Quality is our identity, and found within each property we have the same beds, outside baths, top-quality kitchen appliances and luxury bed linens, and yet each has their own unique personality and character. The connection between each property is that they’re all typically British.

We also stand apart from our competitors by being exactly as we describe, so often people market themselves as ‘luxury’ and ‘high quality’ and it’s just not , it’s a total lottery. Quince gives guests confidence in what they have booked, it’s so lovely to see guests arrive and their spirits seem to just lift. It’s how it should be – guests can just relax and lean into their holiday.

The home rental market has boomed over the past couple of years in the UK, why is that?

I think ever since the Olympics in 2012, the UK has became ‘cool’ again and even people who live here realise just how beautiful England can be. Staycations for the domestic market have become the norm. I also think people are generally travelling in larger groups now. There are so many holidays where you are dictated to about where you are eating and when. A holiday home works well for groups because it gives guests their freedom back.

I also think that the holiday home market has grown because guests want to explore new parts of the UK, but they don’t want to have to compromise on quality in order to do that. In more rural locations, for instance, there are not enough hotels or bed and breakfasts that have the quality and luxury as urban destinations offer. Guests want the feeling of a hotel – the luxury bedding, the oversized robe – but in a more rural setting, and that’s what a holiday home should provide.

How have you been able to use your past career in setting up Quince?

I’ve always been interested in interior design and homewares. Throughout my career, my main background has been in property, with a chance opportunity leading to me specialising in holiday lettings. I have seen and developed many beautiful places and this has definitely helped hone my style. But it’s also about grasping a complete understanding about what guests want and what we can do to make their stay special. My husband has a background in five-star hotels, so I have experienced the best the world has to offer first-hand – and, of course, this has inspired me with Quince.

What is your favourite home in the portfolio and why?

It’s like choosing your favourite child! My favourite property changes depending on where I spent the most time that week. Usually it tends to be whichever property I am developing at that time. As our houses are so individual, you start to dissect them and fall in love with different sections of each – whether it’s the quirky 1970s vases that inspired our development of Roebuck’s Rose, in The Cotswolds, to the wind-up gramophone in our current development of The Coding Hut, in the New Forest.

Saying that, my current favourite has to be our latest addition, Penty on the Hoo. We have added framed, vintage bathing costumes – with their ruched backs (no elastic available then) and their cute feminine designs, they epitomise a bygone era.

Do you have any new properties opening next year – can you tell us about them?

Yes, we have two new houses coming to the portfolio. We have been working on Penty on the Hoo, that I mentioned earlier, since early last year. It is based in the charming seaside town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk. The area is renowned for its big skies, delicious fish and chips and, of course, the opera house. The house is currently being transformed into a mid-century seaside house, and is filled with plenty of vintage finds, mixed with our Quince signature touches throughout.

We also brand each house with their own unique illustrations and colours, which just gives a house it’s own identity. We are also in the process of acquiring another property, but that’s slightly under-wraps… all will be revealed soon!

How do you set about choosing a destination for Quince and why is this important?

We always want to make sure that we offer guests prime locations and a choice of what to do when they are there. For example, our property The Coding Hut is in the New Forest National Park, but also has a private beach a five-minute walk away.

Each location is the ‘best of the best’ – so, our Cotswolds’ properties are within a nature reserve and our new seaside house is in the standout coastal location of Aldeburgh. A destination has to align with our brand and be sure to offer guests a fully rounded experience.

Tell us about the design ethos?

Like most creatives, I take inspiration from everywhere. The design starts with something that inspires me. This might be the location of a property or the history of the house. Take our house in Deal – The Boatman’s Reading Rooms – for example. It was built by a Victorian philanthropist who created a sanctuary for fishermen that doubled as a library. Additionally, our cottage in the New Forest, The Coding Hut, was where SOE operatives were trained in WW2.

Sometimes it’s just a piece I find that becomes the starting point – much like the vintage bathing costumes. Something small can inspire the look and feel of each property’s interiors. A lot of thought goes into the aesthetic and the ambiance, as Quince aims to be uplifting with a sense of fun, but also it has to be comfortable. Each place is totally unique, with each design built from scratch. Our houses offer a quirky sense of fun but they’re also cosy, special places to relax.

Is working with the local community important and how do you do that?

It is entirely essential for us. We always use local contractors, explore the local homewares’ stores and buy locally to add customisation into our welcome hampers. We always do our best to support the community we live in when it comes to our furniture and furnishings, too. We actively encourage our guests to eat locally and recommend local places to go and visit while they are with us. It is so important to slide into a community rather than try to make the community adapt to us – at the end of the day, we love where they live, and that’s why we are there.

What areas of the UK are ‘hidden’ gems in your opinion?

I’ve got a wish-list as long as your arm! There are so many treasures throughout the country that I can’t wait to explore. Beyond where we already have properties, I think I would love to venture into north Somerset. I have also thought about The Donheads, which is just west of Salisbury in Wiltshire. There are also places closer to where I live, such as Kingley Vale in Sussex and Kingsdown in Kent. They’re all so beautiful, I don’t know where we’ll go next.

What can guests expect from a Quince stay?

Supreme comfort – we really research and look into each and every product to make each guest feel as though they will be getting the best night’s sleep with top-end bedding and linen. I am also incredibly proud of our customer service. Each member of our team is so passionate about our brand. It means so much to us that guests have the best experience. We never outsource our management and you will always get to speak to one of the Quince Team. We never really take ourselves too seriously, either, so there’s always space to bring a bit of fun and lightness. Colour – we are all about bright colours and art, and the feelings that come with that. A Quince stay will definitely put a smile on your face.

byquince.co.uk



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