Monday, February 2

Mr & Mrs Smith Revealed : James Lohan and Tamara Heber Percy

In 2001, the now husband-and-wife team, James Lohan and Tamara Heber Percy booked a romantic weekend away in the Lake District of England. Unfortunately, the experience turned out to be anything but romantic. Upon arrival the nameless hotel looked nothing like the photos from the guidebook. The mattress was sagging, the hotel refused to open the kitchen when the couple turned up late and the rooms were quite dismal.

After a heated debated over who had booked the hotel in the first place, James and Tamara resolved to put an end to their anguish. The duo decided to come up with their own hotel guidebook. A book for discriminating couples who want to sneak away for the weekend. “We were tired of people’s expectations not being met in British hotels and being met by a grey-faced hotel manager with no shirt or tie,” James remembers.

The hotel guide was turned down by every publisher in the business. Refusing to be thwarted, the pair decided to publish the book themselves. Tamara and James raised £180,000 from family and friends to get a run of 5,000 books printed and in the shops. Finally one distributor decided to take a chance on Mr & Mrs Smith. “He liked us,” says Tamara. “He thought we were ballsy.”

The couple traveled around Ireland and Britain by car for six weeks, researching over 150 hotels, choosing 41 for the guide. The Mr & Mrs Smith: Hotel Collection UK and Ireland hit the shelves in October 2003 and by Christmas Eve 2003, it had sold 20,000 copies.

Mr & Mrs Smith is now set to move into the American market. As most Brits know, a "Mr & Mrs Smith weekend" is about romance and the allure of sexiness and mischief. Hence the name.

In a recent issue of the Daily Telegraph, Tamara and James noted, "In the US Mr & Mrs Smith has different connotations - it means an average suburban couple. We won't be changing the brand name, we are hoping they will like the quintessentially British idea of a dirty weekend. After all, why do people go away for the weekend? It's not to knit and write letters."

What is your favorite luxury in life?

James - Ren shower gel.

Tamara - A full-body massage by someone who really knows what they are doing, followed by at least 30 minutes where I don't have to rush off.

What is your most prized possession

James - My Bulgari watch.

Tamara - My wedding and engagement rings - I recently thought I’d lost them and it made me so sad!

What is your greatest accomplishment?

James - Cycling from London to Paris for charity, last year.

Tamara - Learning to fly a plane.

Ca’s Xorc Balearic Islands, Spain

What items are a must for air travel

James - Laptop, iPod and a cashmere jumper.

Tamara - If I’m flying overnight I can't go without my cashmere wrap, earplugs, eye cream and a good book.

What is the one thing in life you can’t live without?

James - My wife Tamara, then my BlackBerry.

Tamara - My husband (I read his answers and wouldn't dare to put anything different!)

What has been your favorite travel discovery?

James - Ca’s Xorc – a hotel we stumbled across on our travels in Mallorca and immediately decided to get married there.

Tamara - La Tagliata, a tiny, family-run restaurant up in the hills above Positano on the Amalfi Coast, which we happened upon looking for somewhere for lunch.

It’s small, intimate and buzzing with locals packed into every corner. The food was quite simply, amazing. The choice of wine was either Red or White. The antipasti just kept on arriving, the main courses - meat, meat and more meat. We must have sat there for hours and left in a haze of wine and food.

A view from La Tagliata in the hills above Positano on the Amalfi Coast

What is your idea of earthly happiness

James - Taking a boat trip down the Thames on a warm summer evening and mooring up at a fabulous pub for a pint or two.

Tamara - A balmy early evening, looking out at an amazing view from a hotel room, with a glass of rosé wine.

Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day

James - Apart from the inspiring Mr Obama (as I’m guessing I’d be in quite a queue), let’s go for a Boys Day Out with World Champion F1 driver, Lewis Hamilton. In a dream world, he’d teach me to drive a Formula 1 car during the morning, we’d then jet off to Monaco for lunch, followed by an evening with the Pussy Cat Dolls. 

Tamara - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We'd take a short plane ride along the north coast of Colombia where he would point out where he spent his childhood. Then we’d land in Cartagena and have lunch in the old town whilst discussing his One hundred years of Solitude.

To which fault do you feel most indulgent? 

James - Dark Chocolate is my secret vice.

Tamara - My impatience - I like to get things done, and it helps!


Karena said...

Ronda, Thank you for sharing another great interview!

Tamstyles said...

These are the winners, yes?

ALL THE BEST said...

Hi Tamstyle! No, they are the founders of Mr & Mrs Smith. See the first winner in the post below!

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the US version!

Anne said...

These are great! I just love their answers!

jen laceda said...

They have "arrived"! I love the tenacity of this couple!

jen laceda said...

They have "arrived". I love this couple!

-Jen from Folie a Deux

Visual Vamp said...

What an adorable couple, and a great service business.
xo xo

Laura said...

I love their story. Yet again big media (in this case publishing) doesn't seem to get glad to hear how well they've done!

ALL THE BEST said...

Laura I so agree!!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such an interesting interview. I look for more specialized guidebooks such as these whenever I'm planning a trip. I'm happy for their success. Perhaps publishing companies should be run by more creative people?

Jay said...

I love Smith Hotels! Great interview!