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Besides improving the overall appearance of your furniture, cleaning helps provide you with several health benefits. We spend so much time at our house, using our upholstery. If you continue to use dirty mattresses, sofas, and carpets, you will get exposed to many respiratory problems. Cleaning upholstery can provide your home with a safe environment for everyone. That’s because it makes your home’s air cleaner and reduces allergies for all those living inside.

The soft surfaces in your house act like giant filters that trap many dust particles and bacteria. Vacuuming alone cannot eliminate the accumulated contamination. Such airborne particles have a direct link with sinus, nose, and breathing issues. That can cause other health problems as well, especially in children that are suffering from asthma. You need to clean your house regularly to avoid such issues.

Upholstered furniture is prone to absorbing grime, dust, pet dander, harmful pollutants, and dirt. When you get the upholstery cleaned, it contributes to a healthier environment for your business or home. You might get tempted to clean your upholstery on your own but, it’s likely you might not have the experience and tools to do the job effectively. Thus, you can consider hiring a professional cleaning service as well.

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of clean upholstery:

  • It helps to remove bacteria:

You might think that you cleaned the spill on your furniture well enough, but you are not right. You might have successfully removed the stain, but it can still be present in the form of bacteria. That bacteria gets deep inside the fibers of the furniture’s fabric, and it is likely to affect those family members who suffer from allergies or lung problems.

It’s possible that without you even getting a hint about it, your home could be making you and your family sick. With regular upholstery cleaning, your furniture will stay hygienic and will retain its appearance.

  • It helps to reduce allergies:

The furniture is likely to absorb everything in the environment surrounding it. Thus, the upholstery can get filled with allergens, and they can make you suck. The mold, pet hair, and dust could seep inside the fabric and can trigger your allergies. That would make it difficult for you to breathe inside your own house.

When you get your upholstery cleaned regularly, you can get rid of the allergens and allow your furniture to breathe without dulling or damaging the fabric. That way, you can ease allergy symptoms of those suffering from it, and you can make all your family members healthier.

  • Cleaning helps to eliminate odor and improve air quality:

Unclean furniture is likely to hold odors in. That can make the smell of your house unbearable. When you invest in regular cleaning of upholstery, you can eliminate the foul smells from pet dander, smoke, food stains, or mold. That way, you can improve the air quality of your house. It gives you access to breathe easily without any unpleasant smells turning you off.

You don’t even realize that your furniture is holding so much dirt, allergens, and dust on its surface. The professional companies follow different ways of cleaning depending on the fabric of sofa and it will do wonders in improving the air quality of your home. You will no longer see any particles flying here and there in the air once someone sits down.

  • It helps to create more sanitary conditions:

Your upholstery is a breeding ground for bacteria and dirt. Your furniture’s fabric harbors them, and it is likely to increase an unsanitary environment for you and your family members. When you get regular upholstery cleaning, that can help remove the food and dirt particles that have stayed inside for so long. That way, your furniture will sparkle, and it will also give you a cleaner home that you can enjoy.

As you can see, there are many benefits of frequently cleaning your upholstery. You can make your home healthier and cleaner for everyone living inside. You can keep the allergies at bay and breathe easily. You will feel relieved to see how fresh your house smells. If you have a busy schedule, you can contact a professional cleaning service to make the job easier for you.

Marrakech is an aesthetic dream but there is so much more to this magical city than meets the eye. We spent an enriching few days exploring every corner of the city, from the mosaic walls of the Bahia Palace to the labyrinthine alleys of the souks; and stayed in one of the city’s best-kept luxury hideaways. If you didn’t know where to look, Le Farnatchi would almost be impossible to find. Hidden in a quiet alleyway and just a short walk away from the medina, Le Farnatchi is a restful haven amidst the joyful chaos of Marrakech.

This stylish Riad has ten generously sized suites designed with a careful balance of European luxury and Moroccan flair. The architecture is breath-taking to say the least, and every room boasts handmade beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, and all the colourful touches that make it feel like a home.
Outside of your suite, the hotel has plenty of beautiful public areas to explore. It has two stunning dining rooms, a beautiful courtyard pool, and a roof garden complete with sun loungers. It is the perfect place to have a drink, watch the sunset, and maybe capture some golden hour magic too.

We recommend booking a treatment at the Farnatchi Spa, which features luxe marble hammam interiors. Here, you can gawk at the mouldings on the incredible vaulted ceilings, or better yet, indulge in a pampering session that will wash your troubles away.

For dinner, we ventured next door to the Le Trou Au Mur Restaurant, which serves up traditional Moroccan cuisine in true contemporary style. Art-deco meets local craftsmanship inside the restaurant, but the piece de resistance has to be the rooftop dining area. Atmospheric and undeniably romantic, there’s no better place in the city for a candlelit dinner than Le Trou au Mur. The restaurant has its own clay ‘mechoi’ or furnace, where our classic ‘Tangia’ was cooked. The Tangia has been described as a quintesential Marrakchia dish. Paired with a nice medium-bodied glass of red wine, and you’d be hard done to find a more delicious meal in this colourful city.

It’s an eventuality that, should you find yourself becoming a regular caller to the country’s capital, running into its nationally-renowned landmarks will quickly become part of the daily routine. The same could be said for when harbouring in the cities selection of hotels; as tourism continues to progress at a steadfast pace, the inevitability of chain hoteliers dominating the sphere comes as no surprise to most of us. Accessible, practical and affordable, these options provide a substantial service for a justifiable price. But should you find yourself searching for something below the surface – something different -London’s lesser-known boutiques come in an abundance; but none quite take the top spot from YTL Hotel’s, The Academy.

Nestled away within the literary heart of Bloomsbury’s backstreets, the boutique could easily be missed amongst its Georgian townhouse neighbours. But, what comes as more of an unexpected surprise, is that this humble little hideaway is home to one of the industry’s most prestigious titles of “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” As a proud – yet quietly gratified – member of the exclusive club, it would seem only logical that the hotel welcomes a customer base of bookish, yet highly stylish, individuals.

Inspired by the areas former residents – think Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes and E.M Forster – it’s a given that the boutique would take the opportunity to honour these scholastic trailblazers. Intertwining their own interior eye with accreditations towards the intellectuals has succeeded in delivering a fresh take on traditional Georgian design.

And with townhouse living proving to be the centre of inspiration for style, all guest rooms are designed to feel like a home away from home. Jewel-toned furnishings and contemporary décor make for the perfect spot to hunker down with a novel, if you’re feeling inspired by the erudite flavours that flow throughout the West End air (not to mention a location which boasts a handful of London’s most academically standing Universities, including RADA and University of London).

Marble adorned bathrooms inject uncompromising luxury into guest rooms, whilst chequerboard coffee tables and clashing colour palettes suggest notes of contemporary Manhattan sophistication. This is a deliberate move – of course – as New-York-based interior designer, Alexandra Champalimaud, took the opportunity to deliver a sprinkle of her hometowns poise to our side of the Atlantic.

Not one to over-compensate, the hotel offers only the necessary (a short but sweet breakfast menu is available, alongside a selection of refreshments and snacks for throughout the day) but refuses to scrimp on quality. With Nespresso machines available in each room, alongside an array of Aromatherapy bathing products to delve into, guests will feel at the height of satiated indulgence.

A far cry from its more central competitors, The Academy proves that tranquillity can be discovered in a city that refuses to sleep; you just have to read between the lines.

It’s no secret #TeamCoco has an ongoing love affair with the beautiful state of California, USA and below is our pick of its most beautiful hotels to help inspire wanderlust ahead of the new year.

Big Sur: Treebones Resort

The ultimate glamping experience, Treebones Resort caters for both the coastal dwellers and those who love the outdoors. Ranging from Yurts to Twig Huts, Treebones creates a magical experience, combining luxury camping amenities with spectacular views of the ocean. The exclusive Twig Hut (pictured) features a private deck where visitors can experience some of the greatest sunsets in California.

SLO CAL: Madonna Inn

Welcoming guests since 1958, the Madonna Inn is one of the most memorable properties in SLO CAL (San Luis Obispo County), recognised for its whimsical décor and hospitable charm. Each of the 110 rooms is individually styled, such as the Pony Room – which features a pint-sized carousel steed – and the Caveman Room – home to waterfalls and rock walls. The hotel’s restaurant, Gold Rush Steakhouse (pictured), is a pink paradise serving delicious steaks and outside, guests can relax in the hilltop pool with a 45-foot waterfall that plunges into a lagoon.

Greater Palm Springs: Sands Hotel and Spa

The Sands Hotel and Spa is an exclusive hotel located in Indian Wells, Greater Palm Springs. Designed in collaboration with renowned designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard – who has styled homes for celebrity royalty, including Sir Elton John and Cher – the property is the first designer boutique hotel in Indian Wells, with 46 individually-styled rooms, as well as a Moroccan spa and outdoor pool. The Pink Cabana restaurant (pictured) took design inspiration from the Palm Springs tennis and racquet clubs of the 1950s and 60s.

Mendocino: Mendocino Grove

Located minutes from the idyllic coastal town of Mendocino, Mendocino Grove is set within 37 acres of beautiful woodland, home to ready-made safari-style accommodation. Camping is made comfy in each of the fully-outfitted tents, which include heated beds, cotton bed sheets and seating, all grouped into six ‘neighbourhoods’. Guests are provided with cooking equipment for intimate evenings around the fire, a bath house with indoor and outdoor showers, in addition to tea and coffee at the Meadow Commons.

Santa Cruz: Hotel Paradox

Home to rugged mountains, majestic redwoods and vibrant communities, Santa Cruz is a destination not to be missed on California’s Central Coast. Located just one mile from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Hotel Paradox welcomes guests through its striking entrance to experience the perfect balance between nature and urban design, intertwined through every aspect of the interiors.

Santa Barbara: Hotel Californian

Santa Barbara’s Hotel Californian features Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and a modern Moorish vibe, creating a design infusion which just begs to be photographed. The 121-room urban seaside property offers a luxurious Turkish-inspired spa, manicured gardens, distinctive dining options and a rooftop deck with a swimming pool and 360-degree views. Hotel Californian is just one of the many reasons why Santa Barbara is a hit with the Instagram elite.

Our top picks for breathtaking views:

San Francisco: Cavallo Point Lodge

Situated at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito, Cavallo Point Lodge offers one of the most scenic vantage points of the iconic bridge and the San Francisco Bay. Whether staying in its Historic lodging in the former US Army post, Fort Baker, or the eco-friendly Contemporary lodging, with floor-to-ceiling windows for the ultimate view, guests are welcomed to enjoy a peaceful escape, all whilst being a short distance from the city. www.visitcalifornia.co.uk

Sacramento: The Citizen Hotel

Overlooking the iconic California State Capitol and the downtown Sacramento skyline, the Citizen Hotel provides its guests with luxurious suites, each with classic styling and striking décor. The suites feature pin-stripe walls and plush furniture, with a different experience provided in every room. The hotel’s restaurant, Grange, has become the staple for farm-to-fork dining in the city, showcasing the seasonal produce of the region.

Dana Point: Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa

Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa in Dana Point, Orange County, has a five-star feel without the price tag. The OverVue Lounge and Deck, is the idea place to sit back, relax and watch the sun rise or set. A menu of delicious tapas and handcrafted cocktails is accompanied with beautiful Pacific Ocean views, and there’s also live music every Friday and Saturday night.

Yosemite Mariposa County: The Ahwahnee

Designated a National Historic Landmark, this 1920s hotel is an architectural masterpiece, providing spectacular views of Yosemite Valley – home to many famous cliffs, waterfalls and the iconic Half Dome. The Ahwahnee – one of the only hotels located in the Valley – is the most elegant lodging in the park and has plenty of creature comforts on offer for an upscale outdoor escape.

Tri-Valley: The Purple Orchid

The Purple Orchid is nestled in the heart of Livermore Valley, one of California’s undiscovered viticultural gems. With sweeping valley views of lush vineyards, the hotel is the perfect place to capture laid-back California on camera. Enjoy private fireplaces, delicious breakfast and one of the many revitalising treatments from its renowned spa.

And for incredible pools, look no further than these beauties:

Newport Beach: Resort at Pelican Hill

The Newport coast is renowned for its natural beauty and contemporary architecture. At the southernmost tip of Newport Beach, visitors will find the luxurious The Resort at Pelican Hilll, a five-star property sure to make any visit to the area a memorable one. The Coliseum Pool – one of the world’s largest circular pools and the beating heart of the hotel – makes for the perfect holiday snap with panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean.

Huntington Beach: Paséa Hotel & Spa

Located just steps from the Huntington Beach Pier, Paséa Hotel & Spa is a modern oasis with an unrivalled sense of clean, coastal style and comfort. Offering laid-back luxury with a deep connection to the Huntington Beach surf culture, Paséa Hotel & Spa comprises 250 spacious guestrooms, rooftop bar and spa. The aqua blue pool is a highlight of the hotel, boasting unparalleled views of the ocean.

West Hollywood: Mondrian Los Angeles

The Mondrian in West Hollywood encapsulates everything the legendary Sunset Strip stands for – excitement, invincibility and glamour. Located on its rooftop, Skybar is an open-air, ivy-covered pavilion surrounding the rooftop pool, with wide open windows offering incredible views of downtown LA. A high-energy poolside lounge by day, the Skybar provides chilled drinks and cool waters for its guests, and when the sun sets, Skybar becomes one of West Hollywood’s hottest nightlife spots.

With the ski season almost upon us you need to be swift if you want to bag the best hotel. House of Coco recently visited the Mont-Blanc region of the French Alps to check out two very different places to stay this winter.

Just 45 minutes from Geneva airport is Saint Gervais, home to four villages and two ski areas, including ‘Evasion Mont-Blanc’ and with more than 400km of pistes this is the third largest ski area in France.

Nestled against the mountain of Saint-Gervais at an altitude of 1,150 metres in the heart of Saint-Nicolas is The Armancette Hotel. This brand new, 5-star hotel is a luxurious après-ski haven. Tucked away in a remote valley it offers guests a magnificent Alpine setting, with views of the Mont-Blanc as well as Mont-Vorassay.

The Armancette is an intimate boutique hotel with just 17 rooms, each one uniquely designed to reflect the environment and nature, think lots of wood, granite, stone and luxurious faux fur and silk. The rooms are elegantly designed and with an outdoor balcony you can wake up to breath-taking views across the village and valley.

This alpine jewel has successfully created a relaxed, calm vibe, making it a great place to stay if you want to chill-out after a day skiing. If you don’t fancy a drink in bar you can always retreat to the hotel library and games room to read or challenge your pals to one of the many board games. For those who want to take time out to unwind then hit the spa where you can make the most of the treatments, sauna and steam room. There’s an indoor pool with relaxation area as well as a heated outdoor pool with a terrace offering a magnificent, panoramic view of Mont-Vorassay, the Aiguille de Bionnassay, Armancette glacier and the Domes de Miage.

Located on the site of the village bakery, The Armancette is keeping the tradition alive with their on-site bakery serving golden pastries, an array of mouth-watering cakes and fresh bread daily. The smell of warm bread fills the ground floor each morning and is so enticing. I challenge anyone to walk by and not come away with some delicious tasty treat. The hotel restaurant, La Table d’Armante is modern yet cosy with an extensive menu offering fresh, local, seasonal dishes. There’s also a great choice when it comes to breakfast, so you can fuel up with one of their speciality juices or scrumptious omelettes before hitting the slopes.

20 minutes from Saint-Gervais and you’re in Chamonix, ski heaven! With plenty of ski runs this is the perfect place for any seasoned skier.

Catering for all budgets is La Folie Douce. Synonymous with après-ski partying and situated in the centre of Chamonix, this funky hotel has fantastic ski-in, ski-out access to the Brevent and Flegere ski areas.

What was once the historical palace of Le Savoy is now a chic, opulent, insta-worthy place to stay. The carpets depict life-sized synchronized swimmers, ice skating boots hang from the walls and there’s the odd mannequin and telephone booth scattered around the place.

The vibe is cool and eclectic. They’ve successfully nailed the trendy industrial look with exposed brick work juxtaposed elegant plush velvets and statement lighting giving the place a chic air. The hotel has 250 rooms, including premium (four star), access (three star) and dormitory rooms (three star), offering cheaper accommodation for groups. The premium rooms have views of the mountains and that quirky, luxury feel that runs through the whole hotel.

This is the après-ski party palace, with three restaurants, a main bar upstairs with a vast cocktail menu and for those looking for some fun and live entertainment, there’s the basement bar where you’ll find people dancing on the tables alongside the cabaret performers and DJs.

If you don’t feel like partying and want to rest your ski-weary legs then you can try out the yoga and spa. Here you can soak up glorious views of the Alps from the heated outdoor pool, take in a treatment or relax in the sauna and steam room.

Whatever you are looking for in a ski holiday, La Folie Douce caters for everything and everyone and is bound to be a hit with the ski crowd this winter.

House of Coco travelled to Saint Gervais and Chamonix courtesy of Savoie Mont-Blanc www.savoie-mont-blanc.com

For more information on The Armancette hotel visit www.armancette.com/en and La Folie Douce hotel www.lafoliedoucehotels.com/fr/hotel-chamonix

Even frequent world travellers require an inspiring space to call home, a cosy haven to unwind and recoup from all of those far away travels. If saying goodbye to your adventures and returning home usually fills you with dread, then why not look to add a few travel inspired touches to your abode? Whether it’s a safari inspired bedroom or Moroccan themed patio, here are the best ways to keep the holiday spirit alive…

Create your own home jungle

Plants, plants everywhere! Introduce tropical plants into the home to create an exotic vibe and enjoy the benefits that house plants bring. From cleaner air, to an improved mood and even healing. House plants are more than just a pretty feature, they have been proved to reduce stress levels and increase work productivity. One study even found that they reduced headaches and fatigue by up to 25%. There’s never been a better excuse to pop your local garden centre for a splurge. New plant parent? Head to the cactus section, and when you feel ready, start dabbling with the trickier plants such as a banana plant or Boston fern.

Say hello to safari

Take yourself on a wild safari trip, well, the next best thing. Look to add earth tones with splashes of orange and a few animal print touches. There’s a fine line between inspired and over the top, so instead of plastering everything with animal inspired patterns (there’s definitely such thing as too much leopard print), think about adding accents instead. A leopard print cushion or zebra throw would be a good place to start!

(photo credit: Jack Thompson)

Enjoy the city life at home

Create a New York city style apartment with features such as exposed brick work, dangling industrial style lights and a few pieces of beaten-up yet chic furniture. Think up-cycled gems from the local auction house, a retro poster and anything that looks like it once belonged in a factory. Introduce a metal such as copper to reinforce the industrial look, and play around with different textures too. For the NYC dreamers out there, it’s the perfect way to recreate a slice of the big apple at home.

Experiment with Scandi minimalist living

Scandinavian interiors are known for minimalist style, cosy accents, neutral colour palettes and clean, contemporary elements. Think functionality over excess! Create your own Scandi inspired pad with simple statement furniture, muted colours and trendy accessories. Don’t be afraid to introduce splashes of colour, but keep it simple. A piece of art, cushion or floor rug are all great ways to introduce colour in a sleek and chic way. Create an open space and seamless transition from inside to out with beautiful bespoke bifold doors for Scandi style open plan living.

Design a dreamy Moroccan inspired patio

Create a beautiful Moroccan inspired patio area to enjoy (almost) all year round! Think vibrant colours and plenty of pattern with cosy seating, throws and accessories. Layer outdoor rugs, dot around beautiful Moroccan inspired lanterns, candles and pouffes. Don’t be afraid to clash patterns – whether it’s geometric and stripes or chevron and stars. Consider investing in outdoor heating to enjoy your during all seasons.

Add a touch of New England

Embrace a nautical New England theme with coastal inspired furnishings and accessories. For colours, stick to pale blues and crisp whites to create a fresh and inspiring living area. Look to add items such as wicker baskets, shell decorations, woven rugs, pinstripe cushions and a few decorative features (you could even go all out with an anchor wall feature) to truly transport yourself to Maine, New England. Almost.

Immerse yourself in a Highlands hideaway

Looking to hunker down for the winter months? Create your own cosy, log-cabin inspired hideaway to hibernate in over the colder season. Stock up on faux fur blankets, cosy autumnal candles and fluffy cushions. Compliment your soft furnishings with wooden textures and a touch of tartan to complete the hunter-lodge inspired feel. It’s the perfect way to get over the post-summer blues.

Travel lovers – is your home inspired by your adventures across the globe? We’d love to hear!

Sustainable travel was once a fringe topic, but today, hotels, airlines, operators, and even tourism boards are finding ways to reduce their carbon footprints to ensure that we’ll all still have stunning destinations to travel to in the years to come.

The Scarlet Hotel

If you ever find yourself in Cornwall, definitely stop at The Scarlet Hotel. This isn’t your typical thatched roof family run coastal BNB, but instead, a truly ingenious example of sustainable design. Set just off of Mawgan Porth Beach, the Scarlet is an adult only hotel and spa, and a Eco-architect’s dream. The hotel is unlike anything else on the coast of Cornwall, with its unique crescent shape immediately visible from miles away. The building’s gentle curvatures embraces the natural landscapes of Cornwall, and blend’s seamlessly with the coastline.

Treehouse Hideaway Chewton Glen

The Treehouse Hideaway at Chewton Glen immediately brings to mind an unparalleled level of Eco-luxury. If you’re looking to indulge in some much needed r&r, then why not do it suspended 35 feet above the ground? The Treehouse Hideaway has sleek modernist interiors, walk in showers, and plenty of terraces where you can soak in the view. It’s also got some pretty neat sustainable features including rain-water harvesting, low-energy lighting, and solar power fuelled energy.

Bert’s Box – The Pig Brockenhurst

The Pig Hotel is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cosy countryside escapes; but did you know that it had a fully sustainable cabin too? The Bert’s Box cabin can be found in the Pig’s New Forest location and features an environmentally friendly design that’s filled with buckets of charm. Picture rustic interiors, punchy prints, and plenty of retro-chic design details that will surely make this woodland escape an unforgettable stay.

If you are ever looking for me I’ll normally be nose deep in a good book, whether it’s a chick lit, thriller or self care guide I’m never far away from a decent read and despite being an owner of a Kindle you’ll still find paperbacks at the side of my bed, on my desk and next to the sofa. So, when I heard that Bagni di Pisa, a five-star spa hotel in Tuscany were running a ‘Tuscan Literary Weekend’ package for book worms and literary connoisseurs I got excited. Books, spa, sun and a luxury hotel sounds right up my street.

Located above natural hot springs in the picturesque Tuscan countryside, Bagni di Pisa is the former 18th century summer residence of the Grand Duke Francesco Stefano of Lorena and its ancient thermal pools have long been renowned for their soothing and healing properties.
The package allows guests to delve into the 19th-century literary masterpieces written by Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and uncover the life of one of Britain’s most revered novelists, all whilst experiencing Bagni di Pisa’s impressive spa, renowned thermal pools and world-class treatments.

Literary fanatics participating in the hotel’s exclusive three-night package will enjoy a theatrical performance by Mary Shelley herself and a 19th-century style private dinner. The dinner will be hosted in the Dei Lorena Restaurant or in the hotel’s infamous Bar Shelley, where Mary’s inspiration for Frankenstein is said to have bloomed during a visit to the former palace.

There’s an opportunity to enjoy an amazing journey back in time, exploring the hotel’s grounds and illustrious past through a 60-minute theatrical private performance with the famous author and her friend, doctor Andrea Vacca Berlinghieri.

Foodies will love the private evening dinner where exquisite 19th-century inspired Italian dishes will be served to the backdrop of music from this historic period.
To complete the getaway, spa enthusiasts will have the opportunity to unwind in the natural thermal grotto and thermal spring bath, before receiving a 50-minute relaxing body massage performed with a mix of aromatic oils by Bagni di Pisa’s expert masseuses.

Guests booking the ‘Tuscan Literary Weekend’ package will be hosted in Bagni di Pisa’s impressive rooms and suites and will receive full access to the hotel’s thermal spa, thermal Bioaquam circuit, Etruscan circuit complete with sauna, hot plate and steam bath, fitness room and daily morning hikes with a local guide.

Nightly rates at Bagni di Pisa start from €155 (£136*) per person per night in a Comfort room on a B&B basis. Tailormade rates for the ‘Literary Weekend Package’ are provided upon request.

www.italianhospitalitycollection.com

Lulu Phipps not only gets to work with beautiful alpaca fibre in which she designs her unique collection of scarves, shawls, and interiors for her business Softly Softly, but she also owns and runs an alpaca farm in Northamptonshire with her husband Simon Phipps.

#TeamCoco couldn’t be more excited to interview Lulu for our #WomenWorldwide and #BossBabe series, to find out how it all started, when she first got into alpacas and how it developed into her own fashion company specialising in alpaca shawls, scarves and interiors.

Q. Have you always worked with or been around alpacas, since being little, or was this a new-found interest from a business perspective?

A. I have been in the alpaca business for 12 years, before that I had a somewhat varied career path. I trained at ballet school from the age of 5, then was a professional dancer for 8 years from the age of 16. I then was involved with Formula One motor racing before my daughters were born. Following on from then I did interior design and soft furnishings. I also trained as a phycotherapist. The alpaca side of my life has grown gradually, with the business venture evolving at the same time.

Q. You launched your first alpaca business back in 2007 with your husband Simon, did it start out solely as a breeding farm, or did you know that in future years you would launch clothing and interiors lines too?

A. Our ‘alpaca adventure’ started quite by accident. Simon and I were watching a vet programme on TV one evening where the vets were trying to save the life of a tiny alpaca baby (they succeeded thankfully!) and we were intruiged. We then, by chance, met an alpaca breeder a few weeks later at a country show and started to take a more serious interest. Following more research and talking to a number of breeders we then bought our first pregnant females. We already had land and horses so it seemed a fairly easy progression. Since then we have bred over 50 alpacas here at the farm, and sold to many established and new owners both in the UK and Europe. The initial idea was to build the breeding business, Softly Softly came later!

Q. Are all the Softly Softly designs for men, women, children and the home made from your own alpaca fibres, or do you also work with other small and unique businesses?

A. The Softly Softly collection comes from a number of areas. We have products made from our own alpaca herd fibre, these are created in conjunction with The Border Mill in Scotland. I also select scarves, shawls and throws from two companies in Peru. The Peruvian people have been working with alpaca fibre for thousands of years. It is known as ‘The Fibre of the Gods’ and at times only Inca Royalty were allowed to wear alpaca cloth. Their knowledge and expertise is second to none in the world so twice a year I choose artist designed limited edition items to add to the collection. The fibre from our own alpacas that doesn’t go to the mill is sent to Penrose Products in Nottinghamshire, where they produce for us amazing luxury bedding.

Q. Do you personally design and make your own Softly Softly scarves and shawls, or do you work alongside other designers?

A. Our alpacas are sheared once a year, in the spring. At that time I assess all the fibre and choose the finest quality to go up to The Border Mill. Once I know the quality, quantity and colour range we have to use then Juliet and I work together to design the fabrics. We discuss the fibre blends, the colour ways and the weaving designs. I only have a limited number of each design manufactured so they remain highly exclusive and original.

Q. Would you use the same alpaca fibres that you use for a scarf to also make a cushion for the home, or are there different types of alpaca fibres to work with?

A. I will only use our highest quality fibre for the Softly Softly products made in the UK. I believe that a throw or cushion should be as soft as a scarf. The Peruvians have perfected the art of blending 70% alpaca fibre with 30% silk, this creates the amazing lightweight, soft fabric in the scarves and shawls. In the past year we have been working with The Border Mill in blending alpaca with rose fibre. Rose fibre is a cellulose from the stems of roses and has all the qualities of silk – strength, lustre, softness, but in a more eco friendly and sustainable way. We have called the collection ‘Alpaca Rose’ and we are busy creating beautiful designs for a new range.

Q. Can we ask when you are at your most creative design-wise, and where do your design-ideas come from?

A. I’m probably at my most creative either in the wee small hours of the morning or when sitting on my tractor cutting grass paddocks! Alpaca fibre has many unique atributes, its hypo allergenic (it’s a dry fibre so doesn’t attract dust mites like wool or feather), its individual fibres are hollow so it is temperature controlling and it is the most sustainable fibre on the planet. I am constantly looking at fabrics, clothing and interiors and asking “would that work in alpaca?”

Q. If you weren’t running Softly Softly and had never been lucky enough to run your alpaca farm, what kind of business do you think would you be working in?

A. With my career path it could have been anything! I’ve always liked interior design but I love being a farmer as well!

Q. What are your immediate plans for Softly Softly, do you intend on opening any stores around the UK?

A. World domination of the alpaca product business!!!! Seriously – I have no plans for opening stores at present. That is a huge commitment of resources and time and perhaps not in this current political climate. I am concentrating on growing brand awareness and my customer numbers. One of the hardest parts of building Softly Softly is to show how amazing alpaca fibre can be. When I talk about alpaca many people tell me about their Peruvian jumper that granny bought 50 years ago that is still growing strong! It is such a tactile fabric and that is hard to get across unless you actually can feel and touch it.

Other plans are to develop new ranges of travel accessories and a collection for babies – who wouldn’t love to have their newborn wrapped in a blanket made from ‘Alpaca Rose’. We also have the scented candle, hand wash and lotion. I designed this to compliment the alpaca/silk scarves. We called the range ‘Softly Softly Scented’ and the scent is called ‘Silk’ It is a mix of White Lily and Neroli oil and is gorgeous!!

Christmas gift boxes are in development with the Scented range plus pick and mix from the collection, just the thing for under the Christmas Tree.

Q. Did anyone offer you good business advice before you launched Softly Softly?

A. My lovely supportive husband Simon. He has the business brain, I have the inspiration.

Q. Have you had to overcome obstacles while running your businesses, or has anything happened to ever make you step back and think twice about what you’re doing?

A. As I write this I am battling breast cancer for the second time. The first diagnosis was almost 5 years ago, before I started Softly Softly. This time was a bit of a surprise, though it has always lurked quietly in the back of my mind that it may reappear someday. I thought long and hard about the next steps in the days following the news. Do I stop Softly Softly? How am I going to run this business? I looked back at the first time and I remembered that one of the things that kept me going was getting up in the mornings and going out to feed the alpacas. They are such gentle, inquisitive animals that it was often I felt they were asking how I was each day. So I decided to put on my big girl battle pants and kick cancers butt again and keep the business going and growing. I have postponed some events that physically might be a step too far but we are concentrating on the website, social media and customer growth. I’ve learnt that life is unpredicatable and sometimes challenging but for me positivity and humour are the way forward. I have the support of amazing family and friends, and when the going gets tough I can curl up under a beautiful alpaca blanket!

Q. What piece of advice would you give someone looking to set up a business using alpaca fibres to design clothing and interiors?

A. Do lots of research. Learn about alpaca fibre from breeders and manufacturers. Find out what makes the best quality fibre and why.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all our #BossBabe and #WomenWorldwide questions for House of Coco Magazine online. We think you are an inspiration to continue running your wonderful alpaca business, even under the toughest of circumstances.

Visit www.softlysoftly.uk.com for more information about Lulu’s clothing and interior designs. Visit www.lusialpacas.co.uk for more info about breeding and buying alpacas.

Olivia Conlon, aka Liv of The Hustle and The Property Stagers is a British entrepreneur, who in her mid-teens launched a brand in which she earned £30k annually, which escalated into £1 million by the time she was just 19 years old – let’s find out more about this super cool young woman who has gone on to inspire many others with her motivational up-scaling.

Q. HOC. What happened at the age of just 16, which made you wake up one morning and become this unique entrepreneur?

A. Liv. My mum was involved in property when I was 15, she had bought and renovated an apartment, it was on the market for 3 months and it wasn’t selling. I always had an interest in interior design so I decided to stage the property and it sold within 3 days. I loved it and knew this is exactly what I wanted to do when I left school.

Q. HOC. Did you always know from school-age that you were destined to become a young entrepreneur, or did you have entirely different ambitions in your early teens?

A. Liv. I had always known from a young age that I wanted to be my own boss. I started my first business on Ebay when I was 13, so when the time came to decide whether I wanted to stay on at school or leave, it was an easy decision for me to start my business ThePropertyStagers.

Q. HOC. When and where did ThePropertyStagers come from, and how
far down the line did it become such a successful business?

A. Liv. As I mentioned, ThePropertyStagers was born out of struggling to sell a property, as most great business ideas are. It has taken a couple of years for the business to achieve the success it has and a lot of hard work! I am still really involved in growing ThePropertyStagers which I am so passionate about, but I am fortunate enough to have a great team, that has allowed me to go on and live my passion of supporting other entrepreneurs in their journey to scale through my new venture The Hustle.

Q. HOC. Tell us more about scaling up, and The Hustle strapline; ‘For Entrepreneurs Who Dare to Scale’.

A. Liv. Scaling your business is a challenging path, it’s a very exciting time but there is so much that you can never be prepared for. I use the word ‘dare’ as the rewards are big but it takes a strong belief in yourself, in your business and you must be a risk taker. Scale too quickly and It can be detrimental, but if you have the right support system it can be the making of your business. That’s why I created The Hustle, an online platform and coaching group to support entrepreneurs on this journey.

Q. HOC. How did you personally scale up to go from earning £30k to earning £1 million in such a short period of time?

A. Liv. I can’t actually put the journey into words, it has involved an unbelievable amount of hard work. 17 hour days, 7 days a week. It has been the most challenging thing I have ever done. I would say you need determination, grit, and an endless amount of resilience. Also having a coach or someone who is more successful than you who can guide you has been priceless in scaling.

Q. HOC. Are you still learning as you build your brand, have you taken any business courses, or are you winging it as you go?

A. Liv. I learn something new every single day in business and I love that! Sometimes quite painful lessons but it is how you view them and learn from them that is most important. I have invested a lot into my education and personal development having been on several Tony Robbins courses and I also have a personal business coach. This has accelerated my business success massively!

Q. HOC. We love a strong, determined, young businesswoman, do you thrive from being all of these things, and do you surround yourself with other likeminded women?

A. Liv. One of my favourite things about the success I have had so far is being able to share my story with others and inspire them to follow their own path too. It is so important to surround yourself with other women who are more successful than you, and it’s something I endeavor to do with any chance possible. I work alongside my mum everyday in my business which is amazing, she was my inspiration to be an entrepreneur, I am very grateful!

Q. HOC. Were you offered any business advice that you have taken but wished you hadn’t?

A. Liv. That’s a tricky one. I was advised to only hire people I know, on hindsight, I wouldn’t. I think it can be complicated to mix business and personal.

Q. HOC. If you weren’t running The Property Stagers and The Hustle right now, what would you be doing?

A. Liv. If I wasn’t running The Property Stagers or The Hustle right now I am sure I would own another type of business. I have never worked for anyone else in my life, I just couldn’t imagine doing that.

Q. HOC. If you were to offer a young entrepreneur a single piece of advice what would it be?

A. Liv. I could write a book of advice! But I would say it is “Stay in the One Lane and don’t care what anyone thinks of you.” This for me has been vital to my success, there has been so many things I’ve had to do that have been totally outside of my comfort zone, had I cared what others thought, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Thank you for taking the time in your hectic schedule to answer our #BossBabe questions.

For more information about Liv check out her sites at The Property Stagers, The Hustle Group and Olivia Conlon.