We caught up with the two women (Fabienne and Charlie) who were so dissatisfied by what was on offer to them when they were travelling for work that they came up with a solution and thus, Cuckooz was born – a sort of boutique hotel meets short stay apartments hybrid.
Tell us how you met and a bit about your background?
We met in 2008 when Charlie was Chairman of the Young Entrepreneurs in Property and I was organising property events with UBM. We partnered one of our magazines with her new awards programme and quickly became friends. With both of us having such an intense love of travel and adventure, when the other was away from the UK, that would determine the next vacation plan!
Fabienne, I’m half French, half Irish and spent my early years with my two brothers in the Australian outback, where my Dad was a flying doctor and my Mother a nurse. I spent my latter years mostly in London and am an east London girl at heart. I finished school at 18 and began working in events with UBM, focusing on big scale property, design and technology events and awards ceremonies with an international audience, largely working between London Paris and Sydney.
Charlie I’m the eldest of four sisters and grew up in Surrey. I studied law at university and went straight into the property industry after graduating, whilst also tackling a master of science in property management. I travelled a lot from a gap year at 18, and various stints working abroad (Amsterdam, Mexico) until a long period living in Hong Kong where I set up my own business in property investment.
How did you get into your business of fully serviced apartments?
Having spent years travelling for work and meeting up in numerous locations across the world, Charlie and I always desired a home from home and felt continuous dissatisfaction when staying in average hotels and short-term rental apartments that just didn’t have a cozy, authentic feel. Our best experiences were also those spent were we had friends who gave us the opportunity to experience a location as though we actually lived there, and weren’t tourists. Combining this with the fact we are all adding extended leisure stays to our business travel, we realised there was a gap in the hospitality market where we felt we could sit. This was the stimulus for creating Cuckooz; we wanted to bridge the gap between a boutique hotel and short-stay apartments.
What are the unique aspects of your business?
- Space – Our apartments are always a minimum of one-bedroom and never lacking in space
- Style – They are design-led, to appeal to both function and style, and we collaborate with local talent in each location we open
- Situation (#LiveLocal) – Access to the local area (within Aldgate East specifically for example, not London/East London, etc.) through our carefully curated C-Z Guides – we take time to know our neighbours and share our insight to the locality with our guests, so they can just get on with living
- Service – We personally greet all of our guests upon check-in and will be available to assist with any suggestions for all aspects of their stay.
Tell is more about your charity work with Refuge?
As well as guaranteeing our guests sleep soundly in their Cuckooz nests, we want to ensure those less fortunate are also afforded the right to a safe and secure place to sleep. We have partnered with Refuge – the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic violence services and shelters, to initiate our “support a stay” policy. On any given day Refuge supports over 3,700 women and children across the UK and for every night you stay with us, we will donate £2 which will go towards supporting one of those families. We hope to be able to do more for Refuge, as we grow in London and as our guests learn about the incredible charity that it is, and chose to give and do more by themselves.
What inspires the design of the apartments?
We want the interiors of each apartment to be a nod to their local neighbourhood whilst acting as a platform to showcase the creative talent from within London and around the UK. So the inspiration is down to the artist/interior designer, etc. that we collaborate with on a location. For example; 2 Lovely Gays curated the interiors for our Aldgate East apartments. They brought Habitat into each of our homes because it is a yummy British homewares brand and cleverly means international guests can stay but also buy, every element of the apartment they get to enjoy. They also commissioned local artist Joe Gamble, to produce a unique piece of art for each apartment. Joe’s pieces were created from a walking tour around the Aldgate East and Whitechapel area, with the 2LGs who snapped various photos which Joe then interpreted in his own inimitable style.
What are your other interests?
Clearly travel is up there! We’re looking forward to scouting out our next international locations. Design and art are big on our list and London is such a huge melting pot for both. Food and drink… Cool cocktail bars… Music… We love all the unusual new fitness spaces opening up. I mean we’re pretty inspired by most things life has to offer!
Are you working with any local artists?
Yes we are and we’re really proud of these collaborations. So far we’ve worked with Joe Gamble, Bryony Rosier, Libby Needham and most recently, Camille Walala who has directed some really vibrant geometric paintwork in our new Hoxton flats.
What or who inspires you?
Ian Schrager, creator of Studio 54 and the Edition hotels. People who are devoted to something they are passionate about – whether that be their job in a charity or roasting the finest coffee in London (nod to our favourite local coffee shop Exmouth who we’re hoping to put in our apartments soon!).
How do you think East London is changing?
East London is still iconic as the hub of London’s latest trends and the place where are ideas born and incubated. Even as it changes it manages to never loose its heritage, but of course it has to evolve and diversify, which it continues to do with ease. The changes are in the types of businesses that occupy the space here, and with it the sort of people that travel and move around this side of the city.
So what’s next for you guys?
We are planning to expand across the City fringe into Kings Cross, Dalston and London Bridge, by July ’17 – watch this space for collaborations with fabulous local designers and artists!
What was the last thing you saw that made you stop and stare?
Walking past a shop and seeing local East London artist, Daniel Hillier’s work depicted on porcelain. It’s always great seeing talented local artists gaining a wider audience. Also, we were a bit in awe when the Exmouth coffee guys took us to the warehouse behind the coffee shop and introduced us to Gertrude, their coffee roaster (literally the thing that roasts their beans). Just the whole story about how the machine became, how they are were they are, how they all met, the love they have for producing the coffee and the food… was a total stop and stare moment.