We learned a new word from our friend, Martin Larsson of Hotel Labs: hemmablind. It’s a Swedish word that translates to “home-blind.” You know, how you never appreciate the things in your own hometown (until you leave). We love to travel, but we do love coming home, too. Meet Martin and hear about the places he loves around the world, as well as his beloved hometown in Sweden.
CIRE: Hello Martin! Please introduce yourself to our loyal readers.
MARTIN: Hello, I am Martin Larsson and I run a small representation firm called Hotel Labs. I am fortunate to look after a collection of hotels and villas that are all very indicative of their locations. I like to think of our properties as “rare gems” with huge personalities and my role is to be the match maker connecting them to the right movers and shakers. Depending on their destination, they range widely in aesthetics from Nobu Hotel Ryokan in Palo Alto, which would be considered very posh and high tech, to small experiential properties like Golden Rock Inn in Nevis with just 11 rooms tucked on 100 acres in the slopes of Mount Nevis with magnificent almost safari-like gardens.
CIRE: We love finding boutique hotels and villas that are “rare gems.” Can you tell us more about the Hotel Labs collection and what makes your properties unique?
MARTIN: I always felt that when we travel for leisure, we travel to have the best authentic experience in that particular destination, otherwise why bother? If we all wanted the same formula, the same marble bathrooms, and the same minimalist designs, it doesn’t really matter where we go if it is all going to look and feel the same. When you go to a place, you really want to feel that you are there and nowhere else. So for me, it is important that the properties in our collection convey authenticity and carry the message of being true to their destinations. When you are at one of our hotels, you know it is going to be one of the best and most genuine places in that destination. At The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa in Bath for example, with its splendid Georgian Grandeur and iconic architecture dating back to the late 1700s, you almost wait for someone like Keira Knightly to jump out from behind the door, dressed in full, Jane Austin attire! It just couldn’t be more authentic than that! Or when you are at Longview, one of our amazing 7 bedroom villas on 4 acres on Round Hill in Jamaica, the moment you set foot in the villa, you know are being cared for by some of the most hospitable and kind-hearted people in the entire Caribbean, and this cannot be replicated anywhere else.
CIRE: Keeping an eye out for Keira Knightly! Where’s home for you, Martin?
MARTIN: For the last twenty years I have felt pretty much like a nomad between two homes in Florida and New York. When I am in Florida, I miss New York and when I am in New York I miss Florida! What can I say? I am a Gemini so I can never be still! Originally, I am from Sweden, and I grew up in a small little lake town in the forest called Nora about 2.5 hours southwest of Stockholm. Nora is a magical little town. The town itself dates back to the 1300s so there is lots of history and architectural beauty. But I like to say we all get hemmablind or “home blind” (a Swedish saying). Once you step away from home for a while and then return, it all seems so much more beautiful, doesn’t it? That’s what it is like for me every time I go back….always living there, never leaving would not be the same. Sweden in itself is magical in the summer, if the weather cooperates (which it did this year and it was AMAZING) with its midnight sun, endless archipelagos and coastal scenes and somehow so pure and unspoiled compared to so many other countries.
CIRE: (Adding Nora to our travel list…) How did you get started in the hotel business?
MARTIN: In 1992, I was a broke student at the University of Miami and needed money, so I applied to the only full-service hotel in South Beach, The Raleigh Hotel (this is pre-Delano days), and I got a job in room service, barely speaking English! The hotel was always full of celebrities flocking to South Beach in the early 90s, so I got to party and hang out and become really good friends with some incredible people from Grace Jones and Mickey Rourke to Kate Moss and Charlize Theron (who were about to make it big on the scene). So as you can imagine, I was 22 and in heaven! I always like to thank Mario Leon (who also has his own representation company called MJL Select) who was the Director of Sales & Marketing for the hotel and he became my mentor and took me under his wing. For years we worked together and always had a blast. Despite my parents’ plea for me to do something with my costly school they helped pay for, I just knew I had to be in the hotel business, and I have never looked back. Where else can you meet all these wonderful people coming together?
CIRE: So much of our business is really about the people and relationships, right? What’s new at Hotel Labs?
MARTIN: This past summer, I went to Ibiza for the pre-opening of our newest and super swank little property in Old Town, Experimental Montesol. I love spending time with my properties and the people behind them. And there is just something about being there from the very beginning and being able to tell the story from the get-go. Doing all the foot work on the ground and then seeing the hard work come to fruition is extremely exciting and on top of that, getting to organize and participate in so many beautiful FAM (educational) trips, is of course the icing on the cake.
CIRE: Oooh Ibiza is on our list! What’s your favorite vacation spot?
MARTIN: Probably somewhere I have not been yet! LOL! But one of them is our property, Valley Trunk in Virgin Gorda, which is a private 10-bedroom estate on 17 acres on the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. The water in the British Virgin Islands is famous for its colors and the sand is like pure sugar. This coupled with the amazing backdrop of the island’s geological rock formations, I really could not get enough of it. I love the feeling of being “off the grid” and this is exactly what these smaller islands do for me.
CIRE: Where is your next vacation?
MARTIN: Can you believe it?! I have nothing planned as of today. I have a whole slew of work trips coming up this fall to the Caribbean and also need to go to London and visit the expansion of our hotel, The Henrietta in Covent Garden, but no vacation planned. I’ve always wanted to go somewhere remote in India one day, but never made it. I will go but only when I have the chance to go with someone local so I can experience it the right way. I guess this goes for almost all places, right?
CIRE: Right! Local knowledge, expertise and connections are the key to a great experience. Do you have any other travel rules/advice that you live by?
MARTIN: Don’t be late! Rushing ruins the journey.
CIRE: Excellent advice, Martin! Hope to meet up soon for a drink. We promise to be on-time!