Fashion lovers have Net-a-Porter, and now for interiors obsessives, there’s The Longest Stay. Jacky Parker meets the online businesses’ founder, Sherry Roberts
Most of us have coveted the beautiful homewares tempting us as we leaf through the pages of a glossy design magazine and added them to our ‘wish lists’. While shopping for those items is fun – and it’s important to support our local high streets – often time, or the lack of it, dictates, and sometimes we like to buy those ‘must have’ pieces as soon as we see them. So imagine how cool it would be if you could just order that perfect cabinet or vase there and then, at a click, whilst flicking through a favourite read on a tablet, computer or smartphone.
This was the thinking behind The Longest Stay, a new online magazine and high-end interiors boutique, set up and recently launched by technology expert, Sherry Roberts. ‘I was planning a career change and originally looking into opening a boutique hotel in Rome,’ says Sherry. ‘I was doing some research with Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland, and it became clear that many people would like to be able to buy the beautiful furniture, artworks or accessories they’ve spotted in a luxury hotel or magazines when they see them rather than track them down afterwards. I also found some fabulous designers from both the UK and Europe, whose work wasn’t readily available either on the high street or online, and I realised I wanted to bridge that gap and have those quirky and beautiful products in one accessible place, so my plan evolved into a digital showroom.’
The concept of The Longest Stay is similar to Net-a-Porter, which revolutionised the way we buy fashion, and whilst there are some fabulous online interiors boutiques already, what sets TLS apart is the eclectic mix of what is on offer and the magazine format that runs alongside it, with its clever click and buy function. ‘It’s style led rather than price led,’ explains Sherry. ‘So whilst we might have a luxurious limited edition chest of drawers, we’ll also have some quirky cushions from a young designer, you may not have heard of, with an article about them and the story behind their work.’
Sherry’s background is in technology and telecommunications – she launched new initiatives with AT&T and Symbian (Nokia), and has an MBA from the J. L. Kellogg School of Management. She travelled extensively throughout her career and enjoyed the stylish surroundings at the luxurious hotels she stayed in, but her passion for interiors was piqued whilst on honeymoon at the Amman resort in Bali a few years ago. ‘I fell in love with the way it had been designed,’ says Sherry. ’It was the inspiration for my new direction, along with the encouragement from my husband, who thought I was an entrepreneur at heart.’
Growing up in Connecticut, Sherry developed an eye for good quality and high standards with a father who was Director of Quality Control for electronics companies and a mother who handmade her clothes. ‘She’d point out wonky seams on garments when we were in shops and say she could make them better herself, so she did,’ says Sherry. ‘I was always around patterns and beautiful fabrics an so between them it was ingrained in me to do things properly and to buy things that have been well made.’
Despite her American roots and family ties, Sherry has lived most of her adult life in Europe, split between Germany, London and Italy and was living in Rome with her Italian husband whilst setting up The Longest Stay. They had planned to move to London together to launch the business but sadly he passed away last year. So Sherry made the brave decision to come here on her own, settling in South Kensington.
‘I scooped up the pets (two cats and a dog) and drove here in my Fiat 500,’ she says. ‘I chose this area as there is a huge Italian influence and I like having that connection.’
Having already lived in the capital for much of the noughties, in Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, Sherry credits the area with influencing her taste in interiors. ‘ I love that Bohemian chic aesthetic that the area has,’ she says. ‘It’s reflected in my home, where I have an up-cycled table made from a boat next to a very luxurious cabinet and a patchwork rug. It’s a real mix, I like things to be fresh and not bland.’
This same mix is evident in her online boutique too, where she has sourced an array of exclusive and interesting pieces from established and emerging design talent, including gorgeous glass pendants from Rothschild & Bickers, quirky Trompe L’oeil wallpaper by Mineheart and striking pieces by Boca do Lobo to name a few. Bespoke items can also be made and there is now a contract side with an interior design service too.
‘Eventually we would like a physical showroom as well, but that will be towards the end of next year at least,’ says Sherry. ‘We’ve just launched so we’re starting with ‘clicks’ then we’ll go to mortar’, which is the new trend.’