Robert Lancaster-Gaye is the co-founder of luxury linen company, Tradelinens. The first linen company to join the BCI, the world’s largest cotton sustainability programme. Since cutting his teeth in the linen trade over 50 years ago, Robert has become the go-to expert in pairing luxury hotels with the bedding, bed and bath linen and tableware guests love. Here Robert shares his bedroom secrets and tells us why he’s known as the man that’s made a million beds.
How did you become known as the man that’s made a million beds?
Being in the business for over 50 years means I’ve helped dress a lot of beds! My colleagues came up with a million after averaging out the number of clients I’d served over the years. Of course, the quality of that bedding has continuously improved over time. The very first hotel I sold to was a luxury 70s five-star hotel in the Midlands. At the time we sold the highest specification 120 thread count linen… How things have moved on!
What do you remember about your early days in the industry?
The first company I worked for was a family-run textile wholesaler that had been around for about a hundred years. As a management trainee I did every job in the company, from hand-sewing hessian bales, and packing to van driving, and working in accounts. It was very much a case of learning on the job. At the time there were no cardboard boxes, mobile phones, calculators, internet – none of that had been invented, yet we still managed to import and sell textiles around the world! Crucially, it was here as a trainee that I learned the importance of sticking to my values. My boss taught me to know my own mind and not to accept anything that wasn’t correct. I’d say it’s one of the reasons we have the reputation we have today. People know we try very hard to get everything right.
Where is the craziest place you’ve slept?
One of the most unusual places I’ve slept is the floor of a Cross Channel ferry following a ski trip. I was woozy on travel sickness pills and fell asleep on the metal floor on top of a pile of skis. I woke up aching and with ski marks running across my face.
What hotel, B&B or luxury retreat would you most like to revisit and why?
I’ve stayed in a lot of fabulous 5-star hotels, but the ones that always stick in my memory are the properties owned by Firmdale Hotels – I've slept in most of the London ones and Crosby Street in New York. Every Firmdale has its own character that oozes style and ambience with bundles of charm. The Pig Hotels are also a firm favourite, again because of the way they make you feel. When you’re sleeping in one of The Pigs, you’re cocooned in this wonderful nurturing environment that engenders a feeling of wellbeing. You leave feeling totally restored. Both Groups have wonderful staff and this really matters so much to the memory of your stay.
Where have you had the best night’s sleep?
It’d probably be Pine Cliffs in The Algarve, which I visited a few years ago. It’s situated on a very steep cliff with lush grounds, a private beach and breath-taking views of the coast. It reminds me that you don’t have to go to Barbados for a taste of paradise!
Tell us about your own bedroom?
Although I’m 6’ 2” and super king size beds offer more space, I prefer to sleep in a standard five-foot bed somewhere closer to my wife! A super king size bed puts three feet of bed between the two of you … My preference for bedding is a down/feather mix pillow and a down duvet, with soft and silky sheets in pure white, however, I am constantly ‘product testing’ the entire Tielle range for luxury, quality and comfort. I’ll even try a winter weight duvet in summer and vice-versa, just to be sure they’re delivering. I have a simple wooden headboard that suits me perfectly for a bit of bedtime reading, and I probably wash my bedlinen every one to two weeks.
What gets you up in the morning?
I’m a lark and wake up somewhere between 5-6am after 6-7 hours sleep. It doesn’t take much to get me moving but the pale yellow bedroom walls certainly help. I chose the shade because I’m a morning person and as dawn breaks, the colour of the walls just get warmer and warmer. The colour also goes beautifully with our white, duck egg and cool grey linen range.
What helps you sleep at night?
I can sleep anywhere – train, plane or car, so I’ve no problem at all napping or drifting off to sleep at home. I’ll always manage to catch a few pages of the book I’m reading though before I nod off. I’m currently reading John Sandford’s latest book, a writing style I love. Few authors write dialogue as well as him.
How do you help overnight guests feel welcome in your home?
Because I believe in the importance of a good night’s sleep, I always make sure my guests have a great bed to sleep in, and I’m always complemented on the linen! A long time ago, I stayed over at some friends who lived in a one-bedroom flat. They didn’t have a sofa bed so they made a bed out of a pile of books five wide and ten long, topped with a flimsy duvet. Needless to say, I slept terribly! Although thankfully no-one has offered me a bed of books since, I do find your guest’s sleep experience is often overlooked. But then I guess I’m slightly biased!
What luxury item would you take on a desert island?
Getting a good night's sleep would help me wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day’s challenges so I'd choose the whole bed cocoon – a comfy bed, fresh white cotton bedlinen, and a good quality down duvet and pillows, and if there was space I’d take a feather and down topper as well ! The most important steps towards a five star desert island….