I met Eleanor Cording-Booth on Instagram – we exchanged hotel recommendations about Tulúm, Mexico. No surprise, as Managing Editor at the travel platform Secret Escapes, hotels are Eleanor’s job and she is very passionate about beautiful, extraordinary accommodation. However, when she set out to start her professional life after university, the cheerful redhead from West Yorkshire was dreaming of a career in fashion. Chance took her to Secret Escapes where she now combines her love for interior and her passion for travels. We’re visiting the 31-year-old Eleanor in her home in the Barbican Estate in London, which she shares with her boyfriend, to talk about hotels, work-life-balance, interior design and her mid-century flat.
femtastics: Do you still remember the first trip that really inspired and impressed you?
Eleanor Cording-Booth: I went to the Amalfi Coast for a wedding in 2011 and prior to that I had never stayed anywhere particularly fancy or expensive. But I was reviewing some hotels for a magazine and was staying at some places I would never have been able to afford myself – this was my first experience of luxury hotels. That stands out in my mind, not only because the Amalfi Coast is so breathtaking but also because of the beautiful hotels.
You studied “Fashion, Media & Promotion” at university and started your professional career in fashion PR – what brought you to hotels?
I realised that I really liked clothes but didn’t care about them enough to dedicate my career to them. Furthermore, I have always been into interior design – I even wished I had changed my course at university – and I really wanted to work with interiors. At some point I thought: hotels!
How did you get your job at Secret Escapes?
I simply emailed them. They had only just started – and they replied saying that they were just about to recruit an editorial assistant. So I came in for a coffee and it worked out. Six years later, here I am! (laughs)
I use all of my annual leave to travel. I never take a day off and just stay in London, I always go somewhere.
What is your job today?
My job title is Managing Editor of the UK. My team – there are seven of us – creates all of the content for the platform: all the hotel descriptions and all content for social media. I used to write a lot, but now my job has more to do with management.
Is travelling part of your job?
It would surprise people to find out that it’s not. When I tell people about my job, everybody says: O, you’re so lucky, you must be travelling all the time! But actually I am just based in London pretty much all of the time. I use all of my annual leave to travel. I never take a day off and just stay in London, I always go somewhere.
So you don’t get to stay at all the hotels you feature?
No, but sometimes, if I’m somewhere where I know we sell a hotel, I will go and have a look, just because I am interested – and because I love hotels!
When and why did you start your instagram account @londontravelgirl?
I think it was in 2011 or 2012. At that time I just posted photos from nights out with friends and I would not really think about what I posted. Around three years ago I started focussing on travel photos and got the idea to make my instagram account travel-related. That’s when I changed the name to @londontravelgirl. Afterwards a friend messaged me and said: You do know you sound like you’re on a dating platform? (laughs)
How do you plan your travels?
I keep an ongoing list of where I want to go. It’s a mix of long trips and weekend-getaways. Last year I had all my trips planned and booked in January. I always need something to look forward to! I think next year we will go to L.A. and I’ll plan shorter trips around it.
I like to pick up little things from places I have been to, just so that I’ll always remember the trips.
What places have you travelled to in the past and which places have impressed you the most?
I love New York, because it feels like you’re in a film. I’m also a big fan of Copenhagen and Amsterdam – I could move to either of them. Apart from these cities, I love any place that has beautiful scenery. My boyfriend Tom is from North Wales and that area has mountains, lakes, beaches – we’ve been a couple of times and it’s amazing! Iceland is incredibly beautiful, too.
Do your travels inspire your interior style?
Yes, very much. I often buy souvenirs for my home – I like to pick up little things from places I have been to, just so that I’ll always remember the trips. I like to mix colourful things from Morocco, Mexico and other countries with more minimalist, simple things. I try not to stick to one look. In this building it is quite hard to stay away from a Mid-Century look, but I try to mix different styles. … Generally, my problem is that I change my mind a lot. It has to do with going to hotels. I see so many things I love, that I’m constantly changing my mind about what I want my home to look like (laughs). I’ve learned that I should not spend too much money on interiors …
Do you re-arrange or change your flat often?
Sometimes my boyfriend comes home from work and I have changed the whole room. It drives him crazy.
Where do you like to shop furniture or home accessories?
I always mix cheap things with more expensive pieces. When we moved in here, I bought several things from Ikea and La Redoute, which were very affordable but look really cool. I also like to search eBay. But my favourite shops in London are The Conran Shop and Liberty. SCP in Shoreditch is great, too. And I always get lamps from West Elm, because they do great lamps! As often as I can I ry to go to independent stores – if I can support one person rather than a big company, I always will. My candles and plant pots are all from little shops around London.
In this building it is quite hard to stay away from a Mid-Century look, but I try to mix different styles.
Can you tell us a bit about the art and prints you have in your home?
The photo prints in my living room are from a website called Society 6. I needed to fill that space and I was looking for prints of the seaside – I love the seaside because it makes me so relaxed. Many other prints in my home are from charity shops or markets. And all of my frames are from Ikea. In the future I’d like to invest more in original artwork instead of prints. I’m dreaming of a piece by Alexa Coe, an artist I’ve discovered on instagram.
What is it like living in the Barbican Estate? How did you find this flat?
I used to live in the area and used to walk past Barbican Estate a lot, but I did not know what it was. I was drawn to it by the large windows and all the plants outside. When I was looking for a new flat and found an ad for one in Barbican Estate I made an appointment – more than anything because I was nosy and wanted to see what the flats look like inside. When I was shown around I realised how much light there is and how practical the flats are! Little things like the huge sliding doors and the cupboard beside the door: you just put your rubbish in it and it gets emptied every day. You never have to take your rubbish out. And there is so much storage in the kitchen area. All that really impressed me. I also love that people have picknicks in the garden on the weekends – sometimes it feels like you’re staying in a holiday flat. I am very happy to live here. Especially because I could never afford to buy a flat at the Barbican Estate. They start at 700.000 or 800.000 Pounds for a small flat.
I used to live in the area and used to walk past Barbican Estate a lot, but I did not know what it was.
Back to travels! Do you have a top-three-list of hotels – in terms of interior design?
“Coqui Coqui” in Coba, Mexico. “Maison la Minervetta” in Sorrento, Italy. And “Riad Mena” in Marrakesh. But there are so many others …
Which places are up and coming? Have you made any discoveries through your job?
Iceland is very popular at the moment. And we are currently looking for alternatives which might be interesting for people who have already been to Iceland and who want to go somewhere before anyone else. Lake Bled in Slowenia, the Faroe Islands and Lapland in Finland, for instance. Very scenic places. Whereas a few years ago, people just wanted a sun tan and relaxation from their holiday, today people are looking for unique experiences and dramatic scenery. I think this has to do with instagram – people discover places via instagram and they also think about spectacular photos to post when planning their travels.
Where would you, personally, like to go?
I have never really been to Eastern Europe. I’d like to go to Tallin and Riga. I’d also like to go back to Mexico – but this time to the Western coast, like Oaxaca, for example. And I’m dreaming of a long trip around Asia and India. I’d like to take some time off in the future and maybe dedicate four or five months to travelling. I could give up my flat, because it is only rented, and just find somewhere else to live when I come back.
Thank you for the interview, Eleanor! It was wonderful to finally meet you in person!