Photos courtesy of Soho House
We forward to welcoming you to Soho Farmhouse but need a few extra details to tailor your stay from the moment you arrive…”
This is the sought-after sentence that graces your inbox once you’ve secured a highly coveted booking at Soho Farmhouse, Oxfordshire. The extra details they’re after? Your height, shoe size and number plate, please. Potentially odd or even a tad creepy, but no, not here, where your vehicle license is scanned upon arrival so staff can immediately greet you by name with a cocktail at the ready.
As for those body measurements, gumboots (or Wellies to the Brits), bath robes and a mint green Foffa bicycle (equipped with basket, bell, name tag and all) are also waiting at your cabin, where the aim is a perfect fit.
Business meetings taking place amongst Moroccan cushions in the courtyard, a fierce game of Scrabble happening by one of the many log fires in the Mill Room (the token country pub) and free-range eggs being collected in the chicken coop, Soho Farmhouse is the creative professional’s very own Neverland.
Despite the ‘no phones, photography or social media’ rule, a quick search of #sohofarmhouse on Instagram will deliver several thousand snaps already posted (#sorrynotsorry) since its soft launch in August last year.
Look closely and you can sneak a peek into the 40th birthday party of British DJ and music producer Mark Ronson, or spy British Prime Minister David Cameron at one of its early barn dances. But no matter which platinum credit card a politician or banker may possess, they would be forced to turn to the creatives in their circle for a ticket to this party. So perhaps it was in fact the PM’s wife, Samantha, ex-creative director, now consultant for luxury goods maker Smythson, who scored the invite?
The membership page of The Soho Group’s website states, “Unlike other club concepts, which often focus on wealth and status, we aim to assemble communities of members that have something in common: namely, a creative soul. The majority of our members work in traditional creative industries, with the film, fashion, advertising, music, art and media sectors, among others, heavily represented.”
The tribe at Soho Farmhouse are far more likely to be penning their latest theatre script, rehauling a client’s UX design or strategising the next ad campaign than reviewing fiscal policy or trading on the stock market. And if creative juices don’t flow here, you may need to start thinking about a new vocation. The activities program alone ranges from cult spinning classes to stand up paddleboard yoga in the indoor/ outdoor pool, plus horse riding, five-a-side football, boating on the lake or lazing in one of the several hot tubs.
There’s a cooking school, farmhouse shop, tennis courts, stables, crazy golf, a zipwire and an ice rink. Yes, an ice rink.
Not to mention the signature Cowshed Spa and a full-blown movie theatre (modelled on the Electric cinemas in Notting Hill and Shoreditch), which hosts two screenings a day – from the latest blockbusters to black-and-white classics.
As you’re assembling your mental picture, you can probably – correctly – assume that despite Soho Farmhouse’s rural name and location, this is not your typical farm break. Then again, its founder, Nick Jones, is not your typical businessman.
Like so many successful and eclectic entrepreneurs, Nick didn’t thrive in the classroom. Struggling with severe dyslexia, he left school at 17 to go into the catering industry. Some 35 years later, his formidable commercial brain and natural-born knack for marketing has spoken for itself.
Over the last two decades, everything he has touched, from Chicago to Istanbul, has turned to gold. Or in the case of Soho Farmhouse, reclaimed Romanian wood. The address forms the 14th property in the Soho House Group and is by far the biggest venture to date.
Comprising a mix of 18th-century and new structures, it’s more than a property – you’d be forgiven for referencing a small village. If you don’t fancy peddling around the 100-acre property, vintage milk trucks and BMW i3 electric cars are there to whizz guests around on demand (quietly and sustainably).
There are 40 cabins on site, varying from studios to three-bedders, and a couple of cottages – the biggest boasting seven bedrooms. All are equipped with a rainforest shower (one of Nick’s absolute mandates) and every bathroom product (Cowshed-branded) you could ever possibly want to souvenir from a hotel stay.
Atop each bed are the words: ‘If you don’t want to get out of your PJs to go to the Main Barn, Boathouse or Farmhouse. Deli, you can call for a float. Our chef will drive up to your cabin and cook your eggs and bacon just the way you like them, right outside your door.’
So if your idea of a country retreat is more rustic chic than wild camping, you’d better get your name on the much-lusted-after list now for a chance to get in before 2020.
Read the full feature article in Issue 30 of Collective Hub