THE STORY OF THE LOTUS BELLE
The history of the Lotus Belle is an inspiring and quirky story of one woman’s determination to make her childhood dream a reality.
Raised in the South West of England, Lotus Belle designer Harriet “Hari” Sneddon spent a large portion of her childhood camping with her family. This nurtured a passion for camping and outdoor living, and from a very young age she recalls making camping furniture and wanting to be a “tent designer”. As a teenager she went to live in a tent for the summer, her mother having to wake her from her “tent bedroom” before school, and in her late teens she made her first yurt which she then trekked across fields to camp in at festivals. However, it was whilst studying Spatial Design at University that she designed the first Lotus Belle Tent, however her tutor told her the idea was pointless and would never work, sadly she listened to them, forgot about her dream and went into teaching.
Thankfully for us, several years later and still harbouring dreams of designing tents, Hari revisited her idea after realising that teaching full time and being a single-mum weren’t compatible. She dusted off her designs and met with a friend who had a business making and importing traditional bell tents from his factory in China. He offered to make a prototype and when it was finished Hari travelled to the factory too see the very first Lotus Belle Tent and the realisation of her childhood dream. Originally called “The Onion Dome”, fate had other ideas and when Hari arrived at the factory the workers had nicknamed it the “Lotus Tent” and so its name began to evolve. “Bell” was added as the idea had sprung from the traditional bell tent and an “e” added for aesthetics, and thus “The Lotus Belle” it became; a name which on reflection now is perfectly suited to these elegant structures. Happy with the prototype Hari then invested her life savings to buy 20 tents (it was all she could afford) and a sleepless 6 months later, in 2012, the tents arrived. Armed with a fistful of flyers and one Lotus Belle Tent Hari headed to Camp Bestival in Dorset. She pitched the tent in a prominent position near the entrance with a sign offering 50% discount to any tents bought there and then, and waited. Only one tent sold at the festival but it was to a man named Henry Tykoenski who told her he thought she was “brave as a lion” and has since become her friend and advisor. Despite selling only one tent all the flyers were taken and by the end of 2012 Hari had sold all 20 tents.
That was almost 6 years ago and since then The Lotus Belle has gone from strength to strength, with over 50 products selling worldwide and its unique structure being unlike any other tent on the market. But what was the inspiration behind its unique shape? According to Hari it was Phillippe Starck’s 1990 “Juicy Salif” lemon juicer, produced for Alessi designs. Hari asked for one as a birthday present and studied Starcks’ design development sketches meticulously. In her own words she remembers “being utterly impressed with the way he’d managed to make something so practical also be so elegant. That lemon juicer has a lot to answer for when it comes to the birth of the Lotus Belle”. However Hari’s partner, Ben, feels the Lotus Belle shape and variations thereof, have been present in Hari’s consciousness for longer than that. On moving in together he noticed that many of Hari’s drawings and items she’d made since childhood all had similar, round, conical or circular shapes. He collected them together and made a short and intriguing video entitled “Lotus Encounters of the Designers Mind” that can be seen on the companies Facebook page.
Whatever the inspiration it’s fair to say that the Lotus Belle has transformed boutique camping fields at festivals across the land. Designed with the intention of being a cross between a bell tent and a yurt, to offer “back to nature escapism without the need to sacrifice comfort”, it has elevated the glamping experience to a whole new level, but it hasn’t stopped there. The original design has undergone several modifications leading to several variations now being available: there’s the romantic “Stargazer” which has perspex panels in the roof so you can lie in bed and gaze at the heavens; the “Lotus Bud” which is perfect for couples and uses an umbrella mechanism for erection so there’s no requirement for a centre pole; the regal “Lotus Mahal”, a versatile marquee-type structure combining three Lotus Belle’s and offering 60 square feet of luxury, who’s interior can be separated into private accommodation or left open plan as an event space; and the latest member to the family is the ingenious “Lotus Air Bud”, designed with festivals in mind it’s a miniature version of the original but comes in a handy backpack and uses air pole technology, which means it has no poles at all and inflates in less than 5 minutes!
Just as with the lemon juicer she admired all those years ago, Harriet Sneddon has managed to take something as practical as a tent and turn it into something elegant and truly unique; an ingenious design that combines the romantic wildness of outdoor living with the luxury of a 5 star hotel room. But aside from being a darn good tent, we think the Lotus Belle is also symbol of imagination, determination and having the courage to follow your dreams, and this makes us love them even more.