Where the Heart Is: Home Sweet Airbnb
On a toasty July afternoon, some 20 guests piled into our incredibly hip (not to brag) abode for son Matt’s college graduation soiree. We all celebrated the man of the hour with Lone Star, guacamole and chocolate cake. What more does a party need?
Two hours into the fete, and feeling extra gregarious, I impulsively added one more close friend — an incredibly hip guy I’d just met the day prior.
“Want to drop by our party for a glass of wine?” I texted. “Though it’s kind of awkward to invite you to your own house.”
Eddie and his equally hip wife Allie soon knocked on our front door — their front door. Rather uncomfortably, or so I imagined, they surveyed the folks casually lounging about our/their artistically appointed living room.
“Is it weird seeing a bunch of strangers in your house?” I asked.
“No, no, I’m cool with it,” Eddie answered.
“Yes, very weird,” Allie differed.
While they were still somewhat new to the world of Airbnb, my husband and I comported with such naivety that certain protocols didn’t occur to us until after the fact. For instance, it’s probably not kosher to host a bash without the landlords’ permission — even if you do wind up including them.
Oh, well, if that was our worst crime…
Except it wasn’t. Matt managed to knock over, and shatter, a bedside lamp in the middle of the night while shifting his pillow.
There goes our first and only Airbnb rating.
During introductions on the afternoon of our arrival, Eddie determined that Matt is 22.
“OK. I’m considering an age minimum of, um, 22,” Eddie joked.
After the lamp incident, I suggested to Eddie that he up that requirement to 23.
We were spending a week in my hometown, Austin, where daughter Erin now claims the space I left behind decades ago. In the past, we have always stayed with relatives — the kids’ Granddad and Grandmom and, after they died, Uncle Bruce and Aunt Elizabeth.
One winter, just to get some individualized face time with my many siblings, we dragged our suitcases to four different houses.
“Austin is supposed to be this great vacation destination, but all I ever see is suburbia,” my husband would complain.
So this summer, we decided to get a place of our own and play tourists.
Erin and her beau Jake had just moved to an apartment in super-cool East Austin, the new Brooklyn. (Yes, their industrial-style loft — with its soaring, steel-beamed ceiling — is incredibly hip.) Recovering helicopter parents, Mike and I wanted to pitch tent nearby. Almost as a gimmick, we told relatives and friends to come our direction because we would not be venturing northwest to beaten paths.
Now, I’m a bit of a Luddite, tiptoeing into the “sharing economy” with great trepidation. Uber? No thanks! Until I discovered the ride service’s convenience while scooting around Seattle two years ago. During this latest Austin stint, we went so far as to spurn the cost of a rental car for Uber fares.
Likewise, I’ve shied away from this whole Airbnb thing. For one, I sympathize with criticism that short-term lessors drive up rents for long-term lessees. For another, I like hotels and maid service.
But, as I quickly came to realize, there’s much to be said for the creature comforts of your “own” home — where you can crank up the music, chill on the sofa, do a load of laundry and store cheese in the fridge.
Ostensibly, you also can save some dough by cooking your meals and eating in. Ostensibly.
As a bonus, our two-bedroom, two-story love nest was (and still is, I’m sure) a treasure chest of visual delights — complete with a soaring, steel-beamed ceiling downstairs.
Allie once worked with a New Orleans photographer, whose striking portraits of jazz musicians abound. The metal kitchen cabinets resemble school lockers, except that they’re orange. Mid-century light fixtures glow with simple grace. Second-hand tables, dressers and chairs proudly show their wear — no fussy refinishing here.
My take-away decorating lesson: When you purposefully go for a vintage, thrift-shop look, you also can go economical. Done right, the result absolutely charms.
My luck — that ceramic lamp we’re replacing was the only priceless antique in the house.
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