"I love it when the space is clean like a hotel room, but never stale," says Marc, a music composer based in Los Angeles. "You feel like you’re going into a homey place, but you’re not intruding." He’s describing an Airbnb he and his wife Judith, also a composer, visited recently in Big Sur, California, but he could just as easily be referring to their Hollywood Hills home, which is also available to book through Airbnb. Like their accommodations in Big Sur, their home is a fine balance of private and personal.
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This is part of the reciprocity of hosting. Sharing their space and being invited into others’ inspires the couple to continually reimagine their home’s design. "We always have to find something to work on," Judith says with a laugh.
The couple are from Switzerland but have resided in Los Angeles for decades. Previously they occupied an understated midcentury home in Los Feliz, which they updated for a more open and contemporary feel. Though the home and location suited them, they fell in love with the Hollywood Hills while housesitting a one-bedroom home near the top of Sunset Plaza Drive, and resolved to return one day when the opportunity presented itself. "It felt amazing, driving up the hill through the winding streets, leaving the city behind," Judith says, describing their first visit.
In 2006, they set about building their dream home on a sloped, cactus-dotted site about a mile from the Hollywood Sign. Meeting on a weekly basis with architect Anna Hinton of Silver Lake’s Mass Architecture, the couple planned a modern residence that would center on communal spaces for entertaining.
The minimalist house Hinton created surpassed the residents’ expectations, but the four-year ideation and construction period was taxing. "We had a kind of a strenuous building process and we were looking to rent out a room to help us financially," says Judith. That’s when she stumbled upon Airbnb online. By renting their main residence as well as their 350-square-foot guesthouse, the couple could not only recoup construction costs—they were also able to improve their property.
Visitors to the guesthouse enjoy its high ceilings and private entrance. "It has a uniquely safe feeling," says Judith. A sliding door connects to an intimate patio area, where guests can admire the property’s abundance of local flora and fauna. "We have deer that come from Griffith Park through our garden," Judith explains, alongside the admission that the yard is occasionally visited by coyotes. The couple makes sure to remind travelers from outside California that the animals are easily frightened. The structure is clad in a 14-inch-thick concrete envelope, which keeps it cool during the balmy summers and affords visitors privacy. "It’s like a cave," says Marc.
Which is not to say it’s sequestered. The pair pride themselves on their hospitality and flexibility. "We want guests to come together and eat and have a drink," says Judith, "but we also want guests to feel like they have their private space."
Judith and Marc, who are avid culinary enthusiasts, often invite lodgers to join them for artisanal meals in their spacious, open-plan kitchen, which centers on a 16-foot-long concrete island, treated to resemble granite. "You can cook next to a long table, and, when you get tired, go sit on the sofas. It’s just one big community space," says Judith. Guests can also dine at their own private kitchenette, which the residents fill with crackers, coffee, and other treats.
The more visitors the couple receives, the further their home develops. Their latest project is an outdoor living room, which will take full advantage of the southern California climate. This summer they’re installing a grill on the deck, soon to be joined by pergola. Longtime guests follow these updates online, eagerly looking forward to their next visit. The couple, meanwhile, will enjoy barbequing in the shade all year round.
Design inspiration comes from guest suggestions, as well as the broader Airbnb community. They have stayed at Airbnbs from Canada to Costa Rica since they discovered the service in 2010, and are always sourcing design tips and ideas from fellow hosts. "We’re constantly working on adding little things," says Judith.
While the financial incentives are compelling, the true value Judith and Marc derive from hosting is more difficult to quantify. In addition to funding and inspiring their design dreams, hosting affords them the opportunity to use their space for what they always wanted, dining and socializing with new friends. "It gives us pleasure and joy to be able to improve things so that when people come here on holiday, they can feel really excited and comfortable where they are," says Judith.
Visit Airbnb's website to learn more about becoming a host.