When you take great pride in your home, learning to open it to the world can be a process. Lara, a brand consultant, and Ethan, a designer and entrepreneur with a degree in industrial design from the Pratt Institute, spent years perfecting their two-story apartment in San Francisco’s Mission district, which they share with their baby daughter. An eclectic mix of contemporary furniture and cherished antiques, including everything from an ancient Greek water jug to artwork by Tobias Wong, define the interior spaces. In back, a garden enclosed by bamboo offers a calm respite from city life for the young family.
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"We’re very conscious of the home environment and setting it up well. It’s very much a blend of our two styles," says Ethan.
The home is as welcoming as it is comfortable. "The layout is perfect for hosting," Lara says. "We definitely had that in mind when we bought the place." Yet every time the couple broached the topic of hosting through Airbnb, they hesitated. "Our home is a sanctum," Ethan explains. "Opening it up was not trivial."
This is despite the fact that they are natural hosts. Ethan, a fifth-generation Californian, knows the ins-and-outs of the Bay Area better than almost anyone. Lara, who was born in Haute-Savoie near Mont Blanc, has a "European" attitude toward hospitality, which she defines as being "more at ease with proximity" to others.
Still, it took a series of firsthand experiences with the room-sharing service to convince them to open up their home. Through Airbnb, they’ve traveled the world from Santa Cruz to Haiti. It was during one of these unforgettable stays they had an epiphany: what if Airbnb was full of guests just like them, considerate, conscientious, and grateful to be invited into someone else’s space?
"This is a whole network of people who are gathered around trust and community and, as a result, feel comfortable opening up their doors," says Ethan. "It began to feel like we should be participating on both sides, not just as travelers."
The amount of room at their disposal was another incentive to host. Lara and Ethan describe themselves as "thoughtful consumers" and are loath to let anything go to waste. In San Francisco, there’s no resource more precious than space. Their home is exceptionally roomy, even for a family with a young child. Hosting through Airbnb presented an opportunity to fill that space, in addition to supplementing their income.
Inspired by the ease and security with which others rented their homes, and eager to maximize their space, the couple created a host profile. They immediately embraced the experience, relishing giving recommendations to first-time visitors to San Francisco and unwinding with guests in their backyard. To date, they’ve hosted over 40 travelers. At first they rented only their downstairs suite, but now they sometimes open the entire house to guests and travel themselves. Lara’s so enthusiastic about Airbnb, she’s even started renting her parents’ house in France.
Lara and Ethan’s travels continue to inform their approach to hospitality, as they gather tips from fellow hosts. Aware that people often overlook the basics when packing, they pride themselves on anticipating their guests’ needs, from hairdryers to dish soap.
Being an accessible resource for their guests is also a priority for them. "We’re constantly asking people what their plans are and trying to make them bigger and better," Ethan says, "which has led to going out with Airbnb guests on occasion." If the couple leaves town during a visit, they always arrange to have a friend serve as a reference for their guests. Merely dropping off the keys is never an option.
Opening their home was an adjustment for Lara and Ethan, but they couldn’t be more satisfied with the results. What began as an exercise in reciprocity has evolved into a global network of friends. When they visited Istanbul, for instance, they asked a party of Turkish businesspeople that had stayed with them for advice on what to see. The group did them one better. In the end, their entire team took Lara and Ethan out for a night of authentic food and drink—sharing a glimpse of their city with the same excitement and pride that Lara and Ethan feel for their hometown of San Francisco.
Visit Airbnb's website to learn more about becoming a host.