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A new essay on examining how Authentic your Airbnb is


OK, Paul, here is a challenge for you. I looked at a few Plus properties in my locale. One included literally 5 close ups of vases and 2 of the bathroom faucet, as if the photographer was gobsmacked by every shiny object. I’ve never seen so many grey sofas in one place.
WHY are these places so attractive to guests? My only guess is that they are aspirational – perhaps people like to fantasize that they could have a lifestyle where everything is sleek, clean, minimalist, and under control – a big contrast to piles of paper on the dining table, messes of shoes and hats and jackets littering the entryway, clashes between the sheets and the comforter design/color because why throw away a perfectly good set of sheets, a glued-together platter because you dropped the turkey that one Thanksgiving, etc. that they have at home. So the bigger contrast to your messy life, the better.
Sure, I could decorate to this “standard” – white walls, gray upholstery, pops of yellow and teal, MCM or minimalist furnishings, pendant lighting, dark floors and vaguely ethnic rugs, but, while it may be “authentic” something for someone, it’s not to me. But if faking it benefits my bottom line, heck, I just may have talked myself into trying a redesign . . . the furnishings and decor items in the Plus places I looked at were not necessarily high quality pieces nor well done (yellow paint and stick on backsplashes), they just fit a certain model.


I offer 4 entire places that range in age from 100 to 145 years old. These are authentic homes, that are furnished with authentic antiques and I loathe the greige bland interiors that are so fashionable at the moment. To be blunt, I find them boring and very much rubber stamped.
I like interesting places that demonstrate a history. I like texture and age and evidence of love and use.


please no clashes between the sheets or faking it!!!
I Loved your post! And Debthe cat

I like texture and age and evidence of love and use, too! plus more color!


I wonder what the booking rate is of such places?


Challenge accepted!

It’s all a matter of taste.

Philosophy is not my strong suit, but I have read a little bit about Kant’s view on aesthetics. He argues that there are two conditions for a judgement to be made on taste: subjectivity and normativity. Subjective judgement is based on personal feelings of pleasure/displeasure. With a normative judgement, there is an expectation that the judgement is felt universally in others.

Working with this then, my feeling with these grey beige (greige) approaches at dressing a room are naive or un-confident attempts at normativity. Grey is the epitome of an average light. Mix a heap of paint and you will find brown is an average colour. The hosts are in effect attempting at reaching an average neither black nor white nor brown. I wrote about my dislike for the average previously.

I don’t doubt this strategy works. Because averages work the way they do, a significant proportion of (average) guests will be drawn to them because they are not offending the normative judgements.


The presentation of the inoffensive offering has an appeal to guests looking to make simple decisions. But as with all things simple, business-wise it is a risky strategy.

When things go wrong in a simple system it easily slips into chaos. For example, baking a cake is simple task… add flour eggs, butter sugar… but get the proportions wrong and it’s not a cake ,it’s an accident. This is called Cynefin

So the same is true for a simple approach that delivers a 5-star Plus accommodation. But deviate from the unoffensive and there is an amplified reaction that can easily slip into chaos, burnt cakes. In short, a 5-star authentic Airbnb Plus requires 5-star maintenance.

I have a lot of time for the Peter Lorimer show Stay here. But the show is inauthentic. It’s not hard to dress California beachfront into beautiful Airbnb Plus. Assuming the host can maintain this (ie this is true to themselves) because it is what it says is, then these homes should fly.

I don’t want to be rude, but my guess is that the hosts were not suited to the maintenance that this sort of makeover requires. It would be interesting to see if they revisited these places.

The Airbnb Plus near you it seems are struggling to make the property/owner true to its self. That’s why they are left photographing faucets and cushion covers. Just like the LA beach house, my opinion is that these will fail to attract guests in significant numbers because it is not as simple as fluffing cushions and polishing taps (faucets).

Peter Druker talks of the myth of the product. He argues that business is not about curating a product but curating a customer. In our small Airbnb, if we can find a significant set of guests that like what we naturally do, then we have a business that is resilient to the movement of fashion that Airbnb Plus will undoubtedly enforce on their owners.

Of course, it all depends if there are enough people that the same clutter we do!


Interesting. So the Plus line, if I am interpreting you correctly, creates the appearance of guaranteeing a the guest will experience a normative “standard,” (of cleanliness, luxury, predictability, looks-like-a-magazine, Instagrammable, etc.), reducing the perception of risk by the consumer and theoretically leading to more bookings.
Airbnb corporate is investing a lot in promoting the Plus line, I expect they’ve done a great deal of research, so I wouldn’t classify them as naive or un-confident haha! See the Air design team’s article on Plus design trends at https://press.airbnb.com/rustic-chic-to-staying-in-imalism-airbnb-plus-2019-design-trends/ . (First time I’ve read the term “feature firewood.”) Airbnb is insistent that it is the hosts who are driving the design, but like all such ventures, they are influencing through their approval and advertising process, consciously or unconsciously.
Although others have pointed out a gap in their plan – how to maintain the properties. I guess they are relying on reviews to winnow out those that can’t maintain, rather than periodic inspections by a back office that doesn’t exist.
Applying your point to my suite (the personality of which I’ll characterize as “Let’s go visit Mom in our nation’s capital!”), the scrape on the baseboard from a guest using a wheelchair is far less likely to be noticed and to cause a negative reaction that in a Plus property. Indeed, no subsequent guest has commented on it. The most negative design comment I’ve ever received is that the place is “decorated simply.”
I’m not dissing anyone who is marketing a Plus place with a Dwell magazine “look.” If it makes money for them, they should work it! Obviously I’m thinking about it myself – redecorate, get Plus’ed, raise rates to hire professional cleaners so that I can concentrate on maintenance such as paint touch ups and sourcing local honey and flower vendors. (Hey, I do provide local brewery beer in the dorm fridge. Oops, that used dorm fridge would have to go . . . and be replaced with a more upscale brand new one!!)
Thanks for making me think on a rainy Tuesday morning!


It’s not just maintain in the sense of clean and in good repair. It would also involve periodic stylistic updating. The design and decorating industry works hard to convince us that the old is ugly and we need the new. Some things have staying power, like stainless steel appliances that are 20 years old. But other things age quickly. What is this year’s “color of the year?” Did you get oiled bronze and copper fixtures for your rustic chic place with hard water? Good luck keeping that new looking. Amazing red claw foot tub? That has some real staying power…

And then there are the things that are stylish and uncomfortable, like pub tables. It’s not comfortable to sit for long periods of time with your feet off the floor. So the counter height dining table has had a relatively short life span. Meanwhile the solid oak dining table I bought in 1988 is going strong. Some decades it’s more in style than others. I’m happy to see my plain brown Denby stoneware and plain brushed finish New Charm flatware has been back in style for a few years now.

So if you get some pricing power and more bookings from Airbnb Plus and you love to redecorate and redesign on an ongoing basis it will work for you. If you want to set it and forget it and make $$ it won’t.


Your post hooked me with the image! All in fun here, I’m going to have to take exception with your original statement :joy:. The BMW version is MINI (all caps) the classic is Mini. There was a Countryman in the classic lineup from 1960-69, so a Countryman is authentic.
As a MINI owner I have attended (and occasionally helped organize) the annual gathering every May. We average 800 MINI/Minis every year. To the enthusiasts, we don’t really differentiate between them. Most of those who own the new version would give their eye teeth for a classic but realize it’s not doable or even practical to own one as they are hard to come by and also aren’t something that can be considered a reliable daily driver. The owners of the classics don’t consider themselves part of a different club and get that it’s the same for us, we just love the cars.
Just writing this gets me thinking it’s coming up and it’s time to start planning!
On a side note, I clicked your page and am enjoying your other writings.
Gratuitous pic of my MINI, Witchiepoo, with a classic buddy :wink:.


I do love the cars honest… :grinning:

Witchiepoo looks like its straight out of Puff n Stuff

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