Make Yourself At Home
If you find “the sharing economy” a bit of a cringe, let onefinestay tempt you to cheat on your favourite luxury hotel
Tramways in Camden, London
Here at MR PORTER, we enjoy staying at a fine hotel as much as anyone. What’s not to like? Whether you’re on your honeymoon in a 15th-century Venetian palace, or taking time out overlooking the Singapore skyline, the linen’s always crisp and – should the need arise – someone will make you a Bloody Mary at 4am.
But sometimes you may wish to trade that “Good day, Guvnor” from the doorman in livery for a bit more privacy and comfort – a home away from home.
Onefinestay, founded in 2009 by Mr Greg Marsh – previously of venture capital firm Index Ventures – offers just that. Curating a selection of houses across the globe, the online service gives you the chance to live in a local’s house while they’re out of town. Ideal for a getaway to a foreign city, these abodes offer character, freedom and the opportunity to experience a new destination more as a local than a tourist would. What’s more, there are no persistent bell boys lurking in the foyer waiting for a palm-greasing. (And we’re sure a man of your talents can manage to make your own Bloody Marys.)
Below, we’ve collated some of the best houses available to book at onefinestay.com. From LA to London, take a look around, make yourself at home and hear from the owners you could be renting from on your next trip.
1. Kubrick House, Santa Monica, LA
“It can feel like a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, hence the nickname ‘Kubrick House’”
The owner: Mr Mark Rivett, composer and musician
Built in 1923 in the American Craftsman style, this minimalist LA house was renovated in 2002 and bought by Mr Rivett in 2012. A contemporary space in the sophisticated beachside city of Santa Monica, Kubrick House offers airy rooms with unexpected additions, such as fluorescent-lit walls. It comes with one bedroom (it can sleep two and has its own private off-road driveway).
How would you describe the vibe of the property?
It has a classic southern Californian, LA beach vibe but feels unique and modern. It seems much larger than its 716sqft – helped by the floor-to-ceiling glass. The main dividing wall that splits the living area from the office, bathroom and bedroom contains numerous fluorescent tubes, which provide the bulk of the light. In the office it can feel like a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, hence the nickname “Kubrick House”.
How does the house tie into your lifestyle?
I’ve composed, programmed and produced two film scores within its walls and feel very much at home here. The industrial nature of the house means that computers, desks and guitars don’t interfere with the aesthetic of the house.
What’s your one tip for being the perfect house guest?
The perfect guest treats a home like you treat the natural world. If you venture into it, enjoy it, soak it up, love it, but then leave it the way you found it.
Mr Rivett’s reccomendations
A quick bite at Superba Snack Bar
“Order the kale salad and the cauliflower ‘T-bone’.”
A stroll on Abbot Kinney Boulevard
“Someone told me this street was just voted the coolest in the US!”
Lunch at Cerveteca
“Known to locals as ‘Oscar’s’, it’s a cool place with great food.”
Le Zinque for a drink
“Thursday nights are great if Andrea is deejaying.”
Dinner at The Penthouse
“An upmarket Santa Monica restaurant and a great place to watch the sun go down over the mountains.”
Sausages at Wurstkuche
“If you’re into German beer and sausages with a twist (example: rattlesnake), you will love this place.”
2. Summers Street, Clerkenwell, London
“I like the influence of the old gin factories... and the fact that, in his day, Jack the Ripper probably walked by”
The owner: Mr Niall Downing, TV director
With its industrial-style windows and bare brickwork, Mr Downing’s open-plan apartment – where he has lived for more than a decade – slots well into the warehouses and print-work buildings of Clerkenwell. High ceilings and a vintage feel throughout give it a TriBeCa loft feel. It has two bedrooms, one of which has a freestanding bath in an ensuite bathroom.
How would you describe the vibe of your property?
It feels like proper London – very urban and full of history and character. I like the influence of the old gin factories, the meat market, and the fact that, in his day, Jack the Ripper probably walked by once or twice.
How does your place reflect what you do?
I’m a director so I suppose I was very attracted to the light in the flat. I think the windows are about 14 feet high – not something you get very often in London.
How does it fit into the area?
I think it was built in the 1920s as a print works, hence the high ceilings and the incredibly thick concrete floors. It is industrial but it has a kind of elegance despite its stature. I would say it doesn’t just fit into the local area; it enhances it.
What’s your one tip for being the perfect guest?
If the drinks cabinet is fuller than when I left it I wouldn’t complain. Other than that, just treat the place as if it’s your own.
Mr Downing’s recommendations
Some quiet time at St Bartholomew-the-great
“This is a beautiful Anglican church. If you visit, I also recommend walking around the small surrounding backstreets. It’s a fascinating bit of old London.”
Dinner at St John
“This is one of my favourite restaurants in London. Created by Fergus Henderson, it specialises in 'nose to tail' eating. Don’t be put off – it’s delicious and they do great fish and veg, too."
A pint in Jerusalem Tavern
“A tiny, very old pub with traditional brewed beers from Suffolk.”
A quick dip in Ironmonger Row Baths
“A good, clean, bright swimming pool that allows pay as you go. There’s a kids pool too.”
A wander down Lambs Conduit Street
“A lovely street, full of clothes shops and restaurants. La Gourmandina is a nice newcomer, with good coffee and delicious food. Opposite that is Albion Wine Shippers – a great independent wine shop.”
Coffee at Leather Lane Market
“There’s good coffee at Department of Coffee & Social Affairs – and a fun mix of street food and market stalls.”
3. Tramways, Camden Road, Highbury, London
“It is an insider and an outsider at the same time... a portal to an interface with the city”
The owner: Mr Hugo Tillman, artist
Bought by photographer Mr Tillman in 2009, this former tram shed warehouse has been filled tastefully with everything from antiques and Japanese tapestries to Chinese rattan chairs. Its maze-like layout takes in a spiral staircase, an olive tree-filled terrace, and walls of books.
Have you made any modifications to the house?
I bought it in 2009 and have not made any structural changes, but plenty of cosmetic things. My mother is a rather prominent decorator in New York, so she was of great help to me, as was Andrew Webb of Collier Webb.
What’s your favourite object in the house?
That has to be the triangular stone with images of the Buddha on each face. It was used to meditate by rotating the stone in the hand by multiple generations of a family of Tibetan Buddhists. I bought it from its last owner while in Ladakh.
How does the house reflect the area?
It is highly undercover. It is an insider and an outsider at the same time. It is as much part of Holloway as it is not – just like myself. It is an oasis, a sanctuary. The door acts as a portal to an interface with the city.
Where’s your home away from home?
A few friends and I have leased an old Muay Thai boxing camp in Thailand. We are in the process of converting it into a holistic retreat where we will focus on health, design, gastronomy, critical-thinking workshops and of course nature.
Mr Tillman’s recommendations
Clubbing at Egg London
“If you want to have a hardcore night, check out this legendary club.”
Catch a match at Arsenal Emirates Stadium
“If you are into football, it really does not get much better.”
Enjoy a bit of culture at Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
“A superb collection of Italian Futurist paintings. This is a very nice place to visit, combined with a lunch special at Trullo.”
Buy food at Godfreys.co
“This is a fantastic organic butcher. Highbury also has an excellent fishmonger, grocer and cheese shop. It is a brilliant place for buying incredible ingredients.”
A stroll on Hampstead Heath
“I personally like to go up Holloway Road and enter the Heath on the Highbury side, walk to Hampstead, and eat yakitori at Jin Kichi. A perfect day!”
Don’t miss London Metropolitan University’s Graduate Centre
“This was designed by Daniel Libeskind, the world-famous architect who carried out such projects as the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the ongoing Ground Zero master plan in New York. The ‘futuresque’ design of this building is eye-catching and you can see the blocks stretching out above the streets.”
4. East 12th Street, New York
“I put in a new kitchen, built a brick-walled secret garden in the backyard, and the rest was painted and covered with vintage wallpaper”
The owner: Ms Pamela Bell, founder of Prinkshop
Ms Bell, who is also the co-founder of Kate Spade as well as Prinkshop, moved in to her expansive 19th-century New York townhouse in 2007. Set in the middle of the exciting East Village, its neoclassical interiors have been expertly decorated by the fashion-industry heavyweight with vintage wallpaper and textiles. Over three floors you’ll find a classical piano, five bedrooms and a long galley kitchen.
What modifications did you make when you bought the house?
When I purchased the house it was a multi-unit rental apartment. I turned it into a single-family home with my office on the ground floor. I put in a new kitchen, built a brick-walled secret garden in the backyard, and the rest was painted and covered with vintage wallpaper from Second Hand Rose. I left the original mouldings, parquet floor and as many details as possible, and replaced the parlour floor with herringbone pattern of wood that was left over from the renovation of The Plaza Hotel.
How do you utilise the space?
We often entertain and the parlour floor is a perfect space for guests. The ground floor is used as a home office/ occasional rental unit. I also have a silk screening studio in one of the large bedrooms on my floor. I use the third floor for the children.
What’s your favourite object in the house?
Our chalk-board walls in the entrance. We use it for words, quotes, overt and covert messages. No one ever knows who writes what. I also love the ping pong table.
How does the house fit into the feel of the area?
The area is bustling with NYU students and long-standing East Village residents. I think we fit right in the middle.
Ms Bell’s reccomendations
Coffee in Il Buco Alimentari
“The cappuccino here is to die for. It feels as though you are in Italy for a moment.”
The Sabah Dealer for shoes
“A shoe speakeasy of sorts, it’s the only place I know in NYC where the door is always open and one can buy a pair of shoes in a few minutes. Mickey Ashmore, the Sabah dealer, is also one of the most affable men we know. Luckily for us, he is right next-door.”
Dinner at Northern Spy Co.
“This place is the perfect distance from the house to make us feel as though we are truly going ‘out to dinner’. It’s a fantastic atmosphere and the food never disappoints. Plus, we love the cider they serve.”
Food on Union square Farmers Market
“The best-kept secret in Manhattan. They have everything fresh and everything local, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Bring your own bags!”
John Derian shops on East 2nd street
“John Derian is an old-school and very charming artist – the nicest, warmest creative in Manhattan with the most original gifts, books and curiosities. It’s a magical experience each time.”