People who are conscious of the built environment around them, known vernacularly as architecture buffs, plan entire itineraries around seeing and visiting the most extraordinary buildings in and around their selected destinations. With architectural gems now offered as vacation rental properties, these kinds of travelers need not compromise on their accommodations.
The founding of Airbnb in 2008 completely disrupted the hospitality industry, giving travelers of all kinds an opportunity to opt out of hotel accommodations and occupy a flat in a neighborhood where they could experience the city as a local. Single-family homes, even mansions, are available for those who want to splurge or pool their resources, and many leisure travelers now regularly choose Airbnb or one of its rivals over traditional hotel accommodations.
For those who care about architecture, the sheer variety of rental properties offered on these platforms allows design-minded tourists an opportunity to stay in a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-style home outside of Chicago, or a Mid-Century Modern masterpiece from Richard Neutra or Rudolph Schindler in the hills above Los Angeles. These choices give the specialty of architecture tourism a new, more intimate dimension.
Among the current listings on platforms such as Airbnb, Vrbo and BoutiqueHomes are an awesome array of architectural gems, including landmarks — even an occasional listing on the National Register of Historic Places — by some of the architecture world’s giants. Frank Lloyd Wright fans have a plethora of opportunities on various vacation rental sites to immerse themselves in the master’s work — truly passionate FLW aficionados have been known to design entire national tours sleeping exclusively in the architect’s renowned residences.
Wright’s Eppstein House in Galesburg, Michigan, a beautifully restored three-bedroom home, is listed for as little as $340 per night. A guest suite at his Amberg House in nearby Grand Rapids — this 1910 residence with generous polished wood and stained-glass appointments is a classic example of Prairie-style architecture — can be rented for a motel-budget rate of $159 per night The only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed residence in the state of Hawaii, a 3,400-square-foot Big Island home with lovely views, can be booked ($950 per night), as can the architect’s final residential effort, an ultra-modern Scottsdale, Arizona, stunner ($935 per night).
Vrbo, owned by Expedia Group, is a family-oriented vacation rental platform with a property portfolio exceeded in size only by Airbnb. Alison Kwong, senior public relations manager at the company, states, “What’s special about renting a vacation property is the unique variety of places you can book, including homes of historic or architectural significance.” She adds, “We love that our hosts who own properties designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and other renowned architects rent them out so guests can experience what it’s like to stay in these one-of- a-kind homes.”
For international travelers, architecturally significant accommodations are no further away than one’s smartphone. For a mere $258 per night, visitors to the fashion capital of Milan, Italy can book a one-bedroom flat in Bosco Verticale (“Vertical Forest”), one of the greenest buildings in the world, designed by pioneering eco-architect Stefano Boeri. In exotic Sri Lanka, a three-bedroom clifftop villa with panoramic ocean views, authored by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, is available for $680 per night.
Unlike Airbnb, which currently offers more than 5 million listings, aptly-named BoutiqueHomes maintains a select base of approximately 1,400 properties, some designed by celebrated architects while others simply possess unique artistic attributes or compelling histories. Stacy Suaya, an editor for BoutiqueHomes, insists her company’s approach is much different than the mass-market platforms.
“Our properties are more soulful. We take the time to know our owners and build on their unique stories,” reports Suaya, a travel journalist whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine and Robb Report. “Some were designed by famous architects, many have the patina of history,” she adds. For examples, Suaya cites Studio Giardini, an old butcher shop in Venice, Italy converted into an art studio and rental unit, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Schwartz House — one of the architect’s experimental Usonian homes designed for the middle class — in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
Sleeping 14 guests on a 4,000-acre oceanfront site in New Zealand is an award-winning home by celebrity Kiwi architect Andrew Patterson, priced at $5,795 per night on the BoutiqueHomes platform, while a bit less expensive is an entire private island in Greece with a graciously appointed neoclassical villa. “Our clients are looking for someplace unique to stay and don’t have the time to sit on the other sites sifting through material,” explains Suaya.
Marriott International, one of the global giants of the hospitality industry, entered the vacation rental business in 2019 after Vrbo and Airbnb established the viability of this market. Jennifer Hsieh, vice president of Homes & Villas by Marriott International, indicates travelers are increasingly looking for something out of the ordinary for their accommodations. “As a result, we have some truly unique homes in our portfolio — everything from a treehouse in Costa Rica to a glass-fronted villa in Cape Town to a restored mid-mod pool home in Palm Springs,” she reports.
“We highlight key features and unique properties through curated collections and assorted groupings, rotating them and creating new ones as we spot trends and identify new travel behaviors and preferences,” says Hsieh. Explaining that Homes & Villas seeks out distinctive properties, she adds, “Professional property managers that have halo homes with architecturally unique features certainly have an advantage when being considered for inclusion in our portfolio.”
Connie Lindor and Scott Muellner met in architecture school and their passions for travel and the built environment led them to found PlansMatter, a platform for renting architecturally significant homes and hotels around the globe for consumers who value world-class design in their lives. The works of architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler, Peter Zumthor, and Chad Oppenheim are currently featured on the PlansMatter website.
Palm Springs, California, may well be the epicenter of classic Mid-Century Modern design and the city’s annual Modernism Week showcases some of the remarkable properties that have come to define the destination. Acme House Company maintains an impressive inventory of vacation rental properties throughout the Coachella Valley, including many architectural gems consistent with the distinctive local style, some with celebrity pedigrees homes and hotels around the globe for consumers who value world-class design in their lives. The works of architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler, Peter Zumthor, and Chad Oppenheim are currently featured on the PlansMatter website. Palm Springs, California, may well be the epicenter of classic Mid-Century Modern design and the city’s annual Modernism Week showcases some of the remarkable properties that have come to define the destination. Acme House Company maintains an impressive inventory of vacation rental properties throughout the Coachella Valley, including many architectural gems consistent with the distinctive local style, some with celebrity pedigrees.
By Roger Grody
This article originally appeared in Homes & Estates magazine.