Alex's "Properly" Welcoming Noe Valley Home

Alex's "Properly" Welcoming Noe Valley Home

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Rebecca Blumhagen
Nov 20, 2015
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(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Name: Alex
Location: Noe Valley, San Francisco
Size: 1,738 square feet
Years lived in: 17 years; owned
Years hosting on Airbnb: 2 1/2 years

Alex's two-story home is situated on a quiet, tree-lined street in Noe Valley. From his upper balcony you can see a stunning view of the city, and on a clear day you can spy both the Bay Bridge and Twin Peaks. With a hot tub on the lower deck off the master bedroom, and a hammock off the upper deck opening off of the dining area, it's an ideal spot and an oasis for any traveler looking to retreat from the bustle of the city.

(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

What you might not glean from the pictures is that Alex is the kind of host who insists on making your entire film crew a homemade Italian lunch – in less time than it takes you to protest. Perfect al dente pasta, an exquisitely colorful salad, ice cream with homemade raspberry sauce: all whipped up without you realizing what's happening. For Alex, hospitality is a way of life.

Alex and his girlfriend, Tammi (they met at an Airbnb cocktail party for superhosts), have both built lives which allow them to share their resources with other travelers while making their own long-distance relationship feel like adventure. Over lunch, they tell us some behind-the-scenes stories of what it's been like to host with Airbnb and why they love it. Tammi wants her Seattle home to start to feel more like the kind of place she grew up in: a rural Montana farm where her mom would drop everything to serve cookies when a neighbor stopped by. Alex recalls some genuine friendships he's made, and the unexpected bond between strangers that can happen when you open your home.

"Before," he said, "I designed my home for myself. Now, I find myself designing it to share. It's more fun this way."

With the income he's earned from hosting, Alex has built a company called Properly, devoted to making gracious hospitality easier for Airbnb hosts like himself. It allows every guest to check into a clean, well-stocked and inviting home, even if the host is traveling or unable to be there.

Come on in! Have a glass of wine. And if you want, lie back on the hammock and look up into the redwood tree. Welcome home.

(Image credit: Kim Lucian)
(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I’d like my home to be modern, yet comfortable. My style is eclectic - I like to mix and match, from all around the world. I like to work with light, so I like the feel of my house at night, when I can control the light. During the day, I love the skylights, that flood the house with light - this allowed me to use black as the primary color upstairs.

Inspiration: Most of my inspiration comes from traveling. Traveling is for me constant discovery and a never ending source of ideas. When I return home, I like to then adapt some of the ideas that I bring back to my space. I like staying at Airbnbs, as it gives me a glimpse into someone else’s design ideas. As opposed to a hotel, they tend to be practical and less contrived.

How/Why Did You Decide To Host on Airbnb? I started to host with Airbnb almost as a science project: I was working in venture capital at the time, and the sharing economy was all the rage. I had stayed in a few Airbnbs, but had never hosted. I wanted to experience hosting first hand, and since I split my time between my girlfriend’s place and my house in Noe Valley, the latter was empty half of the time. So this created the perfect opportunity to start hosting. Also, I’m very interested in design challenges, and I was interested in the challenge of creating a “convertible” house: i.e. something that could feel like a home to me, but then quickly convert into a comfortable and welcoming space for guests.

Please express any fears or concerns that you overcame in the process! My concerns were about privacy, and walking that fine line between being welcoming to guests, yet still protect my privacy and make my home feel like a home, not a hotel.

Do you rent out a shared room, private room, or your entire home/apartment? I typically rent out the entire house, while we are traveling or staying at Tammi’s house. We’ll experiment with renting out a bedroom, mostly because we had great experiences with meeting some of our guests, and thought it might be fun.

Favorite Element: The kitchen counters made from an old bowling lane. They look great, and they are extremely functional.

Biggest Challenge: The house always feels like work in progress. When one new element is in place, I realize just how much else there needs to get done.

Proudest DIY: My bubble lamp.

What Friends Say: I love hosting dinner parties, and my biggest reward is when people feel at home and forget how late it is. So when my friends say “Gosh, I can’t believe it’s already midnight,” I think we have succeeded.

How long have you been hosting? For 2 1⁄2 years.

What kind of guests have you had? Any you keep in touch with? My typical guests are parents, grandparents, and kids. The majority of my guests come from abroad, so far, we have had guests from Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, China, Singapore and Chile. And yes, I’ve kept in touch with a few: just last week I had lunch with one of my first guests, who stayed at my place on vacation from Germany, and is now back here with his son to explore studying at a Bay Area university.

When do you host? I host mostly when I’m not at the house. I travel a fair amount for business, and to Seattle, where Tammi lives. I also own a property in New Zealand. So we are constantly hosting: when we are in one place, we host in the other two.

Biggest Indulgence: My other Airbnb, in New Zealand. It’s a bell tent, and I have been building structures around it for the last few years. Now I have a pergola there, and orchard. The tent is pure glamping: it’s fully furnished inside, with carpets, a comfortable bed, and there’s even a TV and a sound system. //www.airbnb.com/rooms/4879541

What have you done with your funds from hosting? I started and funded a company through its first 9 months on my Airbnb income. Fittingly, my company, Properly (getproperly.com) deals with a problem that I experienced while hosting: how to better manage the guest turnover, particularly while I’m away. I built a mobile checklist that allows me to easily convey complex turnover instructions to any cleaning pro. This drastically simplifies hosting for me, and gives me peace of mind.

Would you recommend others to host on Airbnb? Why? Yes, absolutely. It’s been a pleasure hosting guests, and it has been far easier than I expected. Also, it’s been very rewarding to hear how much guests have enjoyed my place, and appreciate the little touches.

Have you ever been an Airbnb guest? If so, where? I love staying at Airbnbs, and have tried Airbnbs in Berlin, London, Paris, Istanbul, Kas (Turkey), Kastellorizo (Greece), and Orcas, Washington.

What is your hosting style? How do you interact with your guests? I try to make guests feel at home. The kitchen is always well stocked, and I leave all my kitchen gadgets and appliances out for guests to use. I leave my books out for guests to read, and I’m very happy if a guest comments that they discovered something they like. I try to anticipate their needs - if someone is here on business, I’ll make sure there’s an ironing board and shoe polish in the house. I always leave a welcome gift - fruit, a bottle of bubbly, or a local selection of cheeses.

What has been the most surprising thing about being an Airbnb host? How rewarding it is to host - I love to hear the feedback of our guests, and I love it when they enjoy their stay here.

Best Advice: Relax. The best host is a relaxed host. When your host is relaxed, you fell at ease and at home. And when you come across a problem, first laugh together, then work collaboratively with your guest towards a solution.

Dream Sources: Freud, London, The Conran Shop, London The Monocle Shop, London Boffi, Milan, Poliform, B&B Italia, Ligne Roset. Coup d’Etat, San Francisco Flora Grubb, San Francisco

Find out more about becoming an Airbnb host!

Resources

(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

HALLWAY/ ENTRYWAY:

  • Barn Doors: reclaimed wood, Linscott Builders
  • Lights: Ikea
  • Ganesha painting: Pune, India
  • (Image credit: Kim Lucian)

    LIVING ROOM (FRONT)

  • Sofa, Leather Chair, Coffee Table, Floor Lamp - Oluce: Italydesign.com (Design Centro Italia, Berkeley, CA
  • Painted Wooden Ox: antique, Delhi, India
  • Bookcase: old drawers, Establish (establishsf.com)
  • Wooden Bench: Treasure Island flea market
  • Rug: Kas, Turkey
  • Moss Panel: DIY, from reindeer moss, canvas panel, and resin epoxy
  • Cinni Fan: Freud, London
  • (Image credit: Kim Lucian)

    DINING, LIVING ROOM

  • Sideboard: Limn
  • Chairs: Crassevig
  • Teak Table: sample sale
  • Bookshelf: wine cases, DIY
  • Coffee Table: (reclaimed wood and Ikea cowhide) DIY, LInscott Builders
  • Bubble Light: DIY, Philips Hue bulb
  • Triptych: Simon Cox, EE2F.coms
  • Wood box for firewood: Establish (establishsf.com)
  • (Image credit: Kim Lucian)

    KITCHEN & PANTRY:

  • Counters: Bowling lane (Serra Bowl bowling lane), Linscott Builders
  • Blackboard: Blackboard paint, and magnetized paint
  • Lamp: DIY, Ikea and Sanbitter bottles
  • (Image credit: Kim Lucian)

    BEDROOM (UPSTAIRS):

  • Bed: West Elm
  • Trumpets: Ladakh, India
  • Side Tables: Ikea
  • BEDROOM (MASTER, DOWNSTAIRS):

  • Bed, Dresser, Bedside Tables: Italydesign.com
  • Sofa: Ikea
  • Rug: Ikea
  • Window Treatments: The Conran Store, London
  • (Image credit: Kim Lucian)

    HOME OFFICE

  • Table, Bookshelf, Side Table: Vermont Furniture Designs
  • Chairs: Ikea
  • Print: Ikea
  • Nguni Cow Hide: Capetown, South Africa
  • (Image credit: Kim Lucian)

    DECK

  • Furniture: The Wooden Duck, Berkeley
  • Lighting: DIY: Lemnis Lighting 12V LED Lightbulbs, solar panel, car battery
  • Nguni Cow Hide: Capetown, South Africa
  • Vertical garden: DIY, Woolly Pockets
  • (Image credit: Kim Lucian)
    Photography: Kim Lucian

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    Thanks, Alex!

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