The Biggest Souvenir You Buy On Vacation Could Be Your Whole Hotel Room

published Mar 28, 2019
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(Image credit: Nicole Franzen)

Some people can look at an empty room and visualize where every furniture item will go, what fabric will work for the curtains, and what planter they should buy for the corner by the window. Others need real, tangible inspiration—spaces they can shop like you might buy clothes off of a mannequin. And while there are showrooms for that, they can feel cold and uninviting—it’s hard to picture living in a showroom. Enter: the shoppable stay.

When interior designer Robert McKinley rented out his Montauk home on Airbnb (which was recently featured in the company’s publication, Airbnb Magazine), he had an idea: what if everything in the rental space was available for purchase?

(Image credit: Courtesy of Airbnb)

“We were inspired to create a residence that truly feels like a dream home, especially as the idea of hospitality and home is becoming more blurred,” McKinley told Apartment Therapy. “People increasingly expect for these spaces to feel domestic and to inspire them to discover new things.” With that blurred line in mind, McKinley called on vendors he had worked with for years in the interior design space, and curated a selection of furniture, housewares, appliances, and linens that would make any guest say, “I need that.”

And if they need it, they can get it. McKinley’s list of partners is available on the rental’s website for guests to shop through, though McKinley is available to help if something is beyond their budget or not readily available.

“I wanted to be sure all were reasonably accessible to our guests though there are some vintage pieces mixed in as well to ensure the space felt a bit more layered,” McKinley said. “If something is a one-off, we are always happy to direct people to the shop or dealer where they can find something similar.”

(Image credit: Courtesy of Airbnb)

The success of this Airbnb, and the positive response from guests who love getting tangible decor inspiration, has led to McKinley’s second, slightly larger home in Montauk which will be available to rent this summer. Yes, the stays are pricey (though on par for the beach town starting at $395 per night), but the concept is catching on quickly at multiple price points.

Similar to the curated Airbnb, Dōmio is a new company aiming to make “apart hotels” part of the travel lexicon, that is, an upscale travel accommodation that’s bigger than a hotel room but doesn’t lose the charm and personality of a cute local inn or stylish rented apartment. The founders are banking on young travelers falling in love with the design, so they opened a Society6 shop to sell some their custom decor. And though they don’t boast the technology of a flashy hotel start-up, many smaller hotels, like Thirty Three Main, are simply making their retail partners public so guests know where they can get the toiletries, sheets, or other special accents that stood out during their vacation.

Of course, a well-curated shoppable stay isn’t easy to throw together, and for those who don’t have an eye for design, companies like Montreal-based Fülhaus are entering to help rentals create welcoming, eye-catching spaces that attract visitors. Since launching in 2015, Fülhaus believes it is the “furnishing solution for the [short-term rental] market,” and has partnered on specific “shoppable stays” in Dallas, Nashville, and Montreal. The company is a smart solution for guests and renters: They guarantee a stylish set-up customized to any space (they literally call it a “haus in a box”), and the online stores are easy for guests to navigate and purchase the piece that caught their eye.

The (shoppable) robes at the Austin Motel (Image credit: Alison Marlborough)

This mentality is becoming its own corner of the commerce market: You can skip the pricey stay and simply shop the aesthetic of the country’s chicest hotels. Bunkhouse Group is a hospitality company that manages some of the most Instagrammable boutique hotels in Austin, and they’ve opened an online store for travelers to shop the vibe of each property. Love the bright, bold decor in your room at the Austin Motel? You can find everything from colorful shirts to patterned throws to bring a piece of the motel home with you. In fact, they recently launched silk sleep masks themed for each location. But it’s not all whimsical accents—you can purchase a dreamy mattress from the Four Seasons hotel or bubble bath from the Westin. In an ideal world, your bedroom turns into a four-star sleeping experience.

West Elm Hotels are coming in 2020. (Image credit: Courtesy of West Elm)

It works the other way around, too—with major home retailers breaking into the hospitality business. Take the West Elm hotels that are set to open in 2020 in several cities, including Indianapolis, Detroit, and Portland: the retailer has teased that rooms will feature local artwork and furnishings available for purchase. Upscale furniture company Restoration Hardware plans to open a GuestHouse hotel in NYC’s Meatpacking District (though the timing isn’t set yet).

Before long, we won’t need to buy souvenirs on our trips. We’ll have blown our vacation budget by ordering the couches from our Airbnbs, the mattresses from our king-sized hotel beds, and even by getting clothing delivered to our rooms.