Airbnb's Home Away From Home Office

Airbnb's Home Away From Home Office

Joelle Alcaidinho
Mar 13, 2013
Name: Airbnb
Location: SOMA - San Francisco, California
Size: 37,000 square feet
Years in business: Since 2008, office located here since June 2011

Airbnb has been the source of House Tours both from their vacation rentals and the digs of one their stylish employees, and in this tour, we take a look at their San Francisco headquarters.

Located in SOMA, this large office takes many of its design cues from listings on Airbnb, giving the space a definite "home away from home" feel, which is quite appropriate for the headquarters of a site where people rent out their homes to visitors.

Airbnb was founded by Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky, and Joe Gebbia, and was created to solve the problem of hosting people in San Francisco for a conference when all the hotel rooms were sold out. As for many startups, their first office, was an apartment. The site has since grown, and with it has the need for office space. Airbnb prides itself on having unique listings and being a creative company that strives to produce a service that's useful, fun, and in its own way helps make the world a better place. The Airbnb office is now 37,000 square feet, and co-founder Joe says of this space and its design:

"We are building the most creative place on earth. Our office design directly reflects our culture of collaboration, possibility, and excellent craft. The space attracts world class talent who wish to do the best work of their life. From the front desk to the food, the office glows with creativity."

How did their office come to look the way that it does? Look no further than Jenna Cushner, the Head of Ground Control for Airbnb (she's also the one who filled out the survey below). Jenna worked with Interior Design Fair to create a space that personified the company and would be open but also contain quiet places for contemplation and meetings. Many of these quiet spaces are inspired by listings on Airbnb, with details replicated to an astonishing degree. The Mushroom Dome is an excellent example, as are these homes in San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Berlin.

Being a writer for Apartment Therapy, I particularly enjoyed the meeting rooms, and I doubt I've ever seen conference rooms more fun and welcoming. Just being in these rooms made me want to visit and stay at those homes, which I suppose means that the homeowners really should consider submitting their own House Tours, hint, hint. Jenna on the design of the office:

"We view the Airbnb office as our listing. We are the hosts and focus all our energy and attention on hospitality; making sure every experience is unique and personal and every employee and guest feels welcomed, appreciated, and important."

Jenna and the Airbnb team certainly accomplished what they set out to do -- the space is warm and inviting while also being calm amidst the flurry of employee activity. It's the kind of office that you wish you could work out of every day, and is a great place to find ideas for your own workspace and home.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Open, collaborative, creative, and comfortable.

Inspiration: We are inspired by our community and the amazing spaces that they share. We wanted to give employees and guests access to some of those spaces within our office. When people walk into our office, they know they're at Airbnb without ever seeing a logo.

Favorite Element: The conference rooms modeled after listings around the world. They're so quintessentially Airbnb, and taking meetings in different rooms adds a fun diversity to the day. But beyond that, the stylish décor stimulates the senses, and the living room atmosphere adds an element of comfort. That kind of environment enables creative conversation, essential to any innovative company.

Biggest Challenge: Our biggest challenge is also our biggest indicator of success -- the speed of our growth. Not only do we need more desks, but as we have an open, collaborative workspace, we also need to have enough support space to accommodate meetings and private conversations. We've had to get pretty resourceful, but it's a good problem to have.

What Friends Say: They say that it's so fun, and feels like a home. Then they bee-line for the mushroom dome and ask whether anyone has ever spent the night there.

Biggest Embarrassment: We are all young at heart and never miss a moment to be silly. We love costumes and have theme days on a regular basis. Therefore, you'll often find random piles of wigs, costumes, crazy sunglasses, bowties and mustaches strewn around the office. We do love the accessories, but it can make the office look a bit more cluttered than we'd like.

Proudest DIY: We used to print the schedule of each meeting room and tape it to the doors, but things would shift around during the day and no one would know whether it was reserved or not. Our IT department bought a bunch of iPads and downloaded an inexpensive meeting room scheduler app, so now you can see in real time whether a room is reserved, and book it on the spot.

Biggest Indulgence: Our Eames chairs, but they're also so important to us. Charles and Ray Eames' approach to design and collaboration has had a huge influence our company and culture. Seeing their pieces in our space is an inspiration and constant reminder of our shared values.

Best Advice: Create a workspace that not only reflects who you are, but also what you want you want to become.

Dream Sources: We'd love to have Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water on the site, and recreate it in our space. How amazing would it be to have that exterior recreated, complete with a waterfall?

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Resources of Note:


  • Replica paintings in our conference rooms were done by DecoArt in Oakland


  • SMEG Refrigerators in various colors
  • Vintage items in San Franscisco room (suitcases, typewriter, birdcage) from Alameda Flea Markets and Etsy
  • Books in replica rooms from thrift stores and Amazon
  • Masks in New York room found in flea markets and Etsy


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Thanks, Joe, Jenna, & Team Airbnb!

(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho)

• HOUSE TOUR ARCHIVE: Check out past house tours here.
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