Rebecca & Michael’s Cozy-Modern San Francisco Home
Name: Rebecca Rosenfelt & Michael Yamartino
Location: Bernal Heights, San Francisco, CA
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years; rented
Years hosting on Airbnb: 6 years
When Rebecca and Michael were apartment hunting, they never saw themselves in a big modern lofty space. So when they first saw this light-flooded Bernal Heights home, they couldn’t picture themselves living there. But then they fell in love with the bright and airy space, and they realized they could personalize the apartment to suit them. Sure enough, their mix of traditional and eclectic furnishings are a surprisingly perfect fit for the contemporary space. Their home is clean and simple, but also cozy and welcoming, for the couple and for their many Airbnb guests.
Rebecca has been hosting guests in her homes since 2006, before Airbnb was even around. She was living in New York and traveling constantly for work, and it just made sense to her to make use of the apartment while she was away. Now not only does she continue to host, but she also travels around the world as an Airbnb guest.
Rebecca and Michael’s home combines modern architecture with more traditional furniture, which they had from their last home, an old Craftsman. Full of interesting artwork and vintage finds, the home reflects their personalities and their travels. Their DIY skills are on display in the powder room, with its bold graphic paint job, and in the master bedroom, with its tailored blue headboard. The repetition of variations on the color blue throughout the apartment offers a cohesive design across both floors.
Apartment Therapy & Airbnb Survey:
My Style: I tend to like more masculine, classic lines, but am attracted to the newness and low-maintenance aspects of modern architecture. With this home I basically mixed the two and was pleasantly surprised with the result.
Inspiration: We kind of went YOLO on this home and mixed two very different styles. We moved here from an old craftsman home and had more traditional furniture, so we decided to lean into that aesthetic and see how it mixed with the modern architecture of this apartment.
How/why did you decide to host on Airbnb? I’ve been an Airbnb host for years, and hosted in every place I’ve lived since 2006 (before Airbnb was even around). I knew Michael would be a great partner when he didn’t bat an eye when, on our third date, I said I needed to swing by my apartment to let in my Airbnb guest. This was in 2008, before hosting was mainstream at all. He’s been incredibly game and open to the lifestyle that Airbnb enables, which I appreciate to no end.
For me, the biggest hurdle to overcome initially was the idea of a stranger touching my stuff. It requires a certain detachment from your material possessions, which frankly I think is a healthy mindset anyway. Once you get over the initial hump it’s a non-concern.
Do you rent out a shared room, private room, or your entire home/apartment? At the moment, we only host our entire home when we’re out of town. I prefer to have private space and let guests have their own space. Plus, it’s nice to know your place is being looked after when you’re out of town. Last fall we took a trip to Japan which was nearly paid for by the guests staying in our place while we were gone—you really can’t beat that!
Favorite Element: The high ceilings and openness of the main level started as the biggest challenge but became my favorite element. I’m a big fan of cozy spaces, and the vastness of the main area was intimidating at first. But I learned that by adding homey furniture and creating gathering spaces, a big space can feel very cozy while still being grand.
Biggest Challenge: The first time Michael and I walked into this apartment we said to each other “we’re not the kind of people who live in places like this!” It was so modern and big—not a space we’d ever envisioned for ourselves. But it was stunning and we quickly realized that we were being crazy. We simply had to adopt the space and make it our own, and now we definitely feel like it’s home.
What Friends Say: The best reaction was from my dad, who declared our stairs very “inconvenient” (he lives in a single-level home). But otherwise people all love it – we’ve seen reactions ranging from people ready to move in to anxiety attacks about their own home.
Biggest Embarrassment: Our window coverings are $5 temporary shades from Lowe’s. We love the big windows in the living room, but on sunny days they make watching TV pretty unpleasant, so one day we stormed off to Lowe’s and bought the cheapest solution they had. It turns out $5 shades are pretty effective, so we just hoist them up with binder clips when we want to let light in. If we owned the place we’d definitely invest in custom shades, but the ROI on these paper shades is pretty high so we’re satisfied as renters.
Proudest DIY: The powder room paint job (a Pinterest-inspired project) got more likes on Facebook than our wedding announcement, so I consider it pretty successful.
How long have you been hosting? I first started hosting in New York in 2006, before Airbnb was a twinkle in the founders’ eyes. It just made sense to me that you should monetize unused space. I was traveling weekly for my job as a consultant, so I’d find people who had the opposite commute who needed a place to stay in New York. It worked brilliantly, and with the income I generated I bought a condo in Portland, OR, which I rent as a monthly corporate apartment.
How many guest stays have you had as a host? Well over 100. I host in my own home in San Francisco, the Portland corporate apartment, and I also manage a villa in Sonoma on behalf of the owners.
Have you ever been an Airbnb guest? If so, where? Yes, constantly! I’ve been all over the world on Airbnb. The best experiences are always when Airbnb enables you to get off the beaten path and really live like a local. My favorite thing to do is host dinner parties and gatherings in my Airbnb when I travel – it gives my local friends an inside peek at how other people in their city live which is fun. I love showing up to a new place and immediately integrating enough to actually host a party.
Would you recommend others to host with Airbnb? The benefits are enormous, but I think it takes a certain mindset, so it’s not for everyone. You need to overcome some attachment to your space and material things in order to accept someone into your home. If you can do that, it’s a good start!
When people are on the fence about hosting I usually recommend they create a listing and wait to receive their first inquiry. Hearing from a real person about why they’re coming to town, who they’re traveling with, and what they do makes hosting feel much more “real”—and with that knowledge I think you’re much more equipped to decide if you want to give it a go.
What has been the most surprising thing about being an Airbnb host? The people I encounter continuously surprise and impress me. Even though I don’t often meet my guests in person, you can really get a sense of people through messaging each other. I love the sort of personalities that have come into my life since hosting.
What is your hosting style? How do you interact with your guests? I’m pretty low key and hands off. I try to provide enough information for guests to be self sufficient, but available when they need me. I enjoy privacy when I travel and try to offer the same to my guests.
Biggest Indulgence: Our sofa. I’d lusted after this Restoration Hardware sofa for years but kept shying away from the cost. After 3 unsatisfactory sofas we finally took the plunge. I found it at the RH outlet so felt ok about the investment. We love that sofa so much, I’ve never regretted it for a minute.
Best Advice: Get a great sofa! You spend so much time there (at least if you’re me), so it’s worth getting right.
Dream Sources: I think it’d have to be an unlimited budget and a shipping container waiting for me in Scandinavia. I so adore Scandinavian design, so I’d love to go to the source and visit shops in Sweden and Denmark, and ship things home. There’s such a simple, elegant way of living reflected in design there.
- Console: Craiglist
- Bench: IKEA
- Coat Hooks: Dot & Bo
- Mirror: Schoolhouse Electric
- White couch: Furniture Envy
- Leather couch: Restoration Hardware
- Ottoman: Mitchell Gold
- Hanging light: West Elm
- Tripod lamp: Vintage
- Table: Craigslist
- Chairs: Crate & Barrel, World Market, vintage
- Bar stools: School Supply website
- Buffet: When Modern Was (Noe Valley)
- Dining room rug: Joss and Main
- Red runner rug: Bought on trip to Turkey
- Shelves: IKEA
- Lamp: Craigslist
- Headboard: DIY
- Mirror: Craigslist
- Dresser: Craigslist
- Side tables: IKEA
- Shelves: IKEA
- Curtain: Target
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