Home & Garden

Some Airbnb houses offer a lesson in architecture

Lines on Design | Erin Owen

Wendell Lovett’s Bikini Chair sits in the study of Analisa Cummings’ Airbnb, the architectural retreat near University of Washington in Seattle. Lovett designed the home and made these chairs by hand in his studio. Staying at the home provided an introduction to the Seattle-born architect’s work. (Analisa Cummings)
Wendell Lovett’s Bikini Chair sits in the study of Analisa Cummings’ Airbnb, the architectural retreat near University of Washington in Seattle. Lovett designed the home and made these chairs by hand in his studio. Staying at the home provided an introduction to the Seattle-born architect’s work. (Analisa Cummings)

Aside from the sometimes uncomfortable beds, I’ve enjoyed staying at different Airbnb destinations. Before a trip it’s easy to spend hours scrolling through the listings. From checking out the furniture and art choices to seeing what the owners choose to photograph, it’s fun to imagine yourself being there.

Whether it’s a luxurious, themed or historical setting, Airbnbs are departures from people’s everyday residences.

I love how some Airbnbs have monikers. Practically the names help distinguish an owner’s multiple properties, but they also can appeal to the senses with calming descriptors or just be entertaining. There’s the refreshing oases, calming garden retreats and, no joke, the Magical Elf Quarters in Chicago.

Mid-century modern furniture and accessories appear frequently in listings, especially in hip neighborhoods. Eames chairs, Noguchi coffee tables, hairpin table legs. Many pieces, however, are reproductions.

I was lucky and was able to see a piece of design history in person.

At my most memorable Airbnb stay, in Seattle, there was an original mid-century piece signed by the home’s architect. The architectural retreat near University of Washington, as it was called, is an A-frame house designed by Seattle architect Wendell Lovett.

His Flexifibre Chair, later known as the Bikini Chair, was first exhibited in 1954. It has a slim and simple silhouette. Three curved plastic shapes, joined at the sides by connectors, form the chair’s structure. A fabric covering with side V cutouts attaches to the chair with cords that criss cross in the back like a bikini. The chair balances on a tripod chrome base.

Find photos of Lovett and his work on The Modern Lovett page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WendellLovett/

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Windows form the sides of the house. Entering the driveway it is like looking at house cut down the middle. The multiple levels are visible as well as the exposed beams and horizontal wood walls. The great room’s windows look out on the surrounding evergreens and Pontiac Bay. The stairs, which had no risers, appear to be floating and suspended with taut wire on the sides. Skylight windows open outward for fresh air.

Colorful rugs and patchwork carpet squares complement the kitchen island sides, which are faced with Legos. They create a dizzying pattern of color against the white quartz countertops. The playful Legos continue in the bathroom as bottles of soap.

The scenery, architectural style and whimsical details of this home are amazing. See the listing at www.airbnb.com/rooms/6603376?s=67&shared_item_type=1&virality_entry_point=1&sharer_id=113789015

Not all spaces can be as notable homes designed by architects or exotic as luxury treehouses, the Seashell House or an earth house called Cob Cottage. All the spaces take people out of their everyday lives, which is good and allows for reflection and possibly a new perspective.

Maybe that outlook will result in a realization that life is possible with less, a willingness to try something new or gratefulness for what you have. Or maybe you’ll just be glad to be back in your bed.

Erin Owen graduated from the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer. Comments: erin.n.owen@gmail.com

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