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How the Airbnb phenomenon has stepped up international design

In this guest piece, Rob Lessmann, founder of luxury interior design studio Design'd Living, sets out how Airbnb has led international design to up its game.

Airbnb is no longer just about renting a place to stay for a few nights while exploring a city. The phenomenon now offers you a treehouse in the woods, your own castle or the most lavish villas with their own private beach. If you can dream it, you can stay in it.

But these lavish properties haven’t just changed the face of vacation rentals, they’ve also forced standard airbnb’ers to up their interiors game and create spaces you’re more likely to see in a high-end luxury interiors magazine than on a vacation rental site. And with more users now using the platform to find short term lets around work or for season-long getaways, it’s become far more about what’s included and how ‘hot’ the space is, than practicalities like location or amenities nearby.


The pandemic also had an impact. We were in our homes far more than ever before. Most of us stood still, unable to travel, to experience and were left with our laptops researching far-flung destinations where we could be working from rather than our sofas.

All of these elements have been reflected in the consumer’s lavish wants and needs. We now demand great wi-fi, a Netflix subscription built-in and strong interiors game in every place we stay. An apartment that looks like a room out of an IKEA set simply won’t cut it. Consumers want intricate pieces, they want the latest colours and trends, great design, thoughtful pieces and reflections of the style of property.

The style of these properties has almost become a thing in itself. You choose a location based on the property you fall in love with. Many will search for days to find unique places to stay in places that aren’t even on their bucket list of destinations. This shift in mindset is what’s causing property developers who purchased properties purely to rent out on Airbnb to up their game. To really look at who they want to attract and to style the hell out of their property to attract renters that will Instagram the heck out of it.

The days of simply adding a bed, a couple of comfy throw pillows and a corner unit with a standard table and chairs are long gone. Even the business traveller will now favour an Airbnb over a hotel room. The added bonus of great wi-fi, a more luxurious space, and more often than not, cupboards packed with everything you could ever want are what’s changing up the property vacation rental industry.

Property developing and property flipping used to be about a clean lick of paint, a tidy up and standard kitchen and bathroom refresh. Now, many are opting to go into the Airbnb rental market over standard buy to let. It brings them the best of both worlds, a great income stream from holiday rentals and the chance to stay in the property if they wish. Alongside this comes the need for great design, high end appliances, and an environment tailored to the end user that reflects their tastes, not only in design but in the facilities included. 

The international swing of design works both ways. People rent an Airbnb because they want a vacation rental, but with the comforts they know and expect from home. Now, however, there’s a third want. Great, outstanding, international design that ticks every box and more.

The smart developers will target their development and design style to the end user they want to attract. However, with Airbnb, that game better be strong, it better be Instagrammable and it better be chic.

*Rob Lessmann is the managing director and founder of luxury interior design studio, Design’d Living


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