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Airbnb's Pop-Up Rooms Inspired by Celebrities Were Not Exactly a 'Love Letter' to L.A.

Airbnb's Art's District pod
Airbnb's Art's District pod
Airbnb

Airbnb is the online connection between travelers looking to save a buck and home owners hocking their houses as lodging. This past weekend, they launched a Hollywood-style welcome campaign in all the obvious parts of the city including the Sunset Strip (at the Viper room), Venice (at HGEL homegrown edible landscapes spot on Abbott Kinney), downtown in the arts district, in a shopping center at the Grove, and at the Hollywood Forever cemetery.

In a glitzy-meets-hip promotion of the Airbnb concept, the events offered prefabricated structures by local builders Kithaus, with inside spaces that had been "inspired" by celebrities like Anjelica Huston, James Franco and Moby, with the help of a real designer Emily Henderson, herself a celebrity from HGTV and past-winner of the reality competition show Design Star. Hence, the spaces acted as arty artifice for the real private spaces of each celebrity's personal domain. The structures were placed in semi-public spaces, like the parking lot of the Viper room, and the lawn at the Grove.

In addition to the semi-public events (which had to be RSVP'd to) L.A. lovers were invited to write a ten-word "love letter" about the city and submit it via the Airbnb website for the chance to win a one night stay in one of the pre-fab rooms.

"A couple from the Palisades won the night in the Art's District pod. They stayed there last night, and they had an amazing time," said Henderson.

Winners were also given an area itinerary with suggestions for nightlife, bars and restaurants in their pod's vicinity.

James Franco's pod at Hollywood Forever cemetery
James Franco's pod at Hollywood Forever cemetery
Airbnb

Speaking to the challenge of funneling the tastes and quirks of each celeb's style into Kithaus' prefab, 8-foot x 10-foot metal box, Hamilton said, "The size constraints were a little challenging, and we had to do a bit of style fortune telling with each celeb -- we started them off each with a questionnaire to get a better idea of their design sensibilities."

Some of the questions on the survey included, "Describe your personality in 5 words," "What do you hate and would never want to see in your home?," and "what colors do you wear the most?"

At the Viper room location, Moby's pod featured high end minimalist modern accents like a classic mid-century Nelson saucer pendant lamp, Wegner chair and Saarinen table with wallpaper made from one of Moby's own photographs. Plopping himself down amongst the plush interior design items in the "room," Moby himself admitted he wanted to manipulate the pod more, but that that was against the rules. "I wanted to cut a hole in the roof so you could see the stars, and surround the thing with plants and trees, because that's what my house is like." Moby's desire to take the pod out of the public parking lot and back to his greenery-enveloped, starry-skied house in the hills seemed to defeat the purpose.

Over in the arts district, actress Lake Bell (of the new film In a World...), worked with Hamilton to create a chic and layered, bohemian Bedouin-ish lair with candles, rugs, patterns upon patterns and a disco ball. This particular pod featured an outdoor deck and a serendipitously placed steel structure (compliments of the Southern California Institute of Architecture's students down at the end of block -- it actually has no connection to the Airbnb campaign) which made the entire composition of random pieces seem a lot more cohesive and even intentionally shaded for the open and sunny downtown area lot.

Moby and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky
Moby and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky
Wendy Gilmartin

Airbnb's mission and business model blurs the lines social vs. private, public space vs. private space, and home vs. hospitality. The strategically situated celebrity pods had good intentions of bringing the private domain of a sleeping room into the public space of the city -- but Airbnb's weekend events only brought a select demographic of the public into guarded, privatized public spaces in privileged neighborhoods.

Had Airbnb (based in San Francisco) or their event organizers dug a little deeper into L.A. and its design culture they would've found true design inspiration in loads of homegrown architects and artists whom have previously designed pop-ups, temporary installations, mobile exhibitions or interventions in public spaces which truly express the dynamism of the city. A couple of examples of this include the Frogtown Art Walk's addition of prefab pod exhibits and call for local artists to manipulate them, or the On the Road group, who, earlier this summer staged a guerrilla exhibition of work by young designers and artists within a fleet of U-Haul trucks outside MOCA at the Geffen.

Airbnb touted the weekend's events as "a love letter to a larger-than-life city, made of eclectic, creative people across a diverse cultural and geographical landscape," in a statement by their marketing VP, but instead the hipper-than-you celebs, designers and locations chosen were only successful in showing an entertainment-centric and convoluted vision of the city.


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