Hosting on Airbnb can offer myriad benefits for architects, not only allowing you to share your passion for design but also providing a platform for experimentation and market research — not to mention a source of extra income. For particularly enterprising practitioners such as Mark Bearak, who began hosting when his family outgrew their house, it offers all of the above: The architect and Airbnb Superhost has designed a home that is both utterly unique and highly accessible to everyone.
Starting with a modernist concept and executing it with contemporary design savvy, financial discipline, and a dash of site-specificity, Bearak’s Hudson Pool House is “something truly rare for the East Coast,” he says. On the one hand — if the glowing guest reviews and press coverage are any indication — the house lives up to his principle that “unique is paramount.” On the other, the home is also the first (but surely not the last) ‘Open Source’ house. “Guests are free to take the home design and build it for themselves,” says Bearak.
Of course, most guests will simply enjoy the architectural gem the old-fashioned way: by living in it, as Bearak and his family did (and still sometimes do). The New York City-based architect and his husband Michael Moore acquired a vacant lot in Hudson, NY, in 2016, and envisioned a series of structures on the site, starting with a pool house that they could use as a weekend getaway while they determined their long-term needs for further buildings.
Whereas his firm dtls.Architecture normally works closely with clients — “we say that the client sets the course and we steer the ship” — Bearak found himself with a rare opportunity to experiment with Hudson Pool House. “When my family built the house, we didn’t have clients as collaborators, so we riffed off of the case study concept,” explains the architect. The architect designed this house and others as templates for a project he named Open Source, putting the plans online and making them available for anyone to download and utilize as they wish. “It is meant for everyone to enjoy,” explains Bearak. “All of our Open Source designs are free for people to rebuild, modify and remix for themselves.”
For the two-bedroom, two-bathroom home — inspired by Pierre Koenig’s iconic ‘Stahl House,’ a 1960 case-study home in the Hollywood Hills — Bearak achieved a cost-conscious, jewel box design by setting a series of off-the-shelf sliding doors in a glulam timber structure. Two felicitous upgrades to the original design proved to be paramount when it came to hosting on Airbnb: the pool, which is the main attraction for many guests, and the smart home system, to control the lighting, sound, A/C, and shades via iPad.
As photogenic as the house is, Bearak also emphasizes that “it is impossible to understand the home’s connection with nature through photos — the size of the spaces and the landscaping consistently tie the inside out.” Moreover, since he and his husband conceived of the project as a landscape with a home embedded into it, accessibility became a key consideration. “We wanted to make the pool-to-house connection as seamless as possible … not only is it all on a single level, but we went to great lengths to minimize elevation changes between the interior and exterior.” This makes Hudson Pool House an exemplary Airbnb home — more accessible for more guests to enjoy.
“We wanted to create a space for ourselves,” reflects Bearak, “but we are overjoyed that other people enjoy the space.” Indeed, even though he did not have Airbnb in mind when he first designed the pool house, hosting has proven to be a valuable pivot for them — and one that is very much in keeping with the spirit of making modern design available to a wider audience. “Eventually our family outgrew the house, so we opened it up to guests,” he relates. “We love the idea that modern architecture can spread to all architecture fans, and we have used hosting as a chance to connect with fellow architecture enthusiasts.”
Bearak has discovered another benefit of hosting. “We have had dozens of guests who have turned into clients,” he says. “Sometimes they are just looking for design advice, while others have engaged us to design their homes.” He also says that, while the Open Source design is technically available to anyone who wants it for free, most of his clients prefer to customize based on their tastes, providing his firm with additional business.
As for the income from hosting, Bearak and his family have put it toward upgrading the property.
“We don’t really know what the future holds,” Bearak says. “We’re just excited and grateful that guests at the house share our same enthusiasm for modern architecture!”
If Bearak’s story has you feeling inspired to try hosting your own architectural gem, head over to Airbnb to learn more!