I had no idea hosting a guest from Cape Town in my early Airbnb days (before I morphed into Shell’s Loft, the community event space) that it would be the start of a life-changing journey. Some of you may already know the Shell’s Loft origin story. That I started as a communal living host on Airbnb. However, most of you don’t know how hosting changed the course of my life in so many ways. From the people in my life to the business and online shop I run today. Over the next few months I will be sharing some of my favorite hosting stories and how they impacted the life I’m living and business I’m running now. Over time I parted from our original Airbnb format and I've recently realized just how much I missed sharing my space in that way. And so I'm now circling back by re-listing my personal space for individuals and groups. I've learned a few things over the years that will make this even more fun for everyone.
When I first started hosting (in the down economy of 2009) I didn’t have much money to make my loft the design haven I’d been dreaming and mentally planning. I had to get super creative. I’ve always believed that great bedding is essential to a good nights sleep. And anyone who knows me, know I LOVE my sleep. So since I couldn’t afford the fancier linen beddings I drooled over in magazines I started making my own. Using my homemade dining table (yet another story for another day) as my craft table. I’d whip up my own pillow shams from sample sale fabrics. Guests staying with me would keep me company/ entertained as I sewed up pillows and bedding for a guest room. Soon guest started asking to buy my creations. This got the wheels in my head turning. I started making a few extra items in case people wanted to take a cushion cover back home with them to remember there time in living in this insane loft.
About a year into hosting my first South African arrived. She was supposed to stay for 2 weeks… she stayed for 2 years! My loft was her landing pad while she searched for permanent housing in the neighborhood as her company had just transferred her for work. The first morning after she arrived I asked if she needed help finding a place and did she have anywhere specific in mind. She replied yes, here! And that was that. She became my impromptu co-host and we welcome people from around the world together for the next two years. When she moved back to Cape Town I had no choice but to immediately come for a visit. The moment I stepped off the plane in Cape Town I was hooked. The most spectacular mini city you will ever visit. Sea in one direction, mountains in the other. I had some time on my hands during the day since my ex-roomie had to work so I explored the creative design scene in Cape Town. (More details on those adventures later). Within a week of my 6 week visit I’d found some amazing local design goods, my favorite fabric house and a seamstress to help me whip those prints into custom cushions for my Brooklyn Loft.
Then I found Mungo… master weavers of the most exquisite towels, blankets and bedding. I smuggled 4 suitcases of this pure joy textile back to NY and shared it with everyone I knew. My guests raved about the towels… some have gone missing over the years … Should have put a little low jacks on them. Many I sold to others who similarly fell in love with these fabulous weavers with great style.
Less than a year later I was splitting my year between Brooklyn and Cape Town. Sharing an amazing ocean view house next to my favorite farmers market with 2 friends and of course, we had a guest room for our Airbnb loves. This blanket and towels always remind me of that unusual (who am i kidding, my entire life is pretty unusual) and exceptional time in my life when I lived off the southern coast of Africa and spent my evenings drinking wine on the balcony with friends and guest watching the sun go down. I feel like that memory gets infused and partially transformed into this room when I set it up for guests. The first year we hosted on Airbnb, none of my South African friends had heard of the platform. Within 3 years, Airbnb had exploded in Cape Town and the secret of my beloved magic city was out!