This week’s podcast is a special treat as Debi Hertert of HostingYourHome.com tours the brand-new “Hobbit Hole”, Greg Raisman’s artistic creation for an Airbnb apartment in Portland, Oregon. Greg and Beth and their architects, builders and carpenters have been working on this project almost as long as it takes to grow a new human, and it really is their “baby”.
(One listener recently asked if we would include the recording times in the show notes for people who needed to save time and listen to just certain topics, which sounded like a good idea. You’ll see times included below).
But first, A SPECIAL REQUEST. Rob and I are really enjoying these podcasts and hope you are as well. It is a communication medium that is very one-way, and we really want to grow past the one-way boundary. You can help us do that by simply going to our website, hostingyourhome.com, and request to join our Facebook group.
As more listeners join the Facebook group, it enables valuable conversations, and also allows Rob and me to reach out to ask your opinions and suggestions for new episodes. Thanks! We love thinking of all of you as we publish each episode!
2:15-17:15. DESIGN: Deb meets up with Greg and his wife Beth as Greg takes Debi into the space through a private entrance. Creativity and sustainability are the two main themes. Greg works for the City of Portland and is very involved with street projects and active transportation. Beth teaches at Head Start. Let’s jump in:
Greg talks about excavating for the entrance and capturing the soil and clay to reuse. The clay is similar to adobe (known as “cobb” in England). As they took a few steps into the space, Greg described how the root system was drawn on the ceiling, then traced onto vellum so the patterns could be used on tubes of burlap.
The clay was sieved into slip, and straw was wetted with the slip and stuffed into the burlap tubes. The tubes were finished with a plaster made from a mixture of the clay from the yard and sand, and then oiled. The trunk framework was made using reclaimed teepee poles and all the room corners rounded out. A 4-foot Douglas Fir round forms the centerpiece.
The Juniper wood was reclaimed from Central Oregon, where Juniper is being cut out as an invasive species. Reclaimed teepee poles are used for lots of things in the space. A branch is used for a clothes rod, and a special arched door from a burned out church separates the rooms.
The bathroom is unusual, more European with a shower and toilet in one space. The sliding door is shown here:
17:15-20:15. Debi and Greg discuss how many it will sleep and other logistics. There is a connecting door to the rest of their basement but will be closed off. Talks about pricing – he had talked with Alan Colley at the last Meetup group about his thoughts on pricing. Greg wants a very good photographer. It is a hard place to photograph. Even though he is a photographer himself, it takes specialized lenses because of the space. He has a reservation with Airbnb for an architectural photographer to come in after he gets furnished.
20:15-21:15 the two begin talking about next steps – City permit for short-term rental.
21:15-27:15 Greg talks about being involved in city street painting projects for 15 years – over 50 projects. He describes himself as pretty creative and also is used to doing construction projects, so this was a very good fit. He talked about the overall cost of the remodel project.
Mission – Greg really likes Portland, and speaking of their location, says most tourists who come to the City at some time probably walk by their home. He is on design teams for the City. He doesn’t build things but is involved in the design reviews. He knows the City really well, including history, and really likes the thought of exposing guests to the concept of sustainable and artistic construction, influencing them, thinking they may follow suit in projects large or small themselves.
Greg talks about his city job, and shares that he is happy his wife said yes to the project.
27:15-29:15 Greg talks about the expense of building materials because of the economy being so strong. Costs are 30% higher and labor is super expensive because of the economy. The recovered materials are free or inexpensive but the other materials are not.
29:15-38:15 This part is a talk about when the space will open, what they have to do before then, talking about who their market will be pricing, etc. Debi shares some thoughts on how to write up the listing, and Greg is thinking about Oct 1 to open. Marketing to desired visitors: Greg is looking for people who love cities, creativity, and are interested in sustainability. They talked about Business Listing. Greg wants to avoid pricing so high that people have artificial expectations. Debi suggests starting low to get some reviews, then can raise rates a little. She says she usually checks local hotels, but he doesn’t have one in his area. They also talked about a base rate and then charging more for additional people. Debi recommended starting with just two guests and see how it goes. Greg asked if Debi had been to other artistic Airbnb places, and Deb remembered Ashley Kern (“the tattoo lady”) in the HYH-13 episode “No Hope, No Fear”, and also recommends Alan Colley’s & Dabney Tompkins’ episode HYH-11 “Hear the wind give voice to the trees”, and April Brenneman in episode HYH-3 “Josh’s House in the Trees”.
38:15-42:15 Here, the two discussed how to manage the space, clean it, etc. Debi feels that even though there is good management companies are there, being involved yourself has a value. Greg is thinking he will do reservations and questions, but having someone to clean, do turnovers, and maybe meet and greet. They talked about options for laundry, and some cost estimates for cleaning the space including or not including laundry.
42:15-46:00 Debi asks Greg if there is anything he wants listeners to know. Greg talks about the community and working against social isolation. He likes the kind of community that Airbnb creates. And he is very complementary of Debi’s local Airbnb Facebook group and the level of reads of each post. At work, he deals with customer service, very difficult customer service issues, and finds when people ask questions on the Facebook group the advice on the Facebook Group page is phenomenal. He finds it to be super clear and effective, gentle, and non-violent communication.
In wrapping up, Greg mentions a really key point that we have not heard come up before: How the Airbnb ratings on quality really motivate the hosts to communicate effectively.
He looks forward to the coming experiences and what different situations will bring.
The Hobbit Hole Airbnb Listing: not yet listed on Airbnb but we will go back and add the listing number here when it is.
UPDATE 10/3/2016: THE HOBBIT HOLE IS ON-LINE! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10752148
- Street Art: Check out photos of Greg’s and compatriots’ “Street Art” projects: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gregraisman/9002632560/in/photostream/
- Living Walls (the lead natural builder): http://www.houzz.com/pro/livingwallsplaster/living-walls-llc
- City Repair: http://www.cityrepair.org/
- Francis Michaelson (lead natural builder with City Repair): firstname.lastname@example.org
- Felling Furniture Studio: www.fellingstudio.com
- JRA Greenbuilders (general contractor and carpenter): www.jragbc.com
- Communitecture (architectural firm that helped Greg with layout and drew the root system based on his creative concept: www.communitecture.net
- Email email@example.com Ask to be added to the Facebook group! Any comments are welcome.