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Four Things Airbnb Taught Me About Space & Wellbeing

October 2, 2017
Four Things An Airbnb Taught Me About Space and Wellbeing | Tiny Ambitions

I struggle to buy into the idea that a minimalist life has to ‘look’ a certain way. I don’t believe that ‘minimalist’ spaces need to be empty, all-white spaces devoid of any colour, texture or stuff, in order to be ‘right’. So, imagine my surprise when I recently fell in love with an Airbnb that checked off most of the ‘minimalist design’ boxes.

I was traveling a couple of weeks ago for work and, because I didn’t book the conference hotel in time, had booked my first ever Airbnb. Let me tell you, I was more than excited. I couldn’t wait to have my own space for a week, away from the other delegates (more on that later), and the general buzz that accompanies a big event like that.

Over the course of the week that I was there, every time I walked into the apartment it literally put a smile on my face. I instantly felt at ease in the space, like I was meant to be there. I can’t really explain it. But, every time I came ‘home’ for the evening, I immediately felt so calm. It was like everything was right in the world again.

It’s been two weeks and I’ve had some time to reflect on my first ever Airbnb experience. I think there are a number of reasons why this space made me feel, frankly, happy.

Four Things Airbnb Taught Me About Space and Wellbeing | Tiny Ambitions

1) It was Tiny

It will come as a surprise to no one who has read Tiny Ambitions before that I love small spaces. After all, I am saving up for and designing my own tiny house. This Airbnb was tiny – even by Toronto standards. If I had to guess, I would say it was around 500sqft. But, it felt so instantly homey to me that I didn’t mind.

Since moving into our 1800sqft. apartment, I’ve felt dwarfed by the space. There is just too much of it and it doesn’t quite feel like ‘ours’ yet. So, in a way, the Airbnb was a relief. It had just enough room for the essentials and nothing more. But, and this is key, it was clear it was designed to be that way.

Our apartment is one of 4 units in a massive house that used to be a single-family home for a family with 11 kids. The consequence of this is that, while our new space is big, the space itself is not well planned out. It’s basically just a bunch of big rooms forced together and called an apartment.

2) It was Modern

On any given day, if you asked me what my design style was, there’s a 50/50 chance I’d say modern or rustic. Luckily (for me), two weeks I was digging the modern vibe.

But, my love of the modern, white, clean lines of my Airbnb is in no way connected to my minimalist mindset. Again, one does not necessarily equal the other. There is a very specific reason why I think the modern space appealed to me. If you were following along on my Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know I was in Toronto for a work conference, which gives me hives.

I’m an introvert (shocker, I know), so conferences and other social event are incredibly draining for me. By the end of a conference day, I need to shut out the world and give my brain a rest. I think that’s why I appreciated the modern design of the Airbnb. It was simple, bright and non-distracting for my exhausted mind. I could just ‘be’ in the space. I didn’t need to over think or worry about it.

3) It Wasn’t Mine

Airbnb’s feel fundamentally different from a hotel. The Airbnb I stayed in felt homey, inviting and warm. In contrast, the hotels I normally stay in for work are uninviting and cold somehow. In hotels, you get a sense that everyone else staying there is there for the same reasons you are. There is an air of transientness to it.

My Airbnb, on the other hand, was in an apartment building and was part of a downtown community. It was like the building lived and breathed and was full of purpose. I know that sounds outrageous. But, that’s how it felt.

The Airbnb wasn’t mine, I was just renting it. That means the whole experience was relatively free of responsibility. That’s not to say I didn’t respect the space and treat it like my own, because, I did. In fact, I actually cared for the space more than a typical hotel room. The reason I did that brings me to my last reason why the space made me happy.

4) It Was Someone Else’s

The Airbnb I stayed in belonged to someone else. And, when they’re not hosting guests, they actually live there. Some people might find that disconcerting like they were playing house. But, I actually found it comforting to know that someone else called that space home. It was a stamp of approval somehow. Something about hotels always seems artificial and staged to me. I can never quite settle into that space. In real terms, that means I’m always exhausted when I travel for work because I never sleep. In a shocking twist, I actually slept in the Airbnb, and slept well. I was so shocked when I woke up the first morning there and realized I wasn’t going to be a zombie for the rest of the day.

The Connection Between Space and Wellbeing

All of this probably seems like terrible complaining. What does it matter what your space is like or how it’s organized?

But, that’s the point! My experience showed me that spaces can have a positive impact on the way I feel.

Does that mean I’m going to change my tiny house design to something ultra modern? No, I don’t think so. I value organized spaces where everything has a home, over what that actual organization looks like. However, what I will take with me from the Airbnb is a renewed importance on brightness (i.e. light), cozy textures, simplicity, and community.

Is your living space important to you? Could you care less about where you live and what it looks like? There’s no wrong answer, let me know in the comments!

If you missed last week’s episode of Tiny Bites, all about aligning your finances and your goals, you can listen to it here. Stay tuned for a new episode on Thursday (or Wednesday night if you’re on Anchor). 

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • Jing October 3, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    I love Airbnb’s for the reason that they feel warm and homey. Hotels definitely feel sterile in comparison! I’ve noticed more and more though that some hotels or hostels will list on Airbnb and take Airbnb-esque photos of the space which has tricked me a couple times already!

    I think there’s always something to appreciate about all owner-rented Airbnb’s, regardless of my own aesthetic. I rented a more minimal apartment in NY but it fell through and my boyfriend and I ended up finding a last minute Airbnb in Queens and it was owned by a guy and his wife who hosted artist friends! The place was definitely on the eclectic side with a great view of Manhattan, we loved it!

    As my for own living space…it’s SUPER important to me. I’m a pretty messy person and have always been but I notice when I decorate my space nicely, I’m also more likely to keep it clean! I come home every day and literally want to smile! 🙂

    • Britt October 3, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      That Queens AirBnb sounds so cool! What a neat way to experience the city (even if it wasn’t what you originally planned).

      Messy bloggers, unite! I’ve always tended to be more messy, but I’ve noticed the same thing as you. If my space reflects my design preferences, I’m more likely to keep it clean. Thanks for reading, Jing!

  • Amanda of My Life, I Guess October 3, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    I was reallllllllly unhappy with where we live a couple of years ago. My now-husband and I were so excited to move in together, and actually have a townhouse – and not just a run down apartment – to call home. But there were issues – mold and water in the walls, extremely loud neighbours, and lots and lots of police our on street. Thankfully our property management company smartened up and started screening applicants, so things have been better. I still don’t love it… not by a long shot. But I don’t hate it anymore. There’s a lot we can do to make it better ourselves (we’ve already repainted the living room to a brighter and happier colour) and our landlords are working with us a lot more to fix the maintenance issues. I know I will never love the place we’re in, but it’s just a rental. It works for us for now, and hopefully as we get our finances in order, it will help us determine what we need in our first house in order to love that.

    • Britt October 3, 2017 at 8:28 pm

      Oh wow, I’m glad the situation has improved for your guys! We are definitely lucky to live in a quiet neighbourhood. I will miss it if we ever move!

      You make a great point- every place we rent serves as a learning opportunity for what we want and do not want in a purchased place (if we decide to go that way).

  • luxestrategist October 2, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    I love that you ended up liking the minimalist-in-aesthetic Airbnb, even though you didn’t think you would. Sometimes I think there’s a difference between what we think we want, and what we actually want. I’m with you on the hotels being generic. I never felt like they were worth the price and would prefer a cheaper Airbnb with more character. Although I could make an exception for that hotel you went to on date night one time (the Momofuku meal and nice toiletries)!

    I’ve lived in a lot of places over the years, and here’s what I’ve discovered:
    -I’ve always chosen a place based on feeling. There were some places that were fine but I just couldn’t “see” myself living there. This method has never failed me.
    -My requirements are hardwood floors and lots of light. Light is a must! So no basement apartment for me. I once turned down my own office because there were no windows in there.

    In terms of how it’s organized, I like to keep things very minimal. If it were up to me, the walls would be bare and the furniture would be light. Right now I’ve moved in with my husband and it wasn’t practical to get all new stuff to suit the both of us. So I live with his decorations even if it’s not something I would have picked out myself. Buying new furniture just isn’t enough of a priority to me so I live with his 70s brown chaise 🙂

    • Britt October 2, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      70s brown chaise are all the hipster rage right now!!! Luckily for me, all of our furniture is my own (so I actually like it).

      I am also all about character, which is why I have tended to prefer rustic over modern (with this AirBnb being a notable exception). I just get so much more feeling out of rustic spaces.

      I’d go back to that hotel any day- if only for Monofuku! Thanks for reading, Luxe!

  • Sylvia October 2, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    >But, that’s the point! My experience showed me that spaces can have a positive impact on the way I feel.

    I’m 100% the same. I just feel… happier when my home is clean and decorated the exact way I want it to be. I painted my walls yellow, decoupaged my bookshelf, have knick-knacks and kitsch everywhere, etc. because I like the way it all makes my space look, and it makes me feel happy and at home.

    I LOVE AirBnB’s. 10/10, would always choose it over a hotel.

    • Britt October 2, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      I’m imagine yellow walls everywhere, sounds so lovely and sunny! It makes a big difference once you make a space your own. Thanks for reading, Sylvia!

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.