We stayed at the most adorable and perfect AirBnB in Northeast Portland. You can pull it up on the Airbnb site as the “Authentic Alberta Arts Abode.” Just $115 a night, this little basement apartment encapsulated everything to me about why short-term rentals of private spaces poses such a challenge for the traditional hospitality industry. That’s just a fancy way of saying I loved it so much I knew as soon as I stepped into the main room that I was never going to want to leave.
Normally the words “basement” and “apartment” don’t go together in my world, but my general attitude about being on the bottom floor doesn’t apply to this place. It’s small — perfect for two people — and the smallness makes it difficult to capture, in photos, the essence of what makes it so wonderful.
So here’s a game I like to play wherever I go. Describe a space in two words. Just two. You have to pick two ideas that work together in a space to make something different.
My husband and I sat each evening just looking around, trying to pinpoint just how one might describe the aesthetic of our Airbnb. It felt so idiosyncratic, so personal and yet professionally done, that we wondered if the owners had hired a Portland stylist to come decorate the place. A quick look at the owner’s house will tell you that they are the kind of enterprising people who believe in doing things themselves, and I was later able to confirm with the owner that styling the space is her art.
The two-word descriptor we came up with was “Pendleton Retro.” “Pendleton” because the objects in the rooms highlighted some of the more iconic motifs of the West, specifically of the Pacific Northwest. “Retro” because the art, appliances and a few objects harken back to the Eisenhower Era.
Maybe we cheated by using a brand name this time (and all of its associations), but I’m sticking with it.
The host owners here go out of their way to make the experience amazing. Every detail has been carefully chosen but feels intimate and gracious.
Ease of Access. It couldn’t be easier that to get a code from a host, drive to the property, punch in the code and walk inside. (Clearly I’m not showing you the outside of this place for privacy’s sake).
Food in the house. We spent our two days eating around Portland, but it was refreshing and comforting to know that we had pancake mix, drinks, a cookie jar filled with Snickers minis, Lucky Charms, and some of those vacuum-sealed Indian foods if we got hungry.
Welcoming materials. Penelope left us a bottle of wine (which we didn’t drink or take), as well as travel magazines and materials in a piece of vintage luggage.
Truly stellar books. I’m a former book reviewer, and I was over the moon to see a startlingly well-curated selection of highly readable fiction and nonfiction on all the shelves.
The comfiest of beds. I was a little concerned that the bed nook might be a little claustrophobia-producing, but it is the opposite: Cozy-as-can-be. We arrived at 1 p.m. and I promptly fell asleep for two hours after reading a few pages. The linens were perfect.
Sconces galore. I now get the power of the sconce, after being in a place that had (?) eight of them.
A judging matriarch. There’s this awesome portrait of a woman hung on the wall next to the couch. I named her Betty. Wasn’t everyone named Betty in the mid-20th century? We told some stories about her during our visit.
Clean clean clean. Old Portland houses can feel a little dirty unless they are cared for properly. No problem here!
A personal itinerary. The hosts picked out their favorite neighborhood places in this giant list hung near the door. If living like a local is your thing when you travel, I can’t think of a better tool. Again, it’s the personal recommendations. The difference between a brochure rack at a hotel and a good friend texting their faves.
What a perfect way to spend a 37th birthday! The trip totally made up for not getting my dream present of a room full of 37 floating Mylar balloons a la that exhibit at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
I’ll be posting a couple of other highlights from our Portland adventure in the coming weeks. I was able to finally meet one of my perfuming heroes, Heather Siellaff of OLO perfume and had my to-date best meal at a place on Alberta.
Where’s your favorite Airbnb in the world? Please share with me since I’m always planning my next trip!