The launch of Airbnb in 2005 and the rise of the sharing economy has changed the way we see holiday architecture.
While fewer of us are checking into hotels, we’re now expecting more from our holiday rentals in the form of top notch design, fantastic locations and genuine local experiences. But spending hours trawling through Airbnb to find a gem can be a drag.
Luckily, a group of websites have done the hard work for you, offering a tight curation of the best modern architecture rentals across the world. So whether you’re after an architect-designed chalet in the Swiss Alps or a treehouse in Berlin, this crop of holiday rental websites has you covered.
Living Architecture, UK
What constitutes good architecture? Philosopher and author Alain de Botton has pretty strong opinions on the matter, so much so that he established a not-for-profit organisation in 2010 to up the calibre of modern architecture rentals in the UK.
Living Architecture commissions some of the world’s best architects to design contemporary holiday homes, all of which can be rented by the public.
Seven properties are already on its roster – the most recent being The Life House in Wales by John Pawson. An eighth, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is on its way in Devon.
But it’s not just architects that de Botton has enlisted: artist Fiona Banner teamed up with ArtAngel and David Kohn Architects to put a boat atop London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall for their commission. ‘A Room for London’ – currently in hibernation – will reopen after the refurbishment of the concert hall. Elsewhere, Grayson Perry collaborated with FAT on a whimsical gingerbread style cottage dubbed House for Essex.
Architect Jan Hamer started his website Urlaubsarchitektur (or ‘holiday architecture) back in 2007 as a quasi ‘atlas’ of his favourite holiday homes – and to tip off friends looking to rent them. Over 10 years and 400 properties later, it’s become a go-to for design-conscious vacationers hunting for houses as striking as their locations.
Urlaubsarchitektur doesn’t handle bookings, instead it hooks vacationers up with homeowners – who are often architects, photographers and creatives – directly.
‘Travel habits and preferences will naturally differ from one European country to the next. But our most exciting houses have very often been developed by people from other countries,’ Hamer says. Expect lots of ex-pat designers putting their own stamp on their adopted countries…
Here’s a handy list of last minute summer opportunities.
Welcome Beyond, worldwide
Another German site, Welcome Beyond is the brainchild of brothers Oliver and Chris Laugsch, who handpick every vacation rental and small hotel on its books.
Covering some 38 countries, the site positions itself as ‘a community of accommodations’. These range from off-grid igloos and yurts for the adventurous to Portuguese castles and contemporary casas – such as Californian architect Michael J Sant’s Santa Monica mountains hideaway, which featured as our rental of the week.
The common thread running through them all is their high-calibre design.
As well as listing each property’s vital statistics, the brothers interview their owners about their history and architecture, while getting essential tips on nearby attractions, restaurants and highlights guests might enjoy. One of our favourites is the Juvet Landscape Hotel.
The Modern House, worldwide
‘When we go on holiday, we don’t like to leave good design behind,’ say the London-based realtors behind The Modern House.
Specialists in selling UK Modernist and contemporary homes by the likes of architect Wells Coates and David Adjaye, they also moonlight internationally as holiday letting agents.
As you’d expect, its crop of modern architectural rentals comes with a fine pedigree. Included are international houses by rising stars, such as Jonathan Tuckey and Diego Villaseñor, stretching from Switzerland to Mexico. On the flipside, you can also stay in some mid-century classics, such as experimental Bauhaus bolthole ‘Hatch House’ in Cape Cod, USA .
We’re also rather fond of architect Pedro Ferreira Pinto’s beach house-inspired Casa do Pego in Portugal…
Though this site is updated on a more ad hoc basis than others on our list, its portfolio of properties is pretty timeless and more than just a little concrete-inspired…
Startling life as a scrapbook of ‘dream holiday rentals’, Spaces42 grew into an edit of top-end architect-designed homes perfect for city breaks and beach holidays. With a strong Modernist aesthetic running through its properties, the site has become a comprehensive resource for rentable ‘clean line’ holiday homes, particularly in Australia, Spain and Portugal.
The website is set out as a tile display of homes, so you can click to your heart’s content on crisp contemporary villas, like this Bak Gordon-designed Lisbon hideaway, and coastal homes close to nature.
Boutique Homes, worldwide
While the word ‘boutique’ has become synonymous with ‘twee’, there’s nothing quaint about the properties on this site. Boutique Homes is run by developers Veronique Lievre and Heinz Legler who’ve been designing, building and decorating hotels and vacation homes for over 12 years. And they apply the same standards to the holiday architecture they curate as the ones they build.
Helpfully organised into sub-sections – architect-designed, eco, historical and affordable – the site also lists little touches they like about the house, as well as the best time to visit, and things to see and do.
For hotel lovers, they represent 174 (very) small and independent design-led hotels ranging from a lava-field outpost in Iceland to an artist’s residence in London.
A highlight is this ‘glass box in a meadow’ in Germany.
Kid & Coe, worldwide
Going abroad with small children can be tough, that’s why Zoie Kingsbery Coe founded Kid & Coe in 2013, after travelling the world managing her DJ husband’s career with two kids in tow.
As well as being baby-friendly, these properties are design-led and easy on the eye – as is the website. Taking a ‘destination first’ approach to curation, it offers bitesize commentary on each holiday rental, with ‘style notes’, ‘perks for parents’ and a list of essential things to know, such as whether a property has stairs, is suitable for kids under four, pet friendly and even whether there’s free on-street parking.
Coming soon is a ‘home exchange’ feature, which will allow members of the Kid & Coe community to house swap.
Read next: 7 spectacular treehouses to stay in this summer.