New startup Norn fills the transitional period between visiting and living, offering up adapted townhouses to a global community of nomads. This month, it will launch dwellings in London, San Francisco, Berlin and Barcelona, where members can stay a minimum of three months and maximum of six, encouraging them to immerse in culture rather than tick holiday boxes.
The new members’ club offers residencies in these key cities and joins a growing breed of co-living companies, such as Roam or Outsite. Norn puts extra emphasis on growing its ‘offline network’ through its in-house programme of events, however, echoing culinary membership clubs such as In House New York – a scheme ‘for those who care about restaurants’.
‘Modern life for many of us is missing the space for meaningful gatherings and exchanges among foreign people and ideas,’ says Norn’s San Francisco-based founder Travis Hollingsworth. ‘Norn is designing new ways for us to connect in smaller, more intimate spaces.’
Every week Norn will organise happenings, inviting guests to ask open questions and connect in ‘meaningful conversations’. Curated around themes, such as ‘Borders’ or ‘The Good Life,’ these evenings mean members leave with memories of their new found community to treasure long after the flight home.
Each property offers approximately five bedrooms and comes with communal spaces conceived to encourage conversation, with light, inviting lounges for ‘salon’ events and large dining tables (typically seating 10 people) that lend themselves to intimate ‘Conversation Menu’ dinners. Norn chooses historic buildings that are characteristic of the chosen city. The Berlin home, for example, was built in 1906 in West Kreutzberg and the San Francisco property is a steel grey Victorian rowhouse near Haight-Ashbury. These dwellings – once nuclear family homes – have been repurposed as open, flexible spaces that give internationally minded millennials the chance to live and work across time zones.
Membership costs $2,000 for a monthly ‘residency’ in any of Norn’s homes, while ‘local membership’ costs $500 a year, and offers access to at least one event per month in any city and opportunities to host events. New Norn members must go through a screening process, but Hollingsworth explains, ‘Unlike traditional members we are positively selecting for psychographics rather than occupation or background. We look for two things: curiosity and contribution.’
Hollingsworth and the Norn team are busy scouting out their next projects; they have Istanbul, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires, Lisbon and Amsterdam in sight. Further into the future, they hope to expand into rural locations too.
It’s no coincidence that the first locations to launch are renowned as the most expensive in the world to rent but Norn caters to a type of person who prioritises experiences over real estate. ‘We are playing with the idea of how social networks are formed, like Facebook, but in the offline world,’ says Hollingsworth. Through the promise of genuine connections via open living, Norn aims to generate worth through renting, and it will certainly be time well spent.