15 Vacation Rentals That Belong on Every Architecture Nerd’s Bucket List
The benefits of vacation rental sites have been touted near and far—and then nearer and farther: to SXSW, to Cuba, to Ikea, and more. For starters, there’s a sort of satisfaction about siphoning the costs straight into the pockets of the person who’s with you at check-in and checkout.
And then, of course, there are the perks of individual rentals, things like views from a cable car above France’s Courchevel or the bragging rights afforded stays at the tops of ski jumps in Norway or well-furnished passenger planes. Heck, even billionaire Warren Buffett is getting in on the action, having used Airbnb to offer a weekend at his childhood home in Nebraska.
Sites like Airbnb, One Fine Stay, and Tripping are a particular boon, however, for architecture lovers. Now travelers can stay in a single-family home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (assuming, of course, they’re down to spend vacation in Two Rivers, Wisconsin), a candy-colored apartment by contemporary French master Jean Nouvel, and cantilevered experiments by Rotterdam-based firm MVRDV.
These are the vacation rentals all design nerds should know about, from Airstreams to 14th-century villas, from Prairie Style to Midcentury Modernism.
Twin Palms Sinatra Estate
In the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, Palm Springs, California became a hotspot for Rat-Pack era superstars, who would often tap the architectural greats of the era to build dream houses on desert soil. Frank Sinatra commissioned E. Stewart Williams to build this rambling four-bedroom in 1947. Nearly 70 years later, it remains an exemplary piece of architecture from that heyday. Such pedigree comes at a cost, though: the place goes for $2,600 a night. But, hey, imagine the parties.
Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower
Thanks, perhaps, to the emergence and popularity of capsule hotels, architect Kisho Kurokawa’s 1972 tower design—considered to be a rare built example of Japanese Metabolism—is enjoying user acclaim it failed to receive when it was first built. In fact, tourists and other temporary Tokyo denizens pay $77 a night to stay in what is essentially a box with a porthole. Its iconic edifice is made up of these boxes, a move inspired by organic growth found in nature and not, in fact, a stack of washing machines.
Midcentury Post-and-Beam by Val Powelson
In the 1950s, Val Powelson contributed a lot to the low-slung cool that has come to define the California midcentury aesthetic, drawing up plans for post-and-beam structures with the accoutrement popular in the era: floor-to-ceiling windows, open plans, and monolithic fireplaces. Now, the two-bedroom at Mulholland Drive asks $339 a night for an indoor-outdoor vibe that hasn’t aged a day.
Candy-Colored Ibiza Apartment by Jean Nouvel
There are a lot of reasons to love Ibiza, and somehow one of the least-mentioned among them is that you can rent an apartment in the candy-colored hills of Jean Nouvel’s Life Marina complex. For $213 a night, up to four people get to occupy the airy interiors behind the structures plant-covered, Skittles-colored terraces.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Schwartz House
Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably the most famous architect the United States has ever produced, designed the $395-a-night Bernard Schwartz House for Life Magazine in 1938. The “Dream House,” as it was pegged then, has America’s oldest, continually-running in-floor heating system (a major flourish in the ‘30s), as well two (two!) fireplaces in the living room and its own private dock.
The Balancing Barn
International architecture firm MVRDV is known for taking familiar forms—particularly the classic “house shape”—and making them, well, a little weird. Its English vacation rental, known as Balancing Barn, is Exhibit A. The traditional structure is covered in shiny steel panels (which, from afar, make it almost vanish) and roughly half of its bulk is cantilevered over a lawn.
Chicago’s Historic Florsheim Mansion
As the former home of Chicago heiress Lillian Florsheim, this six-bedroom manor boasts lofty ceilings, Gold Coast luxury, and accommodations for 11—not to mention a pretty killer artists’ pedigree. Not only was Florsheim herself a successful sculptor, the mansion was previously owned by the director of Chicago’s Museum Contemporary Art, and later used for artists-in-residence. Now it’s on Airbnb asking $1,200 a night.
Converted Stables in London
Decades before London’s housing crisis converted everything in sight to luxury lodgings, this stone structure housed stables, and, later, a wine warehouse. Now those stone bones are enshrouded in glass, creating a designer’s pad with temporal juxtapositions to make an architecture buff’s heart go a-pitter-patter, including glass walls, ceilings, and a powder room that looks like something out of Gattaca.
Contemporary Eclecticism in L.A.
California futurism is the name of the game in Santa Monica, California’s Kubrick House, where rooms are divided by plastic walls embedded with fluorescent bulbs, cathedral ceilings look unfinished, and entire walls open up to the great outdoors. It’s got some forward-thinking bells and whistles, sure, but in many ways the place is proof of the endurance of the state’s midcentury masters. No amount of minimal sculpture or reclaimed wood can hide the unmistakable influence of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Italy’s 14th-Century Domus Civita
If the rental listing is to be believed, below this 14th-century manor on the edge of Tuscany sits a network of caves and Etruscan tombs. Also intriguing is the way the rough-hewn stone walls work with the luxe modern features, including a heated pool, avant-garde lighting fixtures, and Eames-style plastic mold chairs. Rates start at $536 a night.
The Mazzini Residence
Though also a historic residence seated at the edge of Tuscany, the medieval Mazzina Residence has a much more urbane feel. Here, lime-colored, backlit glass headboards sit afront 18th-century frescoes. The three-bedroom sleeps up to eight, and starts at $425 a night.
The appeal of these high-contemporary dwellings is much more visceral: they’re just plain neat. Italian architect Peter Pichler mirrored each structure’s façade, so the boxes nearly disappear into the surrounding hillsides—or, rather, the South Tyrolean Dolomites, to be precise. Rates start at €200, or roughly $215, a night.
Morerava Cabins on Easter Island
Not only are these six-person houses fairly economical—sleeping up to six for $130 a night—the contemporary cottages took home an Architizer A+ Award in 2013 for sustainability. The architects write that they carefully considered the “construction process, material resourcing and daily usage” to “have a minimal impact on the very fragile environment” of Easter Island. And, of course, they’re beautiful.
Geodesic Domes in the Alps
The geodesic dome, popularized by architect-mathematician Buckminster Fuller, has long been synonymous with the utopian ideals of the ‘60s and ‘70s, when commune culture and Jet Age enthusiasts alike had a particular fondness for a structure that is cheap, easy-to-build, lightweight, and strong. These pods, in an achingly lovely part of the Swiss Alps, are stove-heated and made of pine. Booking information, this way.
The Classic Airstream
Airstream trailers have enjoyed new-found popularity among the nostalgia-obsessed hipster crowd, who admire the brand’s curved aluminum body, which recalls the optimistic futurism of Jet Age and Googie architecture. Airstream’s progenitors were crafted in someone’s backyard in 1920s L.A., but now they’re produced in Ohio, by a team of some 475 people. This particular trailer sits in Andalusia, Spain, and goes for $123 a night.