World's Coolest Rental Homes
When architect Anna Noguera and her husband bought a 16th-century house in Girona, Spain, it was in such rough shape that only the walls could be saved. But after a three-year renovation, their five-bedroom home has a gourmet kitchen, pool, fireplace, and veranda overlooking the medieval town.
Why should you care? Because this is a home you can rent.
Renting a house has become increasingly easy—and popular—in the past few years, thanks to sites like HomeAway and AirBnB. And there are some very cool rental homes out there. It’s enough to make a five-star hotel jealous.
Of course, anyone who’s sifted through dozens of ho-hum listings knows how much time can evaporate while trying to find the perfect place to call home for a week’s escape. But thanks to curated new websites, such as WelcomeBeyond.com, Boutique-Homes.com, and Designtripper.com (full disclosure: this is my blog), travelers can browse designers’ rental homes that have been carefully selected for their cool quotient.
There’s no shortage of stories behind these rental homes and the creative people who run them—and sometimes even live on the grounds. There are the reality-TV stars who lost their deposit every time they rented a house with their five kids, so they finally bought and decorated one of their own. And the couple who shut down their design store in London and moved to Morocco, where they cater to new customers—houseguests—by steering them toward the best local markets and supplying a pair of traditional slippers to keep.
Spending vacation time in homes like this Moroccan one gives you special insights into your destination and the opportunity to live like a local—one who just happens to have exceptional taste. You don’t need to give up the conveniences of a hotel stay (some rental homes come with daily housekeeping), and you enjoy perks that range from gallery-worthy art installations to private gardens with tennis courts.
Even some homeowners can’t get over their surroundings. “There’s something amazing about visiting museums like the Picasso and Carnavalet, and staying in a building with a similar sense of history,” says Jorge Almada of the 18th-century, antiques-filled apartment he and his wife own in Paris. And it’s just as amazing that they want to share their pied-à-terre—designed by Louis XVI’s architect—with travelers like you.
Dar Beida,Essaouira, Morocco
Londoners Emma Wilson and Graham Carter moved to Essaouira in 2002 after shutting their furniture shop and taking on a new project: sprucing up this 18th-century, four-bedroom house. An all-white canvas for their retro, color-popping style, Dar Beida has an internal courtyard and rooms outfitted with eclectic furniture, hammock, terraces, and in most cases, fireplaces. The couple dotes on their guests, sharing personal recommendations (best market stalls) and a pair of babouche (Moroccan slippers) to keep.
Rent It: From $420 per person per week (for parties of only two, another $420 is added).
Casa Ninamu, Sayulita,Mexico
Owned by Vogue and Travel + Leisure photographer Anne Menke and her husband, Johann, this open-air, two-bedroom stucco house borders a lush tropical jungle in the laid-back surfing town of Sayulita. It was originally her family’s vacation home, but when they decided to make Sayulita their full-time address, they began renting out this cobalt blue, thatched-roof beauty to guests and moved into a new addition on the grounds. Bonus amenity: there’s a pizza oven on the beach.
Rent It: From $400 per night.
Le Lieu Perdu,France
This completely renovated four-bedroom stone house in the Dordogne area of southern France could not be more idyllic—or stylish, in a way that’s both bohemian and expertly curated. (“We love to collect old furniture that reflects a lived-through feeling,” says co-owner Vincent Defontaines.) An all-white bedroom is finished off with a fringed hanging lamp, and bookcases display vintage hardbacks, paintings, and antlers above a velvet sofa. But the pool is the real showstopper, surrounded by tall grasses, gardens, and curvaceous lounge chairs, and with magnificent views of the vineyards and fields of wildflowers.
Rent It: From $2,883 per week.
Podere Palazzo, Tuscany
Chicago interior designer Patrizio Fradiani bought a decrepit Tuscan farmhouse five years ago as a way to reconnect with his native Italy. A top-to-bottom renovation transformed the five-bedroom hilltop retreat near the village of San Casciano dei Bagni into a stylish country escape with minimalist, Donald Judd–like installations (a wall decorated with individual hardware drawers, for example) and traditional post-and-beam ceilings, stone walls, and clay tiles. The lush gardens are filled with olive trees and herbs, and a heated infinity pool overlooks the countryside.
Rent It: From $3,950 per week; 773/425-5730.
Insider Tip: “Spend an afternoon at the private gardens of the sprawling La Foce estate, with magnificent views of the Val d’Orcia.” —Patrizio Fradiani
Race & Religious, New Orleans
Named after intersecting streets in an industrial corner of the Lower Garden District, this pair of antebellum homes is saturated with local history. The owner, Granville Semmes, spent more than 10 years researching the buildings and area, uncovering diaries and letters that tell of butchers, drunken sailors, and Creole orphans. Decorated with antiques, vignettes, and religious iconography, Race & Religious makes a fascinating home base for up to 12 people. The spacious shared outdoor courtyard and slate pool don’t hurt, either.
Rent It: Religious from $450 per night, Race from $550 per night, or both from $1,000 per night ($800 after the first two nights).
The Bamboo Wall House at Commune by the Great Wall,China
Japanese architect Kengo Kuma created this five-room Modernist home that pays tribute to traditional Chinese architecture. It’s one in a collection of rental villas built into the landscape at the base of the Great Wall of China—each conceived by a different, well-known Asian architect. True to its name, Bamboo Wall House’s most striking feature is the beautiful vertical swaths of bamboo canes that cover vast portions of the exterior and interior spaces.
Rent It: From $313 per night.
The WhiteHouse, Daylesford, Australia
Interior decorator and antique-shop owner Lyn Gardener transformed this 1850s brick miner’s cottage into an adorable retreat about an hour-and-a-half drive northwest of her native Melbourne. Gardener’s signature look blends vintage with quirky industrial pieces—while weaving in high-impact details like handmade wallpaper by Deborah Bowness. The White House also wins over guests with its gardens, classic claw-foot soaking tubs with antique chandeliers, and kitchen cupboards stocked with local goodies.
Rent It: From $400 per night.
SonomaGlass House, California
With glass as its main building material, this one-bedroom house is all about the views. L.A.-based furniture designer Carol Vena-Mondt teamed up with Fred Fisher of Frederick Fisher and Partners to design a 500-square-foot home that would be essentially see-through, bringing nature indoors. The resulting 24-acre property has easy access to hiking trails, a double waterfall, and a sandy beach.
Rent It: From $400 per night with a two-night minimum.
DidmartonHouse, Cotswolds, England
Vintage furniture, rustic flea-market finds, and family photos mix playfully with pops of bright color, pieces by Philippe Starck, and statement-making art within this grand four-bedroom farmhouse. This mash-up reflects the refined rocker-chic taste of interior designer Joanna Berryman, who runs the London shop Matrushka. The nearly two-acre grounds feature landscaped gardens, tennis courts, and a small studio that sleeps two people.
Rent It: From $2,138 per week.
This contemporary villa is carved right into the rocky hillside of Mykonos island, about 25 minutes from the town (and only five from the beach). The unusual, curvaceous shape of the building creates an inviting, cavelike space; its whitewashed walls and simple design aesthetic feel both traditional and effortlessly modern. Outside, a natural rock and saltwater infinity pool hugs the entire length of the house, giving swimmers the sensation of being suspended over the Aegean Sea.
Rent It: From $6,400 per week.
Casa do Morro, Trancoso, Brazil
New York–based interior designers (and reality-TV stars) Cortney and Bob Novogratz gave their sprawling five-bedroom plantation-style house in the up-and-coming beach town of Trancoso an earthier, more tropical look than their usual urban-bohemian aesthetic. But it still has their signature mix of modern and vintage furniture (note the 14-foot-long reclaimed-wood table) paired with statement-making contemporary art. The couple’s favorite piece: a life-size rendering—in buttons—of Swedish tennis star Björn Borg, by British artist Ann Carrington.
Rent It: From $7,500 per week; 011-55-21-8111-4405.
Insider Tip: “For caipirinhas and a light sushi dinner, we head to El Gordo restaurant (dinner for two $125), on the Quadrado overlooking the Atlantic.” —Bob Novogratz
TheBalancing Barn, Walberswick, England
Anyone looking for high-design drama will appreciate this 100-foot-long balancing act: a barn that dangles daringly over the edge of a hill. The U.K.-based organization Living Architecture commissioned this four-bedroom vacation home in an effort to bring eye-catching, Modernist architecture to the English countryside. Dutch architect Winy Maas’s silver-clad design resembles a tricked-out, cantilevered Airstream trailer. Its shiny exterior reflects the surrounding meadows, woods, and pond within this nature reserve near the Suffolk Coast.
Rent It: From $1,000 for a four-night, midweek stay.
Alemanys 5,Girona, Spain
When Spanish architect Anna Noguera and her husband, Juan Manuel Ribera, bought this 16th-century house in northeastern Catalonia, it was in such rough shape that only the walls could be saved. Three years later, the five-bedroom residence (which can be divided into two separate living spaces or rented as a whole) is a stunning example of rustic minimalism: ancient stone walls are juxtaposed with smooth, clean lines of oak, concrete, and glass. The best asset? A 20-by-7-foot pool—the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring Girona’s medieval city center.
Rent It: From $280 per night; 011-34-64-988-5136.
Insider Tip: “Don’t miss a visit to El Canadell, a hidden beach in the picturesque fishing village of Calella de Palafrugell, just outside Girona.” —Anna Noguera
Hôtel d’Hallwyl, Paris
“There is something amazing about visiting museums like the Picasso and Carnavalet, and staying in a building with a similar sense of history,” says Jorge Almada of the 18th-century Paris apartment he owns with his wife, Anne-Marie Midy. Like their artisan-made-furniture company, Casamidy, the two-bedroom pied-à-terre—designed by Louis XVI’s architect, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux—honors the past with a decidedly modern approach. The Third Arrondissement space is filled with both French antiques and playful contemporary pieces, such as Casamidy’s own wrought-iron Symi lanterns.
Rent It: From $1,850 per week.
Insider Tip: “Our go-to spot for dinner is nearby Café Charlot (dinner for two $45). The Chateaubriand with pepper sauce is divine.” —Anne-Marie Midy
The Cricket Pavilion,Harbour Island, Bahamas
A few years ago, India Hicks and her partner, David Flint Wood, were touring the Caribbean island of Eleuthera when they stumbled upon a crumbling white pavilion “with all the charm and romance of the old Bahamas,” she recalls. On a whim, the couple decided to replicate the building on their home base, Harbour Island. Hicks has decorated the open-plan, two-bedroom space with spruced-up flea-market finds; beachy bedspreads created by her late father, interior designer David Hicks; and mementos from her travels around the world.
Rent It: From $5,600 per week.
Insider Tip: “Head to the Queen Conch (lunch for two $20) for the fresh conch salad. They say it’s an aphrodisiac, which may explain my four kids.” —India Hicks