Both boutique hotels and home swap websites have seen a recent surge in growth and popularity. Inspired by both concepts, one company has come up with its own – Welcome to the ‘unhotel’ Onefinestay (www.onefinestay.com).
The idea behind the company, founded in September 2009, is that visitors can live in London like a local. A tailor-made booklet of nearby amenities is provided, alongside an iPhone with a welcome message from your hosts, and a video guide to the house. Onefinestay stock the fridge and cupboards, greet you at the front door and show you around.
Over sixty London properties, with an average value of £1.1million, make up onefinestay’s portfolio, ranging from one-bedroom apartments to luxury townhouses, all at an assured four-star standard. An optional maid service for guests is available and the people at Onefinestay are on the end of the phone 24-hours a day, ready to jump on a scooter to help. The equivalent of room service can also be ordered from local restaurants. Surprisingly, starting at £150 a night, prices are extremely competitive when compared with favourite hotels.
The inspiration came from ‘an abysmal stay in Pisa’ for Co-founder Greg Marsh and his wife Kath. Holed up in a particularly soulless hotel, they were thrown a lifeline by a local friend-of-a-friend, who was able to show them all the best places to go and much more comfortable lodgings, off the beaten track.
Alongside partners Tim Davey and Demetrios Zoppos, Greg has taken the company from strength-to-strength, attributing its success to ‘word of mouth, generous backers and positive reviews.’ Mr Marsh says the company aim to have signed up at least 250 homes by the end of this year. And for hosts themselves, ‘it’s about peace of mind, and knowing that someone is looking after their place while they’re out of town.’
Current onefinestayers range from regular business travelers bored of hotels, to couples on city breaks, and families looking for the space and convenience of a home (not to mention the use of children’s toys and dvds). Onefinestay hosts include artists, writers, consultants, bankers, musicians, interior designers, journalists, lawyers and academics.
Although summer, Christmas and Easter are particularly busy times for the company, they’re reluctant to acknowledge a high or low season, maintaining that they are busy year-round.
The advantage for hosts, or ‘members’, who allow access to their
homes, is that they receive the equivalent to the pro-rata rental value
of the property. Everything is cleaned extensively before and after
guests stay, anything can be locked or removed on request, and linen is
left untouched, as bed linen and towels (very white and fluffy, from The
White Company), as well as reams of lotions and potions in classic
hotel-miniature form, are provided.
Plans are afoot for expansion out of London, before taking the idea to Europe. ‘We want to see unhotels in every major world city–particularly the places where hotels are most expensive and least appealing. We started in London because the founders all live here, but we definitely have our eyes on a global opportunity. Watch this space.’
So next time you’re heading into town for a meeting, dinner or trip to the theatre, think twice before booking the familiarity of your usual hotel, and live like a local instead; alternatively if you’re out of town from time-to-time you might look into including your property in their portfolio.
Top three London properties from Onefinestay
* Onslow Gardens, South Kensington – lovely old finishing touches, a piano, smart without being flash. Sleeps 6. From £735/night
* Church Row, Hampstead – fresh, beachy feel, gorgeous antique furniture. Sleeps 5. From £310/night
* Callow Street, Chelsea – bright and breezy, working fireplace, a perfect bolthole. Sleeps 2. From £175/night