In the past decade, there’s been an obvious shift in the hospitality industry–the desire for a unique and local experience among travelers has increased drastically–and services are adapting. , the short-term rental company that is working to bridge the gaps of Airbnb-style homes and traditional hotels, is making the case for this new market in the industry, and their latest project speaks for itself. Although Sonder has been rapidly growing since its 2012 inception, the company recently partnered with Bob and Cortney –the high-profile design team behind some iconic residential and commercial properties around the country–to transform three 1926 bungalows in the heart of Downtown San Diego.
The natural partnership between Sonder and Novogratz lent itself to the design of eclectic and original spaces that connect with the surrounding areas on a deeper level. Driven by a mutual passion for cultivating an authentic travel experience, Sonder and Novogratz transformed each bungalow into spaces that allow visitors to engage in the local history of San Diego, before they even leave their rental. According to Ashley Redmond, Sonder's director of interior design, the homes combine “a bold sense of color with well-curated accessories and vintage touches,” weaving in a modern sensibility that complements the history and character of the bungalows.
“A new project is always like a canvas. Understanding the environment, for who and how the space will be used, are paramount in deciding on a design direction,” says Bob of his approach. While travelers appreciate a space that feels au courant, the Novogratz’s maintained a timeless theme that is apparent in all of their projects, resulting in spaces that are approachable, unpretentious, and as Cortney puts it, “a reflection of who you are.” With Sonder’s “inspired” approach–a strategy that acknowledges each city’s specific qualities and charms and reflects that in their units–travelers can return to their rentals each night without ever detaching from the spirit of the city or neighborhood they are in. While Sonder does have a team of in-house designers, the synergy of their partnership with the Novogratz team was only appropriate for such a unique project.
The outdoor beach culture was a guiding theme in how the bungalows were crafted. Capturing the authenticity of that vibe without feeling cliché is what ultimately infused the space with a youthful energy that’s wasn’t too serious. “You have to spend time in the area to understand it,” Bob says. By taking the time to draw thoughtful connections between the city of San Diego and the aesthetic of the bungalows, we again see an effective abandonment of the uniformity of traditional hotels.
With that precept in mind, new design challenges naturally arise. Achieving a lived-in comfortability without becoming too “homey” is a bit of a balancing act. Sonder’s designs are unique and eclectic, but you don’t feel like you’re walking into a lived-in space, because, well, you’re not. Designing for a permanent home versus a short-term stay requires different styling techniques. “The design must be intuitive and inclusive because anyone could be a guest,” Bob says. The spaces feel balanced, open, and clutter-free, which reminds guests that while they are in a comfortable and cozy space, they still have the structure and hospitable nature of traditional travel. As Ashley Redmond puts it, "Sonder is the place for the two friends traveling alone, the bachelorette party, the business traveler, et cetera."
Each bungalow had a similar footprint, and the main design elements were similar across each home, in order to keep a thread of consistency. To differentiate the spaces, accents like artwork and collected antiques were incorporated in different ways. Because of the small size of each bungalow, the design had to be efficient and the layout needed to flow well. The historical architecture “placed regulations and parameters on the design,” meaning that paint colors and wallpaper were limited, but never a limitation. These factors all play into the authenticity of the transformations, and helped shape the exciting final product.
To summarize the overarching ethos of Sonder's projects: “It’s not always about total change; often it’s about rejoicing in the history of a space with the new design.”