Behind the Scenes: The Airbnb SXSW Exterior

Alright folks, this is my 4th and final post about the SXSW Airbnb design project – and this one, about the exterior, was a BEAST which is why its taken me 5 weeks to write. It was one of the most challenging projects i’ve ever done, and I remember even saying once that I was more stressed out than i’ve been in years. Let me tell you why:

We had to turn this 20K square foot asphalt parking lot into a green, lush, backyard oasis full of trees, grass and furniture …. in TEXAS … without ever seeing it and in the winter when most trees didn’t have their leaves on them. 20K square feet is MASSIVE. Like Costco size. Also this area needed to function a very specific way for all the events that were going to happen there – live music events, magic shows, dinners, yoga …. so making the design for those needs was challenging, too. (Check out the first Airbnb event we did HERE and look at at the popups we designed with these celebrities: MobyLake BellMolly SimsAnjelica Huston, and James Franco, as well as Snoop Dogg’s and Capital Cities, and Allen Stone)

Here is what I had to work off of:

blueprint sxsw

To someone like me (untrained in architecture and no FORMAL design training) the above blueprint is about as understandable as a diagram of a car engine … its all just martian language, really.  So then I satellite viewed the parking lot on google maps:

satellite view

Ok, now that I am starting to understand better but its still so abstract. In retrospect I probably should  have flown down there for two days a few weeks before to see for myself, but I was busy it wasn’t in the budget, yadda yadda.

street view 2

And here’s how it looked from the street view – she was a dead, gray asphalt parking lot. So Ginny and I started to brainstorm how to turn this parking lot into a ‘neighborhood oasis’ – using these kit haus’ and 20k square feet.

We brainstormed for a couple of days and came up with this ‘Edward Scissorhands meets the Indie Southwest’. We figured it we were going to create a neighborhood why not create a super iconic suburb with acid colors, a picket fence and topiaries (which got nixed, sadly).

Airbnb SXSW

We loved the idea of taking a really traditional suburban house and neighborhood and plopping it in the middle of a total young, hipster party zone. It acted as both the respite from the craziness, and contrast to the grittiness of the East 6th neighborhood, while still being a total party space. (more…)

Designing With Allen Stone and Airbnb for SXSW

Oh Allen Stone – the most soulful hippie/hipster from Washington State that I know. I know exactly 1, but I like this dude – probably because we both have long, wavy, blonde hair. In case you don’t know who is he, he’s this dude:

allen stone airbnb

Once I saw that picture I knew that I’d probably like him although looks can be very deceiving and he could have been a huge try-hard poser. So once I met him I definitely LIKED him. Throughout the entire process he was so lovely, generous, thankful, gracious and considerate of our time and effort. How very refreshing, indeed. It’s because he’s from the PNW (Pacific NorthWest) and we PNW-ers are generally really nice.

In case you are just stopping by here’s a bit of background on the project: Airbnb wanted do an experiential marketing campaign where we designed these three Kithaus‘ with three musicians at SXSW. These musicians filled out a questionnaire that helped Ginny and I come up with an initial design plan. We presented it, they approved it and then we installed it where it remained live for 5 days in Austin last week during SXSW.  And the whole event turned out pretty awesome. (Check out the first one we did HERE and look at Moby’sLake Bell’sMolly Sims‘, Anjelica Huston’s and James Franco’s, as well as Snoop Dogg’s and Capital Cities).

So we read his questionnaire where it became clear that loves rustic, 70′s, hippie and weird. So here’s what we came up with:

Allen Stone SXSW

And here’s what we pitched to him: “He’s a hippie with soul, and an R and B singer from the PNW. His room will feel a little bit retro 70’s, a little bit rustic hippie and a lot of ‘weird’. We took our main inspiration from his cover photo set in front of this ‘ugly in a good way’ floral wallpaper, with his glasses and hat that show his unpredictable style. It’s masculine and casual, pulled together and beautiful, and yet totally weird. It will be a dudes den that a chick would love, too.”


Allen Stone SXSW

We wanted it to feel a little over the top in the 70′s and ‘weird’ styles, but with enough warmth in woods and casual finishes to make it feel grounded.

Allen Stone SXSW

So we presented him with said plan at The Echo before he had a show:

Allen Stone Emily Henderson


He was into it completely so we got the green light to proceed. He was also absolutely fun, normal, down to earth and totally unaffected. I’ve worked with a lot of celebrities and I promise you that they are normal affected. And there are many times where I know that even I have become affected and have to monitor myself. Fame (and Hollywood) does something to most people and maybe its just a matter of time, but as of now I can tell you that Allen Stone is just such a lovely, down to earth person.

allen stone-emily-henderson-airbnb

After the meeting we shook on it – and by ‘shook’ on it I mean we took a shot of tequila because that’s his drink and I don’t say no to my clients with reasonable requests for celebrating.

allen stone emily henderson

Then we started shopping. The above mood boards are mainly done on a computer, so once we got approval we hit the streets and sourced all the items below.

Allen Stone SXSW Allen Stone SXSW

Meawhile we had our friends at Tajima Creatives do these renderings so our clients could sign off on approval. For the exterior we chose these Pacific NorthWest inspired ferns and hippie plants.

Allen Stone SXSW

Then inside we had this plan – Awesome floral wallpaper on the walls, a custom plaid headboard, macrame everywhere, collection of vintage hats, a wooden stag head, and lots of vintage accessories.

Allen Stone SXSW

After a five-day install (of the entire space) Mr. Stone’s space looked like this:

vintage plaid headboard

photo by me

Airbnb Allen Stone

And I pretty much wanted to move in.  It’s totally cuckoo, but I also want every single thing in here. (and yes, some of these photos are styled by me and some aren’t – you’ll be able to tell the difference, I’m sure). That basket on there is for the winners of the campaign with a bunch of goodies from Allen.

Airbnb Allen Stone

Everything in here is either vintage or rented except for the headboard, denim pillow and green wool blanket which we had custom-made. (I believe it was $450 for all of them).

Airbnb Allen Stone

Oh and that pouf is mine (I bought it from Shopclass, which does have a few more, by the way).  And yes that is a vintage 70′s Jack Hanna calendar hanging under the air conditioner (which we disguised with a cork board and random ephemera).

plaid headboard

photo by me

That elf’s head planter (which may have been the base of a cookie jar that we repurposed) had a big old fern in it which looked weird and awesome, but somehow it went missing so that looks a bit unfinished in that pic. This planter, like many things that i pick up, was considered creepy by most – but not by me. I like me a head, elf or human.

Whats up with the clown pillow you are wondering? Well, its weird, vintage and random and somehow just seemed appropriate. Behind him was a big custom denim pillow we had made because Mr. Stone loves denim so we wanted to bring that in somewhere (it was from a fashion fabric store for $7 a yard).

vintage bentwood chair

photo by me

It rained a bit there – how very appropriate to the PNW vibe, even though my vintage rug was not psyched. The rocker was from Craigslist and Allen actually loved it so much that we shipped it to him afterwards. The hanging macrame table back there has been mine for a couple of years and finally had its moment. The folding leather bench is from ShopClass. 

allen stone house

photo by me

Big Red Sun landscaping in Austin took care of the exterior plants and did such a great job. It felt lush and PNW but with a weird 70′s bent. And then I added a vintage foosball table, pendant light, and of course a whole row of beaded curtains across the back of the pop-up.

Allen stone home

photo by me

Then we added more hanging plants, because I’m addicted.

So, sadly I couldn’t be there when Allen saw the space (schedules got all messed up so we missed each other – physically and emotionally).

Airbnb Allen Stone

But he took this pic and texted it to me with the lots of words of gratefulness and satisfaction.

Airbnb Allen Stone

Here he is looking pensive, thinking about why he has to travel around and sing to sold out crowds and not sleep in this weird pop-up that some random chick designed for him.

Airbnb Allen Stone

And then this dude came – he’s the guy that won the week in the pop-up. (they didn’t stay there but they got to use it as their home base throughout SXSW which is actually awesome because it’s a madhouse down there so to have a space all to your own that you can lock the door to is pretty amazing).

Airbnb Allen Stone

So that’s Allen Stone’s pop-up house. It was groovy, happy and totally weird  - like my alter ego.

Airbnb Allen Stone

I loved Snoop’s, I did. But Allen’s was way more my style in a lot of ways. It was sooo much easier to design, full of so much personality and sourced almost exclusively from vintage stores or prop houses – which is why I didn’t really link anything.

Check out a quick little interview I did on about how to get the look.

So my question to you is: Which pop-up house is your favorite? Snoop Dogg? Capital Cities or Allen Stone?

(Meanwhile check out all the past Airbnb pop-up houses, HERE and look at Moby’sLake Bell’sMolly Sims‘, Anjelica Huston’s and James Franco’s)

Photo credits: Vivien Killilea | Rush Jagoe | Jenna Schoenefeldairbnb 

Renderings: Tajima Creative Partners | Louis Polidori

Landscape: Big Red Sun Austin, Pop-up Houses designed/built by KitHaus

Designing with Snoop Dogg and Airbnb for SXSW

Despite being a blonde chick raised mormon in Coos Bay, Oregon, I did my senior college history thesis on the racial appropriation of music via Hip Hop. Actually shocking, I know. I used to be a massive fan of hip hop and its not that i’m not anymore, but i’m just way behind in music in general. So when Airbnb told me that Snoop might be one of the artist I would work with I was PSYCHED because I’ve always loved him. Snoop? He’s legit, not a young wanna be gangsta; he’s classic and current, old school and new school and crazy talented. Plus he has style. You would be shocked at how generic some famous people’s style can be but Snoop’s never is and I knew that we could do something interesting together. We were made for eachother, Snoop and I.


Here’s a bit of background for the project: Airbnb wanted do an experiential marketing campaign where we designed these three Kithaus‘ with three musicians at SXSW. These musicians filled out a questionnaire that helped Ginny and I come up with an initial design plan. We presented it, they approved it and then we installed it where it remained live for 5 days in Austin last week during SXSW.  And the whole event turned out pretty awesome. (Check out the first one we did HERE and look at Moby’s, Lake Bell’s, Molly Sims‘, Anjelica Huston’s and James Franco’s).

For Snoop his questionnaire revealed that he loves the following: Versace (which he says you can’t say just once, you have to say ‘Versace, Versace, Versace’), Jamaica, WEED, prohibition era style, the ’70′s, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, the movie ‘The MACK’, and, again … pot. (FYI it is legal in LA, he has a card, and I will withhold my opinion of the substance even though it was hilarious to have to incorporate it into a design project).

So before we met with him we came up with a rough mood board  to show him based on his likes:


We wanted it to be comfy and lounge-y, with a 70′s club feel, some stoner references but in a luxe (and non-tacky) way. The wallpaper in the upper left hand corner of the board would be a custom cannibus inspired paper in navy and gold – using the word ‘cannibus’ is far more hilarious than pot, btw. He requested blue, and remember he loves Versace so naturally gold was going to be in our color story. But we wanted to give him the option of also having a wallpaper full of quotes of the people that he loves – James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Bob Marley and some Snoop quotes in there too which is what is running along the bottom. We would have done it where the font is small enough that it would just look like a texture until you got close enough and then you’d realize it was sentences and quotes. We figured it would be a fun stoner party game. The furniture was vintage Danish 70′s which was super loungey and there were some wood, peacock chair and plants to reference Jamaica.


But a few hours before the presentation we got a note from his people that he wanted it to feel more ‘Deco’ and ‘Speakeasy’ like. So we whipped this up real quick – making a few alterations.


We loved how this looked but it wasn’t feeling very Snoop to us. Then we met him and that pretty much changed everything, anyway. He loved both plans, but preferred the luxe high end/Deco one more. He loved that velvet sofa saying that the black leather danish 1970′s piece could have been ‘found on the streets on Inglewood’. Of course I wanted to assure him that no, he couldn’t get that piece on the side of the street but I understood what he was saying – he wanted something more rich and luxurious looking.

But the problem with that is that we just didn’t feel like that would look like him, either. After meeting him we realized that he is an insanely funny, interesting, smart in a way I can’t compete with and yet a totally crazy person. He free-styled constantly and threw out amazing, quotable one-liners every 2 minutes. And while, yes, of course he was stoned at the time, it was clear that his pod needed to feel way more colorful and interesting, and definitely have a sense of humor about it.

Also he had a few requests: He wanted the lights to constantly change colors – red to blue to yellow to green, all day long and he definitely wanted red or blue light bulbs in the lamps. He asked if our custom pot wallpaper could change colors and while I feel like in LA you can do almost everything, that seemed pretty much impossible on our budget. And you should have seen the look on my face – I mean, I’ve never gotten such a weird and terrifying request before … but the point was he wanted the mood to be exiting with lights.

So riddle me this, friends, how do you create a space that has both vintage crystal chandeliers and flashing red/blue/purple LED lights in it? How do you make it look both luxe and kinda gangsta at the same time? Classy and yet, as Snoop says, ballin’?  It was HARD, but such a fun challenge. So after days of us looking at each other like we might be designing the ugliest space on the earth we finally finished the mood board that got approved:

Snoop Dogg Airbnb

And here was my pitch:

“Snoop Dogg’s man cave will be a mix of laid back stoner comfort and Versace luxe… in Jamaica. He loves the 1970’s (and films like The Mack) so some of the furniture will be from that era and be super lounge-y and yet totally stylish. He loves blue, red and purple and wears a lot of black, so the cave will be predominantly these colors with gold (to bring in the Versace) as an accent and wood and natural fibers (to reference Jamaica) as textures.

There will be a stoner inspired custom wallpaper treatment with a deco weed design in navy blue on a mirrored gold back. Snoop loves red and wants a throne so there’ll be a red leather egg chair which is super loungy yet masculine and weird. There’ll be lots of crystal chandeliers with a deco vibe but the white bulbs will be replaced by red and blue bulbs. There is a custom illuminated sign that will read BOSS and have color spectrum flashing lights alla Snoop’s style and request. It will be exciting, interesting, inviting and totally Snoop”.

Snoop Dogg Airbnb

For the outside we would bring in some peacock chairs (inspired by that awesome photo of Snoop and the requested additionally by him) with some plants that looked like weed and other tropical plants. So Tajima, the creative agency we work with who coordinated with Kithaus’ took our mood board and with our direction created this rendering:

Snoop Dogg Airbnb

It took us probably 15 edits to get to that point where we were happy with it. And then still we were secretly ‘is this awesome or hideous???????’ (The exterior color is part of a greater Edward Scissorhand inspired exterior design plan which i’ll explain in tomorrows post).

Snoop Dogg Airbnb

Let me tell you about the sign. We figured that a custom sign (with LED color changing lights) could bring in the feeling that he wanted it was just a matter of coming up with the right word or phrase. Snoop said ‘Boss’ twice in his questionaire. When asked how he would describe himself he said ‘Boss’ and ‘The Mack’. We thought about ‘Dope’ because that has a double meaning, too, but then ‘Boss’ just seemed funnier. Its both an adjective and a noun – he’s super Boss and he’s the Boss. Its just funny. And then at the last minute, while following him on instagram, we realized that obviously BOSS should be BO$$, as he spells it, so we called the sign company and made the change. When we picked it up from the sign company and turned it on, I was totally speechless – either we were genius’ or we had totally lost our minds.

Airbnb Snoop

Once we started styling the space it really started coming together. That wallpaper was insane in a good way. The sofa from ShopClass was beautiful in a lounge-y deco way. The Boss sign was just so BO$$.

Snoop Dog Sign Boss

There she is. Is this pop-up very ‘ME’? Uh, no…. And yet I love it – that wallpaper, sofa, coffee table, side table and most of the accessories actually are me in a weird way, too. But more importantly it is totally Snoop. He loved is so much you wouldn’t believe.

Snoop Dogg

Obviously I didnt hire a photographer (clearly). There were a bunch of professional photographer floating around but its been hard to get my hands on the photos so this is me, using my iphone photos. Not my best work but I figured it was just important to really see what was in the space. That weird box on the upper left is an air conditioner. its mounted almost like a flat screen TV, but we faced it out with wallpaper so it could go away even more.

Resources: Rug from Z Gallerie (and yes, its slightly too small), Coffee table from Organic Modernism, Side table from Target, Tray from Target by Nate Berkus, navy/gold pillows and faux fur throw from Z Gallerie. Marble lamp and geode stash box from West Elm.

red egg chair

Please notice the red lightbulb in the lamp. I’m telling you, if you spend a few hours in a room with only red lightbulbs new white bulbs will make you feel like you are living in an episode of Orange is the New Black. Those things really are warm and inviting, if not totally insane.

Boss Sign

Yes, that is a brick of gold and some gin and juice there in the corner. It’s all about the details. We had his favorite movies, books, games and even installed that flat screen TV and X BOX 360.


snoop peacock chairs

After we were done Ginny and I were 100% sure that Snoop would like it. We actually LOVED it and strangely so did all of our friends. Brian walked into it and loved it, even Charlie lit up and stared at that sign for minutes. I know it’s really hard to get a sense of it from my stupid iphone photos but trust me that when you were inside of it, you wanted to party and never leave.

So Snoop arrived, checked his custom rhinestone encrusted mailbox (that only took Ginny 9 hours to bedazzle) where he was greeted with an issue of high times – I told you .. the details.

Airbnb Snoop Dogg

And then …. yea … he was into it. He called me in, passed all the paparazzi who had booked interviews with him, and gave me a massive hug with a lot of generous words about how he wants to transport it all to  his house in LA and how we should go there and design it, etc. He was shocked – over and over about all the details and how much it felt like him. Very satisfying indeed.

Airbnb Snoop

So there we are: Me, Snoop and Ginny. One of my favorite projects to date.

snoop dogg ginny emily

Watch this video where you get a way better sense of the space and hear him speak about the pod, Airbnb and probably weed.

And then this is the video of Snoop and  chatting about design where I presented him the ideas. It was 11pm and 80 degrees – it’s not my best work, but it’s not about me, anyway. Snoop carries the video.

So what do you all think about Snoop’s pod? Would you say its BO$$? Was this shocking? Do you think we pulled it off?  Tell me everything …

(Disclaimer: I/we do not condone or promote any drug use but its also not my job to judge my client on liking a legal hobby. It was his request. Had he wanted me to design a heroine or pornographic themed house, I would not have.)

Photo credits: Djstormsblog | Vivien Killilea | Rush Jagoe for Airbnb

Renderings: Tajima Creative Partners | Louis Polidori

Landscape: Big Red Sun Austin

Kids Room makeover roundup

Roundup, round 2. I missed the ‘end of the year’ roundup posts that every self respecting professional blogger should do because of one Sir. Charlie Henderson’s arrival. That little punk forced me to ‘cuddle’ and ‘obsess’ and ‘sing weird songs about chins and armpits’ instead of doing said roundups. So in celebration of Mr. Charlie and kids around the world, really, we’ve pulled together a ‘favorite kids room’ roundup. (And thank you all who voted for me for The Homies, and remember voting lasts all week).


Tween Bedroom Makeover. I love looking at old work and falling just as hard in love with it. This room is just so happy for such a happy and fun girl.


Boy Bedroom Makeover  A vintage inspired, grown up, boys room with a hint of star wars. Its like walking down memory lane, over here.


Studio City Playroom featured in HGTV Magazine. An open playroom with a monster of an amazing shelving unit. Keeping the lower shelves for functional toy storage, a creative ombre mason jar display was created to fill the oddly shaped, non-kid-height upper shelves.


Cup of Jo | Kids Room  A bedroom for two boys, a playroom and possibility of an occasional guest. It could have been a tall order, but totally do-able. Keeping the walls renter white, all the color was brought in with toys and accessories.

I actually have three new kids rooms that i’ve designed and need to shoot (yes, mine included) and post about, and after I finish this major project i’m working on right now i’m going to shoot and share. Kids rooms are WILDLY fun to design; such freedom in color and pattern. It obviously doesn’t hurt that aesthetically i’m really colorful, playful and frankly rather immature. So stay tuned for more …

Which is your favorite? I honestly can’t pick …

formatting by Rebecca Zajac | Design By Numbers

Our Family Room Progess

Oh the family room – otherwise known as ‘the room full of the random and weird’. To say we’ve made progress is a gross over statement. We’ve lived in awkwardness so far. Well, I’ll let you judge.

Here’s where we started (before we moved in):

Family room Before Family Room 04

Yeah, clearly there are some issues. That carpet for starters. In case you are just joining in we replaced all the carpet in the house (which was ‘original’ and ‘vintage’ if you know what I mean) with the most beautiful Acacia hardwood from BuildDirect. So, of course this room was no exception.

After we bought the house (and their furniture was gone) we made a list of what was going to happen:

Family room Before

Paint that ceiling white which is consistent with the rest of the house, and again, if you are just joining in trust me that the ceiling needed to get a a dose of white – it was painted brown and then stained a weird peach color so it was going to take a FORTUNE to strip the entire house. Plus it was cheap pine in the first place. And to be frank, I wanted it to be white anyway and I’m so very, very happy with it.

All the walls in here had to be skim coated and sanded and painted as well. They look all unnoffensive in these photos but trust me, that texture was not awesome and spending the money to paint over it seemed wasteful. If we were ever going to fix the texture, the time was now.

Family Room

And new shades/drapes are in order. I just ordered them through DecorView so I’ll keep you posted when they get installed.

Family room Before

So that’s where we were all empty and sad – like how I felt after watching Wolf of Wall Street, only less ashamed of myself. We made the major changes already (floor, ceiling and walls) but haven’t even come close to decorating it. Well, thats not true, the sectional is ordered and should arrive next week, but besides that our ‘family room’ is looking quite bad:

Family room Progress Family Room Progress

Sure, i like everything in here, but its just not designed. Its like a weird leather club chair parade. Its our TV room when we aren’t watching something on the projector in the living room, so we just shoved these chairs in here for now.

Family Room

I feel like I have a lot of ‘splaining to do, but basically its ‘that room’. The room that holds all the random pieces that need to be dealt with. And the cat bed, apparently.

We have ordered a big old comfy sectional (more on that later, obviously), but besides that I just know that that rug is too big (and too plush to be that close to the kitchen).

Family Room

Every day we try to decide whether we should keep this TV in there OR mount our awesome projector and project that on the blank wall. The pros to the TV are that it just seems easier because technology intimidates me and having a projector seems like lots of remotes or something. But we use the projector in the living room and its so easy and great and fun (and very clear, by the way, its like having an imax in your living room especially when you have a blue ray disc). Why don’t we just keep it in the living room, you ask? Well, we would like to install sconces and someday hang art so we can’t just leave those walls blank forever.

The other reason we are more inclined to use it here is because the sectional will end up being further away from the tv than we are used to so we feel like we need a bigger TV already in here and this one is pretty huge. And you can make the projected screen really big, so thats awesome.

The goal for this room is as follows: comfortable, kid/family friendly, easy to be in, relaxed, simple and always happy. I mean, thats really the goal for the whole house (despite the cement stairs and the metal railings everywhere :)) but this room in particular needs to be family friendly. It was a very good idea to live in the house before we dictated what we should do with the main spaces. We already realized that this room is the room. It shares the space with the kitchen so despite the fact that the living room is wildly prettier, this room is so convenient to hang out it. I cook my weekly chicken soup whilst watching Revenge whilst Charlie is sitting in a bouncer ignoring the fact that I have no idea how to cook. He’s already good at humoring me and I appreciate that in an infant.

I’m not going to over-design this room: comfort is its thing. And blue might be involved. I’m a predictable animal like that.

Family Room Inspiration
There is a big wall in there behind the sofa and I, with my growing motherhood sentimentality, am going to do a huge family/friend photo wall. Its going to be epic – spanning decades, generations, events, friend groups and emotions. I’m so excited to get started on it. Tears will be shed just sorting through the photos. Don’t worry, i’ll get it on camera.

So, that update wasn’t really much of an update, but rather awesome furniture gone wrong. But stay tuned, our sofa arrives in a week and then stuffs going to get real in there .. in a family way.

For more updates check out the master bedroom progress, living room progress, nursery progress and the deck progress.