Here now, The Airbnb Diaries, a Renters Week mini-series chronicling firsthand what it's like to bunk (via the vacation-rentals site Airbnb) in some of the most architecturally interesting dwellings on the planet. First up: Frank Lloyd Wright's Schwartz House in Two Rivers, Wisc.
When Frank Lloyd Wright submitted plans for his "dream house" to Life in 1938—the magazine enlisted eight hot architects of the day to design model homes for typical American families making $2,000 to $10,000 a year—the septuagenarian architect probably didn't imagine that the real-life version, built in 1939 for a Wisconsin businessman, would eventually be a rental hotspot of the 21st century. Indeed, the Bernard Schwartz House—or Still Bend, as it's nicknamed for its perch on the East Twin River in Two Rivers, Wisc.—is but one of a minuscule handful of rentable Wright designs (unlike the many currently for sale). Rentable on Airbnb from $395 a night, the four-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom Schwartz House has no doubt had its fair share of foot traffic from eager architecture junkies hoping to experience firsthand this Usonian gem.
For four days last December, Airbnb user Eryn left behind her cute San Francisco studio to attend her friend's wedding reception in Wisconsin. While hunting for a place to stay, she "stumbled upon the house as a happy accident," she says. "Of course I know who Frank Lloyd Wright is, so when I came across this, and I couldn't believe it was so easily accessible. The midcentury style is so popular here in San Francisco—the resurgence isn't going away—and I've always been in love with the style, not only in the architecture but also the decor. Not only are you walking into a beautifully designed house, but everything in it, from furniture to rugs and every dish and glass, is from that period."
Upon first walking in, Eryn noticed the high ceilings and open space, sure, but what stood out more was the smell. "It had a warmth to it," she recalls. "Then there was all the wood, the two fireplaces (we certainly used them several times while we were there) and a lot of floor-to-ceiling windows. We were walking around and almost everyone had their jaws agape, looking at it each other almost as if we were honored to have an experience like that." Naturally, becoming ensconced in the midcentury vibe wasn't the least bit difficult. "We found ourselves draped over furniture and the rugs, just reading—the house has a lot of vintage magazines—with music playing out of a beautiful, large speaker from the time period. It's almost as if we were trying to recreate a lazy Sunday afternoon. The only thing that would have made it more perfect if it had snowed."
One element that stood out was the way Wright employed wood cutouts along the second-floor windows, and how he deliberately designed for natural light. "It's something I'd never gotten to experience in any of the homes I've lived in," Eryn says. "The way the home was positioned in relation to the sun—it would change personalities from morning to evening." However, she admits, "the kitchen was tiny. My friends are really food-obsessed so there were six to eight of us trying to stand in a kitchen that could really fit three. But that wasn't enough to let me walk away from staying in this house."