If you thought Airbnb wasn’t quite discerning enough for your tastes, it’s time to think again, as they open the doors to a whole new world of swanky apartments. By Simon Clays

 

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It’s been 10 years since Airbnb’s charismatic owner, Brian Chesky, first advertised his own San Fran apartment for rent, complete with inflatable ‘air bed’ mattresses. And yes, that is where part of the now famous moniker sprouts from. To mark the anniversary, the company has decided to attack the premium sector with the recent launch of Plus.

It’s an interesting rental concept that pushes the envelope of guest expectation much closer to the luxury marque. The idea being that you’ve a great majority of the finer touches that make lounging in a five-star such a divine indulgence with none of the sterile feelings of isolation that can sometimes occur when hotels go wrong. Think going commando with style, offbeat pin codes where premium hotels are thin on the ground, and access to local intelligence that’ll grant you the chance to really see inside a city.

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Of course, premium accommodation demands premium hosts, so the rigours in place to ensure that Plus really is a plus, are substantial; we’re talking personal inspections, a checklist of over a 100 criteria, though these largely focus themselves around cleanliness and creature comforts.

At the moment, Airbnb’s Plus inventory is available in 13 cities around the world: Austin, Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Milan, Rome, San Fran, Shanghai, Sydney and Toronto, though the company is bullish about its expansion plans.

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Our London Airbnb Plus Experience

I jetted into London last month to experience Plus first-hand as a guest of Airbnb. As an ex-Londoner, I’m as au fait with the city’s post codes as a black-taxi driver, so their choice of leafy Fulham to showcase the experience was an interesting one. ‘Street-local’ enough to be off the established track, but mainlined to South Kensington, Chelsea and on to the West End.

My Plus flat was situated on the first floor of a typical Victorian terrace row (Mary Poppins with a modern touch). From the outside, it was neat and unassuming, from the inside a wash of white fabric, minimalist art and mod seating – all slightly Philippe Starck – the bathroom in particular.

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A nice touch was the bottle of red wine sitting on the dining table – it added to the warmth of the experience and proved a satisfying diversion while I thumbed through my host’s book collection and tried to guess his occupation.

With a fully-equipped kitchen, soft fluffy duvet and excellent espresso machine, I had all I needed from a room, but what about those other benefits that a five-star offers? Well, you’ll get no better concierge than your host, and they’re but a call away for local information. The gym? I had a fabulous airy park not five minutes from the front door. Fine dining? London’s only Michelin starred gastropub was in walking distance. The adage ‘seek and ye shall find’ fits well with the whole Plus experience. Ultimately, you are in someone else’s house, but the pay-off is you’re also in someone else’s London and that, until now, was an almost priceless commodity.

 

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