How ‘International Airbnb Style’ Became the Dominant Aesthetic of Our Time

You’ve seen this room before: bright walls; a coffee table or shelves made out of reclaimed wood; some fabric — a rug, curtains — featuring an abstract geometric pattern; a knockoff mid-century chair. Is it your local coffee shop or craft brewery? A co-working space? Your living room? At The Verge, Kyle Chayka looks at the recent ascendancy of “Airspace” aesthetics — a style of vaguely quirky, easily reproducible minimalism that we now find in Airbnbs across the planet.

In 2011, a New York artist and designer named Laurel Schwulst started perusing Airbnb listings across the world in part to find design inspiration for her own apartment. “I viewed it almost as Google Street View for inside homes,” she says. Schwulst began saving images that appealed to her and posting them on a Tumblr called “Modern Life Space.” But she had a creeping feeling something was happening across the platform. “The Airbnb experience is supposed to be about real people and authenticity,” Schwulst says. “But so many of them were similar,” whether in Brooklyn, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, or Santiago.

There was the prevalence of mass-produced but tasteful furniture, for one. “It’s kind of an extension of Ikea showrooms,” she says. But the similarities went beyond mass-production. The ideal Airbnb is both unfamiliar and completely recognizable: a sprinkling of specific cultural symbols of a place mixed with comprehensible devices, furniture, and decoration. “It’s funny how you want these really generic things but also want authenticity, too,” Schwulst says.

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