The internet has indisputably changed the way we vacation. Our image-dominated screen culture, which brings the world to our fingertips, feeds our wanderlust, and collective desire for bespoke holidays in uncharted destinations. Savvy travelers—millennials in particular—aren’t interested in generic hotel or resort stays, but rather in authentic experiences. The hospitality landscape is adapting, with a proliferation of online platforms offering access to unique dwellings in far-flung locales. In a virtual space rife with options, however, scrolling through vacation properties is somewhat akin to sifting for gold: It requires patience, stamina, and a magpie’s eye.
The short-term rental industry pioneer Airbnb has recognized the need to help travelers sort the wheat from the chaff; it is increasingly focused on expanding its high-end listing pool, having acquired the website Luxury Retreats and unveiling plans for Beyond, a new category featuring luxury homes and customized experiences. Newer platforms have also sprung up to serve the aesthetically oriented traveler; here is a round-up of a few lesser-known websites that offer a curated selection of thoughtfully designed, Instagram-ready rentals.
With residences designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and R.F. Schindler among its listings, Boutique Homes describes its mission as “documenting unbeaten paths for modern-day nomads.” Seeking out architecturally significant properties with artful details, properties range from a cabin in California’s Yucca Valley to a five-bedroom riverside home in Cape Town.
The year-old site DOM, launched by London-based architect Marta Nowicka, showcases a tightly edited collection of stylish properties throughout Europe. With a tendency towards minimalist, light-filled interiors, standout listings include Solo Pezo, deep in a Spanish forest, and an airy Vincent Van Duysen–designed apartment in Antwerp.
The French start-up Le Collectionist focuses on luxury villa rentals in chic locales, from Antiparos to Zermatt. Every home in its portfolio has been personally vetted by a member of its team, ensuring that each meets an extensive checklist of requirements. The company also offers personalized travel services with an emphasis on immersive experiences in local customs and cadences.
The brainchild of philosopher-writer Alain de Botton, Living Architecturecommissions “thought-provoking” holiday houses throughout the English countryside. Eight dwellings are currently available to book, from the minimalist Life House, by John Pawson, to the fantasy folly A House for Essex, designed by FAT Architecture in collaboration with artist Grayson Perry. Its latest property, The Secular Retreat, designed by Peter Zumthor, will be open to the public later this year.
Unique Home Stays is another U.K.-based platform, with exclusive access to a range of quintessentially English properties, from historic castles to thatched-roof cottages. Anglophiles can escape to the whimsically named Valentina’s Lost Orangery, which is set within 500 acres of private grounds and sits beside explorer Sir Walter Raleigh’s old hunting lodge.