Design on a budget: tips from Superhost Huma
Situated in the South London district of Stockwell is a light green Victorian home with a raspberry pink door. Push the brass door knob in the center, make your way up a distressed staircase, and you’ll see sunlight spilling onto a vintage bed, situated on wide-plank wood floors and set against bold turquoise walls. Welcome to Superhost Huma’s home, a historic four-bedroom house filled with modern amenities.
“It’s a symphony of gorgeous aesthetics,” said Mimi of Vienna, Austria, just one of many guests who have commented on Huma’s style and decor. “Every little detail is so tastefully thought out, and every single piece of furniture has its own little story to tell.”
When looking at the care that has gone into Huma’s decor, you may not be able to tell that she has no formal interior design training, only a passion for home design and desire to cultivate it through hosting.
The Superhost took some time away from painting a bookcase to share how she started hosting, tips for renovating an old home on a budget, and how she balances hosting with a full-time job as a magazine editor.
Everything in your home is so charming and well put together. Did you draw from your magazine experience?
“I work as a features editor for an independent fashion magazine. But I’ve been interested in interiors for a long time, long before I started working in magazines. I started collecting things for my first home before I had my first home—I love random things like cutlery—and I devour interiors magazines. It was all in pursuit of how I’d decorate my first home.”
And then you decided to parlay this into hosting on Airbnb?
“Well, when I initially joined it was in 2012, the Olympics were on, and everyone was saying how much money you can make. It wasn’t my plan to make a fortune, just to fill a gap. I was in between tenants and selling my apartment at the time. It wasn’t until 2016 when I started hosting in my own home. Before then, I had housemates, and I just decided to give Airbnb a try in one of the rooms. I thought it would be temporary, but one by one I started filling the rooms. Since my last housemate left last summer, all three rooms have been on Airbnb. There was no plan—it just evolved naturally and it’s kind of taken over.”
Tell us about renovating your home. It looks like quite the undertaking.
“This house has been a major renovation. I don’t want to know what I spent on it, but the expensive things were the labor: builders, plumbers, plasterers, and things I can’t do myself. In terms of decorating, I spent much less money than people would think. I’m obsessed with bargains. I rarely pay the full retail price for anything. A lot of my furniture is vintage, and I get it very cheaply on eBay. Some of it was free because I just came across it. Like when I was visiting my brother, and I saw a chair and yelled, ‘Stop the car!’ The shape of their chair was really beautiful, and it wasn’t infested—you always have to check!—so I could paint it. I can transform a tired-looking piece as long as it’s got good bones to start with.”
Do you think all of your bargain hunting and repainting has paid off?
“Oh yes, I think the No. 1 reason people book my place is for the look of it, the interiors. They do notice, and they do comment.”
Any tips for hosts who want to redecorate but might feel the time or financial investment is too great?
“Firstly, the most inexpensive way to change a room is paint. Impact per cost, you can do an awful lot with paint. Personally, I think white paint is a bad choice. Unless you have a loft-type industrial space, it’s cold, bland, and going to get really dirty straight away. The color I’m using most is gray. You can get that neutral backdrop that goes with anything, but more sophisticated than white and doesn’t start to look dirty so quickly. A light gray is a good option for people to try if they’re not used to using color because it can pretty much go with anything.”
How do you balance your full-time job with hosting?
“I work from home most days, so that really allows me the flexibility to host. If I had to go into an office all day, I don’t think I’d be able to do this. I have both screens open, and I dip in and out of both my Airbnb admin and correspondence and my magazine work. I can’t always respond immediately, but most of the time I respond within 30 minutes and guests are usually quite impressed and appreciate that. So I’m not constantly staring at the computer screen, I get notified by the Airbnb app.
“In the morning when I have my coffee, I make sure I’m up to date so I can then plan the rest of my day. But I really have to be on it, organized, and thinking about what I have to clean and prepare first. The bedroom comes first always. The last thing you want is the bedroom to be half-finished when the guest arrives. Then I move onto the bathrooms.”
Anything you want to add?
“In the beginning, I used to worry if a month was looking a bit quiet in terms of bookings, but I’ve learned to be more relaxed about that. If you’re doing your best, well, then the bookings come in. Have confidence and faith in your product. Oh, and you’ll never do so much cleaning and laundry in your entire life.”