Hand-picked, sometimes hand-made designer vacation rentals can also be a world-wide art tour.
In 2000, Topanga residents Veronique Lievre and Heinz Legler completed their first handmade hotel, Verana (verana.com), in Mexico. In 2005, they built Far Meadow (farmeadow.com), a mountain camp near Yosemite.
In 2008, they went on to create Boutique Homes and have since curated more than 1200 hand-picked model vacation homes and very small hotels—especially but not exclusively—to please like-minded design lovers.
“We discovered other people were doing the same thing. We knew a lot of houses we liked because they were like-minded people, and put them in a collection.”
“We used to feel frustrated looking for vacation rentals that lived up to our aesthetics and style,” the couple write in their interactive coffee-table book, Boutique Homes, that not only documents the evolution of this “private and personal hospitality concept,” but has an app, “Cool Escapes Boutique Homes, that connects you to videos, extended image galleries, soundtracks, and related websites. That’s one way to elevate your reading experience.
Most of the houses are off the beaten track.
“Big cities are not our specialty,” Legler says. “What we like best is a house in an amazing location. The surroundings are just as important as the house and the right people seem to book the right house.”
“Our places are remote in a beautiful landscape and attract travelers looking for peace. We don’t have clientele who want to party. Visitors contact the owner, not us. We spend our time making sure what you see is what you get. Those are people who enjoy seeing how other people live and appreciate their art,” Lievre said.
Chalking it up to the proliferation of Airbnb and the internet, they observed that people seem less reluctant to share their homes with strangers these days. If not for the extra income, then for the sheer fun of sharing the experience of how you live and the neighborhood where you live.
That combination created a new breed of entrepreneurs, micro-hoteliers, that for many homeowners, turned into a fun decorating and interior-design project. Lievre and Legler capitalized on that.
“Boutique Homes is the chic nomad’s guide,” they say.
When the couple aren’t in their Topanga home or the Boutique Homes office in Pine Tree Circle, they are most likely visiting properties that may appear on their website (boutique-homes.com)…or, at their favorite hideaways in Big Sur and Corsica.
The design of the homes need to meet their standards but “they also have to be ‘cool’ inside. Being in touch with the owners, we discovered that some do fabric, paintings, or design furniture, and we started to think they had to show their work as well, said Lievre. “It’s more like a showroom. Everything here in the store is for sale and on the website at The Marketplace.”
Indeed. If you visit the shop in Topanga, they have a rotating art display that may be colorful suspended chairs, like the swings, from their cabin in Mexico, or a Tunisian rug hanging on the wall…all for sale.
“Our travelers share common ground, our property owners love what they do, and we love what we do. We are obviously like-minded. We still consider ourselves gem hunters, looking for those special places that design lovers hope to discover for their next trip. We find them, and those special gems find us, and their owners are happy that there is a website where their vacation homes feel at home,” and travelers can “live like a local.”
How did they end up in Topanga? “She lived here, I fell in love and drove up,” Legler replied.
Boutique Homes offers personally curated, worldwide vacation home rentals of architectural gems, villas, small hotels, holiday lettings, boutique hotels, beach houses, pet-friendly houses, cottages-to-let, cabins, worldwide in London, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Indonesia, Iceland, Turkey, as well as many remote and amazing locations. No Booking Fees! It is located at 120 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.; boutique-homes.com.