Our verdict on the luxury version of Airbnb: the Plum Guide
To say Airbnb has changed the way we travel would be an understatement. Often more spacious and cost effective than a hotel, staying in one of its many rental homes offers a more authentic way of experiencing a destination than traditional accommodation. And yet, we've all arrived at a 'home from home' full of excitement, only to find it falls short of expectation and is not exactly like the glossy pictures advertised.
Plum Guide aims to solve this quandary. The rental service seeks out the most luxurious properties, measuring everything from shower pressure to Wifi speed, so you won't be left disappointed when you open the door to your holiday home. Since its launch in 2016, Plum Guide has trawled Europe, the UK and parts of the US to curate the most beautiful, luxe properties available to hire, all of which have been subject to a meticulous, multi-stage vetting process. In fact, the company is so selective about which homes make it into the guide that only three per cent are deemed good enough.
It's an appealing business idea, but does it live up to the hype? We stayed in one of its rentals in London to find out.
It should be noted that every property listed on Plum Guide has to meet a 150-point criteria, based on a wide variety of factors – from whether or not the kitchen is a fun place to hang out in to the thickness of the mattresses. With that in mind, it's not unreasonable to assume that the rentals will be top level. We were not disappointed, staying in an 1830s coach house between Clapham and Brixton. From the exterior, the three-bedroom bungalow looked modestly sized but in reality spanned 1,700 foot. The open-plan kitchen and lounge were beautifully decorated in an elegantly modern way. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and master bedroom gave way to an extensive garden, offering a heightened sense of space and light. The master bathroom (there was a secondary shower room too) featured a roll-top tub which sat next to two frosted patio doors – again opening to a serene garden, complete with a lavender flower bed and a tiny hobbit-sized thatched shed. Waking up to birds feels a rare treat in such a busy part of London, as does sitting outside looking over expanses of green. You could come here with young family, or with friends: the spacious layout means that it feels sizeable enough for six or more people.
The apartment came with Wifi, Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as a library of books should you not find anything you want to watch on television. A dishwasher, wine cooler and coffee machine made culinary activities easier – which is good because this is a kitchen you'll really want to spend time in. Blissful touches like underfloor heating and the rain shower made the experience all the more special, as did the luxurious sheets and pillows (which make it very difficult to want to leave your bed at all).
Every property listed on Plum Guide is situated within 10 minutes of acclaimed restaurants and bars – it's part of the company's criteria that all rentals have to be located in great areas. In the case of the coach house, we were a 10-minute walk from both Clapham and Brixton, so perfectly positioned for both food and drink.
Although our hosts weren't in London, we were welcomed by someone from Plum Guide who showed us round the property and how to work the amenities. A bottle of champagne was left for us in the fridge, as were salmon and bagels for breakfast – a simple, thoughtful touch that added to the experience.
Staying with Plum Guide felt like being in the sort of chic home you wished you owned and a world away from standard, impersonal holiday rentals.
The Coach House costs from £344 per night. For more information visit plumguide.com.
Feel inspired? Here are five other recommendations from Plum Guide to book now:
A Little Peach, Dorset
Nestled on the grounds of Shaftesbury Estate in Dorset sits this newly renovated one-bedroom lodge, perfect for an intimate getaway for two. Elegantly decorated in duck-egg blue, the former historic gatehouse has a woodburner for cosy evenings by the fire, plush sofas and Egyptian cotton bedding.
The Early Risers, Devon
Expect sleek architecture and chic design from The Early Risers, an expansive four-bedroom property just 15 minutes from the beach. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outside in, while the hot tub, rooftop terrace and underfloor heating provide luxe touches. Visitors can't help but be impressed by the gravity-defying fireplace in the living area, which is suspended from the living room ceiling.
The Coaching House, Wiltshire
For a rustic escape in Wiltshire, book a stay at this beautiful cottage with its own tennis court and swimming pool. There's enough space for eight, so you can make it a trip away with family or friends, and in the summer it's like something out of a story book, with its wisteria and picturesque woodland. Located in Chippenham, you can explore the market town's shops or head into the nearby Cotswolds.
The Little House, Gloucestershire
If you're searching for a quintessential country cottage with luxury trappings, then The Little House is perfect. A warm and inviting space, the rental sleeps two but still feels roomy with a mix of rustic and mid-century furniture. The pretty garden also boasts a spa and tipi for warm afternoons and evenings.
The Norfolk Beacon, Norfolk
So impressive is The Norfolk Beacon – a former 18th-century working lighthouse turned holiday home – that it was featured on Channel 4's Homes by the Sea. On ground level, guests can enjoy an open-plan kitchen and living space with folding doors that open out onto a garden and the sandy beach below. Climb the winding staircase to find three bedrooms, all of which offer sea views. The dramatic Lantern Room at the top of the tower has a wrap-around seating area for 360-degree vistas.
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