Travel can inspire in a way few other activities can match. But sometimes innovation strikes when you're at home, doing something as pedestrian as walking down the street, as Greg Marsh experienced one evening in London. The CEO and founder of One Fine Stay was passing through Mayfair and noticed the lights were off in the majority of the homes along the street. The owners were away, their elegant properties - the kind of accommodation that a certain type of traveller would relish - standing empty.
That was the germination of One Fine Stay, a service most easily described as the Airbnb of luxury homes, with one key difference: guests and homeowners never meet. Owners are always absent during the visit, leaving One Fine Stay staff to prepare the space and greet renters upon arrival. "In the same way as traditional hotels, we are the hosts when guests come to stay," Marsh explains. "We actually see ourselves as complementary to hotels and other traditional operators." One Fine Stay vets potential homes carefully, measuring them against a strict set of criteria. According to Marsh, nine out of 10 home owner applicants are turned down for reasons ranging from sub-par mattresses to not having a mirror near a plug socket for guests to dry their hair. "We look for space, character, comfort and location," he says. "We always ask ourselves: would guests love to stay here?"
One of the more distinctive properties that has passed this stringent selection process is this home on Rome's Via di San Francesco di Sales, a three-bedroom, three-bathroom garden property that was once home to the Renaissance painter Raphael. "The owner today is also an artist and I love that continuation through the years," says Marsh.
One Fine Stay launched in Rome just last month, expanding a network that already included London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles. And since its April acquisition by AccorHotels, it has announced its intention to expand its presence into 40 cities over the next five years. Those plans do not currently include Australia. It's fortunate, then, that we like to travel.