Airbnb Is Giving Away $10 Million to Design Wacky Houses

Above: A UFO-shaped Airbnb rental in Joshua Tree, California.

Sometimes you needn’t go beyond the doorstep to experience something otherworldly. Take Airbnb, which has been known for renting out some of the world’s wackiest properties, from UFO shuttles to above-ground submarines to real-life hobbit holes. And now the short-stay rental giant is awarding 100 people $100,000 each to build their own outlandish home—with the blessing of the belovedly irreverent Iris Apfel, who’s on the jury.

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Style icon and Airbnb judge, Iris Apfel.

Courtesy Zenni Optical

“Anything that I can do to spread good design, color, whimsy, and a bit of organized madness in this sad, gray world is something I jump at,” says Apfel.

The ludicrous, the lavish, even the downright absurd—it’s all up for consideration in this design competition, which is accepting online submissions through July 22. The 100 fund recipients will be selected by the panel over the coming months, with an estimated completion of the newly constructed spaces sometime in 2023.

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A boot-shaped house in Australia.

Courtesy Airbnb

The panel of judges includes Apfel; Sydney-based architect Koichi Takada; Airbnb superhost Kristie Wolfe, who created the hobbit house and a potato-shaped house; and Airbnb’s VP of experiential creative product, Bruce Vaughn. Each will be looking for designs that provide a positive guest experience, sustainable construction, and consideration of the social good. Contestants get points for incorporating recycled materials and waste reduction plans and for creating a positive impact on the surrounding community.

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A spud-shaped Airbnb in, where else, Idaho.

Courtesy Airbnb

But ultimately, the winning designs, which will be added to the OMG! listings category on the Airbnb site, will be those that have their own something special. “I look for originality, excitement, a sense of style, sustainability, and an overall interesting experience,” Apfel says. And if you know anything about Apfel, you know she has a penchant for color. “I can’t imagine living in these big spaces that people do that are all beige or white, or some bland nowhere color,” she says. “There’s no excitement; there’s no pizzazz.”

To those drafting up their house plans, Apfel says she has one word of advice: Enjoy the process. “Being uptight, that’s a big no-no,” she says. “If you can’t have fun, you might as well be dead.”

Have a one-of-a-kind idea? Apply here by July 22, 2022.

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