Only cream of holiday lets makes it into design-led rental guide

Words:
Pamela Buxton

The Plum Guide to characterful properties isn’t interested in the ordinary: we’re talking Hollywood glamour or Camden chic

  • The Plum Guide properties include a home in the grade II listed Alexandra Road development, designed by Neave Brown for Camden Council.
    The Plum Guide properties include a home in the grade II listed Alexandra Road development, designed by Neave Brown for Camden Council.
  • Inside the Alexandra Road home
    Inside the Alexandra Road home
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Does your house have a super power – a knock-out feature such as an extraordinary view, a striking interior design or a quirky yet pleasing atmosphere? If so, it might be eligible for The Plum Guide, a new elite property rental brand that aims to give discerning punters a way of identifying the truly exceptional holiday lets out there.

Scrolling through the properties, it’s certainly a broad church design-wise with something to suit a wide range of deep-pocketed customers. Options vary from a spectacular Richard Neutra-designed house in the Hollywood Hills, to a brutalist canalside property in Milan and, in London, Neave Brown’s Alexander Road ex-council housing in Camden and an artist’s studio designed by MJ Long in Islington.

Founder Doron Meyassed got the idea for The Plum Guide after noticing how difficult it was to detect the truly exceptional properties and hospitality on more run-of-the-mill on websites such as Airbnb, where the vast majority of properties score highly. In The Plum Guide, every property has been has been scrutinised on no fewer than 500 data points.

‘Our pitch is that we’re the Michelin Guide of homes,’ says Meyassed, adding that only 1 in 100 homes vetted is likely to make the grade for inclusion.

  • Gordon House, Islington, designed by MJ Long.
    Gordon House, Islington, designed by MJ Long.
  • Gordon House, an artist's studio completed in 1990.
    Gordon House, an artist's studio completed in 1990.
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Wanting to understand why some properties are more conducive to great holiday experiences than others, he interviewed renters in an attempt to develop a formula that could inform the selection process.

‘The core of our passion is trying to decode the DNA of what’s the perfect stay,’ he says.

Owners can’t pay to get their property into the guide. When Plum decides to ‘open’ a city, it analyses every rental property listed on more than 20 home platforms with the help of automated filtration programmes tailored to weed out those who don’t meet Plum criteria, for example those who aren’t located in the micro-neighbourhoods that the guide has identified as acceptable. A visual review of images of the property weeds out more before a four-hour assessment and owner interview, conducted by one of the guide’s team of 60 freelance critics, many with a design and architectural background. Although this might sound like a dream job, sadly for the critics their research does not involve stay-overs. Instead, they interrogate everything in the house from wi-fi speed and shower pressure to decibel levels and Instagramability. They are trained to take in the subjective as well as the tangible.

‘Every home has to have a superpower that creates a great experience in your stay – something that elicits an emotion,’ says Meyassed, adding that this could be a moment of joy or a moment of calm.

  • Designed by Richard Neutra in 1958, the Lew House looks over the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.
    Designed by Richard Neutra in 1958, the Lew House looks over the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, California.
  • The Lew House.
    The Lew House.
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Design quality is certainly high up the list of priorities.

‘Sometimes the magic of staying in the home is that for a few days you get to live a different life – someone else’s life. And design plays a big part in that,’ he says.

In charge of the assessment process is Plum’s head of science, Will Smith, who studied architecture at Cambridge.

‘We do not have a house style by any means,’ he says, adding that booking ‘matchmakers’ can meet specific requests, for example a minimalist interior or a particular sort of layout. Assessment takes into account a property’s architectural background and the general presentation – whether there’s a consistency throughout the house or whether it’s been asset-stripped ahead of guests’ arrivals with empty spaces visible where art has been taken away.

‘Is it putting its best foot forward and being welcoming?’ he says.

So far the guide covers 1,500 properties in both London and Paris as well as homes in New York, Los Angeles, Rome and Milan.