When Sarah Weigel and her husband, Tom, bought their current home in Jamaica Plain three years ago, it came with a catch: a tenant living in the backyard carriage house.
“He was a student and he sent us a letter asking if he could stay,’’ Sarah Weigel said. “So we let him stay,’’ despite their lawyers and realtors telling them it was a bad idea.
When the student finally left and bought a house of his own, he suggested the Weigels continue to rent out the carriage house, which functions like a studio apartment, through short-term rentals.
“We had been hesitant to do it in the past because the carriage house is in our backyard,’’ Sarah Weigel said. They were concerned about strangers walking through their backyard given they have two young kids. “But we figured that we would give it a try.’’
The unique space, combined with the couple’s eye for design, has made that move a resounding success. Home design site Domino recently ranked the carriage house as one of the 12 best decorated Airbnb rentals in the United States.
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See inside this JP carriage house:
“Both me and my husband have always loved reading interior design magazines and blogs,’’ Weigel said. “Honestly, he has always had more of a passion for it than I have had.’’
The couple didn’t want to spend a ton of money decorating, but they got the effect they were after with a mix of vintage décor and more modern furniture from IKEA and West Elm. They splurged by putting in a really comfortable bed and mattress.
The carriage house has a mansard roof – making certain spaces, like the bathroom, very challenging to make comfortable.
“Before we renovated the bathroom you couldn’t stand up in the shower,’’ Weigel said. “So we figured out a new layout for the bathroom and then we wanted to have fun with that space.’’
They ended up putting wood floor tiles on the walls, giving it a cozy, cabin feel. The rest of the space is also filled with subtle details, making it very comfortable for guests.
“We get a lot of good feedback,’’ Weigel said. “It’s a really bright open space and we kind of went for neutral and clean-lined pieces with a few pops of color. We just had fun with it but not in a way that is polarizing.’’
The Airbnb also has an interesting history. The Boston Sunday Globe in 1907 reported that a 37 or 38-year-old horse named Jeff lived in the carriage house, and “according to obtainable statistics,’’ Jeff was “one of the oldest horses in the world.’’ The Globe mentioned this was twice the average age of a horse.
“When we bought the house this story was included in the listing materials,’’ Weigel said. “It has this kind of cool background and I think it’s just a fun space. Because we have modern taste there’s a juxtaposition with the original floors and the layout.’’
And the guests seem to love it.
Not only does the rental have a 5 star rating on Airbnb, it is also 97 percent booked some months, said Weigel. Right now is a slower season and they still see guests 18 to 20 nights a month.
But being heavily booked means it’s quite a bit of work for the Weigels. Sarah has been working part time, but considers Airbnb her other part time job.
“To clean it in between guests takes me from one to three hours depending on how people have left it,’’ she said. “I would say busy weeks when we have three turnovers, it can probably take up to 15 to 20 hours.’’
She says she knows lots of people have an Airbnb and also have a full time job, but the Weigels are going for something a little different.
“We wanted to make it a more boutique experience,’’ she said. “It’s a private space where people can get away from it.’’