The Airbnb co-founder on his favourite things
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My personal style signifier is a pair of Nike Space Hippies – a modern marvel of sneaker design. They’re made of recycled materials – plastic bottles, T-shirts and post-industrial scraps from the factory – and I like that they’re environmentally low-impact, incredibly comfortable and distinctive. I have them in high-top and low-top versions, in grey and orange. Along with my titanium Ressence watch, they are my everyday staples.
The last thing I bought and loved was a set of Syng triphonic speakers. I love reaching the end of the day, when I can blast out some music. They are spread equidistantly through the room in order to create a sound bath – the sound quality is a revelation.
I’ve recently rediscovered my love of live sports. Since moving to Austin, I’ve become a partner in the San Antonio Spurs, and getting to go to basketball games again – sitting courtside, feeling that energy, watching people convene – has been wonderful.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a meditation cushion from a Buddhist monk in Oita, Japan. He’s an Airbnb host and he gave it to me when I stayed in his temple. I got to live the life of a monk on that trip – meditating at 5am, cooking meals in his kitchen, tagging along to the village where he performed rituals in people’s homes. I still use it often.
My style icon is Haider Ackermann. His designs look like no one else’s, and his work is a reflection of him – informally formal.
The best gift I’ve given recently was cereal boxes, which I designed for our early investors and each member of our executive team, to commemorate our IPO. Each one had that person’s likeness on it. I made 40 or so boxes, so it was a time-intensive project. It was a homage to our Obama O’s breakfast cereal of 2008, which we sold to keep Airbnb afloat at that time.
The last music I downloaded was the album Battle Lines by the Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses. It’s a mix of wistful lyrics, pop beats and synths.
The objects I would never part with are my sketchbooks. I have them custom-made in three sizes and with weighty paper so that the ink doesn’t bleed through the pages. I sketch first concepts – for example, for Neighborhood, a furniture line I did with Bernhardt – and I also draw people, so that I have a written and visual record of meetings.
I have a collection of midcentury modern chairs. Many of the pieces are by Charles and Ray Eames and also by the Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld, who broke the mould of what furniture was supposed to look like. I have Rietveld’s Red and Blue chair, and also his Zig Zag and Crate chairs. And I have an Eames daybed-like one that they made for the director Billy Wilder, who used it for napping on movie sets.
In my fridge you’ll always find maple syrup and butter for making pancakes at the weekend. I have a wide variety of syrups – all the grades, all the light and dark versions – and like to make pancakes for whoever is staying with us. I also have Hello Pure dog food for my puppy, Belo.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my Opal webcam. It’s beautiful and of the highest quality – they have somehow packaged DSLR-level quality into a camera that fits in your pocket.
An indulgence I would never forgo is travelling to see a Christo and Jeanne-Claude installation anywhere in the world. I was recently in Paris for the Arc de Triomphe installation, and at Lake Iseo for The Floating Piers before that, and in New York to see The Gates in Central Park in 2005. I find it the most profound public art. There is one more left to go – The Mastaba in Abu Dhabi – which will be bigger than the Great Pyramid, and you can bet I will be there.
The carry-on essentials I’m never without include my Porter-Yoshida & Co briefcase, a black nylon model with plenty of compartments. It also holds some important things such as my Manta Sleep eye mask, which has an adjustable Velcro strap so that no light slips in and is as soft as butter. I’m also never without my 16in MacBook Pro – it’s got a big screen and is super-fast – and my Leica M10, so I can bring back some memories.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a Dolce & Gabbana three-piece suit in polka-dot silk jacquard that’s killer. I wore it for this year’s Met Gala.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Willem de Kooning. I’m reading his biography now and he had an incredible life; he grew up impoverished, made his way to America, helped to define the abstract expressionist art movement and lived the dream. I would like any painting from his Woman series.
The grooming staple I’m never without is Davids toothpaste. It’s all-natural, tastes good and is packaged in aluminium so it’s recyclable. I like things that aren’t plastic. It also comes with a little tool that you attach to the end of the tube and roll up so that nothing is wasted.
My favourite building is the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. It’s an octagon that contains 14 of Mark Rothko’s monumental murals.
My wellbeing gurus are a physician – Peter Attia – who helps me figure out what I should be eating and is focused on longevity. I also love a good myofascial massage where they dig really deep into your muscles and find all of the problem spots and work them out. And I’ve been searching for a new jujitsu trainer.
My favourite website is – sticking close to home – airbnb.org, the non-profit side of our business. We partner with people to house refugees and displaced citizens in times of crisis. Right now, Ukraine is a huge focus and we’ve promised to host 100,000 people. The plug here – for anyone reading this – is if you have an extra room, please sign up. We are focused on rooms in Europe – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Sweden – but anyone can help. As far as apps go, I use the Oura app to track my sleep. I average six and a half hours per night, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to change it.
In another life, I would have been a film director. I am starting to explore filmmaking by producing a documentary about the IOC Refugee Olympic team that participated in last year’s Tokyo games. This all-refugee team comprised 29 athletes, originating from 11 countries, and residing in 13 host nations. Their resilience is inspiring.
My favourite room in my house is my gym. I start my day here and it sets the tone; working out is my form of meditation and I am rarely distracted when I am doing it. It used to be a garage, so I just added a skylight and I open the door wide for natural light. It’s equipped with the basics: a bench, cables, free weights, kettlebells, a leg press and an elliptical machine. My goal is three hours of cardio a week at a target heart rate of 125bpm, plus four days of strength training.
The place that means a lot to me is the Eames Ranch in Petaluma, California. Spread over 27 rolling acres in Sonoma County, it’s surrounded by farmland with sheep and a llama. The original house and barn were designed by architect William Turnbull, so it’s an iconic place – and it’s now the site of a non-profit I helped start called the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity. It contains many of the original Charles and Ray Eames sketches, prototypes, films, books and textiles.
The best bit of advice I ever received was via CNN, when I was in high school. I was watching an interview with Warren Buffett on investing and I was expecting a stock pick, but instead he said to “invest in yourself”. As a kid, I’d never previously considered this concept, but it’s an important one.
The trip that I’m looking forward to next is to the village of Mezzojuso, in Sicily. My ancestors came from this small, hillside village in the country and I visited once before, as a surprise holiday for my whole family. I worked with the mayor and council members to find the old ledgers and birth certificates and we traced our family back to the 1700s. I organised a party for the village, and we were granted honorary citizenship – it was an exceptional moment, and my dad was in tears, being in the place where his grandfather had emigrated from in 1900.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss. It’s a book of relationship advice and it’s insightful, funny and chock-full of observations on commitment, love and family. We did a talk together at South By Southwest and he recommended it to me. It’s a truly hilarious book.
The podcast I’m listening to is Hidden Brain by NPR. It’s all about psychology and helping us to understand why we do what we do. My favourite episode is one about the placebo effect; it’s fascinating on the power of the mind.
And the best gift I’ve received is a speech that was given by my co-founder and friend, Brian Chesky, for my 40th birthday. Somehow, he managed to capture 22 years of our friendship in a funny, heartfelt, deeply touching toast – in front of 180 people, no less – that I’ll never forget. The speech now hangs framed on the wall of my office. Brian is as talented a writer as he is a businessman.