One brand already up and running, year-and-a-half-old Life House, checks all the boxes. Besides bestowing individual hotels with evocative design narratives and affordable prices, Life House programs its spaces to foster social engagement among guests and local residents. What’s more, founder and CEO Rami Zeidan is scouting locations where the regulatory tide is turning against Airbnb.
The Minnesota native says the seed of Life House germinated in 2014, “when I learned from the Airbnb customer that people were willing to sacrifice traditional hotel amenities for a lower price point.” Personal travel also taught Zeidan that upscale boutique hotels, though within his reach, felt like an irresponsible use of income. Life House democratizes the high-design experience for both of these groups. The company’s portfolio is slated to grow to nine properties by the end of next year.
Zeidan prefers to scout popular markets that are dense with high-priced boutique options. Ninety percent of his transactions encompass historic properties—“landmark buildings have stories to tell,” he says—suffering from unsophisticated operations. Life House then deploys a proprietary back-of-house digital platform, which automates accounting and finance, revenue management, housekeeping supervision, and other functions. That way, the company can transform hotels into competitive destinations while underselling on price.
An in-house team of four interior designers led by design director Jennifer Bukovec proceeds with a rebranding that includes cosmetic overhauls focused on research of local history and culture. A property in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, for example, opts for a tropical mansion motif. “It would be too easy to do a Cuba inspiration,” Zeidan explains. “It’s not authentic, and the neighborhood already has plenty of it.” The nearby Life House Collins Park in Miami Beach, meanwhile, reconciles a Streamline Moderne–style 1934 building to a sparing, textural interior that pays homage to neighborhood namesake John Collins, a Quaker merchant who drove settlement to Miami.
Bukovec notes she commits a portion of her design decisions to promoting interaction, while Zeidan adds that Life House programs its public spaces with discussions, presentations, and other events. “It’s a pretty beautiful experience to step into your discomfort zone; you can really learn a lot about yourself,” he says.
Photos: Life House