The vacation rental site Airbnb boasts more than 2 million worldwide listings ranging from a Scottish castle to a treehouse in the jungles of India. But you don’t need a passport or a plane ticket to enjoy a getaway in a unique home. Local homeowners are offering up stunning spaces that will have you spending your “staycation” delighting in the design.
Period with a purpose
The late Victorian-era home of Paul and Flora Kelleher could tell some stories.
Built in the 1890s, it saw its neighborhood fall into disrepair. The house was cut into six apartments and pillaged of its period grandeur. Urban pioneers reclaimed the house in the 1970s and restored it to its former glory. The house features three marble fireplaces, crystal chandeliers and even an old apothecary cabinet in the pantry.
When the Kellehers (of no relation to Joe Kelleher, owner of the Canton houseboat) bought the home in 2010, they honored the groundwork laid by the previous owners. Wrought-iron beds the family previously had handmade in Panama fit perfectly into the house. Guests have access to a library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a brick-enclosed backyard.
“[Guests’] expectations are generally exceeded … especially in terms of the size. It’s hard to show 12-foot ceilings in a picture, but it’s pretty breathtaking in person,” Paul says.
The Kellehers use their residence to support the city they love, donating their Airbnb proceeds to Mother Seton Academy, a school for low-income youth.
Price per night: $600
Forged in Ellicott City
When Dave Holland renovated the 19th-century blacksmith’s shop adjacent to his home, he did so to create a rec room for his family, which includes five children. The Hollands love the Southwest, so the cottage is painted in warm terra cotta tones and has earth-toned, rustic furnishings.
But the cottage across the courtyard from their home was not getting as much use as Holland expected, so they decided to share their slice of historic Ellicott City with others.
“If you are looking for perfect and predictable, you’re better off at the Hilton,” says Holland. “If you want something with history that really captures the spirit of a place, this is a great extension of old Ellicott City.”
The Hollands wanted to preserve the charm of the historic structure, which features a porch with a view of Patapsco Valley State Park. The blacksmith shop has modern amenities like a full kitchen (where Holland’s wife provides coffee service and homemade banana muffins) and air conditioning, but remnants of the building’s function remain, including the original forge and a number of iron hooks on the walls that once held the blacksmith’s tools. A beam in the house is inscribed with “Finniymore tuck a horse, 1895,” like a 19th-century sticky note left by the former proprietor for modern visitors to enjoy.
Average price per night: $125
Castaway in Canton
There are homes with a view of the water, and then there is the Margaret Claire, a 50-foot houseboat docked in Canton with a 360-degree view of the harbor and a mariner’s perspective of the city skyline.
Owned by Joe Kelleher, who once lived aboard himself, the Margaret Claire underwent a complete renovation. Kelleher gutted the boat and hired Monica MacKenzie Design, an interior designer from Massachusetts, to give the vessel a beach cottage appearance. The interior features tongue-and-groove paneling, wood floors, nautically inspired light fixtures and a fresh, blue-and-white color scheme warmed by touches of wood, like that on the seats of the kitchen’s four bar stools.
There are little details that nod to the vessel’s location, like the crabs tiled into the bathroom floor. And you won’t find a cramped galley kitchen on this boat — the renovation added full-sized appliances and plumbing any landlubber can work.
“People who go in for this concept are naturally adventurous,” says Kelleher, though he notes that since the boat doesn’t leave the dock, no nautical experience is required. “You’re basically in a floating condo, with all the amenities of an apartment, but the marina is very quiet and serene.”
As a bonus, the vessel gently rocks its guests to sleep.
Average price per night: $250
Shabby chic in Federal Hill
When Wendy Kurtz started looking for a place in historic Federal Hill, she told her real estate agent she wanted “a grandma house — something that had not already been rehabbed by someone else.”
She purchased a 1900s end-of-row home that hadn’t been touched since the 1960s. She pulled out the linoleum floors and drop ceilings to reveal the home’s beautiful bones, like the transoms over the doors, mantels and yellow pine floors. What couldn’t be saved — the kitchen’s tin ceiling, for example, was beyond repair — Kurtz tried to replicate. She repurposed original pocket doors on the second floor, added eight-inch baseboards and crown molding.
Kurtz decorated with her own collection of antiques. She comments that guests seem to particularly appreciate the grandfather clock in the living room. Yet there’s nothing slavishly period about the home. Instead it is charmingly shabby chic, especially in the kitchen, where she installed beadboard cabinets, marble counters and a farmhouse sink. Kurtz keeps the home full of fresh flowers, and as a nutritionist, she offers vegan raw breakfast or juice cleanses to guests for a separate fee.
“Guests really enjoy the full-length rooftop deck,” she adds. “It has a water view. It’s fun for them to take a bottle of wine up there and watch the sunset.”
Average price per night: $300
Appearances can be deceiving, and guests at Aaron* Sikorski’s rental in Ridgely’s Delight, across the street from the stadiums, are often fooled.
“It doesn’t feel like anything special from the outside, but once you step inside, they’re blown away by the grandeur,” Sikorski says. “It’s not just a house; it feels like a hotel.”
The rowhouse was once two structures with a central garden, but a previous renovation enclosed the courtyard so that the house’s two volumes are now connected by a light-filled column with a soaring, 30-foot ceiling capped by a massive skylight. All the rooms open to this courtyard, giving the house an expansive feel.
Sikorski wanted the house to have a modern, European look. He gutted all the bathrooms and replaced them with sleek cabinetry from Ikea. He successfully juxtaposes midcentury modern furnishing with unique finds. In the dining room, slim, elegant chairs nestle against a table Sikorski built himself using materials purchased at Second Chance.
While most guests stay for a few days and comment on the unique architectural quality of the home, long-stay guests are let in on a little secret: A trapdoor in the floor of one room leads to a hidden chamber beneath the house where Sikorski put the laundry.
Price per night: $300