Nestled in the ponderosa pines, The Lofthouse offers a relaxing retreat just minutes away from the Rocky Mountain town of Colorado Springs. The idyllic property is divided into two spaces: the Loft, where hosts Drew and Tarah work, collaborate, and meet with their guests, and the house — a private and modern Airbnb Plus cabin. Here, guests can absorb the natural beauty of the surrounding forest, listen to a classic vinyl, or throw on a plush robe and cozy up by the fire. The property’s tranquil atmosphere is its main draw. Case in point: according to a previous guest, the most stressful part of their stay was “deciding where to have my morning coffee.”
The bright and airy interiors, accented with a generous touch of hygge, are reflective of the husband-and-wife duo’s creative backgrounds. When they’re not hosting or spending time with their four kids, Drew works in film and television production and Tarah dabbles in various forms of design. Since opening their doors a little over a year ago, they’ve achieved Airbnb Superhost status, and a 5-star average rating to boot.
In this exclusive interview with ATLIST Travel, Tarah and Drew share the details behind their hosting style and their top 3 tips for vacation rental hosts aspiring to reach Superhost status.
ATLIST: Let’s start from the beginning. What originally drew you to your property in Colorado’s Black Forest area?
Drew and Tarah: In our wandering conversations, Drew and I would always express a distant hope of having some land. We wanted space for the kids to do what kids do, and felt like living a tad outside of town would allow for them to be wild and free in the best kind of way. We were content to defer that dream until the time, location, and financial aspect was right, but were so thrilled when an opportunity came up in our ideal location. The property has a long history of an amazing family who built our home in the ‘70s, and it’s been a great joy for us to bring our own vision to the house and property. The previous owners remain dear friends and champions to our dreams surrounding the home, the property, and now The Lofthouse.
As the suburban hustle of Colorado Springs has grown and now meets the “rural” edge of Black Forest, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of Black Forest. What used to be remote and quiet living is now a desirable location for young and growing families. While things are not near as quiet as they once were, we have big hopes that this woodsy little corner of our city can be something really special one day soon and we would love to be a part of that growth.
Your property has two spaces: the “Loft” and the “House.” How do they differ in function and design?
We designed and built the Lofthouse as a space to work from home without actually being home, and to host guests in an intentionally crafted space, just for them! The Loft is where we work, create, and meet! It’s 1200 square feet of open space with high vault ceilings and a whole flood of natural light. The House is the Airbnb portion of the space. It’s also 1200 square feet, but much more intimate and cozy. The two spaces are not connected internally, which means we can do what we do, and guests can do what they do, and there is little to no interaction between the two (unless it’s desired.) This concept is something we designed with our unique needs in mind. We considered what guests will want, what we need, and the lay of the land that it is built on. Both spaces are Nordic-inspired. We were particularly drawn to the Danish way of pulling from the depth, and even harshness of nature, while introducing soft colors and textures inside for warmth and comfort. The dark exterior feels strong, resilient, long-standing, and connected to its surroundings, while the light interior feels soft, comfortable, and very safe and inviting.
What is your favorite design feature of The Lofthouse and why?
It’s easy to think of design as an outlet and expression of unlimited opportunity. When I approach a design project with that mentality I feel overwhelmed and stuck. To me, design is a process of first identifying limitations, and then mapping out creative strategies to best navigate those limitations. Most ‘good’ things that we’ve created have come as a result of navigating limits and finding new ways to achieve the function or style that we are attempting to create. In the process of mulling over solutions, we typically land on something that feels really fun, and is often very original and unique. A great example of this is our couch swing in the House portion. It was mid-May and our first booking was May 22. We still didn’t have the living space fully figured out, and kept running into challenges trying to find the right configuration. We needed a piece that was comfortable, unique, but not going to break the bank, and we needed it in a pretty specific size. Oh, and we needed it in five days. I wanted a swing inside, but it wasn’t working out to put it in the place I had in mind, so Drew proposed we make a couch swing. It was easy to make, so fun to style, checked all our boxes, and has been the single most “commented-on” piece in the space. Limitations equal an opportunity for something awesome.
Describe your typical guests. What kind of experiences are they looking for when they visit The Lofthouse?
We’ve had some amazing guests! From single, to married, to families, to girls weekends. Our guests have all been so different and so wonderful. Most guests, because of how we communicate and talk about The Lofthouse, are coming for a quiet getaway. They are looking to take in the beauty of the ponderosa pines and breathe in some of the fresh Colorado mountain air.
What do you love most about hosting?
When we hosted our first guest, I had that “hole in your stomach” feeling. We were excited, but suddenly very aware of our vulnerability. People would be on our property and in our brand new space—a space we had personally built and worked so hard to create. What if they ruin it? What if they’re punks? Believe it or not, our first experience was our worst experience. They were punks, they did not follow our house rules, and we were really bummed. But we kept on it, and have had the most amazing and rewarding experiences since then.
What we love most about hosting is having the sacred opportunity to host strangers, and offer warm hospitality to people I otherwise would have never met. It kind of forces you out on the limb of human trust. We have to believe that most humans are good, and will completely respect the arrangement and setup. We hope to be a place worthy of people's most precious commodity: their time. And we hope that in some small way, we are able to offer inspiration, rejuvenation, and connection that they can carry into their life long after they are gone.
What are some of the standout amenities or add-ons that you currently offer your guests?
The seclusion and quiet is our greatest amenity. With our natural wood deck and fire pit area, there are plenty of places to sit year-round, and to enjoy the sunrise and sunset. Guests enjoy sipping their coffee on the front porch, and always appreciate our homemade banana bread left for them. Guests also appreciate the clean and unique design of the space.
How is your business right now, given the effects of the pandemic on travel?
The Lofthouse is actually fully booked for the summer. We get a lot of demand from people looking to drive out of the city and experience a quick getaway in nature. We really prioritize clear communication and cleanliness at The Lofthouse, so we've been able to make guests feel comfortable and safe with us even during this time.
1. Lead with strong and clear communication. We learned to be honest and open about what we are, and what we are not. When people book I promptly reply with a message to welcome them and remind them of a couple of our house rules. For us, those are no-smoking and not 4-20 friendly. They typically respond with an acknowledgment of those rules and that’s that! It helps quickly set the stage for our expectations and creates a good understanding early on. When a bigger family books, I always explain the pull-out bed situation and the fact that we have one bathroom. I don’t want anything to come as a surprise, and want guests to feel like they understand exactly what they’re coming to.
2. Details matter. Opening your home is opening a piece of your life and story to someone else. If that is an uncomfortable idea to you, then hosting probably won’t be a place you thrive. The tiny details—the art, the flatware, the aesthetic style—all matter. Guests can detect if a space feels haphazard, uninspired, weird, or not functional, and they likely won’t fully be able to enjoy their stay. Go the extra mile. Weave your story into the space and commit to the details. Yes, it’s more work, more time, and more effort, but it’s also what makes a decent host become a great host.
3. Cleanliness matters. Obviously we all know this, but it’s still a point worth emphasizing and even more important right now due to COVID. You can nail points 1 and 2 and if you drop the ball here, you won’t be a good host. It doesn’t just kind of matter, it really matters. The smells, the stains, the hair…. It only takes a few seconds in a new space for a guest to scan and determine if they feel like they can relax and unwind. When a place smells “used” or you find a hair on the couch, don’t you immediately feel weird? We clean, clean again, and then walk through one last time to make sure that nothing is missed. It is unbelievably important and the attention-to-detail matters here, more than anything else, in our opinion.
To learn more about The Lofthouse, visit their website here or follow them on Instagram here!
Interested in improving your hosting skills and modernizing your approach to the guest experience in a COVID travel environment? ATLIST helps independent properties create customized webpages to showcase, schedule, and sell their services, rentals, in-house activities, and local recommendations. By powering online booking and scheduling, an ATLIST guest experience page can bring convenience to your guests, show them around town with custom maps, and save time for your team. Click here to learn more about how you can add a guest experience page to your website seamlessly.