Airbnb launches floating house on the Thames

Airbnb has launched a floating house on the River Thames to promote its lettings website to homeowners in the capital. The charming building features two bedrooms, a bathroom and grassy garden complete with an apple tree and dog house…

Image by Mikael Buck, courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb has launched a floating house on the River Thames to promote its lettings website to homeowners in the capital. The charming building features two bedrooms, a bathroom and grassy garden complete with an apple tree and dog house…

Designed by TBWA creative directors Steve Tidball and Nick Tidball, the brightly coloured building is described as “Primrose Hill meets Pixar”. Inside, it features a working bathroom, pastel bedrooms and a sunny yellow kitchen and lounge kitted out with mid-century style furniture. The building will be cruising along the Thames until May 22, hosting events in Chelsea, Westminster and Canary Wharf before making its final stop at Putney Pier.

Airbnb has also set up a listings page for the house, where users can enter a competition to stay in it on Friday night. The winning guests will receive spa treatments and have dinner cooked for them by Lima chef Robert Ortiz.

The house has been launched to promote Airbnb’s service to London homeowners, following the introduction of new legislation allowing them to rent out their accommodation for up to 90 days of the year (the practice was previously illegal without planning permission, meaning they could face fines of up to £20,000 for letting their property).

Tidball and Tidball say the design was inspired by “quintessential London architecture” – in particular, townhouses in Primose Hill and Hampstead – and the house from Pixar film Up. The building was constructed on land before being assembled on the water using cranes and a floating platform.

It’s a clever design and the attention to detail throughout is impressive: pipes and generators are hidden in the roof and underneath the dog house to provide electricy and plumbing, garden walls are reinforced to withstand waves of up to 1.5 metres and the exterior walls and garden extend below the water line to give the impression of a floating house. While it looks like a two-storey building from outside, the house consists of a single level, with the floor raised 1.5 metres to hide its floating base. There is also a hidden tow mechanism attached to a tug boat 30 metres away, as Port of London Authority regulations state the structure must be towed.

It’s the latest in a series of unusual apartments from Airbnb – last year, the site teamed up with airline KLM to open one in a plane grounded at Amsterdam airport (again running a competition to stay in the apartment) and in January, unveiled an apartment in a cable car in French ski resort Courchevel.

It’s not the first pop-up residence we’ve seen in the capital – Artangel and Living Architecture launched a Heart of Darkness-inspired installation, A Room for London, on the city’s South Bank in 2012 and invited 12 people to stay overnight in the space – but it’s certainly the first Pixar-inspired floating house we’ve seen tour the Thames.

While branded pop-ups and installations can be a hit and miss affair, Airbnb’s feature clever designs in unusual spaces and are a great way to promote the site and its listings: as well as adding some much-needed colour to the Thames on a gloomy Monday, the house’s colourful design is likely to catch the attention of millions of passers-by, and will doubtless appear in many an Instagram and Twitter snap.

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Senior Creative Designer

Monddi Design Agency

Head of Digital Content

Red Sofa London