London has an abundance of world-class luxury hotels but sometimes you want to feel like you're at home. Introducing onefinestay, which makes you feel just that. Except that you're in another person's home.
One of the main attractions is that each property is different - from a loft in Clerkenwell to a townhouse in Primrose Hill, you can choose the area, style and design that suits your individual tastes. Its aim is to make visitors feel and live like locals in London, offering homes in neighbourhoods that might not be catered for by luxury hotels. With keys to your own temporary front door, you can greet your neighbours, explore the side streets and discover some hidden gems.
Self-styled as an 'unhotel', the reservation process is as seamless as with a regular hotel, but with an added element of the personal touch. On arrival, a member of staff will greet you at the property to give you a full tour, explain the intricacies of the property and hand you a pre-loaded iPhone that you can use at your leisure throughout your stay.
We stayed in a three bedroom townhouse on the Chelsea / Fulham border, which was smart, spacious, and with plenty of room to entertain. With full use of a large kitchen and separate dining room, a dinner party was inevitable. Having spent the afternoon in the kitchen surrounded by whisks and piping bags, drowning in olive oil and seasoning, when it came to turning on the oven hours later to warm the hors d'oeuvres, the oven decided not to work.
We called someone in customer service who was very polite and helpful but, having spent an hour looking through manuals, they kindly offered to send us a food hamper instead. We declined the offer and managed by using the hobs instead of the oven, something that confirmed the need for a team of sous chefs for all future dinner parties.
Despite everything working out for us, the incident highlighted a potential pitfall for onefinestay - without a maintenance man on the premises, such issues could eventually become rather problematic for them. However, given the efficiency with which they handled our issue and the solution that they had offered (they still kindly sent us a couple of bottles of wine despite not needing the food basket), I'm confident that they could handle anything thrown at them.
With a whole house filled with photographs, books and CDs to explore it's difficult not to be nosey, but certain cupboards and drawers are discreetly sealed with special tamper proof tape to prevent you from peering too closely. One of the joys of onefinestay is that you get to feel like you're at home, surrounded by all the comforts and amenities that you could wish for, but going to sleep with someone else's wedding photos on your side table is a strange feeling.
The price will depend on your specific property - our three bedroom house starts from £400 per night, which, if travelling with friends or family, is very reasonable for the quality and service. Each house is fully cleaned before and after each visit with a daily maid service available with fresh linens, towels and The White Company bath products.
For those who require 24 hour room service, a business centre and fully equipped gym, onefinestay was never going to be the answer, but if you want to experience life as a Londoner in luxurious and spacious surroundings at a reasonable cost, onefinestay might be right up your street.
FYI: onefinestay has expanded from just 6 host members in 2010 to more than 250 today. The company backed by venture capital firm Index Ventures along with Brent Hoberman, co-founder & CEO of Lastminute.com, among other angel investors.
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