Passing through Amsterdam, any tourist is going to spot houses with enormous windows. Usually, none of these windows are covered with curtains. As you walk through the city, you feel the gravity of spaces beyond these curtain-free windows pulling you in. And you can’t help thinking that you shouldn’t be looking for the spirit of the city at the Van Gogh Museum, but in the homes of ordinary people, where they return exchaused from work, where they throw parties for friends, where they expect to hear footsteps of their loved ones on the stairs, where they have laughed wholeheartedly and cried while noone was watchcing.
To me, houses are the ultimate medium through which one can feel a foreign city—through the unique way in which they are decorated and arranged that’s characteristic to this particular city only. The impression that Amsterdam made on me turned into an inspiration for a home that would offer tourists in Tbilisi a cozy and comfortable setting and simultaneously tell a story of a tiny, age-old city with fascinating, unique history.
Throughout the search, I ended up visiting a variety of homes. I went through almost every courtyard and hallway in Old Tbilisi, which was probably what inspired me to identify the concept for my home.
Tbilisi is a multiethnic city, where Asian and European culture have merged together and simultaneously maintained complete independence from each other. Then there was social realism from the recent past of this city, which I could not disregard either.
My house is included in the list of cultural heritage, just like many other houses in Sololaki. Its history dates back to as early as the end of the 19th century and it used to belong to a Tbilisi-based Jewish merchant. The moment you step into the courtyard, you are bound to be captivated by its charming balconies and architectural style characteristic to typical buildings in Tbilisi.
Every tourist is particularly fascinated with the vibrant colors of the quintessential Old Tbilisi courtyards. This was the very feel I envisioned to maintain in the interior.
Successful execution of my idea must be attributed to Keti Nadibaidze, a very interesting artist, scenographer and interior designer. In my case, preservation of the authentic look was not the sole purpose. Keti managed to create the kind of setting that tells a story, and I truly believe that she applied her experience with theater to interior design in a truly unique way.
In general, a theater performance begins with scenography—stage space is the first message to the spectator, the moment one enters the theater stalls, creating a particular mood and set of expectations. This was precisely the experience that Keti applied while working on the interior, which creates a story of its own and allows each of my guests to become a part of it.
I believe that some details are more important than others. Each details must be taken into consideration—charming furniture and carpets, tea cups and corkscrews—as everything is a portion of a single whole that matters most when it comes to creating a feel of a place. We tried our best to incorporate interesting works by Georgian artists. This is how a beautiful photograph from a recently discovered nude photo collection by Gigi Gabashvili ended up becoming part of my interior.
I must certainly note the kitchen interior as well, where we painted an entire wall with a pattern from a traditional Georgian clay jar. Almost every piece of furniture was crafted in Georgia. Lado Botsvadze, a truly unique blacksmith, crafted the vintage metal bedframe. This was precisely when we got to discover true value of second-hand items. Today, it may be hard to believe that the elegant-looking leather armchairs were made in the 60s and 70s, in the USSR.
Several layers of wallpaper and pargeting have been scraped off the walls of this house. These are the very layers that form pages of the novel that my guests discover as they step foot into the house.
We managed to restore niches dressed with age-old Georgian bricks, stunning wooden windows and doors that were covered with several layers of paint, and the fabulous wooden floor.
I think that the end product of this project is a house where modern comfort meets history of the city that has been assembled in the forms of ornamental details—its past and present—and would easily beat any view featured on a postcard when it comes to discovering the spirit of this city.
It is essential to identify characteristics of the target audience when developing a service of any kind. Airbnb customers are not only tourists on a budget, looking for the best value for money to spend the night. I believe that the majority expects to discover the type of house that can turn into an adventure of its own for the tourist—both with its form and essence.
Communication is also key. Being able to constantly communicate with the tourist, come up with fascinating itineraries and lists of must-see places, help with table booking at a restaurant or finding a tour guide are some of the additional perks that are going to earn you positive reviews and increase the number of potential customers in the future. Nowadays, there is considerably higher level of competition in the hospitality business and quality comes first, if you are looking to establish yourself or simply live up to your image. This is precisely why I would strongly recommend creating an interesting environment, adapted to the historic look and character of our city as much as possible, if you are looking to get started in this field. Preserving history means ensuring that the historic image stays unhinged—this is the very trend in the field of tourism today.
We must welcome our guests in our homes as if they were their own. If they enjoy themselves here, they will definitely return. To me, the sign of my success is not the full calendar, but the tiny gifts that complete strangers leave behind—simple jewelry, a single flower, or letters written on pages from the most precious notebooks. And, finally, success gives us the energy that fuels our new ideas.
Author: Gvantsa Guliashvili
Photo Credits: Alexander Davitashvili