Behind the Scenes at Bar House Hotel, Fremont's Wildest Airbnb
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Ben Verellen opened Fremont watering hole Bar House in 2017—a single-family home on 36th Street converted into a neon-glowing temple of loud music and why-the-hell-not decor, from a submarine bathroom to a forest sanctum.
So when a neighboring landlord offered him space in a basement apartment as a blank canvas, the idea of repeating the concept in an actual residence didn’t seem so far-fetched. He sat down with some friends, including bandmates Eric Fisher (of music group Constant Lovers) and Dana James (of Helms Alee), and started brainstorming. “Some of these bad ideas are gonna stick,” Verellen says.
Making a one-of-a-kind experience requires patience and some DIY smarts. Finding, or building, the right pieces for your space can take time. But it should be fun, too: The bartop is made from vintage postcards encased in epoxy. The huge model shark in the ocean-themed living room hails from a shop in New Jersey (Verellen just googled “huge model shark”). The nautical, barrel-shaped minibar hanging on the wall was found on one of many trips to the Fremont Sunday Market. Verellen sings the praises of a craft adhesive called E6000.
The result is a sort of tongue-in-cheek, neotropical paradise. “You’re in a dingy alley in Fremont,” Verellen says. “Then you pull into this place, and hopefully you don’t feel like you’re here anymore.”
There are boundaries to consider, though: While Verellen pretty much goes all out at Bar House, “people have to be comfortable at the end of the night” at Bar House Hotel. It’s pretty dark in there, and heavily themed, and, yeah, there are sound effects. But it couldn’t be “any more of a carnival ride of an Airbnb” than it already is, he says.
And a great stay doesn’t begin and end with what’s hanging on the walls. Visitors are “as excited about the neighborhood as they are about the place,” Verellen says. He makes a concerted effort to make them feel at home in the Center of the Universe, planting free Bar House and Fremont Coffee Company drink tickets in the room and leaving space in the guest book for tourists to pass along their new favorite spots.
It’s earned him Superhost status, an income source much steadier than the notoriously “tumultuous” bar business can offer, and some rave reviews. “Bar House is THE Airbnb,” writes a traveler named Ross. Mareth calls it “a riotously good time.” Several people insist it’s the coolest place they’ve ever been. Despite the overwhelmingly positive comments, Verellen is careful not to get too caught up in what he calls the “Yelp culture” of would-be critics who seem to bad-mouth rentals, and guests, just “for kicks.”
“I just give everybody a five-star review, and I say, ‘Thank you very much,’” Verellen says. “And anytime anybody has an issue, I try to be available to solve it.”
What’s really holding Bar House Hotel together, though? “Zip ties are good.”
Get the Look
These products were chosen by our editorial staff from the Shops at Seattle Met, the city's first online marketplace bringing the best local businesses together in one place.
Opt for faux foliage or easy-care houseplants to ensure always-lush greenery.
Tame your tropicals with this set of three squiggly, solid brass plant sticks from Fruitsuper.
A few standout vintage pieces go a long way.
Recreate Bar House Hotel's signature postcards-and-epoxy bartop, or their kitschy, magnet-covered fridge, with Seattle memorabilia from thrift and souvenir shops.
Create mood lighting with a cool table lamp.
Make your own home feel like an escape with this cognate print on BFK cream paper.
Natural materials, like rattan, give your space a beachy look.
You might shy away from a full-on theme in your own home—but in a decked-out Airbnb, the more details, the better.