Chez Cliché: Apartments with Personality
A group of Austrian professionals think staying with a local is the way to discover a city, even if your host doesn't really exist
Under a photo of a garden table set for eight, whose surfaces were wild with long grass and flowers, botanist Sophie Gruenhaus had written an invitation: "Let’s have a tea party! Who’s in?" After she posted it on her Facebook page, 16 of her 562 friends liked it.
All of which would have been quite ordinary – if Sophie were a real person. Sophie Gruenhaus is acutally Austrian art director Constantin Peyfuss, at least on Facebook. With posts like this, the Berliner-by-choice promotes Sophie’s environmental interests and he decides on her next holiday destination. Peyfuss has, in fact, many personalities, on Facebook: There’s Sophie, Raul the jockey, and Koloman, who is passionate about theatre.
But as different as these people are, they have one thing in common: Their hospitality. They are part of Chez Cliché, a "whole new kind of lodging", born in the winter of 2012. The idea itself is not new: Locals sublet their homes to travellers, where they benefit from the personal tips and inside knowledge of their hosts. The fact that these hosts do not actually exist, however, is the novelty.
An open invitation
The initial concept came out of a conversation some years ago between Peyfuss and two Vienna locals, Claudia Diwisch and Gerald Tomez. "Let’s rent out furnished apartments!" What makes it special is offering unique services, like recommending local hotspots, and using Peyfuss’ expertise as a designer.
The search for investors and apartments turned out to be harder than they expected, however, and plans were changed: Instead of buying seven apartments in Vienna, Barcelona and Berlin respectively, the team began by focussing on Vienna, on eight flats in the 1st, 7th and 9th Districts. When the houses did not meet their expectations, they renovated them: "Let’s not talk about the expenses," said brand manager Diwisch when we met at Naglergasse, where three of the apartments are located.
"Some of our guests want to know our concept and others don’t," he admitted. He is also a photographer, when he has time. "Once, we had a guest who kept searching for his host Bella. Even though Gerald told him when he picked the couple up that Bella didn’t exist. When he saw me waiting in the apartment, he thought I was she. So, for the rest of their stay, I was Bella."
Others are rather surprised to find a company behind their hosts. But they almost always take it positively, insisted Diwisch.
Creating a home
With the big brown leather chairs, the fur carpets, pictures of horses and souvenirs from races all over the place, you imagine owner Raul could come around the corner at any moment. Claudia Diwisch knows every little detail of Raul’s country club home, up to the jockey silks in the cupboard, which they got from a rider’s widow. "We seem to have our finger on the pulse of the times with our ‘shabby chic’ mix of old and new," said Diwisch. They even get requests from interior designers interested in their work.
Despite the hand-picked and tailor-made design elements, comfort and functionality are paramount. It has to feel like a home that is lived in. "There was a lady from New Zealand who always said she was ‘coming home to her flat’. This is very rewarding to us as we wanted to create apartments where you can also spend time inside."
The hand-picked décor and functional furniture can be bought through the company. So guests can recreate their host’s style under their own roof. Overall, it is this personalised service that they see as a strong selling point, making their guests feel genuinely hosted. The team, consisting of Diwisch, Tomez and their employee Petra Hafner, responds to guests’ individual needs:
"We personally welcome every single guest and give them our telephone numbers," Dewisch said. "Some want an overall programme, others call every hour to ask what to do next." But this is no problem for Diwisch and her partners, "due to our big network, we can arrange a translator, a stylist or someone to guide them through Vienna easily."
Part of Chez Cliché’s concept is offering Raul, Sophie or Koloman’s favourite shops, restaurants and night-time haunts in the neighbourhood. At the moment this information is only provided through the website, but the team plans to make recommendations available in the apartments themselves.
They also plan to provide brochures for guests and a selection of typical Viennese souvenirs, but that’s not all. "We want to double our offers within the next 1.5 years," Diwisch said – and already, more characters are lined up to receive guests. Elisabeth Kirch, for instance, has been on Facebook for the past two years.
She has shared 76 pictures with her friends and is now "in an open relationship". Her posts are quirky and quite sexy, she must be an artist of some kind. The only thing we do not know about her is what her apartment looks like... at least, not yet.
Info and Booking:
room from €189 per night
(minimum stay of 2 nights; no kids;
pets allowed on prior agreement)