Meet Matt Titone, the Venice Creative with What Might Be the Greatest Airbnb in All of California

Photo: Matt Titone
Photo: Matt Titone

One of the things you have to consider (but sometimes don’t have time to) when throwing a weeklong pop-up shop in an entirely new town across the country is where you are going to stay + sleep at night while things are in full swing. Luckily, our good friend and semi-professional wedding crasher, Matt “Dewey” Titone, recently put his new backyard garage-turned-surf shack on the Airbnb market in Venice, CA—and the crib is quite legitimate and hecka tight.

Yesterday, we caught up with the creative gent—who runs surf lifestyle hub, Indoek, and its notorious Surf Shack series—to get an idea on how one builds a wildly successful Airbnb in this day and age, and to find out if there will be beer in the fridge we arrive. We’re bringing some of our own regardless.

Last month, you debuted what we have since heard is “one of the greatest Airbnbs in California”. Did you know this thing was going to be a destination-rental hit?

I don’t know if we can live up to all that hype, but I did just put my place up on Airbnb for the first time and I think it’s a pretty rad place to stay if I do say so myself.

Photo: Matt Titone

Photo: Matt Titone

Did you build this place from scratch, or was it a renovation? How long did it take to get up and running?

Well, it was a little bit of both. My brother Sam is an architect and he was always trying to convince me to turn my garage into something fun and possibly livable. We used to also have a skate ramp in the back yard next to the garage and when that went away, we realized we had an even bigger footprint to work with to build something.

Once Sam got going with the plans, things escalated pretty quickly. After about a year of plans, construction and a lot of designing on the fly, we now have a rad space that is bigger and nicer than our house.

It’s worthy of mention that you created and actively run a web series—one of our favorites on the Internet—that features unique surf shacks around the globe and interview with their almost always equally creative inhabitants. Were there any specific features from that series that helped inspire the creation of your own surf shack?

Absolutely. My brother had complete creative control of the design and build, but he did a great job interpreting me and my wife’s style and taste. To answer your question though, I am a graphic designer, but I’ve always been interested in architecture and interior design, hence the Surf Shacks series on Indoek. I love documenting surfers’ homes and selfishly taking inspiration from the dwellings we cover.

I think our back house is pretty unique, but I would say it maybe draws some inspiration from places like Jess and Malia’s place in Hawaii and Randy Hild’s house in Laguna. I mention both of those in homes in particular since one is more rustic and the other a classic California mid-century home, which is sort of the general design mashup we have going at our place.

Photo: Matt Titone

Photo: Matt Titone

The coined named for your shack is the “Zanja House”. It kinda sounds like the “Ganja House” but I imagine that would be flagged pretty quickly under suspicion of the houses use (or maybe not, it’s California). But for those that don’t know what a “zanja” is, can you relay its meaning and why you landed on that for the home’s name?

Zanja is actually a new strain of ridiculously potent weed, way more powerful than “ganja” – it’s the new hot shit out here, all the kids are doing it. Just kidding, it’s actually just the name of the street the new build faces.

You’ve been known to leave a slew of preferable beverages—not limited to beer, coffee, and coconut water—inside the retro fridge that occupies the kitchen. Are you trying to call us sober, tired and dehydrated? Or are you just a really thoughtful guy that wants the tenants to feel at home?

Call me old-fashioned, but I do think there is no better way to welcome someone to the neighborhood than a six pack of beer. I make no promises though, we are in a severe drought out here so just be happy with water!

If you could have any one living person in the world rent your place for a weekend, and subsequently, indulge in great conversation with you over coffee in the morning and a glass of rare scotch in the early hours of a new day, who would it be?

That is a really tough one. My answer to this probably changes depending on what day it is, but since you asked me today, I’d have to say my son Milo. He’s only 3 months old, but he’s seen some shit and I’d love to hear his thoughts on climate change, sustainable living and global economic policies over a warm bottle of milk.

Give us three items you would run into the guesthouse to salvage and take to safety if the house were to catch on fire.

There is really only one thing I care that much about in there and that is a beautiful framed print from Nick LaVecchia. One of my favorite images of the ocean.

Photo: Matt Titone

Photo: Matt Titone

The reviews on your Airbnb come in consistently at a 5 star rating, as well as a verbal gallery of lovely comments like “would recommend to anyone that breathes oxygen and is looking to visit California.” Are there any details you’d particularly attribute to the extreme level of satisfaction that each of your tenants seems to experience when staying at the Zanja House?

We haven’t had that many visitors so far, but everyone who has stayed here has been cool and seems pretty jazzed on the place. The floating steel staircase is a beautiful detail, there’s a cool vintage fireplace on the outdoor patio, both the upstairs and downstairs fully open up as indoor/outdoor spaces with 2 bi-fold door systems and the whole place smells like freshly cut cedar.

We also offer guests a pair of bikes and surfboards to use during their stay. The space is just really unique and cozy thanks to my brother’s design. It’s really private and the natural light that comes in is incredible—it’s hard to not be stoked when you are staying back there in my opinion.

Thanks Dewey. Any last comments? Advice you’ve learned from taking part in the Airbnb world that you’d like to pass on?

No, thank you guys for pimping out my new place! As for advice, it’s tough because I feel like everyone is looking for something different with Airbnb. Hosting is very new for me, but I just like to think about what I want out of an Airbnb rental experience as a guest and try to deliver on that.

For instance, I look for a private experience with little to no interaction with a host, I just want to feel like it’s my home while I’m traveling. That said, I try to stay out of our guests hair and those like-minded, self-sufficient guests are the ones I in turn hope to attract. So I guess my only advice really is to set expectations up front as clearly as possible.

For more details + photos to dream about, check out the shack’s Airbnb’s page. Keep up with Matt and his creative endeavors via Indoek + the Indoek Instagram. Thanks Matt.