An Airbnb Residential Loft Renovation in San Diego

Hi Everyone,

Greetings from 39,000 feet up in the air. Yes, 39,000 feet. I’m winging it back to New York from San Diego. And, we have 176 mph tail winds and are currently flying along @ 684 mph.


This post about an airbnb residential loft renovation was not the post I was going to do.


And, I began the post last Sunday when I was winging from east to west, going much slower. And, get this. My freaking authentic Apple Macbook charger was too small for the socket. And, since my laptop should’ve been replaced over a year ago, guess how long my battery lasted.

Blimey, sometimes I can’t catch a break.


What were you doing in San Diego, Laurel?


That’s a very good question. And, before we get into the urban residential loft renovation, I’ll tell you.

A few months ago, I signed up for a high-level internet marketing course with internet marketing wunderkind, NEIL PATEL!

Now, I realize that he’s not exactly a household name, however, his website gets several million page views a MONTH, so I’m betting good money that many of you do know who he is.


But, if you don’t. Neil Patel is a 34-yr-old entrepreneur who has created a conglomerate of businesses.


His company has seven offices in various cities and some 500 employees. Most of them are working with HUGE brands to create internet marketing plans for them.


da boss - Neil Patel - Agency Unlocked January 2020

Da boss – Neil Patel – Agency Unlocked January 2020 in a surreptitious photo I took while he was teaching us two days ago.

It is unheard of that they would ever be working with small potatoes like me. I mean, unless I wanted to pay them a million dollars or something like that. I don’t know what the least amount they will take is, but I can assure you that it’s way out of my budget. His businesses operates in the NINE figures category.  That’s hundreds of millions of dollars, in case you don’t feel like adding up a digit plus eight  zeroes.


So, when I saw the chance to sign up for this intensive, called Agency Unlocked, for a total of about $7k, I jumped at the opportunity to be able to work directly with Neil and his staff.


As part of the package, during the course of a year, there are three opportunities to work with the team in San Diego. And, there’s also going to be a retreat for a larger group in a warm, sunny spot, I understand.

I found out that there were 29 other people who also signed up for the Agency Unlocked program. Of that number, 18 said they were coming for the 2-day intensive workshop.


However, get this. Guess how many people actually showed up? Common’ take a guess.


Well, I won’t keep you in suspense.

Four. That’s how many people.

Four students.

Here we are. There are five, because the two people on the right work together. The delightful tall blond Debbie is the only one who lives in San Diego.


agency unlocked with Neil Patel

Neil is the young gentleman to my right. In case you can’t tell, he is super-duper nice. Very down-to-earth and genuine.

I had several pinch-me moments. Incredibly lucky!

That’s because, for two days I sat a few feet from and ate meals with Neil. In fact last night, at dinner, I sat next to him for two hours. Seriously, I had to restrain myself from taking a selfy of us. Of course, there were hours of instruction/information and four members of his staff put my website and social media through the ringer.


me with neil patel

This was taken yesterday as we were finishing up two very full days. Please note that I have a permanent dent in my forehead from when I had this unfortunate accident.

From your standpoint, are you going to see any big changes around here?

No, you won’t. But, I did learn a lot of the new things which I can implement behind the scenes that will help people find my posts.


So, what’s with this urban residential loft renovation in San Diego, Laurel? It doesn’t sound like you’d have much time to do any interior design work.


You’re right. I didn’t.

However, I love staying at Airbnb places. I prefer the ones where you have the entire place. And, you usually get more bang for you buck than at a hotel.

I looked at numerous possibilities and ended up booking a place in the Little Italy section of San Diego that calls themselves “Urban Treehouse.”

How intriguing.

The photos looked interesting. Plus, the reviews were excellent. So, I booked it.


I arrived in San Diego last Sunday evening just after 9:00 PM local time.


Of course, that was midnight for me. And, as I was just too tired to work, I didn’t even try to. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Cali. I forgot how different it is to the east coast. San Diego is now the 8th largest city in the US and has grown considerably since I was last there in 1977.

Nathan, the other half of Stephanie greeted me downstairs. And, like all airbnb folks, was as charming an affable as they come. He carried my Tumi bag up the five flights of stairs. And, we chatted for a few.


Nate mentioned something about starting a family soon.


He told me that this place was once his bachelor pad. And, I believe it. Although absolutely fine for my purposes, I told him I’d think about the possibilities if even two people wanted to live there. Could it be adapted for a family of three?

That might be difficult, but I do know of two families in Manhattan who each raised two children in a space, not much larger. But, a different layout.


I took photos the following evening. Between the workshop and dinner, I had about 90 minutes to kill, so I took these photos.


airbnb Urban Treehouse Little Italy front facade

The front of the building. The loft is way up at the top. So, I guess that makes it the penthouse, as well.


red door urban treehouse - San Diego

Then, you go around to the back of the building to the red door.


Once through the door, you make a quick left and then, it’s up the 62 steps. That’s a good workout!


5 floor walkup airbnb urban treehouse stairs

I made the trek five times during my stay. Not bad.


front door urban treehouse airbnb San Diego

The front door with a lovely view greets you at the top of your trek.


island - urban loft renovation - Little Italy

Looking back at the front door once inside. It looks like autumn but this was taken on January 13th.


urban loft renovation - kitchen - san diego

Here, you can see the very tiny kitchen.


TV airbnb - urban loft renovation before

A partial wall separating the living area from the bedroom.


bedroom before urban loft renovation

The bedroom with the queen-sized bed turned sideways.


bottles as window treatment urban loft renovation before

Nate cautioned me that this is only colored water in the bottles. This is a very clever solution to hide an ugly building across the way.


bottle curtain urban treehouse airbnb - Little Italy San Diego

sofa - residential loft renovation San Diego

I don’t know what’s going on with that diagonal steel beam. And, i don’t know why the windows are smaller here.


funky architecture airbnb Little Italy San Diego

One of the windows opens is a means of egress which goes out to a lovely balcony. The diagnonal beam is also on the exterior.


downtown san diego - urban treehouse airbnb

Another view from the balcony of the downtown area adjacent to Little Italy.


port of San Diego January

And, a stunning view of the port of San Diego from the balcony.


port of San Diego at dusk

And, about 20 minutes later.


And, then, I forgot all about it, still thinking that I was going to do a different post deconstructing one of our favorite designers.


However, today, when I woke up, I though, I don’t know how I’m going to get that post finished in time for tonight. I enjoy posts like that, but they require a lot of time and energy.

But, how about if I tackle this 550 square foot urban residential loft renovation?

Just one problem.

No tape measure.


agency unlocked - Neil Patel notebook

However, at the intensive, we were given a handsome leather bound note pad. I looked at it. Yes, it’s about 12″. As an aside, that was my breakfast to the right of the notepad. aç·a·i, they call it. It’s a berry that they turn into a kind of sorbet and then I added granola, a touch of almond butter and honey and berries. It’s frightfully yummy and refreshing.

Ah… those Californians really know how to eat. All the food I had while there, was INCREDIBLE!

But back to earlier today, with my “ruler,” I went around and “measured” the space.


I came up with a total space of about 23 feet x 24 feet. If I’m off by a few inches here and there, it’s okay for these purposes. The design is conceptual.


Oh, by the way, I asked Nate what this place would sell for if it was for sale.

He said about $800,000!

Now, I like what Nate had done. It’s sophisticated and charming. However, if two people are living there, there would not be nearly enough storage. And the kitchen is basically large enough to hold some beer in the fridge and warm up the take out pizza.


Okay, it’s nearly 10:00 pm and I just got home. That was a very fast trip! Very lucky.


But, just about 8 hours ago, I ran around with my notebook measuring the space.

And, then I counted the beams and used other visual cues to corroborate my measurements. I believe that they’re pretty close.

So, let’s first look at the urban treehouse floor plan, as is.


640 beech urban treehouse bnb San Diego
But, before I go over a few things, I want to make it clear that this is a very nice place to stay when visiting San Diego.

The purpose of this exercise is to see what could be done to make the space better.

The bathroom is fine as is.

However, the bedroom is a problem. Because the space is only about seven feet deep, the queen-sized bed on a wooden frame is turned sideways.


In addition, the living room is quite large.

So, what I wanted to achieve was to make the bedroom large enough to turn the bed so that we could have a headboard against the wall. To do so, I stole two feet from the living room and added it to the bedroom.


I also wanted to add a lot more storage.


This might be fine for a 29 yr old bachelor, but if it was a couple, there really is not enough storage.

Therefore, I added some chests to either side of the bed. And, another small dresser on the wall where there is currently a full-length mirror.

I also added a lot of lamps to the space. While the track lighting does an okay job, there are still some dark spots.

Then to the right of the closet which also included a stacking washer/dryer is a little work space. That is where the little wine bar is currently.

The biggest changes are in the living area, however.


640 beech residential loft renovation after



Let’s begin with the kitchen.


I got rid of the island and instead put built-in counter space underneath the row of windows to the right of the front door. I figure that people living here are doing more casual dining. If there are more than two people, they could perhaps use a folding table/chairs.

I put in a 30″ range. It could still be a 24″ but there’s room now, for a larger range.

And, on the left side is a larger under counter fridge. You won’t see the top as indicated. To the left of the fridge is the sink. I love it when the sink is in front of a window.

To the left of that is an open counter-top height area for seating.

I added a sectional for lots of seating for relaxing and TV watching. Behind the sectional is a custom very long table. There I would display plants, pottery and some appropriate accessories. Nothing too cluttered.


Can we still keep the bottles? Probably not if we do the sofa table.


Then, I added built-in storage where the TV is. It could be open or closed. Or, some of both. The point is, that it adds some much needed storage space.

I’m really liking these changes! I think that for two people, this would be a charming loft space.

Oh, about the noise. There is a noisy restaurant across the street, but they’re gone by midnight. And, there’s the train and you can softly hear the planes which are coming in for a landing only about a mile away.


There is a lovely fan which also provides heat or air-conditioning.


And, one of those white noise machines. Between the two of those, they blocked out all of the noise. So, I was fine.

In addition, there are windows that block out sound. I’m sure that they are wildly expensive. My friend Lotte Meister has them in her New York City home.

I imagine someone reading this also has them installed.

For Lotte’s incredible home in Rye, NY click here.


I hope that you enjoyed a glimpse into my San Diego trip and some of the ideas I had for renovating an urban loft apartment.

Designhounds 2020
Please don’t forget to vote for me for the Modenus Designhounds contest. You can vote once a day until 5:00pm on January 18th, 2020.

Thank you so much! I very much appreciate your support!



PS: please also check out the newly updated hot sales!


20 Responses

  1. Hi, Laurel! Was hoping that this loft would have exposed brick in it, since so many do–but maybe that’s a dreary, grey NYC thing, rather than a sunny San Diego thing? Do you have tips on paint colors complementing interior brick walls? Especially without straying into that equally dreary ubiquitous RH “industrial” style? Understand if this is too specific a question, but I wonder if your other city-dwelling fans might have it too.

  2. Congratulations, Laurel! You won the trip to Milan! So happy for you that I couldn’t wait for tomorrow’s blog to comment!

  3. more posts will get you more votes for the contest! I would be voting every day but I only remember when there is a new post. hope you win!! love reading your blog.

  4. When I was a child and into my teen years, I used to love to draw floor plans for my “dream room.” So, I love it when you do floor plans in your posts! I think the new space that you laid out is brilliant! Thank you for sharing your adventures with us.

  5. Little Italy features an app you can download and use to walk around, learning all the history of Little Italy. Good for getting some steps in, too.

    Voting for you!

  6. We live in the northern part of San Diego in Poway, and found this post a lot of fun to read. Little Italy has transformed itself and no surprise how the real estate prices have jumped, even for small spaces! Love your ideas for the urban Airbnb rental. Hope you can return to our beautiful city and see more interesting designs.

  7. Well, I loved this imaginary improvement! I prefer and probably will always live in not very big houses, so space planning is definitely in my interest sphere. I’ve lived different places in the San Diego area for the last, oh dang, 15 years, can it be?! I know exactly where you were, and my first thought was airplane noise! Glad to know it wasn’t too bad for you – not the case for every home in that neighborhood!! Anyway, I’m always here for tricky layout posts – I feel I learn a lot from them. We’re now 40 min due east of downtown in the “country”, and planning to build a small detached granny flat/guesthouse/occasional air bnb tiny home sort of thing on our 2 acre property next year, so my ears perked right up when I saw the title of this one.

  8. I love your posts and your sense of humor! So glad you got to works with some fabulous people and the loft is spectacular! What floor planner are you using for this project?

  9. OMG, I’m so jealous of your private training with Neil! I can’t believe you guys had him all to yourselves and you must have learned a TON. I almost signed up for that and now am kicking myself….especially since I live in San Diego.

    Great job on the Airbnb and don’t you love Little Italy?

  10. You multitasking muse of makeovers. Leave it to you to combine business development with inspired interior insight. Clean, yet simple changes that yield serious improvements. Glad you found your time in Cali productive. We shall all be the beneficiaries of your knowledge.

  11. Seismic retrofitting I like that. But yes, the earthquake stabilization. I live in SC and we have it here INSIDE our walls for mudslide or slippage. Keeps things square.

  12. Once again, you knocked it out of the park. What wonderful place to stay and, even better, if the owner of the BNB takes your plan and runs with it.
    The scar on your forehead is from hitting a sign which was too low, right? I have the same scar but mine was from my brother kicking me in the head when I ran out in front of him when he was swinging.
    You are so smart, talented, funny and a very giving person.
    My best to you and your business for 2020. Always look forward to hearing from you and learning more each time.

  13. Oh, Laurel! I just adore you! Sometimes you really make my day. I’m just a lowly honeowner, but I love design. This post finally catapulted me into the comment section because, I lived in San Diego. La Jolla to be specific. We really needed you although we were trying to take a 60s home and force it into Mexican hacienda style. The overly trained architect’s first plans made it look like Bank of America. Needless to say, we found someone who had a home we liked who helped us and had to calm the architect down (he was a rec from a friend – don’t you love those?). Roofing nails, a complete reno, and doing it yourself without a contractor on a $3M house taught us quite a bit. The stories! I’m surprised the house didn’t burn down. Anyway…your blog is terrific. I have learned so much from you. You are a great writer, highly amusing, honest and refreshing. I wish I could remember where I first found you. I think it was through Pinterest. I just liked what I saw and subscribed. My current contractor now has your info!

  14. Laurel, I am also an interior designer.Almost 50 years in the business. I think the revisions you designed for this small space are just brilliant. I would not change a thing that you did. Please consider doing another of these imaginary make-overs next time you stay in an Airbnb!

  15. Good morning!
    Welcome back home. I loved the changes you came up with for the loft. I hope you covered that sectional in a sun-proof fabric. All those windows are glorious but those UV rays would certainly do a number on everything. I think I would feel slightly exposed having all those windows also. I’m assuming there were shades for that.
    My mother grew up in San Diego. She loved it there & occasionally would mention all the cute sailor boys that were always around.
    I got my vote in. Get your bags ready. You’re going to win!

  16. Laurel: You never cease to amaze and INSPIRE me. I follow Neil Patel and think he’s beyond impressive.

    So glad you had the opportunity to take his course and what a bonus of just 4 people!

    P.S. For everyone who votes: Make sure you receive and click the confirmation link in your email after casting your ballot!

  17. Great post! Did the city of Yonkers ever do something about that box?

    The beam looks like it was put in as seismic retrofitting.

  18. What an amazing trip! I love San Diego and I “know” @neilpatel from Twitter. What an honor to be coached by him.

    Such a beautiful place you stayed in, the AirBNB. The K bracing, I think it’s called, is possibly for lateral structural support (for earthquakes). It might have been retrofitted. Or part of the original design.

  19. Love this post. What great fun to see what changes your experienced mind conceives! You are welcome to stay at my house outside Chicago, for free, and work your magic. I have an impossible house to decorate! Glad you had a great trip. The sweater you wore is adorable.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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