These gutsy design ideas from creative Airbnb hosts can help transform an ordinary room into a showstopper.

A wood-paneled bedroom painted in various shades of deep blue.
A wood-paneled bedroom painted in various shades of deep blue.

You know that feeling when you walk into a beautiful space and instantly feel like you’re somewhere special? Not every well-designed room can do that; the eye-catching effect usually comes from a unique accent or an unexpected detail. (Maybe it’s a playful piece of furniture or a bold use of color, or a collection that’s creatively displayed.) Want to bring that “wow factor” into your own home? Get inspired by these imaginative — and easy — ideas from six clever Airbnb hosts.

1. Blanket your bedroom in blue.

“Painting everything one color creates a kind of magic. The darkness of this shade [Rivington Blue by Abigail Ahern for Craig & Rose] creates mystery, too, which I like in an old room with 200 years of history. For art and furniture, I stuck to a ­limited palette: mostly pinks, reds, and ­turquoise. That keeps it stylish rather than on the wrong side of ­eccentric. I amped up the coziness with sheepskin and rugs.” …

An international lineup of unique wares is at your fingertips — it’s all a matter of knowing the right Airbnb hosts.

A hand holding up a decorated pottery bowl.
A hand holding up a decorated pottery bowl.

From an eight-person farm near Medellín where coffee is handpicked and sun dried to a kaftan-making workshop in Johannesburg, creative communities are reviving traditions and pushing boundaries all over the world. Read on to meet the makers, and spark your own creativity. As we become ever more reliant on digital devices, the simple act of unplugging and making something with your hands has become all the more restorative — and necessary.

MADE IN…Medellín

Coffee with Elizabeth Cruz and Esteban Monzon

From an icy New Year’s swim off of Coney Island, NY, to sled races through the Alps, these global celebrations are worth building a trip around.

Reporting by Abby Ellin, Alyssa Giacobbe, Cinnamon Janzer, Jared Linzon, Jen Murphy, Grant Rindner, and Yolanda Wikiel

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Swimmers test the icy waters at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. (Photograph by Thomas Prior)

Few people have a lukewarm reaction to cold weather. There are the ski bunnies who love it, and the snowbirds who flee it. Whichever camp you fall in, we bet these seven winter events will tempt you to switch allegiance: to new snow sports like black-diamond sledding and skijoring) — and to embrace the brisk thrill of adventures in the cold.

Try the Chilly Dip

Test your mettle along with 3,500 other intrepid swimmers in the frigid waters off New York City’s most famous beach. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, America’s oldest ­winter-bathing organization, has been taking cold-weather swims in the ­Atlantic every New Year’s Day since 1903. The club itself is so popular that it’s not currently accepting new members, but ­luckily its flagship event, the Polar Bear Plunge, is open to anyone willing to brave the winter waves. Participation is free, but the club encourages donations, which are used to support local nonprofits including the Coney Island History Project and Coney Island USA, an arts center that organizes the neighborhood’s beloved ­Mermaid Parade each summer. …

Indian settlers arrived 150 years ago. Generations later, their local culture is thriving — but their descendants can’t secure citizenship.

By Karan Mahajan
Photographs by Nick Sethi
Illustrations by Marian Bantjes

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In and around Nosy Be, an island that is the country’s prime tourist destination.

The western coast of the island nation of Madagascar is a nullity of scrub. Driving north in a 4x4, I passed acres of stunted bush, parched yellow grass, grazing cows, and tilting thatched huts. Then a curtain of orange fire, ten feet high, shimmered close to the car; other grass-guzzling dwarf fires blazed beyond. The countryside was burning. It had been burning for a hundred years. The dense lemur-filled forests of Madagascar — one of the poorest countries in the world — had been harvested for charcoal and slashed and burned for agriculture. …

For the 150-year-old Italian community in southern Brazil’s Serra Gaúcha mountains, wine is both a nod to the past and a promise for the future.

By Shannon G. Sims
Photographs by Rose Marie Cromwell

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Casa Valduga, one of several wineries run by the region’s prolific Valduga family.

Chintzy porcelain cats and angels populate a glass cabinet. Faded family photos and Catholic iconography dot the walls. It’s not my nonna’s home in Veneto, Italy, but it looks just like it. I’m actually in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil — a rural southern region where, if you blink, you are transported back to Italia.

The wood cabin lies off a road that winds up and down the low-topped, forest-covered Serra Gaúcha mountains, just north of the town of Bento Gonçalves. It belonged to Roberto ­Cainelli Jr.’s grandmother, and it remains just as it was when she and her sister lived here. Since her death in 2000, the only thing that’s changed is that everything has been labeled: The Cainelli home is now an Italian heritage museum. “We realized that a lot of people might be interested in seeing how the immigrants lived,” 30-year-old Cainelli explains, patting a mattress filled with dried corn husks. …

Follow novelist Gary Shteyngart on a mission to uncover the city’s best fried pizza, ribs and T-bones — and, of course, some donuts.

By Gary Shteyngart
Photographs by Micaiah Carter

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The view east from Vico D’Afflitto, one of the serpentine alleyways of Naples’s historic Quartieri Spagnoli.

Since I was a little kid weaned on various forms of sausage and The Godfather, my greatest passions have been food and tales of organized crime. I was born in Russia, a country that some regard as the apotheosis of a corrupt mafia state, and am also an unrepentant gourmand with heavy Italian leanings, a slave to oregano, basil, and mozzarella di bufala. So when a New York friend tells me that his cousin is a gastronomically obsessed undercover cop in Naples, I experience a mild heart attack of joy. After a few phone calls and with the help of Google Translate, “Tonino” (because he works undercover, I’ll call him by his nickname) agrees to take me on a personalized tour of his city, an unlikely combination of criminality, gastronomy, and history. …

Try these easy recipes — from expert Airbnb Experience hosts — for fresh pasta, Bolognese from scratch, and more.

Photographs by Rahel Weiss

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Hosts Lorenzo Manfrini (left) and Luca Brozzi.

Alright, so you can’t jet to Rome tonight, and you don’t have an Italian nonna to cook cherished family dishes for you? Well, we have the next best thing: a suite of easy-to-follow recipes from Italian Airbnb Experience hosts that’ll have you tucking into a plate of homemade pasta and fresh sauce in no time. ¡Buon appetito!

Luca Brozzi and Lorenzo Manfrini: Cooking Class in the Chianti Hills, Florence

Burned out by their jobs in the fashion industry, Luca Brozzi and Lorenzo Manfrini quit and became Airbnb Experience hosts — but the couple has never tired of pasta-making, a hobby each has had since their grandmothers first taught them as kids.“I would see my granny making different shapes, and it was like watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat,” says Manfrini. The best results come from kneading the dough “until you have a smooth consistency, like a baby’s bottom,” he notes. …

Wherever you go, a notebook is not only a lens into the world around you — it’s also a time machine to past versions of yourself.

By Kim Cross
Illustration by Olivia Waller

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On page 12 of a yellowing, leather-­bound notebook, a pen-and-ink drawing takes me back 21 years. Suddenly I’m lying inside a Paris hammam, a public steam bath inside a mosque, naked for the very first time in public and trying to memorize the lovely geometry of the patterned tile so that I could replicate it later on the page. Looking at the sketch now, I can still feel the steam on my skin. Any souvenirs I might have bought on that trip are long gone and forgotten. But my notebook endures.

My notebook has taken on many roles — a sketchbook filled with tone poems on landscapes, word portraits of memorable characters, and snippets of dialogue overheard on a train. It’s a scrapbook stuffed with museum ticket stubs, local beer labels, and national park stamps. It’s an address book, a planner, a book of days. …

Have you heard the one about life on the road? Comedian Tom Papa gets the last laugh by making the most of his busy travel schedule.

By Tom Papa
Illustration by Olivia Waller

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When I travel, I am a lone wolf. I am a comedian and a writer, which are two solo careers that keep me on the road. I don’t have backup singers or teammates coming along for the ride. There are no audiences coming to my living room and no book tours held in my kitchen. I must go to where the people are, which means that I must journey alone, through multiple time zones and across numerous sticky car rental counters far from home.

People assume that this solitary travel is a horrible aspect of what I do. But here’s a little secret — it’s one of the best parts. …

Bookstore owner Wendy Hudson created a restful and literary Airbnb space above her shop.

By Emily Hsieh
Photographs by Adrian Gaut

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Four years ago, Wendy Hudson, owner of Bookworks bookshop, decided to take her love of literature to the next level — literally. She added an upper floor, turned it into an apartment with a tome-filled library — thousands in all, including two favorites: The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer and The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill — and opened it up to overnight guests on Airbnb. The self-­proclaimed geek reader since childhood had spent decades scouring thrift stores for titles, and now her collection lines the library shelves in size order, with a few horizontal, objet-topped stacks stylishly interspersed. Framed quotes from authors such as Roald Dahl and Toni Morrison dot the walls, and visitors frequently take home a free advance copy or two. …

Airbnb Magazine Editors

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