He also hired Marin native Zio Ziegler to
paint wraparound graffiti at the entrance of
the hotel and filled each room with art from
students at the San Francisco Art Institute. “We
thought that art should be iconic and give you a
sense of the place,” Conley says, “so we typically
worked with local artists.” For three years, he
also hosted an art festival at the hotel, ArtPadSF,
co-founded with Maria Jenson, executive director of SOMArts Cultural Center.
It worked. The hotel quickly drew the
rock ’n’ roll crowd, from David Bowie to
Linda Ronstadt to Johnny Depp, and Conley
used the formula to create another 51 completely unique hotels.
“The Hotel Vitale in San Francisco, for
example, was Real Simple meets Dwell,” says
Conley. “Dwell was modern and urbane and
Real Simple was fresh, natural and nurturing.”
In design terms, this translated to lavender
sprigs in wood pallets at the door signage, as
well as natural woods and stone in the rooms.
It also meant soft blue patterns in the bedding
and blue-green carpet, all of which mimicked
the bay just outside the windows.
“What we found was that the people who fell
in love with the hotel were people who might
use those five adjectives to describe themselves,”
says Conley. “Literally, in the design and hab-
itat, we created something that helped guests
refresh the sense of who they were.”
Conley sold the company in 2010 and was
“sort of retired” when Airbnb approached him.
He had planned to move to Baja (where he has
a home), learn to surf and work on Fest300.
com, his website devoted to festivals, a passion
of Conley’s. A devoted Burner, he sits on Burning
Man’s board and helps fund some of the festival’s
art. “When Airbnb came to me, I said I’ll do 15
hours a week,” says Conley. “Within three weeks,
I realized it was going to be 15 hours a day.”
Conley’s job was huge: to teach Airbnb hosts
how to create “a great hospitality experience
for the guest.” Toward that end, he created
nine quality standards all hosts need to honor,
including accuracy (your photos should actually
show what the place looks like), communication
(follow up with your guests after they arrive),
cleanliness and amenities.
As part of the job, he also teaches a “
Hospitality Moments of Truth” class, both in webinars
and in person, around the world. Among his
nuggets? The five-five-five rule. “Stimulate your
guests’ five senses the first five minutes they
walk in the door, using the five adjectives you’d
REAL ESTATE DONE DIFFERENTLY