Tired of greyness: grey skies, grey décor, grey thinking? Well, here’s an antidote… check into one of these beauties: a pick-n-mix collection of airbnbs, hotels, motels and guest houses big on colour, clutter and self-expression. From Margate to Mexico, this is decorating anarchism: no rules, no limits and very little of what we accept as ‘taste’. I’ve only stayed in one of these crazy places (the Madonna Inn), but watch this space…

GREEN, GREEN GRASS OF HOME: Melbourne, Australia

The four hosts behind this bucolic Airbnb describe themselves as a Sanctuary Artist, a Data Magician, a Maker of Worlds and a Fairy Godmother. Together they have conjured up a Midsummer Night’s Dream of a place: lawn-like flooring, woodland walls, forest drapes – lots of foliage and trailing greenery, plus log stools, pebble cushions, cane chairs, clouds in the bedroom and strings of twinkling fairy lights. Realistically, it’s a one-bedroom apartment in a downtown multi-storey (with views of office blocks in Melbourne’s CBD) but the guest reviews are peppered with praise: magical, relaxing, stunning, they say, ‘like walking into a dream’.
Around £110 a night through airbnb.co.uk.

ALL THE GIRLS LOVE ALICE: Wonderland House, Brighton, UK

The word ‘themed’ in a room description often rings alarm bells, but Jacqueline Sinclair’s Wonderland House is a masterclass in how to tell a story through clever interior design. Her five-storey Regency property on Brighton’s seafront, recreates the essence of Alice’s adventures in a series of beautifully decorated spaces, all tastefully furnished with playful wallpapers, mirrors, teapot taps, teaspoon chandeliers, playing-card bunk beds, a Cheshire-cat window and the odd hare. Meanwhile, the Madhatter’s Banqueting room, pictured here, is all set for the classic tea party (the place is popular with hen parties). A self-confessed Lewis Carroll nerd, Jacqueline also offers a ‘Looking Glass Cottage’ (see details here).
With room for 24 guests, Wonderland House cost from £600 a night (2-night minimum).  

DESERT ROSE: Palm Springs, California

Named after co-owner, Brian Firkus’s drag queen persona Trixie Mattel, this desert motel is very Barbie, so camp, very Palm Springs and astonishingly pink (shades of candy and flamingo predominate, but there are accents of tangerine, sunshine and turquoise). When Brian and his partner David Silver came up with the idea, they more or less parked it as a ‘silly dream’ ­– until three years later, they found the perfect property. It has a delightfully pink pool area (palm trees and a retro Hollywood atmos) and eight stunning themed rooms, including a Queen of Hearts Room (pictured) and a Yeehaw Cowgirl Suite. Right up my street.
From $400 a night, via Trixie Motel (note: strictly adults only).
Photo courtesy of Visit Palm Springs.

PINK UP: ESSEX, UK

Enter the Pink House, otherwise known as Eaton House Studio, an ‘artistic private venue’ (a place for parties, photo shoots, celebrations etc). This is the ultimate Barbie space, and from the vibrant stucco exterior to the glitter ‘hall of dreams’ and the furry ‘angel baby room’ it’s very, very pink. I don’t quite know where to start with describing the place – the fluffy lounge (there is more than one), the disco kitchen (see above), all seven bedrooms and even the garden (main picture, above) is a banquet of fairy lights, florals, faux fur and fabulous pinkness.
It’s no longer listed on airbnb (but worth a look for the full gallery of images). Instead, book through Eaton House Studio.

WELCOME TO THE HOUSE OF FUN: Margate, UK

It’s called Big Bit (super-host owner, Polly, who lives above this ‘bonkers’ Margate holiday flat, used to have a shop downstairs called Little Bit). Her style of decorating is all about dots, stripes and colour-colour-colour, plus toys, ‘joy’, vivid prints and novelty lamps. Most of Big Bit’s delighted guests are families: children love the place – the rainbow living room, the polka-dot kitchen, the ‘secret’ den-bedroom (like crawling into a cloud). You also get a great location in the Old Town (an easy walk to the sea), comfy beds and a very good shower.
£120 a night, bookable through airbnb.

PSYCHEDELIC SHACK: Portland, Oregon

Oh, blimey. This really is over the top (in a good way). They call it the Bold Bungalow (formerly the House of Sarcasm) and it screams with colour and trippy artworK. If it was possible to tattoo a house, this is how it would look. The owners are artist-musician duo Christine and Charles Claringbold (also known as ‘the Bolds’ – can’t think why); he leads Portland rock band Dartgun & the Vignettes; she did the décor’s psychedelic murals (some of them glow in the dark). The house has two bedrooms (see above), a sunny back yard, a collection of mugs in a vivid yellow kitchen (pictured, top left), lots of recycled vinyl discs and a band room in the basement. The airbnb listing features 76 images – surely, a record.
Looks like the house is never available but try here if you fancy a stay.

SNAKE CHARMER: Naucalpan de Juárez, Mexico.

A sinuous live-in sculpture, Quetzalcoatl´s Nest is the work of Mexican architect Javier Senosiain. Inspired by an Aztec serpent god (it has a head and a tail), it’s set in rugged Naucalpan de Juárez, north of Mexico City, and looks like a science fiction fantasy (or something Isaac Asimov might have come up with after taking hallucigenic drugs). Inside, there are 10 apartments, including a five-bed, four-bath holiday home in the belly of the serpent. The rooms, linked by tunnels, are curvy but conventionally modernist; outside the creature rises from an other-worldly landscape of magical botanical gardens, lakes and natural caves. Take me there.
From £196 (2 nights) through Host Unusual.

FUN, FUN, FUN: Weymouth, Dorset, UK

For owner Tristan Scutt (founder of Little Nan’s Bar in London) this whacky seaside fun palace is a homage to his grandmother, her love of tat and his love of the Nineties (think pop idols, Eastenders’ Pat Butcher, Lady Di, smiley faces and the like). According to the Sunday Times, it’s the UK’s most OTT Airbnb. The raw material is an ordinary, three-bed post-war semi close to Weymouth’s beach; the décor is loud, crowded and crazy, but despite the exhausting distractions (cuddly toys, bears, dogs, tigers, leopard prints, fake foliage, neon lights, royal kitsch, sombreros, a singing lobster…), Little Nan’s Weymouth Holiday Home is big on home comforts (king beds, waterfall taps, induction hob, streaming platforms, sea views…). And where else would you find a ‘midnight feast bar area’ or a props cabinet for dressing up?
A 2-night stay cost from £937 through airbnb.

HOTEL CALIFORNIA: Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo, USA

The ‘world famous’ Madonna Inn first opened in 1958 with 12 rooms, all designed by the late Alex and Phyllis Madonna (this has nothing to do with virgins or the Material Girl). More rooms were added two years later and then, in 1966, it burnt down – paving the way for the eccentric, retro, Disney-esque roadside motel that we know today. On Highway 101, midway between LA and San Fran, the place is a confection of fairytale, Tudorbethan, Bedrock and Alpine chalet (more design chutzpah from Mrs Madonna). Step inside for over-powering florals, bling, copper, gilding, heavy velvets and 110 uniquely themed rooms. Choose from Daisy Mae (the theme is ‘rock’…floors, walls and ceiling… and the bathroom has a unique waterfall shower, picture 1), Caveman (animal prints, pond and stone-age clubs) or the Madonna Suite (the ‘true essence’ of the Inn – picture 2).  We stayed in cowboy-themed Yahoo (picture 3). It sure was different.
From £143 a night; for more info visit Host Unusual

SHE’S A RAINBOW: Forest of Dean, UK

Pottery artist Mary Rose Young (best known for her exuberant ceramic vases) doesn’t do quiet when it comes to décor. Her own home (featured in my book Kitsch Deluxe) is wall-to-wall hand-painted roses, stripes and splodges. And she’s given the same treatment to Pike House. Her four-bedroom rural ‘dream palace’ looks like a conventional stone-built cottage from the outside, but inside it’s a riot of rainbow colours… think lime green kitchen units, a shocking pink fireplace, turquoise radiators, no white, or grey. The chandelier (see above, picture 3) is a Mary Rose Young original.
£150 a night (minimum 4 nights) through airbnb.com.

Main picture, top: The Pink House (Essex). Left to right: The Bold House (Portland, Oregan), The Madonna Inn (California) and Little Nan’s Weymouth Holiday Home (Dorset). Below: The Madonna Inn’s California pool.

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