Photo: Plum Guide / Composite by VICE Staff

What Is Plum Guide, the Highly ~*~Aesthetic~*~ New Airbnb Competitor?

We explain the super-Instagrammable vacation rental platform, which accepts only 1 in 100 homes, and share 12 of the wildest-looking listings.
New York, US
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
April 7, 2021, 7:44pm

Spring has sprung with the promise of a vaccinated, cicada-raging, lumbersexual summer that finally (finally) has us down to plan a vacation with our Pfizer’d Fellowship. Yes, although the pandemic is far from over (especially in regards to resuming normal travel), some aspects of how we travel can start look something like, well, not care-free...but not holed up inside our apartments, crying to the new Fiona Apple and killing our at-home mushroom kits, à la March 2020. 

Indeed, “life finds a way.” We’ve wiped our tears, juiced our arms on Moderna et. al., and started thinking about waking up in a dome home in a faraway land that we had bookmarked on Airbnb or VRBO (that good ol’ pre-Airbnb site), and started planning le vacay—that is, until we locked eyes with an unexpected, homeshare dreamboat from across the bar: Plum Guide

So… what is Plum Guide?

New to Plum Guide? Well, so is everyone. Plum Guide is a new vacation rental platform that hopes to embody the elevated sense of curation of the Michelin Guide and apply it to homes, with the very inclusion of a house on the site serving as "a benchmark for quality." It’s similar to Airbnb in that it wants to provide options for lodging all around the world, but it strives to highlight only the most life-changing pads. Yes, there are some absolutely bananas, big stunnah escapes on Airbnb and VRBO, for sure. But we also have to sift through a bunch of those $38 a night, closet-for-bedroom rentals (no shade; we also need those) that are perhaps better suited for, say, your sojourn at the Men in Music Business Conference

What makes it different from other vacation rental sites?

As Airbnb has become increasingly popular, the reviews for popular rentals have become increasingly difficult to navigate; Plum Guide tries to remove the guesswork. According to Business Insider, only 1 in 100 properties that apply for the platform are accepted, with the vetting process including a visit from a "home critic" and a test that explores 150 different criteria. Think of Airbnb like Tinder, and Plum Guide like Hinge: it’s designed for a little more curated depth, and narrative. Which isn’t to say one supersedes the other, but they’re here for different needs; Plum Guide’s landing page greets us not with a “Where would you like to go?” but a ready to rumble, star-studded marquee of vacations in the most ~thrilling~ architectural pads in London, Paris, Milan or Copenhagen; New York, Barcelona, Porto, and more, and all with jazzy names and (so far, to our eyes) more affordable booking prices. Somehow, the site also price-matches everything as a matter of policy. Once again, for the babes in the back: More affordable booking prices than the *same* aesthetic listing you’ve been opening and closing on other rental sites for months.  

OK, but what’s the catch?

There’s no catch. There are no boner-deflating, hidden service fees that trigger our trauma from Ticketmaster's astronomical add-on “service” charges. The haus conductors at Plum Guide just want to get you, and everyone else who made your final cut for the commune, to chill out for a week in an architectural compound fit for you and your boo, or up to 10 or even 20 buds. Every listing is broken down by a veritable Meyers Briggs personality test, discussed honestly (pitfalls included, TBH), highlighted around its most memorable features, and vetted through what the Plum People call “The World’s Most Rigorous Home Test.” 

We wanted to see which homes jumped through those hoops the hardest, so here are 12 of the most *chef’s kiss* Plum Guide listings we could find for our vaccinated summer escape. 

Disco Daydream (Yucca Valley, CA)

To paraphrase Plum, this is “Studio 54 in the middle of the desert, reserved for disco Casanovas and sexy, curly chest haired hot tub rats only.” Bring eight of your friends, ten of your shiniest pants, and fight over who gets the bedroom with the purple shag beds. Roller skate on the terrace, whose fleet of recliners rivals that of the Hollywood Roosevelt rooftop pool. Make out with your crush (for the night) to the backdrop of the stunnah mountain view. Every corner of this palatial escape is like a slice of Dallas, mixed with that one pinnacle party scene moment from a 1980 cult movie. 

Current price: $638/night; sleeps up to 8


Book the listing on Plum Guide

Abstractionist (Joshua Tree, CA) 

Roll around the open floor plan of this sprawling, mid-century pad with your best buds, pausing only to jot down your various Joshua Tree epiphanies (a requirement) on the massive chalkboard wall, or to nibble from the charcuterie board by the firepit under the stars. This isn’t just a house. It’s a playpen, complete with a bocce ball courtyard, and an outdoor wooden sculpture (turned nesting nook) that looks like it time-traveled from Coachella, 2009 to hang out by your new hot tub—but the electric car charger in the garage reminds you it’s 2021, in the best of ways. 

Current price: $486/night; sleeps up to 4

Book the listing on Plum Guide

The Abracadabra Dome (San Bernadino County, CA) 

Turns out you can bottle the commune, or at least fit it in a dome. At first glance, this desert house looks like it rolled out of Midsommar with its quaint, shingled wood sides, plopped in the middle of 2.5 acres of serene dirt and cacti. Once you step inside the belly of the dome, the whole space opens up into a kind of minimalist Morrocan dream where the floor poufs abound, and fresh farm eggs and coffee are delivered right to your door. Your neighbor is the “Integratron” sound bath hub, for goddess’ sake. 

Current price: $492/night; sleeps up to 4

Book the listing on Plum Guide

Dripping in Gold (San Diego, CA)

Utopian pseudo-hippie modern architecture goons, prepare to drool. This house—nay, shell-like compound—is the sweet, summer child of two biiiig organic architecture pioneers: Kendrick Bangs Kellogg (see: the Onion House, the Lotus House) and James Hubbell, beloved for basically bringing Hobbit holes to San Diego. This is your Bilbo Baggins, bong in hand, slippies warmed, once-in-a-lifetime, ready to unwind at his SoCal pied-à-terre moment. Sip that adaptogenic cocktail under the stars, whilst the homies play the harp by the private pool, and you think, Life is pretty good in the beachside Shire. 

Current price: $7,983/night; sleeps up to 10


Book the listing on Plum Guide

Eclectic Feel (Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, NY) 

Built in 1899, this Brooklyn hovel is 1,000+ square feet (so, perhaps not so hovel-y) of exposed brick, vintage furnishings, and a leafy backyard (those snazzy Italian trees!) that looks like it should be in a rom-com of which you and yours, of course, are the main character. It’s an increasingly rare bit of artsy-fartsy, country-mouse, cottage-in-the-big-city energy, and it’s definitely ready to host one of your most memorable summer garden parties. 

Current price: $198/night; sleeps up to 2

Book the listing on Plum Guide

The Social Network (Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, NY)

Once you leave Joshua Tree with your clan, and decide it’s actually time to write the code for the utopian village of the future, you head here: This Bed-Stuy home is 2,600 square feet of WeWork energy (only, no Adam Neumann drama) for 20 people to brainstorm, play, and brainstorm again. The interiors (seven bedrooms, y’all) are fresh and bright, and the outdoor space has a bunch of different chill zones for when your start-up cliques begin to form and plot against one another. We love this reality TV show. 

Current price: $1,600/night; sleeps up to 20 (yes, seriously, 20)

Book the listing on Plum Guide

Work of Art (Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY)

Pensively sip your drip coffee, while staring out the windows of this white-painted, exposed brick apartment. It’s very curated and airy (aided by the fact that it’s right by the East River waterfront) and kind of feels like waking up in the gift shop at The Whitney, only this is all your stuff, and you get to have sex here, on this bed in the middle of the room. Host a vibey little cocktail night, and impress thine friends who actually live in New York with your perfect New York apartment. 

Current price: $437/night; sleeps up to 2


Book the listing on Plum Guide

Hitchbrook (Hudson Valley area, Connecticut; sleeps up to 6) 

Headed upstate? Hitchbrook is a 220-year-old home with all of the rustic, pastoral charm you crave after watching rats duke it out over half a bagel on the subway platform. With its green garden and cozy hearth, this is the perfect haven for a faux-aristocratic weekend away, a haven for campy Heathers polo matches or Royal Tenenbaums family drama (hopefully minus the pseudo-incest). 

Current price: $458/night; sleeps up to 6

Book the listing on Plum Guide

Orchid White (West Palm Beach, Florida)

Looking for a 1920s Spanish villa estate that sleeps your entire local polyamorous community? No problem—Orchid White is the spot for you. For real though, this is a compound—there's a main house, a studio space, two one-bedroom apartments, and so much more, including a fountain, tons of outdoor lounge areas for sipping mojitos and smoking Cubans, a Wurlitzer for trying to play “A Thousand Miles” after all of those mojitos, and several velvet sofas for collapsing on for a nap at any time of day. There are so many beds we can't keep track—and five of them are king-sized. It seems impossible not to relax in these Millennial-white-walls-meet-90s-Miami-glam surroundings. 

Current price: $1,473/night; sleeps up to 16

Book the listing on Plum Guide

Ranch House Plus (Bend, Oregon) 

Are you the Patagonia-fleece-wearin', flat-white-sippin', Pacific Northwest outdoorsy type who also craves a bit of [snaps fingers] luuuuxury? This five-bedroom house with a mega-sized bathtub, fire pit, and shuffleboard table just might be the spot for you and your crunchy-bougie clan. It's part of the Brasada Ranch Resort, so you can also traipse off to the golf course, local rock climbing and skiing, huge swimming pool with hot tub, and more. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere, but who doesn't love kicking back in a spa with a glass of Chardonnay, far, far away from traffic, crowds, and worries?

Current price: $1,829/night; sleeps up to 12


Book the listing on Plum Guide

Real Groove (Alpes-Maritimes, France)

It’s very James Bond meets Princess Diaries meets hermetic alpine monk to say, “I’m just going to get away for a while,” and jet off to a 17th-century cliffside paradise on the French Riviera. This is where we’re meant to be, in a sexy vaxxed world; Perched in les Antibes with dramatic, red doors to swing open whilst the Moka pot bubbles over, the Ricard chills in the fridge, and you lock eyes with a dolphin below. We’ve been waiting for you, it says, Have you seen my Gauloises? 

Current price: $759/night; sleeps up to 6

Book the listing on Plum Guide 

Country Honey (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire)

Casting spells along the banks of the River Windrush, hiking the Cotswolds, and staring wistfully over the 1,000-year-old Sudeley Castle with your lover? Yes. Make the Kate Bush playlist. Bring the cauldron, the wellies, and some reads from your esoteric library. This is the moody-romantic-pastoral cottage escape we’ve been dreaming of during lockdown, and its slightly triangular shape sweeps us off our feet (and just look at the interiors; tell me that four-poster bed wasn’t carved by a unicorn).  

Current price: $181/night; sleeps up to 2

Book the listing on Plum Guide

‘Tis just the beginning, of course—who knows what else is coming this way on the platform. Check out more ripe, highly aesthetic pads thisaway on Plum Guide’s website.

Your faithful VICE editors independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. We may receive a small commission if you buy through the links on our site.