Chicago: Oliver’s Airbnb Story

“Before Airbnb, I didn’t realize how much of a Chicagoan I am!” says Oliver Aguilar, 48, an interior designer and host in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. “I’ve always kept myself updated with what’s going on locally just for my own enjoyment, but now I’ve really become an ambassador to Chicago for travelers from everywhere.”

Chicago-Host-Photos_Chicago_Dilts_20160509_3211_RET Oliver started hosting last summer, after a friend suggested that home-sharing guests would love to stay in his eclectic, cozy, art-filled home. “I had been wanting to see more of the world, but didn’t know how best to do that,” Oliver says. “Plus I wanted to make some extra income, so Airbnb was like a match made in heaven. Now the world comes to my door—I’m hosting people from six continents already this year! And I’m making enough extra money to buy the artwork I’ve always wanted, to update the front yard, and—most importantly—to give me some breathing room as I explore how to start and build up my own interior design company. It’s really a livelihood. I owe Airbnb a big thank you.”

After living in downtown Chicago for many years, Oliver feels Uptown provides a pleasant contrast. “For me, Uptown and many of the surrounding areas are what Chicago is all about: real people, neighborhood living—it’s a true melting pot.” Oliver says he loves promoting his favorite local businesses to his guests (“Just tell the chef Oliver sent you!” he says), and stocks his guest rooms with fresh flowers, coffee and tea, soaps, and other amenities direct from local shops. “Buying from these small businesses enriches guests’ Uptown experience,” he says. “So guests benefit, I benefit, local businesses benefit! I really think it’s a win-win.”

Chicago-Host-Photos_Chicago_Dilts_20160509_3648_RET Oliver says he doesn’t just have tables and chairs in his home—every piece of furniture, every artwork, every object carries a meaningful story with it. He believes his guests can feel that. “I have a great sense of connection with my guests,” he says. “They don’t want the typical tourist experience, and I love sharing with them the exceptional things about my home and my neighborhood. I love showing them a different side of Chicago than they expected.”

“That’s what Airbnb has come to mean to me,” he says. “An honest experience; a genuine experience.”