Charleston's AirBnBs

Renae Brabham

Airbnbs are popping up everywhere. We are just a click away from renting a room with a pull-out bed, garbage can and a bottle opener for $30 bucks a night, or we can splurge for a luxurious tree house on an alpaca farm in Atlanta. The listings range from those that encourage interactions with guests and hosts - even with shared bathrooms - to the opposite spectrum; total privacy and pampering. Then there's the "I just need a place to lay my head while I'm in town" place at a fraction of a hotel price. With all of this flexibility, one thing is for sure — you can pretty much find something that will accommodate your cost and social comfort.  

With a few days off, my hubby Don and I decided to search out some AirBNB's in Charleston.  I found one that was just a creek or two away from Folly Beach that sounded like it was right up our alley. Don was a little skeptical at first, he's never been a bed and breakfast kind of fella, so Airbnb just sounded like more of the same. But — I reeled him in with a few of the amenities: private entrance, separate complete floor, steam room, dock fishing, indoor pool, outdoor shower, goats, and chickens.

The Red Grotto was perfect for us. Think "Old Folly" meets "New Folly." Back in the 70's there were a lot of Folly shack rentals that provided all the basic necessities but lacked curb appeal. They smelled like cigarettes, salt, coconut oil, and cedar. The refrigerators kept beer lukewarm at best but provided lifelong memories that I still hold dear. My lifelong friend and I stayed a week in Folly in the 70's before the dock was torn down. Suntans (or burns), a bathtub full of Purple Jesus, and sunsets from marmalade skies all set the tone for a magical summer. 

After checking out the reviews and doing a little Google research for the address, we chose this eclectic sounding Airbnb on Folly. When we pulled into the cul-de-sac, I had to laugh. The "Old Folly" part was sitting right in front of the house, a 1988 Fleetwood Brougham Limousine.  The owner, Chad Reynolds, told me "I bought it off of Craigslist a few years ago for trips to events such as The Masters and Heritage golf tournaments, Aiken Steeplechase, concerts, etc.  The engine got swamped during Hurricane Irma and now it serves as a parking beacon for my Airbnb guests." 

When we walked into the bottom floor flat, I heard the pitter-patter of dog feet upstairs. Ellie, the English Setter, and Pearson, the Labrador, were waiting patiently for their master to come home. We went upstairs with Chad's approval to see them and brought them down with us for a few minutes. 

What the house may lack in curb appeal (if you aren't from Folly) it makes up in amenities. Fireplace (usable), king-sized bed, books, hardwood floors - most of it reclaimed. I asked Chad if he designed the space. "I did,  hardwood on the bar top were old joists from a school in downtown Charleston at the old Buist Academy. I brought some of my guys in on the weekends and loaded up my trailer with the wood. I used most of it at The Barrel back in 2014, but I had just enough left over to do the bar top in the Red Grotto. The columns and beams in the kitchen came from an old plantation house that my dad bought out of state, disassembled, and rebuilt in Aiken."

The "New Folly" infusion included all new appliances; an awesome gas range complete with a perfectly seasoned iron skillet sitting on top, dishwasher, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. I walked to the bathroom to check out the steam room shower. Y'all, if we could have stayed in this the entire weekend we would have. It was huge and frigging amazing!  The beautiful glass enclosure housed double seated and tiled loungers, wall controlled ambience, music, temperature controls and dual shower heads. But if that's not cool enough, there is even an outdoor shower to boot!! 

On the counter was a welcome note with a gift card from Chad to The Barrel, a craft beer joint he owns that is a short evening stroll away. Chad also co-founded and co-owns a brewery in West Ashley called "Charles Towne Fermentory."  

After unpacking a few bags, I went outside to fulfil my offer to feed Chad's goats and chickens while he was away for the day. We have chickens at home so I'm familiar with their routine, but the goats let me know immediately who was boss of their casa. Will Bob and PYG (Pretty Young Goat) are brothers and have some awesome digs. Their two-story chicken/goat hotel sits on the salty, winding creek and has awesome, unobstructed sunrise and sunset views. As I walked up to the gate and opened it to go into the chicken house to get the feed, I was bull-rushed by Will Bob who immediately headbutted the hanging chicken feeder and emptied the contents onto the coop floor. Have you ever tried to pry a goat away from food? Nope, it's not happening. Goats 1- Renae -0. 

Afterwards, we fished all day, not really thinking of doing so, it was just so relaxing and the fish were biting like crazy. We decided to stay in that night and ordered a pizza. The next day started with tea and coffee as we watched a cool morning sunrise on the floating dock and then more fishing, steam showering and naps. We had dinner at Folly Crab Shack and hurried back to the dock for the sunset and wine. Next day, and next, rinse, steam, repeat. We had no desire to leave the marsh tributary. When we gathered up our things and left on the last day I felt extremely satisfied with our first Charleston Airbnb experience. 

Did you know that there are over 300 Airbnb listings in Charleston alone? Just a decade in from its humble air mattress, sub-letting beginnings in San Francisco, the company is valued today at over $1.3 billion.  Airbnb was started by two rent poor innovators who sub-let air mattresses on the floor of their San Francisco apartment in 2007. Fast forward to 2018 — anyone, anywhere in the world, can list spare space on the website and rent it out to wayfaring travelers. To date, the company has had more than 10 million nights booked in more than 19,000 cities in 192 countries, mostly in Europe. It is now so popular that every two seconds someone books an Airbnb room. 

I recently read in Forbes magazine that the company is testing the "experiences" trend as well. With everyone jumping on the bandwagon, there is sure to be a hiccup here and there. Although I have had several truly incredible stays in several states, I had a terrible rental recently in NC.  I reported the room provider to Airbnb who assure me that they are taking care of the situation. It hasn't deterred me. I have several trips coming up and have booked stays with more Airbnbs for those. It will be interesting to see how Charleston handles the influx of more tourism from the readily available homes when hotels and home rentals are booked up, but for now, I'm on board.