Back in May, I received an unusual offer. Would I like to swap my 1,000-square-foot Brooklyn condo for a cinematographer’s three-bedroom townhouse in Paris’s fashionable Marais district? The answer came quickly: yes, of course.
So off I flew from Paris to New York for an impromptu sabbatical of two months in the city of love, all with the help of Behomm. Described as the first home exchange community for creatives and design lovers, when the opportunity to stay in a well-designed house for virtually no cost (I only continued to pay my mortgage and bills) presented itself, I instantly dropped all my plans and left.
When I arrived at my exchange, checking in was simple: I grabbed the keys from a lock box and was welcomed to a bottle of chilled French wine waiting for me in the foyer. The townhouse looked like something from an Architectural Digest profile, spotless and meticulously designed, with each accent piece and artwork handpicked to complement the room’s style. (As for the home’s more personalised offerings, I particularly enjoyed browsing through the numerous French screenplays and films—an unexpected bonus for swapping with someone working in my industry.)
Behomm was founded in 2013 by graphic designers Eva Calduch and Agust Juste, after the couple struggled to find like-minded peers on other home exchange platforms. “We thought, why don’t we just link creatives together to exchange homes because we have so many things in common,” says Calduch. The concept being that when members share a similar passion for tasteful objects, it becomes easier to match.
“If you love to travel, then the app can be very addictive. Someone might message you at any point, offering a beautiful home in a city you were never interested in or never heard of, and then suddenly you’re booking a flight there,” said Khaled Abbas, the founder of an advertising company in Barcelona. Abbas and his wife have been Behomm members since 2021 and have done five exchanges. “Even before we did our first exchange, it still felt like a privilege to be accepted as a member,” he said.
Of the homes that are submitted to Behomm, only 20 to 30 percent are approved. In order to make the cut, homes must be beautifully designed and potential members must receive an invitation from another member to apply. There’s also the option to apply for an invitation from Behomm itself. “The invites are to avoid anonymous registrations and keep connections authentic,” says Calduch, who reviews and selects the homes herself. She approves homes not based on luxury, or size and location, but instead, their beauty. “The concept of beauty is really subjective. A tiny apartment with second-hand furniture can be nicer than a mansion filled with taxidermy,” says Cadulch. Those who are accepted must pay an annual 380€ membership fee to join the platform.
A quick glance at Behomm’s Instagram account reveals thoughtfully-curated homes of different sizes and styles in cities all across the world—although the spaces featured on the platform’s social media account are the only look inside non-members have into those that are available. Becoming a member means adhering to a strict set of rules: including no screenshotting on the app, taking or posting photos of another member’s house, or using an exchange space for commercial purposes like photoshoots and filming. “That’s the pro of making Behomm a private club. Your house isn’t accessible to everyone,” says Calduch.
Similar to Raya, the private, membership-based dating app, or even a members-only social club like Soho House, Behomm isn’t for everyone—but that exclusivity isn’t personal. “That’s really the worst part for us,” says Cadulch of having to turn applicants away. For those within Behomm’s inner circle, however, that’s the attraction. “What drew us to the app is that homes fit a certain standard and you also get to connect with similar people who have similar interests and work in similar fields as you,” said Abbas. Unlike other accommodation platforms, Behomm doesn’t run on a points system (HomeExchange) or add on service and cleaning fees (Airbnb). There’s also an unspoken obligation to treat a home with care and respect when your home is involved in the agreement and camaraderie is driving the connection. Since launching 10 years ago, there hasn’t been an instance of robbery reported during a Behomm exchange.
In addition to house swapping, Behomm offers its members to host and hold coffee meets. The “Hospitality” badge indicates a member is open to hosting other members while they’re also at home and the “Have A Coffee” badge indicates a member is open to meeting up with other members who are visiting their city. “We’ve heard stories of members spending the entire day together over sleeping over for a couple of days,” says Calduch. “That’s why we think of Behomm as a community. It’s not just about saving money.”
Of course, the platform works best for people with mobility—remote workers, company owners, or retired travelers. But families with children and pet owners still find matches with ease. Indeed, Behomm is the only home exchange platform that allows its members to filter their search based on family size and age groups.
As far as my own experience of the service? Since becoming a member, I’ve been able to build a community with other writers and design lovers in Paris—a feat that wouldn’t have been as simple without the platform. I also got to stay in a neighbourhood that I typically would overlook, and a home that I probably would not be able to afford. Ultimately, using Behomm for my Paris visit made me feel more like a local than a tourist, offering me an experience that felt genuinely personal and intimate.
I’ve also become more of a spontaneous traveler than I ever imagined I would be, now that affordability is factored in. This spring, I’ll spend two weeks between Lisbon and Porto, two cities I’ve been hoping to visit for years. Next July, I’m planning to spend a week in a three-story townhouse in the heart of Copenhagen. And I’m currently in conversation about doing a second exchange in Paris for the 2024 Olympics. With over 3000 homes at my fingertips, the possibilities are truly endless.
This story was originally published on Vogue.com.