Let’s Not Kid Ourselves, Home Sharing (Or Pop-Ups For That Matter) Aren’t Anything New

November 21, 2019 | Author: Meggen Taylor

Stay Ether - Ancient Rome

As a consumer, nothing is more annoying than a brand trying to claim to be innovative when at the end of the day they aren’t. Take home sharing for instance. Every culture and religion for example has a history of welcoming guests into peoples’ homes.

There isn’t anything new here, folks. The concept of lodging, properties offering guests hospitality, shared homes, boarding houses, and room rentals have literally been around since biblical times. Even Jesus was born in a temporary overnight accommodation i.e. a manger.

Looking back on the history of hotels, thermal baths were developed by the Greeks in villages to provide rest and recuperation. To provide private accommodations for travelers on government business, the Romans built mansions and then went on to develop thermal baths in Switzerland, England, and the Middle East.

After that, caravanserais popped up and provided caravans a resting place along Middle Eastern routes. During the Middle Ages, abbeys and monasteries became the first establishments to regularly offer refuge to travelers. From there, to cater to those on the move, religious orders built inns, hospitals, and hospices.

Stay Ether - Egypt

Even co-living, which seems to be all of the rage in cities like New York City and San Francisco where real estate prices are sky high, isn’t new. In the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries boarding houses served as a place where new residents, seasonal and traveling workers, military, and others could get their bearings while adjusting to a new place while simultaneously tapping into potential support networks of similar, likeminded travelers.

Wendy Gamber, a history professor from Indiana University estimated in her book, The Boarding House in Nineteenth-Century America, that “between one third and one half of nineteenth-century urban residents either took in boarders or were boarders themselves.” While many people associate co-living and boarding houses with women, in 1950 the Academy of American Poets noted in their brochure that boarding houses were where both Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe often hung their hats.

Another concept that is equally as old as home sharing is pop-ups. One of the earliest retail pop-ups was made up of caravans and traveling merchants who would regularly move their temporary markets to locations across Europe bringing exotic goods like fashion, spices, textiles, and other unique products to sell with them.

Stay Ether - Harvest

Pop-up markets have historically allowed part-time entrepreneurs and seasonal merchants around the world with the ability to sell anything from clothing, housewares, fresh seafood, local produce, and more. Flea markets, farmer’s markets, carnivals and the like have provided a relatively low-cost way to visit and rent space in regions while introducing new products and innovations to consumers.

There are also seasonally based markets like Christmas markets that popped up in the late Middle Ages and in parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Some believe that the precursor to Christmas markets were Vienna’s Dezembermarkt (December Market), dating back to around 1296. 

Eventually, winter markets aka “Wintermärkte” began to pop up all of over Europe where, over time, local families would set up booths and sell items like woodcarvings, baskets, roasted chestnuts, and gingerbread as Christmas gifts. It was these winter markets that eventually became known as Christmas markets—the earliest of which are claimed to be from Germany. Munich’s goes back to 1310, Bautzen’s to 1384, and Frankfort to 1393. Today, most towns across German-speaking world still have an annual Christmas market.

Stay Ether - Winter Wonderland

The more modern iterations of pop-ups are mobile installations or pop-ups on wheels or in tiny houses, as well as festivals, concerts, craft shows, events like Fashion Weeks, and even pop-up hotels. If you really think about it, with the exception of technology, there aren’t that many new ideas in the marketplace. Rather concepts ebb and flow back into popularity, similar to fashion and other design based mediums that come and go with changing tastes, consumer demands, and economics.

So there you have it—a brief history of home sharing and pop-ups. Alternative accommodations, ventures in the shared economy, and pop-ups of all kinds aren’t new. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.  At the end of the day, what we are seeing in today’s market are fresh takes on ideas that have been around forever. It’s all in the marketing—which is never a bad thing. New spins on tried and true classics are one of the things that make a great brand after all.