Parallel Travel Joule

Designing Travel Accommodations With Parallel


New to the hospitality scene is Parallel, a travel-accommodations brand that professionally manages and designs vacation rentals around the country. Parallel taps into local markets by hiring local interior designers to design their properties with local designs from artists, home decor and furniture suppliers. This way, travelers can have an authentic stay, getting to know a city through local design.

The team at Parallel has shared their dedication to rebuilding design standards for a travel brand, their deep ties to local design communities, and their passion for storytelling through the expertise of local designers.

How is Parallel Travel different from other accommodations brands?

One of the mantras around the Parallel office is: “Who ever wrote the rule that…?” It’s a line from Danny Meyer, a master of hospitality and one of New York’s top restaurateurs, that says you shouldn’t inherit the way things have been done. You should create fresh ideas, new contexts, and novel experiences for consumers. That’s what we are setting out to do with travel accommodations, and that’s precisely why we have local designers in every market design each unit we have. It’s a new way to build design standards for a travel brand, and it’s a new way for travelers to interact with cities – through curated design from true locals.

Also, all of our properties are hand-picked by our real estate team and come with the comforts of home, like fully furnished kitchens, so life isn’t interrupted on the road. They are all dedicated vacation-rental units, so you’re not spending the weekend in someone else’s residence, making you feel like you need to walk on eggshells. We also brought all management in-house. This means the quality of your experience isn’t determined by a single host, but rather a dedicated team of field-ops agents, customer service reps, and in-market cleaners. These operational decisions allow us to provide our guests amazing end-to-end experiences.

Finally, we truly want to have local impact in the communities we operate in. These cities have opened their arms to us, and to thank them in kind, we donate a percentage of revenue from every single guest stay to charity. We believe travel should have an impact for everyone involved.

Parallel Travel Belltown

Photo by Chad Savaikie, Designed by Andrea Bushdorf of Inner Space Designs 

What does the name mean?

A lot of thought went into this name, which was important for us — to have a defined sense of brand early on. Parallel is a reference to the latitude lines that run east-west around the globe. It’s an invisible thread that connects people in communities, and connection is important to us. Also, local impact is so important to us, and the notion of our guests being impacted by travel, while our communities are impacted in parallel, is a powerful one. Finally, the three L’s in the word represent the three pillars of the Parallel experience: the travelers, the spaces, and the cities we’re in. We want to make sure we are doing good by all three.

Parallel Travel Bedrooms

Photo by Chad Savaikie, Designed by Alison Wilkinson of Wilk Design Workship

How does Parallel leverage local design to establish Parallel in the travel-accommodations industry?

Local design is a fundamental part of our brand and guest experience. We want each property to have its own unique vibe, character, and story, and there’s no better way to do that than to have an individual designer with creative autonomy take on each unit. We also look to our designers to be city liaisons of sorts. We look to them to tell the story of their town to our guests through original design. Finally, we view our designers as partners, not just contractors. We’ve had designers go back in and update units or add new pieces when new inspiration hits – it makes the units these living things that evolve over time, not just static spaces. It also allows for our portfolio of properties to be dynamic in ways that others aren’t.

Parallel Travel Crest At Millenia

Photo by Rickie Agapito, Designed by Jessica Neal of Unite Design Co.

Parallel is headquartered in San Francisco – how does the innovative energy of the local city affect the Parallel brand?

The climate of our location has a big impact on who we are and how we operate. Innovation is at the core of our business, and we think it necessarily has to be. The travel space is changing massively, going from siloed hotels with very singular identities to distributed, diverse inventories of inspiring accommodations — and we are trying to solve that challenge by bringing interesting technology and rich data to this space. We see the potential for some some seriously magical moments when you infuse authentic experiences — locally designed units backed by a network of creatives and travel enthusiasts — with tech and data. We want to restore the richness of travel —  that dialogue and exchange of ideas and cultures — and use technology to facilitate those experiences.

Parallel Travel Crest At Millenia

Photo by Rickie Agapito, Designed by Jessica Neal of Unite Design Co.

Each Parallel property is designed by a local interior designer – how do you source your designers?

We use some of the expected routes, like Houzz and design schools, but as our network continues to grow, we’ve been able to get great referrals through our designers. And we think that’s the exciting part of what we’re doing here: creating an amazing community of creatives and artists around the country, and ultimately around the globe, who can connect and collaborate.

Parallel Travel Bedroom

Photo by Katie Storey, Designed by Doug Thompson

What guidelines do you provide your designers to complete a Parallel space?

I think that’s another part of the magic and fun of what we’re doing: we pretty much don’t give them any guidelines. We have a few light parameters – create an experience that feels authentic to your city and no cheesy word art, haha – otherwise, we really want our designers to have creative freedom. In fact, it’s important they do. We purposefully don’t want any two units to look alike. Plus, there are no better storytellers than our designers who know their cities so well and have such amazing vision, so we’re really looking to them to tell us what’s so special about a place.

Parallel Travel Joule

Photo by Chad Savaikie, Designed by Alison Wilkinson of Wilk Design Workship

Based on their designs, what are some go-to vendors your designers are using to furnish a space?

We encourage our designers to shop local. We think it’s important for the communities we operate in, and we think it’s important for creating original and authentic travel experiences.

We actually have a designer in Nashville who makes his own furniture, and he outfitted his unit with all original pieces. We were blown away. That’s the sort of creativity we want to celebrate. This is your canvas, your medium to express yourself and do amazing work. And to that end, Parallel buys all of the big-ticket essentials for spaces: TVs, kitchen supplies, linens, etc., so the designers can focus the budgets we give them on the fun stuff.

Parallel Travel Bedroom

Photo by Rickie Agapito, Designed by Nicole Belle – The House Healer and Jessica Neal of Unite Design Co.

What’s the demographic of the Parallel traveler?

We never had a defined demographic going into the creation of this brand — well, not a traditional target demographic.  But our goal, from day one, was always to create amazing accommodations that everyone can enjoy. And I know that sounds a bit hokey, but it’s true. We want families to be able to cook meals together in our kitchens. We want business travelers to feel like they’ve got an office on the road. We want friends to share a bottle of wine in our living rooms. One of our driving mission statements from day one: we are creating spaces to empower others to create.

Parallel Travel Joule

Photo by Chad Savaikie, Designed by Alison Wilkinson of Wilk Design Workship

How have your Parallel travelers been responding to your unique accommodations?

The response has been been amazing. We’ve received so many positive comments about how amazing the decor and furnishings are. We are very young as a brand, but we already have repeat customers, which we did not expect so soon.

Parallel Travel Living Room

Photo by Chad Savaikie, Designed by Joy Rondello of J+Studios

In your opinion, what’s the most essential element to a Parallel listing?

The unexpected ones. Going back to intentionally not being prescriptive with design guidelines, we made that choice because we want to be surprised by the magic that happens when designers are free to create. One of our most-booked units has one of our boldest statement pieces, a technicolor painting of Abraham Lincoln, which we would never have thought to put in a unit. We also have a designer in Nashville who makes his own furniture, which has allowed us to put pieces in an apartment we would literally never be able to. It demonstrates how much people crave things that are new and different and unexpected. And that’s what travel should be about: new, different, unexpected experiences — those unpredictable moments of serendipity.

Parallel Travel Abraham Lincoln

Photo by Thomas Morgan, Designed by Anne Rue of Anne Rue Interiors

What’s Parallel’s focus for 2017?

Continue to double down on our brand vision and deliver special experiences for our guests. We have an amazing lineup of ideas to make our guests’ stays that much more enjoyable, and we can’t wait to roll them out. It also means growing the number of designers in our network. We are always looking for creative, fun people to help build out these experiences. Ultimately, we want to let our brand evolve and grow organically, as we’ve seen a lot of success with that approach, and we think there is a lot more magic to unlock here. Travel is about serendipity, so why get in the way of it?

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