It’s about starting off with a handshake and ending with a hug. The dance of strangers getting to know one another in an intimate setting. That’s what appeals most to Shell about opening her home to travelers from around the world. The conversations in this evolutionary process are endlessly fascinating to her. That and the gifts.
“The Belgians always bring the best chocolate, the Dutch stroop waffles and the Brits my favorite design mags. I’d like to keep that coming!”
Running a co-living/co-working space has been a natural progression from lifestyle to career for Shell; she’s always lived that way. New York can be a very lonely and isolating city, so living communally is a happier, more connected living choice. She’s just found a way to mould it into a more structured arrangement in order for her - and everyone else - to get more out of it.
Something of a jack-of-all-trades, Shell has been making things work since her first job: a paper route when she was 13. A year into the job, she took on a double route and brought her brother on board as a helper - a move which seems to have set the tone for her career path, which has spanned a number of industries, from fashion to car sales to real estate.
As a freelance real estate agent, Shell loved the process of matching her clients with spaces that manifested how they wanted to live - she had a knack for it. But as she started renting out rooms in her home on Airbnb, she found it: her dream.
“I was greeting guests from around the world in the morning, sewing cushions, building tables and upholstering furniture in my studio during the day, and hosting dinner parties at night.”
A residency like Shell’s Loft inspires a special brand of friendship. You’re able to ask questions and talk about things that you wouldn’t normally mention to someone you’d newly met in a different setting. By the end of week one you know things about the other person that you would never otherwise have known. By week three, you’ve built an extraordinary sense of trust, are sharing food and have figured out their sense of humor. You probably even have inside jokes.
“The people I think I’ve got figured out surprise me. Just when I think I have nothing more to give. I’ve done this a million times now. Someone gets under your skin; they move you with their kindness or their humor and I find myself missing them before they’ve gone. Although I’d never say it to them directly. I usually just threaten to hide their passport before they leave. I figure they get the hint from that.”