Linking believers in beauty

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Do you remember yourself drawing the perfect house, back when you were six? Mine had blue doors, two windows with half-open curtains and without exception a flower in one of them. And always, a smoke coming from the chimney. I didn’t know how to draw a dog so it remained imaginary. When I handed a sheet of paper and a pencil each to graphic designers Eva Calduch and Agust Juste (co-founders of “Behomm”, a wonderful and creative home exchange project) they looked a bit confused. But believe it or not, in two minutes they came up with two very similar images – an old Catalan country house. As they explained it later, a big space and a giant table means sharing: your personality, your vibes, your home. We talked to Eva and Agust about the idea of finding the perfect match in everything you do and their own expression of that.

- What color exterior walls would your perfect home have?

Agust: White.

Eva: White.

- What about the windows?

Agust: Big ones.

Eva: Huge!

- And the view through those windows?

Eva: It’s nature.

Agust: Yes, I like living in the city, but I imagine my dream house surrounded by a natural landscape.

- What’s the first object you’d see once you entered the house?

Eva: Big, pure, clean space with light.

Agust: Yes, nothing baroque.

- How many people would usually be having dinner there?

Eva: At least eight.

August: We are in love with the concept of a big Catalan family. There is never too much laughter and good emotions.

- What do you see yourself doing on the terrace?

Eva and August: The most important thing is a big round table. It’s a symbol of gathering, people, and sharing.

- Where is your perfect home?

Eva: Longing for the sea is something that comes from my roots. My house is placed just in front of the sea, just like my childhood house.

Agust: Mountains are the perfect landscape.

- Is searching for that perfect house what inspired you to initiate the Behomm project?

Eva: Not really, the project came along sort of for personal reasons, we simply needed it.

- Tell me more!

Eva: We love traveling. It’s been our passion as long as we can remember. We love discoveries, new experiences, cultures, meeting new people. We’ve learned in time that this is really the main thing in life. Cities, events, cuisine — all that you get from traveling. But there is no way to really experience all of it unless you connect with the locals. We realized that we wanted to be experiencers, not tourists. And then the whole issue came about. It was more difficult to find people like us to click with than we’d thought. We started thinking how to find and connect similar personalities: creators, initiators, lovers of life all over the world. And then we found the house of an amazing architect on the Balearic Islands. That was when the exchange idea arrived. We realized we had to look for personalities, not for houses.

- So what is Behomm?

Agust: Behomm is a platform for home exchanges. You travel to stay in another person’s house for free while they come to stay at yours. But that’s just the idea in brief. Behomm stands out from the crowd of generic exchange sites by focusing on just designers and visual artists. We encourage the creation of a community of visual artists and creators, sharing their ideas, and of course their homes. One should note that by ‘homes’ we don’t necessarily mean castles or architectural masterpieces. The soul of a home, as well as the soul of the owner, is what makes it interesting.

- Is it the home that represents the personality?

Eva: Definitely. After all these numerous exchanges we are convinced that we build our homes similar to ourselves. The colors, the little things on the shelves, our books, our music, the magnets on our fridge… Piece by piece your story gets built here. And then it becomes your shelter, your comfort zone, a place without reservations. And once you enter someone’s private zone of this sort, you naturally get to know a bit of their personality, maybe even without knowing the owner personally.

- But then there is the factor of getting to know the person as well. After all, people are the ones building and developing the relationships, not the houses, right?

Eva: Indeed! That’s why we always aim to meet the real people before starting the exchange. Every time we travel through Behomm (and that’s actually the only way we travel now), we aim to spend at least a few hours, ideally a day, with the exchanger. And it had been an amazing experience so far! Thanks to the time spent together, we got to know a huge and colorful network of amazing people all over the world.

- Is it easy to click with someone you don’t know in a few hours?

Agust: Usually, the relationship begins before the actual face-to-face meeting. Exchangers share emails, photos, videos, their artworks, any type of information, when they start looking for the right match to do a home exchange.

The idea is to find someone similar to you. Some people are pleased to get to know each other on a deeper level and maybe even find some real friends. Some are interested in the creative side only and are seeking to enhance artistic ideas and networks. There are also those whose life is based on kindness or philanthropy in general. They don’t mind to host anyone, for as long as is needed, and to share all they have without even asking anything in return. And we have all these types on Behomm, you just have to find the right connection.

Eva: Sylvia, a landscape architect from Florence, hosted us like her best friends in her little but incredibly tastefully arranged flat. It wasn’t a simultaneous exchange, the kind we usually do, so we spent some amazing time with her and her friends, eating lasagna made by Sylvia’s grandma. After that she exchanged with some real friends of ours, so she naturally became a friend too. Now she’s coming to visit Barcelona. We decided to invite another exchanger we met before to join us, so all of us will be going to our country house for a weekend. Isn’t that the best proof that being open-minded and not afraid of something new creates great experiences?

- Why the concept of creative types only?

Agust: Creative souls are special. On the one hand, they can be quite introverted, living in their own artistic world. But once they connect with the right ideas, as well as matching (or very different) personalities, a wonderful understanding or even inspiration can come along. They are not afraid of searching for new experiences.

- Wasn’t it initially a bit odd letting someone into your private space? What does it take to trust openly, to be ready for any kind of surprises, to believe in the kindness of people?

Eva: Yes, the first step is the most difficult one to take. Even for us it was. Opening yourself to something unknown always takes guts. But once you dive into this new experience, you reach a whole new level. We’ve seen this journey of change in our kids. In the beginning they were truly afraid: “Will someone sleep in my bed and drink from my cup?” they protested. That’s normal, so we never pushed. And then they got curious. Step by step they entered this experience themselves. Today they are true participants and even do exchanges without us.

- Today, with Behomm a network of 700 creative participants, what is the next goal?

Eva: Well that was the initial idea – to link similar ones, lovers of beauty, the real things. And this is happening! I remember this woman from New York saying: “Is this heaven or what?” To us it is. And we are honestly anxious to see where it brings us!

- What about the business model? How do you plan to earn your first million?

Agust: Does a million have to be the idea of every business? I know that we are very young still and business, especially based on creative human beings, is not easy. But honestly, we never (I know you should never say never, but still…) wanted to turn Behomm into a renting website. We don’t want to put money between of our idea and the users’ experience. And it’s not because we don’t want to be successful. It’s just that the idea of renting is totally opposite to the idea of exchanging. Why? Once you rent, you have some expectations. Whilst the concept of exchange is based on trust, curiosity and, I should say, a bit of the surprise factor.

- How many trips do you usually make per year?

Eva: It’s really hard to say. It’s the beginning of April and so far this year we’ve had nine trips. Nowadays we don’t refuse to go almost anywhere. Behomm changed our notion of travel in general, not only of homing. That’s a thing you can only realize once you step out of your comfort zone. Would you dare?..

This interview is published in Llamas’ Valley | The Aesthetics issue. For more inspiring pictures and stories read the magazine on your iPad.

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