Louisville Hacker Hostel
Louisville Hacker Hostel, a home away from home for hackers

Richard Meadows and Suzi Bernert are passionate supporters of the startup community here in Louisville. Meadows especially is nearly ubiquitous at entrepreneurial- and tech-related events like Open Coffee and My Mobile Ville.

Suzi Bernert prepares for an open house
Suzi Bernert prepares for an open house

Early this summer, they road-tripped out west and visited startup communities in places like Boulder and Kansas City. Along the way, they visited “hacker hostels,” low-cost, bare-bones places for startup entrepreneurs to stay while they were attending an accelerator program or other events requiring an extended stay.

White board in the living room for brainstorming

Meadows and Bernert are no strangers to the bargain hunt. They dabble in antiques and collectables and have scoured auctions and flea markets for years. So when the opportunity presented itself for the couple to purchase an early-1900’s run down shotgun home on North 27th street in Portland, just a couple blocks from Gill Holland’s new Compassion Building, they decided to merge their interests.

They’re calling it a “Lean Remodel,” everything done on the cheap but without skimping on quality.

The kitchen before remodel
The kitchen before remodel

The house was in terrible shape. It had been owned by the same family since 1959 and very little had been updated since that family bought the house.

Mural celebrates Portland’s history and the riverfront

The hardwood floors were covered in carpet and stick-on tiles, the furnace was in the kitchen and there was no bathroom sink.

It’s still undergoing renovation and a few more things need to be purchased to outfit the home. But the couple had the original family over for dinner a few days ago and Meadows says they were “thunderstruck and thrilled” at the remodel.

The shotgun home will have two sets of bunk beds in the main bedroom. There’s a back room that can be set up as an additional bedroom or as a separate office.

The living room is outfitted with an entire wall of white board and a massive conference table purchased for just $30 from Habitat for Humanity Restore.

More of Greg Hojnacki’s mural

That’s not the only fancy and fanciful touch: Meadows also commissioned an original Portland-themed mural from Greg Hojnacki, a recent graduate of Anderson University and a new Louisvillian.

Many of the resources for the remodel were the result of what Meadows calls “urban collisions,” where you just “run into someone with something you want.” Cabinets, the bathroom vanity and the bunkbeds were sourced from places like Craigslist, Facebook and random conversations in coffee shops. The full sized mattresses for the bunkbeds retail for $1000 each but were acquired for a song.

the living room before
the living room before

The next residential accelerator program in Louisville doesn’t start until 2014, but there are a lot of options in the meantime. Out-of-towners at conventions can rent a whole home for a fraction of the cost of set of hotel rooms. Big local companies that pull in contractors and specialists from other branches may perfect to house these employees in a house, with secure powerful wireless, rather than have them do company work on open and sometimes sketchy hotel wifi.

Many spaces created for the “hacker” population are all steel and glass and screens– decor that caters to their whizz-bang lifestyles.  It would be prohibitively expensive and counterintuitive to try to modernize this historic-style home. Instead Meadows sees the homeyness as a benefit.

Many of these hackers are kids fresh out of college, out alone for the first time in a strange city… maybe a house that looks like a home is just what they’ll need.

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One thought on “A peek at Portland’s Hacker Hostel: a home away from home with better tech

  1. Wow, the mural along the ceiling is very cool! Richard told me about it, but I hadn’t seen it until now.

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