Two years ago, Grodner, a certified interior decorator, started The Wanderlust Life. In this initiative, she invests in properties around the country (the Southeast initially), using social media to crowdsource decorating decisions through the process of “democratic design.”
“We allow our followers – affectionately known as ‘Wanderlusters’ – to see the renovations on The Wanderlust Life Facebook page as they’re occurring,” Grodner said. “Ultimately, they and others can experience the properties firsthand, staying in them as short-term rentals.”
Currently, over 70,000 followers worldwide have been actively engaged with The Wanderlust Life brand. Think of it like HGTV on steroids.
Plans are also in the works for a possible television program with a major cable channel.
The first two properties have been completed in Tuscaloosa and Panama City Beach, Florida.
The Tuscaloosa house, Wanderlust1, is a historic home within walking distance of downtown, the Black Warrior River and, for many people most importantly, the University of Alabama. Named one of the eight places to stay in Tuscaloosa for “gameday and beyond,” the property has proven extremely popular with visitors to this West Alabama city.
Grodner was instrumental in helping City officials and staff understand the value of short-term rentals, as Tuscaloosa recently became the first city in the state of Alabama to formalize the short-term rental process. Further, she formed a short-term rental advocacy and property marketing organization, the Tuscaloosa Hospitality Network.
The second property, Wanderlust2, is in a vintage high-rise in Panama City Beach; a third property is now underway in Birmingham’s super-hot Avondale community.
Grodner does not do the actual work all by herself. In addition to enlisting local contractors and artisans when appropriate, she also works with various family members to complete the renovations. Sister Sheri Corey is also a decorator and owns a workroom where she produces draperies, bed linens and home décor items. Cousin Randy Crayne is a Birmingham contractor and has assisted with projects on Wanderlust3. Grodner’s other sister, Lori McCrary and her husband David, a commercial contractor, as well as their various adult children, also participate in the projects whenever possible.
“We look for tired, sad houses and try to make them happy, relevant houses,” Grodner explained. “We feel every house has a personality, and we strive to find that personality and to showcase it for others to enjoy.”