Stakes are high when furnishing your vacation rental home. You want it to look great in photos and promotional material. You want guests to be comfortable. And, because even the most well-intended renter can accidentally make a mess, you want your vacation rental home furnishings to be durable, easy to clean, and, if all else fails, easy to replace.
Let us help. We connected with interior designers and property managers from around the country to learn their secrets for decorating and furnishing vacation rental homes. From beds to light bulbs, here are their top tips.
Understand Your Guests’ Needs and Expectations
“The best advice I have is to pay attention to your audience,” said Holly Baker, an interior designer, vacation rental home owner, and host of A&E’s series “Vacation Rental Potential.”
Early on, she noticed her vacation rental home was a popular retreat for girlfriend getaways. To appeal to these guests, she made the home more luxurious (think bright white furniture and high-end bedding). She also tried to make the furnishings as “Instagrammable” as possible.
“We pride ourselves on providing a special backdrop for some of the most memorable events in (our guests’) lives,” she said.
Your furniture should match the vibe of your vacation rental home’s location, said Steve Schwab, founder of the property management company Casago. For example, wicker furniture and shell art might be appropriate for a beachfront rental, while leather couches and landscape paintings are more fit for a mountain retreat.
“What you don’t want to do is put ultra-modern, minimalist pieces in a cozy mountain chalet or wicker furniture in a New York City high-rise,” he said.
Think Durability When Furnishing Your Vacation Rental Home
Strive for the highest quality, most durable furniture you can afford, recommends Schwab.
Try to resist the temptation of buying furniture from big box stores like IKEA, said Wendy Schultz, founder and CEO of The Simple Life Hospitality consulting group. “Don’t get me wrong, I love IKEA, but it’s not the most durable,” she said. “Spend a little more and you’ll have to replace things a little less often.”
Make sure everything is easy to clean and disinfect, said Beverly Solomon, creative director at Beverly Solomon Design, and avoid decorating your vacation rental home with family heirlooms, expensive keepsakes, or priceless mementos.
“Do not use any décor that you could not replace financially or emotionally,” she said.
Finally, make sure all locks, appliances, coffee pot, HVAC controls, etc., are easy to use.
“Make anything the guest has to do as simple as possible, and also leave instructions,” said Solomon.
Design with Basics in Mind
“The interior design industry recommends homeowners redecorate every five years to keep their homes looking fresh,” said Schwab. “But this can get expensive.” That’s why he recommends homeowners stick with the basics: neutral-colored furniture (you can’t go wrong with gray, tan, or black fabrics) and stainless steel appliances.
If you do want to branch out, Michael Nelson, CEO of The Pyramid Project property management group, recommends embracing non-permanent materials like contact paper.
“It’s not just for lining shelves anymore!” he said. “We’ve used it on everything from walls to countertops. It holds up well, looks great, and when you want a change it, removes with ease and won’t damage the surface.”
Purchase the Right Beds for Your Rental
Your vacation rental home’s demographics will help you decide how many and what size beds are best for your property.
“Families likely want a larger bed for the parents and twin or bunk beds for the kids,” said Schultz. “Friends and business colleagues want separate beds and sleeping rooms.”
If you’re appealing to couples, Schwab says a king-size bed is a must, if space permits.
“We’ve had renters pass on the ideal place simply because the master bedroom had a queen instead of a king,” he said.
It’s not just the bed that matters. Schwab recommends medium-firm mattresses and, unless the bed is a platform model, a comfortable box spring.
“Memory foam is also great for accommodating the majority of sleepers’ needs, and cushion-top mattress pads are recommended for added comfort,” he said. “Just make sure that you get ones that don’t trap heat. Renters will pull them off if they make the bed uncomfortable.”
Invest in Lighting & Shades for Your Rental
“For me, lighting is huge,” said Nelson. ”It can make or break your photos and site tours.”
For extra credit, he recommends using bulbs that are the same temperature (cool white, warm, daylight, etc.) for a consistent flow through the home.
But no one wants a bright house at night. Schwab recommends installing window treatments that are up to the task of blocking light from streetlights, passing cars, and even the full moon.
“A common complaint that we receive from guests is that the shades, blinds, or curtains do not block enough of the light,” he said.
A well-rested and comfortable guest is a happy guest. The more effort you put into selecting furniture and amenities that meet your guests’ needs, the more likely they are to leave your vacation home rental a positive review.
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