Designing for short term rental
The cost of owning a vacation home is significant. Property taxes, utilities, insurance and maintenance all add up to a hefty price tag. While we love our vacation home, we can’t use it all the time so thought we could cover some of the costs by renting it out. At first it seems like a daunting task but it comes with many upsides – the biggest one is seeing your place through the fresh eyes of your guests. I’ll share my insights on designing for short term rental, room by room.
The short term rental market, such as Airbnb or VRBO, is becoming more and more competitive. And travellers are expecting increasingly unique experiences. Not wanting a sterile hotel room, potential guests are looking for something very personalized, with space to spread out and enjoy. It needs to be Instagram worthy! And speaking of Instagram, don’t forget to create a profile and hashtag for your vacation property!
think about your target market before you do any designing
We are very fortunate to own two vacation properties, one on a lake and one on the ocean each with similar target markets but distinct secondary target markets.
1. Families on vacation – staying for a week
2. Europeans travelling from Jasper/Banff through to Vancouver/Whistler and want a four day stop in between, wanting a truly “Canadian” experience
3. Fishers – late spring/early fall and ice fishing in winter
1. Families on vacation
2. Families travelling for personal reasons – visiting family member, attending wedding, etc…
3. Skiing in the winter
Luckily, we can take advantage of what would otherwise be dead times of the year. But it also means that we needed to design for these times as well. For instance, we have to think about where guests can store their ski equipment and dry out their snow gear. And where they can clean fish. Yuck.
Your decor should reflect your location
If your vacation rental is on a lake, guests want to feel like they’re at the lake – not at a mid century modern in the city. Your decor should be a reflection of your surroundings. And it’s okay if it might be a little bit kitchsy, just be careful not to go too over the top, as it really is the little touches of personal style and whimsy that attracts people to pay more to stay in a short term rental. Guests want a memorable experience rather than just a place to sleep, otherwise they could have just booked a hotel room.
If you don’t already have decor that reflects where you’re located, try using Wayfair. You can search for a type of item, and then filter by style such as coastal, farmhouse or rustic. I also like Birchlane where you can shop entire looks by style such as coastal.
Guests really appreciate decor that reflects the owner’s personality, travels or even history. My grandfather, who passed away before I was born, created this lamp base. It fits in perfectly at a lake side cottage, in fact it looks like it was made for the space.
Tips for vacation rental decor accents
determine how many people you can host
You’ve heard of “heads in beds”? At our ocean front property, we have three good sized bedrooms, each with a queen bed. So that’s six guests potentially. We also have a pull out queen sofa bed so that means we can sleep a total of eight. BUT we only have two bathrooms and we’re on a septic so it can’t handle too many toilet flushes, showers and laundry. It’s listed it for a total of six people but with four available beds so they don’t all have to be couples.
Our lake house has two tiny bedrooms, one with a queen and one with a full sized bed. We have a sofa but it’s not a pull out but someone could sleep on it. We list it for four guests.
These are our own properties that we also use so we want to ensure that we don’t do anything to annoy our lovely neighbours so we don’t allow large groups or parties. Installing a “Ring” motion activated exterior camera allows us to monitor how many guests check in.
Neither listing is baby-proofed, nor do we provide cots and high chairs so no children under two are allowed. In my experience, the most damage is actually caused by young children. And I just don’t need the stress of worrying about how they might hurt themselves.
When on vacation, people just needs bedrooms to sleep and drop their luggage and clothes. It doesn’t matter if the rooms are tiny as they won’t spend much time in them, but the beds and pillows must be comfortable.
As our two bedrooms at the lake house are close together, I’ve used the same duvet covers for each. The blues tie together with the rest of the decor throughout the house creating a cohesiveness.
In our beach house, all the beds are the same size so I use white sheets. Guests immediately know that they’re clean and I can bleach them to keep them fresh. At the lake house, as the beds are different sizes, I find it saves me time to have different coloured sheets for the two beds. The queen bed is the coordinating beige colour and the full bed has sheets in navy.
It’s essential that there is a light on both sides of the bed, as well as a place to charge a phone, put down a book and glasses (yes, I’m at the age where I need reading glasses) and a glass of water.
With only one bathroom in the cottage, we’ve installed mirrors in each bedroom. This way the bathroom doesn’t get tied up as people put on makeup. We’ve also installed hooks for hanging towels in the bedrooms so everyone knows which towel belongs to who. If there is space, I include a luggage rack as well.
Tips for Designing for short term rental bedrooms
If your home sleeps six, then you better be able to seat six comfortably in the living area. Easy wear rugs (think indoor/outdoor) like the one shown from IKEA anchors the living space and pulls together all the colours throughout the lake house.
Slipcovers on your sofas means that you don’t get too concerned if something is spilled. The leather ottoman is perfect for putting up feet and relaxing which is the point of this lake side rental. Even cushion covers can be swapped out easily if one becomes stained.
If you notice the light switches in the photo above, they’re labelled. This helps guests if your switches aren’t straight forward, saving them fumbling around trying to figure it out for themselves.
Being only 1000 square feet, we need the lake house to read large. Hence the white paint with the coastal blue accents. As the lake view is the star of the show, we don’t want to distract from it. Shiplap walls add to the feeling of a cottage, rather than a drywalled city home.
The trick with colour is repetition. You can have up to five colours but ensure that they’re picked up throughout the space. So the turquoise on the pillows in the beach house shown below is picked up in the painting, the pumpkins on the mantle and the side table. Repeat the colour at least three times for continuity. If you want to learn more about choosing a colour palette, click here.
With two full sized sofas and an accent chair with a foot stool, everyone can put their feet up at the Beach Chalet, enjoying both the fire and the view at the same time. Note how the white sofas are protected with an easy to wash throw. We also invested in an upholstery cleaner – money well spent.
Tips for designing vacation rental living areas
At our Lake House, we can seat six at the peninsula, six at the dining table and six at the outdoor table on the deck. Even though the rental is only for a maximum of four people, sometimes our guests ask if it is okay to have visitors join them for dinner. This way, everyone is comfortable.
It’s similar at the Beach Chalet although the dining space is smaller so we have a difficult time seating more people than the maximum six guests. But we ensure that we have both indoor and outdoor seating. We can’t fit a table on the deck there so have a lovely driftwood live edge bar top affixed to our railing. A huge experience of either location is dining al fresco, watching either the lake or the ocean as guests dine.
tips for designing for short term vacation rental dining areas
Just like when it comes to selling a home, kitchens can make or break a rental. As more and more people cook for relaxation, many want a fully equipped kitchen in their vacation rental. We gutted the kitchen at the lake house and installed an IKEA kitchen complete with a quartz topped peninsula.
We have a dishwasher as who wants to wash dishes on vacation? There is ample room for two chefs in this kitchen with a very large U shape. Glass cabinets and the stainless steel appliances reflect light back into the kitchen. Under cabinet lighting means that the work surfaces are illuminated as we don’t want anyone cutting themselves if they couldn’t properly see what they are chopping. An outdoor barn light over the sink and barn board beams add a rustic vibe to this lake side retreat.
If our location hadn’t been so remote, I would have put the quartz on the main work surfaces and put the butcher block on the peninsula (too difficult for measuring and fabricating). Everyone leans their arms on the peninsula countertop while sitting there on bar stools and as stone is 15% colder than the air around it, makes it a bit chilly.
Now the Beach house kitchen is a bit of a different story. Let’s just call it quirky. We are planning to build a new house in a few years and so don’t want to spend the money on upgrading the kitchen. The previous owner hand built the cupboards and it shows. Painting the cupboards white as it was wood on wood on wood and replaced hinges and knobs created an updated look. The butcher block countertops are actually (gasp) laminate. But renters don’t seem to mind as it goes with the overall log house feel. We did add a dishwasher though. And both kitchens are fully stocked with every pot, pan, dish and utensil a vacationer could need.
tips for designing vacation rental kitchens
The Beach Chalet has two full sized bathrooms. The outer walls are log which we (gasp) painted white. We added a large IKEA vanity, new flooring, new toilet, new shower curtain and framed the existing mirror and voila, it is a completely new bathroom. We kept the existing tub/shower combination as it was in good condition but replaced the shower head. Bathrooms MUST be clean and nothing says cleaner than white.
Do you notice a theme? Similar IKEA vanity was installed at the Lake House. We got the largest glass shower we could fit in the space as the hubby is 6’5″ and likes a bit of elbow room. Floor to ceiling white subway tiles are easy to keep clean. The large circular rope mirror evokes lakeside as do the blue towels and hand soap.
Tips for designing vacation rental bathrooms
Extraneous jackets, shoes, skis, wetsuits, fishing gear, and more is out of the way when stored in a mudroom. At the lake house, which gets quite a bit of snow, we even installed heated floors to help dry up any that gets tracked in.
Hooks are so much easier for hanging up jackets and coats than a closet. Baskets are perfect for storing casual shoes. A bench with a cushion makes for a comfortable spot to put shoes on.
tips for designing vacation rental mudrooms
I love changing things around and decorating for every season. Having two vacation rentals allows me to indulge my creativity, constantly improving the design and therefore the experience. Let me know what design tricks you’ve used in your vacation rental by commenting below.
Thanks for stopping by.