First impressions are everything in vacation rental. If the pictures of your home don’t look inviting and if your entryway doesn’t make guests feel at home, you’ll struggle to get the positive reviews that encourage more bookings.
Earlier this year, we attended “An Interior Designer’s Guide To Creating A Bookable Space,” a webinar hosted by our partner, Avalara MyLodgeTax, featuring Kylee Trunck from online interior design company Havenly.
Here are some of her best tips for creating a special space that travelers can’t resist. The good news is that you don’t have to hire an interior designer (although it doesn’t hurt) or spend all of your time on Pinterest boards to create a vacation rental that feels like a home away from home.
One of the reasons travelers choose a vacation rental over a hotel is to have a local experience. But too many owners go the generic route, stocking their homes with furniture and art that you could find in any big box store.
What’s special about that?
Kylee stresses the importance of injecting personality into decor. Guests want to see the area through your eyes, she explains. So skip matchy-matchy vases from national chains and instead decorate with driftwood you found at the beach or art from a local painter. Use colors or patterns that say something about you and the region.
“Make it stand out,” she adds. “[When searching online for vacation rentals], travelers might see 10 that look very similar. Tell the story of the person who lives there.“
Having too much stuff out is one of the top interior design issues Kylee sees in vacation rentals. She warns owners to keep their clutter under control.
Guests don’t want to feel like they’re intruding on your space. Your clutter and personal effects remind them that they’re staying in someone else’s home.
But if you organize everything so your property doesn’t look messy or chaotic, it’s easier for them to see it as a neutral space where they can relax and unwind on vacation.
The key is to use your mementos in a way that adds visual interest to your property.
Another thing to be cautious with – family photos.
Too many personal pictures make it hard for guests to forget that they’re staying in a stranger’s house. Force yourself to keep the family photos to a minimum and take comfort knowing you can hang them back up when you stay there.
Interesting wall art is a key ingredient that makes a space warm, welcoming, and one of a kind. However, Kylee advises against picking mass-produced artwork.
“A lot of times, you’ll see the quintessential Marilyn Monroe photo or the Golden Gate Bridge photo.”
The same images appear in lots of listings and can make you look like everyone else. You’re better off investing in original art or prints that speak more to your interests or your region.
“For spaces where you can’t find any appropriate artwork or where it doesn’t fit well on the walls, add some interesting decor to bring visual interest to the walls. For example, hang aprons or towels on the walls in the kitchen.”
Don’t just fill your rooms with furniture. Put some thought into the layout and consider how guests will use the space when they’re staying.
Kylee says furniture staging has a big impact on how people people use your space and whether they have a positive experience there.
If your living room furniture is too spread out, with a couch along one wall and a lone chair tucked in the far corner, it’ll feel disjointed. It’s hard for people to use that space effectively.
It’s better to arrange seating around a central focal point, like a coffee table or a fireplace. This invites people to gather and enjoy each other’s company, which after all, is what they’re going on vacation to do.
Even if you’re on a budget, it’s wise to invest in quality furniture and decor.
Inexpensive linens and low-cost furniture are much less likely to stand up to wear and tear than quality, durable materials. A $15 dining room chair seems like a steal until it breaks during a guests’ stay and you have to replace it after only a few weeks of use.
Skimping on good linens is a rookie mistake too, according to Tyann Marcink, who is now a highly successful vacation rental owner. She said it was one of her biggest regrets looking back at her first few years in vacation rental and encourages all newbies to splurge on commercial linens.
If high-end furniture and decor isn’t something you can afford, that’s OK. Secure the basics first – quality linens, sturdy furniture, warm blankets – and use the money you earn from your bookings to add other luxury items over time.
Whether you just purchased the property as an investment or have owned the property for years, it’s important to continue investing your time and money into great guest experiences.
Just owning a vacation home isn’t enough. You’ll struggle to get bookings if you have generic decor, mismatched linens, and an uninspiring listing.
To run a successful vacation rental, you need the whole package.
You need good design, attractive decor, and a professional listing that captures exactly what makes your home such a special place to stay on vacation. That’s what will make your property stand out among the hundreds of vacation rentals in your area and help you get more bookings.