Vacation Rental 101: Furnishing Your Rental

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
September 28, 2016

You’ve decided on the best way to manage your vacation rental (see our previous post on vacation rental management options), so now we need to make sure your property is ready for guests.

Travelers make their booking choices based almost entirely on what they see in the photos, which means the way you furnish and present your property matters a great deal to your vacation rental business’s success.

So how should you go about decorating your vacation rental? Let’s take a look.

Choose Furniture Built to Last

Vacation rental living room with cozy furniture and snow outside

If you have any furniture that’s “good enough” for your personal needs but isn’t really appropriate for guests, it’s time to find replacements. That old creaky bed frame should be replaced with a more enduring model, and the recliner that requires extreme force should be swapped out with one that’s more user-friendly.

Go through your house and imagine if you were arriving for the first time. Can you flop down on all the beds and furniture without breaking something? Is it easy to open and close the bureau drawers? Are there cabinets in the kitchen or bathroom that aren’t fitted properly? Now’s a good time to make sure all your furniture is up to regular use, because if your rental does well, it will be used almost as frequently as it would be if you lived there full-time.

You should also keep in mind that while renters will generally be respectful of your home, accidents do happen. Be sure that you’re comfortable with the fact that your vacation home furniture may pick up a few dings and scratches here and there.

Trend Toward Crowd-Pleasing Decor

Bright vacation rental living room furniture in crowd-pleasing neutral tones

In your own home, your taste will obviously dictate almost all of your decor choices. But in a vacation home, it’s often better to err on the side of what will appeal to the majority of people, rather than what appeals to you personally.

That’s not to say you should have a second home with decor that doesn’t match your own taste! If you like modern style, you should stick with that. If you prefer American Colonial, go for it. But when it comes down to unusual art choices, bright paint colors, or quirky textiles, it’s generally better to go a little more conservative. Travelers prefer a home that puts them at ease, and that means decor that seems pleasant but not invasive. You can get some great tips on vacation home decor in this article.

It’s also a good idea to generally match what a traveler will tend to expect in your area – for example, Florida condos are often decorated with a “beachy” theme of cool blue walls and white furniture, while cabins in the mountains might offer rustic wood furniture and rich, primary-toned linens.

Complete the Look

Nautical-themed living room opening out to ocean views

We’ve often seen that vacation rentals seem not quite “complete,” since the owners only use their second home for a little bit of the year. The bedrooms might not have art on the walls, for example, or the living room doesn’t have a rug on the floor to tie the room together.

It’s worth taking the time to fully furnish the entire property. Imagine what you’d want if you were living there for a three-month stay, and decorate to that standard. You don’t need to include every tiny little quirk and nuance you might in your primary home, but in general it’s good to have:

  • Rugs in rooms with hardwood floors
  • Art on the walls in every room
  • Curtains or window treatments at all the windows
  • Books on the bookshelves
  • A few items of interest on shelves and mantelpieces
  • Space to hang up coats near the door

These little touches can really help transform your property from a fine place to hang your hat to a truly enjoyable “home away from home.” You can find some great tips on inexpensive ways to add these little touches in this post on furnishing your vacation rental on the stylish dime.

Provide Good Lighting

Well-decorated bathroom with textured wall

Many owners forget this important touch! Include lighting next to all of your beds rather than relying on the overhead light. Your guests who want to read before turning in will thank you – and it’s one of those little inconveniences that adds up over a long stay.

Similarly, make sure your kitchen has sufficient lighting to help avoid any accidents. Your guests won’t be as familiar with your property as you are, and a kitchen is full of sharp objects! Make it easy for them to see what they’re doing and you’ll keep your home accident-free.

Well-lit bathrooms, hallways, and living areas also provide a much more enjoyable experience for any guest. Good lighting makes it easy for them to set the mood, see where they’re going in an unfamiliar home, and get important tasks done. Put some time and effort into making sure they’ll never have to fumble in the dark, and you’ll have much happier guests at the end of their stay.

Remove Your Personal Items

Bedroom with pops of orange color and minimalist bookshelf decor

While you’re busy making the home ready for other people, you’ll need to remember that this is no longer your personal space. Vacation rentals walk a fine line – they can’t look as pristine and heartless as a hotel room, but on the other hand your guests don’t want to feel as if they’ve invaded someone else’s home.

Generally, you can find that line by creating a beautifully decorated space without your personal possessions in it. Pictures of your family should be put away until you’re using the space yourself, and any personal possessions should either be removed entirely or placed in a locked space that guests cannot access.

Check this post for a more complete list of items, but in general you should clear away:

  • Personal bathroom products and items
  • Jewelry and personal bedroom possessions
  • Clothing, coats, and shoes
  • Family photos
  • Any items you would rather other people not use
  • Personal computers or important files

Many vacation home owners set aside a locked closet (or an entire room in larger properties) that is for their own personal use. That way, you don’t need to remember to bring all your personal items to your vacation home every time, but you’re still leaving a guest-friendly space for any renters who book in between your visits.

Go Room By Room

Beyond the basics of furniture and decor, you’ll want to be sure every room in your property is equipped with everything a renter might need for their stay. From measuring spoons in the kitchen to a box of tissues in the bedroom, your renters will appreciate your home most if their needs have been thoughtfully taken care of by their host.

Want some more details on what each room needs? We’ve got every room in the property covered in the three posts linked below.

Vacation Rental 101: Living and Dining Spaces

Vacation Rental 101: Kitchen and Pantry

Vacation Rental 101: Bedrooms & Bathrooms

And that’s not all we do. With over a decade of experience to back up our strategies, we help first-time investors and experienced pros build booming vacation rental businesses — no matter what stage of ownership you’re in.

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