As independents, we’re often told to beef up the features of our properties, providing what the guests really want. But think it through carefully to avoid getting your fingers burned.
The early Mexicans would have been dismayed to see their humble cooking oven, the chimenea, become fashionable in yards, gardens and decks across Europe and America. Essentially a freestanding, front-loading fireplace, recognizable by its bulbous gourd-like shape, the chimenea is now almost a must-have for any vacation rental with outdoor facilities.
So, eager to please his expected guests, a friend who had just opened his vacation home for rentals, chose a cast-iron model and along with a gas-fired Weber barbecue gave it pride of place on his deck, featuring both on his website. Good move, you might think. Not so, thought his letting agent.
‘Wrong sort of people’
‘You’ll attract the wrong sort of people,’ she told him flatly. ‘People who will sit outside till all hours, drinking beer and upsetting the neighbors. Just think of the fire risk on your wooden deck. What will the insurance company say? A chimenea is not a good idea.’
When you’re as new to something as he was, how do you argue with a seasoned professional – even if she seems to be all too ready to stereotype your guests in this way? It was a tough decision as my friend had been looking forward to ‘sitting up till all hours, drinking beer’ and warming his toes on this portable fireplace.
‘I thought that was why chimeneas were so popular’ he told me later. ‘But of course I wouldn’t be annoying the neighbors while I did it.’
Somewhat reluctantly he took his agent’s advice. Yet the chimenea remains, given pride of place on his deck but now sporting a label aimed at guests: ‘For decorative purposes only’. He even altered his website information with a caption to the same effect. ‘That should keep the insurance people happy!’ he says.
But last time I visited, I noticed ash in his chimenea. ‘Oh dear, the guests have ignored instructions again’ he said, with a noticeable lack of concern and a certain glint in his eye.
Later that evening, we removed the sign and enjoyed several beers (being careful not to disturb the neighbors). ‘Funny that we can still offer the barbecue facility but not the chimenea’ he said, before replacing the ‘For decoration only’ sign the next day.