Furnishing and decorating a vacation rental makes up a large part of the ongoing costs to independent vacation rental owners like ourselves. So we have to balance our spending with one eye on the guest appeal of our choices, and the other on our bottom line. Here are my top 10 tips to help get it right.
1. Who’s it for? Before you start spending on furnishing and decorating a vacation rental property, have a clear idea of your clientele – the type of people your property attracts, their likes and tastes and their expectations. You need to appeal to the demographic of your guests, providing them with the things they may take for granted.
2. See things through your guests’ eyes. What would they like to see and what are they expecting? If your property is near a beach, for example, will they expect beach chairs, sun umbrellas, buckets and spades for the children, a beach buggy etc.
3. Nothing lasts forever. Remember that whatever you put in when furnishing and decorating a vacation rental will get worn, possibly broken or damaged and stained. Guests may not cherish these items as you might, so do not put family heirlooms or favorite furniture into your rental. White carpets are best avoided in rentals where you expect families or large groups.
4. Don’t indulge your own décor fantasies. You may have always hankered after a bedroom with deep red walls and black silk bed sheets but unless you’re out to attract a niche clientele, when decorating a vacation rental play safe with light colored walls to give a sense of cleanliness and spaciousness. Consider painting walls throughout in the same wipe clean emulsion so that scuff marks can be easily touched up after your guests leave.
5. Constantly update. Aim to make regular changes to the décor and furnishings, repainting to a fixed schedule and replacing high wear areas of carpet regularly. And don’t allow any barbeque equipment to look rundown before you replace it. Budget for these replacements. Repeat guests will notice improvements you make and this will be a factor in them choosing to return to your property.
6. Avoid overstuffing with furniture and bric-a-brac. Apart from giving you more to clean and maintain, it can feel cloying for guests – particularly if the furniture is old, heavy or dark. Simplicity is the key if you’re aiming for a sophisticated look.
7. The new or pre-owned dilemma. Financially speaking, it may be tempting to furnish your rental with pre-owned furnishings which can work out cheaper. Some carefully chosen pieces of pre-owned furniture can lend character to a rental but unless you’re aiming for a ‘period’ experience, fresh, new items are more welcome to most guests.
8. See what works best. If you have the necessary budget and a specific design idea for your property it can be great to start with a clean sweep. However, you can still achieve your dream vacation home by degrees. Taking time to see what works and what your guests appreciate, you can modify things over a period, incorporating things that work for your guests. If you can afford it, leave decorating a vacation rental to the professionals.
9. Ask your guests. Find out what your guests think of the décor via a questionnaire. What do they like, what would they like to see? Don’t be afraid to ask if there’s anything they found less appealing. How else will you ever find out that your guests hate that big old brass bedstead which you regard as a treasured antique?
10. Spend time in the property yourself. See how it works from a user’s point of view. Are your decorating skills (or lack of them) apparent? Is there enough equipment? Are the beds comfortable? Is the air conditioning too noisy? Does that new colour in the bathroom really work?