or, How to Decorate My Vacation Rental to Get More Bookings?
I was lurking around some AirBnB and VRBO listings lately, looking for a great place to stay this summer.
I found some lovely places where the rentals were decorated like a boutique hotel, and others where it looks as though it was a hand-me-down from someone who was too tired to keep it up over the years.
Well, I found a doozy. This place is decorated like an old mountain lodge. The only things missing were a bear-skin rug and taxidermy elk heads on the wall.
Remember, I have 10 years’ experience as a home stager, so I know how to make a property appeal to the most amount of potential buyers. It’s no different from a vacation rental.
First, the Pictures
I collected a handful of photos from this rental, and found some much needed improvements in each one.
So. Much. Wood.
But that’s not easily changed.
Let’s begin with some easy fixes.
Tip#1—Style Your Rental Like a Hotel
There is so much going on in this picture. Unless the property is located in a religious retreat, there is no need for a crucifix or any other religious symbol in this property.
It should be replaced with a beautiful landscape that picks up the colors in the quilt. (See my tips later in the blog about making the bed.)
We need larger lamps on both sides of the bed for reading, and the dust-catching birdhouse and wall decor needs to be removed.
In a rental, you must think minimalism. When I see a photo like this, I think of dust everywhere.
Tip #2—Not a Fan of Ceiling Fans
Unless this mountain resort is too expensive for air conditioning and efficient heating, pleeeeeease get rid of the ceiling fans. (Does it really get up to 75 degrees at nighttime in this area?)
Ceiling fans are a maintenance nightmare in terms of cleaning and breaking and wobbling. Replace them with a flush mounted light fixture. Have you counted how many there are in this rental? I’d hate to be the cleaning lady…
And I’m not sure who picked out that slipper chair on the right, but a solid color would look better. The patterns clash.
Tip #3—Harmonize your Colors
I don’t know about you, but in this picture, there doesn’t seem to be a harmonious color scheme. The less expensive route is to just purchase one of those beautiful white shower curtains you’d see in spa, like this one. It would go with everything! (Apparently, someone really likes that Browning logo! See it in the shower curtain?)
And the towels on the left side of the picture? Be sure to fold them in thirds, so the raw edge is not facing the door, and drape over the towel rack. Always think “Hotel.” White is perfect for your towel colors.
I can’t tell from this picture, but it looks as though that is a BAR of soap. That grosses people out, unless it is one of those pre-wrapped ones you’d find in a hotel. A safer bet is a pump soap dispenser, always refilled between guests.
Tip #4—Neutral and Updated Decor
Bye-bye, granny decor. I would have skipped over this rental listing by seeing this picture alone.
Please get rid of dust-catching faux florals, wreaths, swags, baskets, etc.
Bedside lamps must be large enough for reading in bed. These are way too small. Maybe they can be used on a desk or a bookshelf somewhere else in the rental.
And the bed? See my tips later in this blog post about how to properly make a bed. Quilts are great for durability, clean-ability, and for color, but when you make a bed this way, it seems to make the room look cluttered.
When is the last time you stayed in a hotel that had a quilt?
Tip #5—Make Beds Look Super-Appealing
This bed looks like it was an afterthought. First, the pillowcases are jumbled together, look too small for the bed, and just don’t look pretty. If you walked into a hotel and saw this, would you want to stay?
On queen and king beds, the luxury of king sized pillows fill the bed nicely. There are lots of bed-making videos on YouTube. Be sure your cleaning staff (and you) know how to make a bed look like a hotel.
For this bed, I’d add 4 king-sized pillows (2 foam-filled, 2 down-filled) and 2 pillow shams that at least coordinate with the colors of the quilt.
I would then fold the quilt in a fan-folded style in thirds so the pattern shows, and leave the blanket or duvet cover showing. To finish the look, I’d add a lumbar pillow in a matching color between the shams.
Tip #6—Updated Kitchen
If this homeowner cannot afford to update with new cabinetry, flooring, and countertops, there are some cosmetic ways to bring this kitchen out of the ‘80’s.
Cupboards can be painted (you know, like woodwork?) In this instance, I would use a matte black and add some brushed nickel or brass knobs and pulls.
Remove that border and those dust-catching fake ivy!
Replace that light fixture with something from this century. Perhaps a drum shade flush mount light like this, or some track lighting.
The freestanding shelf just doesn’t belong. It is too much furniture.
Your kitchen is a huge selling (renting) point. Make it look as updated and convenient as possible.
Tip #7—Durable Furniture that Matches
These look like they were gathered from a second-hand store. Even the styles don’t match.
As for durability—think about baby spit-up on that velour sofa, or red Kool-Aid spilled on that plaid couch. You must think in terms of durability for your furniture pieces.
In this case, a brown faux-leather would look great, with some colorful down-filled pillows covered with a Sunbrella or Performance fabric. (Down pillows because they sit better on leather than other types of pillows.)
Be sure there is enough seating for the amount of people the rental sleeps. Two sofas and 2 barrel or club chairs would work in this large living room.
Tip #8—Use the Best Photographer You Can Afford
Excellent photography is what is going to drive people to book your listing, when all is said and done. You don’t want your rental to look like a cave-dweller’s hovel.
Find a good photographer who DOES NOT use an ultra-wide angle lens or HDR photography, like these photos here. They just look distorted and fake.
Be certain your photographer uses a tripod, a shutter release, and plenty of “slave” lighting, so photos are sharp and there are no dark corners.
Yes, you want to show as much as you can of each room, but that can also include little vignettes (like your coffee station, for example) to highlight your amenities.
Your photographer is your investment. After all, how much is your nightly rate? Think about how long it will take you to make that up? Even if your photographer is $1000 or more, you will see an uptick in your rentals.
Some real estate photographers are good at architectural photography, and some don’t have a clue. Be sure that the vertical walls are VERTICAL (the above photos at least have that). Most of the photos should be taken at about 4 feet above the floor.
And don’t even think of doing the photos yourself (unless you are a pro.)
Tip #9—Show the View
Now, of course you are going to shut the blinds at night when taking a Jacuzzi, but it’s okay to show the view. I can barely see beyond the closed mini-blinds, but I think it’s a snow covered balcony out there.
I can’t tell if this lodge is in ski country or in the mountains of North Carolina, but I would love to see the view, in either case.
Don’t be afraid to show it. A good photographer knows how to do this.
Tip #10—Run your vacation rental like the true hospitality business that it is.
When in doubt, look at hotels for inspiration. If all this is a little overwhelming, and you are a new vacation rental host, or a Superhost that wants to ramp up their hosting status, schedule a FREE 15-minute Discovery Call with me.
I want to help you create a unique and beautiful rental property, so you can be booked out indefinitely and can raise your rates to match that beautiful new listing!
What is your favorite tip or hack?
Disclosure: Some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commish if you click through and make a purchase.