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5 Professional tips on designing a short-term rental home

Interior designer Tiffany Cassidy shares her top tips for designing a holiday home.

Coastal bedroom design
  • Coastal living room
  • Coastal kitchen
  • Coastal bathroom
  • Entryway accent wall
  • Coastal bedroom design
  • Coastal bedroom
  • Coastal bedroom
  • Coastal living room
  • Coastal kitchen with tiles
  • Coastal bedroom

Interior design is a crucial aspect of any short term rental or holiday home. It has the power to leave a lasting impression on visitors and set your property apart from the competition. 

As the founder and owner of Lagnappe Custom Interiors, a full-service interior design firm with over 20 years of experience serving vacation rental owners, I have a deep understanding of the importance of interior design for short term rentals and holiday homes. I've had the privilege of helping clients create spaces that not only look great but are also easy to manage and make a positive impact on visitors. 

In this article, I want to share my knowledge on how to achieve this for your own rental property. Whether you're starting from scratch or simply looking to refresh an existing space, these tips will provide you with valuable insights and practical advice for creating a memorable, functional, and stylish holiday home.

1. Invest in furniture that’ll last

Conventional wisdom often says to buy the cheapest stuff you can to furnish a rental. Oftentimes the homeowner thinks, "the renters will ruin it", " I’ll just throw it out in a year and buy replacements," or "we're here to make money, not spend money on decorating." I disagree completely with this philosophy.

Coastal living room
Photo: Don HebertThis coastal great room was designed for relaxing and easy-care.

Using only cheap materials and short-term use items can encourage the types of renters who will treat your space disrespectfully. Plus, low-priced items are designed to be disposable and quickly make their way to landfills. 

The use of only low-cost items can create hidden costs for the homeowner. For example, if the homeowner is consistently replacing furniture, this continued cost could really add up. It's not just the cost of replacement materials that matters but also the cost of the downtime while work is being done in the home.

Coastal kitchen
Photo: Don HebertThis coastal kitchen combines simplicity with easy to clean materials.

People who pay top dollar expect the best. You will not attract guests who are willing to pay top dollar when your approach to design and amenities is to spend the least possible amount of money and time. It doesn't matter if your home has the best view or a convenient location; you won't get the best reviews when your house is full of half-broken, cheaply made homewares. 

Of course, you want to choose durable items that don't break the bank, but there's a sweet spot for this, and a design professional can recommend product lines that will work with your budget.

2. Design for marketing

When designing a short term rental home, you should always have one eye on marketing and how your designs can help sell the home to potential guests. 

When designing for marketing, furniture placement matters for photography and can create areas in the home for those "Instagrammable" moments. Curated vignettes not only make for better listing photos, but it makes guests want to take their own photos and post them to social media, which is the best type of advertising.

"Instagrammable" moments. Curated vignettes not only make for better listing photos, but it makes guests want to take their own photos and post them to social media, which is the best type of advertising.

Coastal bathroom
Photo: Don HebertThis coastal-style bathroom features a stunning feature wall and makes the most of the breathtaking views.

When guests take a selfie in your home and send it to friends or post it on social media, it's marketing that just can't be purchased. Spending a little extra money on a few delightful elements can be worth it. I love wallpaper for this, and I have a habit of pushing boundaries with patterns there. I also like hospitality elements, like bar spaces. But sometimes all it takes is a good daybed and a lovely view. These design elements are eye-catching, and guests find them "Instagram-worthy."

Entryway accent wall
Photo: Don HebertThis eye-catching accent wall welcomes people into the home.

3. Invest in great listing photos

Designing for marketing isn’t just about creating those "Instagram-worthy" moments. You also need to invest in high-quality listing photos that showcase the best of your home. 

I've learned so much from working with my photographer, Don Hebert when it comes to listing photos and I’d love to share some of those learnings with you here.

Coastal bedroom design
Photo: Don HebertThis coastal-style bedroom enjoys stunning ocean views.

First, if you have a stunning coastal view, make sure to show it off. But it’s not just the view you should showcase. You also want to show the comfort and features of the room clearly. Photographs should show how the rooms are appointed and allow the viewer to see themselves in the space. For example, place the furniture so you'll see the bed and the beautiful view in one shot — like in the below photo of a stunning coastal-inspired bedroom

Coastal bedroom
Photo: Don HebertThis coastal bedroom mixes neutral colors and natural textures.

Secondly, less is more when it comes to listing photos. Ensure that the property is clean and tidy, with only a few decorative items used to enhance the space and give it a homely vibe. 

Lastly, it's essential to edit the images. You can do this yourself or ask your photographer to do so. Your photos should look light and bright, just like the room does in real life. It really can be worth the extra investment to hire a professional; I always do this for my clients to be sure they get the max value out of having done the beautiful design work. 

Coastal bedroom
Photo: Don HebertThis bedroom uses aqua and turquoise accents.

Great images stop the scroll, meaning potential guests will always stop to look at the most intriguing and inviting images when searching for a rental.

4. Optimize for speed and turnaround

One of the most critical things I’ve learned from designing holiday homes is that time is of utmost importance to rental owners, so I’ve developed systems to be incredibly organized and be sure that all details are attended to in the design plan.

When we set up a home for rental, we do several things that make turnover days quick and easy. That starts with making materials selections that are durable and easy to care for. Extra slipcovers and bedding items, large laundry rooms with multiple sets of machines, and a dedicated supply closet are just some features we build into the design that help the housekeeping staff do their best work for you.

Coastal living room
Photo: Don HebertSlipcovered upholstered item and a polypropylene rug make this space easy to keep clean.

The second aspect is to choose materials that are easy to care for. I use porcelain and quartz surfaces in kitchens and baths for rentals because they are durable and won’t stain. We use polypropylene rugs because they can withstand heavy use, and stains can be easily removed. With any upholstered items, I love using slipcovers, and it’s always great to have two sets.

Coastal kitchen with tiles
Photo: Don HebertThe tiling in this kitchen provides a coastal accent.

At the end of a design project, we provide a home maintenance book to the property manager based on our design book. This includes things like bed making style and how to set up specific decorative items — this helps the housekeepers to leave the home feeling like it has your personal touch. 

The book also includes specifications for key items that routinely need maintenance, such as paint colors, plumbing valve specifications, and information on any specialty lightbulbs or fixtures they might need so they can be stocked in the home. We also provide an inventory list with quantities of bedding, towels, and other housewares so that the manager can keep up with these items on the homeowner's behalf.

If you have the space, you should also consider adding more storage and increasing space in the laundry room. Adding a locked housekeeping closet is also a plus. This allows for storing paper products, soaps, cleaning products, a spare vacuum, and more. I also like installing two sets of washers and dryers when possible. This enables housekeeping to wash many loads of laundry at once, helping to manage time on turnover days efficiently.

5. Bring personality and the local community in

When someone rents your home, you’re the host. It’s nice to share what you love with the renters throughout the space. Ask yourself what drew you there, and think about your favorite things about the area. Incorporating elements from the community you love will help you decide on a design style.

Coastal bedroom
Photo: Don HebertArtwork is a great way to bring the coastal vibe inside. It's also a nice way to showcase local artists.

I design many island homes, so if my client is an avid diver, we might frame some of their own local underwater photography. We always look for at least a little local art and use colors inspired by the location. But please keep in mind that you can create a beach vacation home without a sign that says “this way to the beach” – don’t worry, guests find it on their own.

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