5 expert tips for decorating your short-term rental

Updated: June 5, 2019

rustic short-term rental living room with snowshoes and skis on the wall Photo by Handmade Hotels

If you’ve got a a cottage that you’ve listed for short-term rental, you’re part of a growing trend. In B.C. alone, more than 876 million units are available to renters looking for a quick stay. Across Canada, the number of days booked each year went from 1.7 million in 2015 to 10 million in 2017—a 485 per cent increase.

So, the market is crowded. The good news, though, is that how you decorate your rental space can help you stand out from the crowd. Even better? It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money—a little bit can go a long way.

We spoke with Katie Herbert, host of Makeful’s new series, Handmade Hotels, about her top tips for making your short-term rental space memorable.

Find a style you like, and go for it with gusto

Herbert points out that, in most of the real estate world, neutral, mass-appeal decor is what sells a property. Not so in short-term rentals. Because there are so many properties, the most successful rentals offer unique experiences—something memorable that encourages guests to take photos and share on social media, building buzz around your space.

The way to do that?

“You can have absolute fun,” says Herbert. “You can go with super luxurious all-white, whimsical neon, retro charm—come up with one vision, one dream, one passion, then have the space reflect that.”

Chances are, if you love it, others will too.

Sleeping spaces are important

“A good night’s sleep is key to getting good reviews,” Herbert points out. “People will spend more time in bed than anywhere else.” A comfortable bed with clean, high-quality white linens is a good start, then add interest and texture to the room with pillows and blankets. Don’t forget about lighting either. Multiple options are best: bright, overhead light for getting ready in the day, dimmable lights for a soothing mood, and reading lights for settling down.

Think about first impressions

Make sure your guests feel at home as soon as they enter your space by making your entrance—whether it’s a hallway or a mudroom—welcoming and memorable. Write a nice note, lay out a plate of cookies, provide a local guidebook and recommendations and, if there’s room, provide some space for hanging up coats and storing shoes.

Again, being memorable is key.

“Social media moments are really important,” explains Herbert. “I remember one short-term rental that had gold-mirrored mosaic tiles that everyone wanted to take pictures of. You could do the same with a funky light, or even beautiful fresh flowers. Give guests lots of opportunities to take photos or selfies and let their friends know about you.”

Make your furnishings comfortable

Creature comforts, like soft toilet paper, plush towels, a coffee maker, or spare umbrellas, help your guests feel like they’re being taken care of. Also, remember to cater to the guests you’re trying to attract: for families, providing durable toys, plastic kids’ dishes or some recommendations for kid-friendly activities. For couples, sharing a guide to local restaurants or a selection of board games can help encourage guests to reconnect with each other.

Make sure there are lots of places for sitting and gathering. Stools around a kitchen island, for example, as well as spots at a dining room table and comfortable seating in the living room.

“Keep your decor personal, but not too personalized,” says Herbert. “Use unique and interesting pieces you love, but keep the family photos for your own home.”

Finally, invest in durable materials that can stand up to heavy traffic. Carpet tiles are a great option, as are easily wipeable quartz counters and washable slipcovers for sofas.

Pay attention to marketing

99 per cent of your guests are booking based on your online pictures, so get good ones taken. And don’t fudge room dimensions—guests can tell right away when a photo has been manipulated to make a room look bigger.

And never forget to introduce guests to what makes your area unique and interesting. “Celebrate your local area by telling your guests about local shops, restaurants and unique activities,” Herbert suggests. “Reflect the spirit of your area in your decorating as well as in your marketing.”

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