The Beginner’s Guide to Furnishing a Vacation Rental

Long before you can think about building a vacation rental website or commissioning professional photos of your property, there is one important hurdle to cross: furnishing your vacation rental.

Many are unsure about how to pick the best furniture for their rental property. While a blank slate of an empty property is the dream for some homeowners, it fills others with dread to even think about the potential mammoth task of searching for suitable vacation home furniture.

As the short-term rental industry grows and becomes increasingly competitive, ensuring your property stands out from the crowd on online platforms all boils down to one key factor – its interior design.


If you’re feeling overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin, don’t worry – we’re here to help. Our guide will walk you through the key steps for furnishing your rental property to make it pop and attract bookings!

How much does it cost to furnish a vacation rental?

Buying vacation rental furniture can come at a serious cost or be done on a budget, as it really depends on each vacation rental. Some owners spend upwards of $100,000 while others spend little to nothing. Different factors determine the cost of furnishing your vacation rental: location, brand, condition, and inventory, just to name a few.

To expand on the first point, where your property is located could greatly affect the cost of furnishing your short-term rental. For example, if you own a cabin rental that’s miles away from the next town over, you might pay dearly for shipping and delivery. Even if the physical location is accessible, maybe your space has narrow door frames or hard-to-reach homes, like a treehouse, might require special delivery and handling, which always comes at a cost. Seeing what options are closest to you and which ones you’ll have to outsource or hire a professional for will help you determine the overall cost.

Depending on your target audience or your own personal taste, choosing known brands might be relevant for successfully furnishing your vacation rental. For example, if your property is in the New York City Garment District, you may want to consider using furnishings that your guests will recognize. On the other hand, if your property is outdoors-oriented or the real charm is in the surroundings then the name brand might not matter. The furniture brands should be a reflection of your own vacation rental brand. If the logo matters for your space, you’ll need to include the added expense of buying more costly, name-brand furniture.

best furniture for rental property

If you’re going for something a little more “recycled chic,” you could consider buying furniture that’s in a gently-used condition. Buying secondhand furniture will save you a chunk of change, but you have to evaluate if it’s worth it or not. If the piece is already in a worn condition, it could make your property look shabby. Further, if it’s located in a space that has a heavy amount of traffic, you might want to buy new to save the trouble of having to replace it that much quicker.

While you can find a lot of reasonably priced, good condition items from second-hand stores or private sellers, there is no guarantee you’ll find exactly what you’re after. So, plan your budget according to retail prices and you may be pleasantly surprised if you find a bargain elsewhere.

It’s not uncommon for vacation rentals to be fully furnished or partially furnished. If that’s the case, take an inventory of what needs to get rid of or add. Even if the apartment is fully furnished, it might not match your style or it could be dated. Make a list of what needs to be replaced or if you still have some empty spaces in need of an ottoman or two.

In addition to this, think about any duplicate items you need to buy. It’s unlikely you need to store spare mattresses at home, but plenty of towels, sheets, tableware and cutlery are a given!

Budgeting for vacation rental furniture

Once you’ve factored in all the considerations unique to your home, it’s time to start crunching numbers. Proper budgeting for your home is vital because if you’re not thorough enough, the bottom line could come out of your earnings. Be honest with your spending expectations to avoid the pricey mistake of going over budget.

There are several ways you can organize your budget depending on your furnishing needs. If you’re only planning to replace or add a couple of pieces, it might be useful to organize your budget room by room, then indicating the spending range for each specific item or grouping of furnishings per room.

If you’re starting from scratch, you may want to organize your budget in terms of priority. Separating the must-haves from the desirables will also help to keep you within budget. Be generous with your spending range as well. Working with so many variables means that your overall costs have the potential of being all over the place. Realistically implement a low and high end of your budget.

Cost to furnish an Airbnb

If you’re aiming for Airbnb Plus or Superhost status, be ready to pay upfront. Of course, the investment is ultimately worthwhile, but achieving that famed status means you’ll need the space to support your claim of being a superstar host. Your home needs to clearly communicate luxury. Ratty, old furniture just won’t cut it

Airbnb defines its core audience as “head-first explorers,” meaning that guests are seeking experiential and unique travels. Having a carbon copy of some typical brand furniture isn’t going to give your guests the “wow” that they’re looking for.

How to pick short-term rental furniture

Although it’s not as daunting as choosing the actual vacation home, the process of furnishing your rental can still be intimidating to start. Thankfully, having a roadmap of where to start, go, and finish helps to organize and simplify the process.

Choosing the right furniture is important, but it’s never permanent. Try your best to furnish wisely but also keep in mind that any bad seating arrangements or table choices can be easily amended when it’s time to renovate (let’s not worry about that just yet).

1. Create a “furnishing a rental property” checklist

As a first step, you should write down all the furnishings that you already own – unless you are starting out entirely from scratch, of course! As we mentioned, however, most of the time, you’ll already have some bits and pieces that are pre-owned.

Learn how to find the best furniture for a rental property!

As soon as you have this overview, you can create a basic checklist for furnishing a rental property. First, mark down the vacation home furniture which you definitely still need to purchase to adequately equip your accommodation for future guests.

Then comes the second part of the checklist. Here you can take note of the vacation home furniture or decorative pieces which you would like to buy as an added bonus as soon as the basics are covered. You can treat it as your ongoing wish list for furnishing which you can keep long-term and check off bit by bit.

2. Know your target guests

Establishing who your target market is from the outset will make your furnishing decisions that much easier. Depending on the size and layout of your property, it may be a suitable destination for families with young children. In that case, it would be useful to choose short-term rental furniture that is also kid-friendly.

Though if yours is a smaller, cozier abode, you may find yourself marketing it as a romantic retreat for honeymooners and other couples.

No matter who you identify as your ideal group of guests, you’ll want to bear them in mind throughout the entire process of furnishing your property as it will determine your choices for some furniture over others.

After all, what use is a 10-seater dining table if your rental only sleeps four and doesn’t allow any additional visitors?

3. Find inspiration online

In parallel with planning your budget, you can start coming up with ideas for the overall look and style you wish to achieve at your vacation rental.

The internet is full of interior design ideas to make you swoon – especially social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest. Follow all the home stores, interior magazines, and design studios you can think of on social media. Then you can begin saving, pinning, or favoriting all the images that can serve as inspiration for your own vacation home furniture.

You can even check out what your competitors’ properties look like on these channels, and make it your goal to ensure your rental looks even better!

4. Define your style

The personality of your vacation rental goes hand in hand with your own taste, the property location and the budget you have available to assign. Although deciding on a central theme (or themes) is a good idea, remember you want your property to appeal to a wide range of guests.

That means favor neutral color schemes over headache-inducing ones and keep ornaments and trinkets to a minimum.

A lot of vacation rental owners decide to reflect some elements of their locale in their property decoration. For example, blue hues and seaside-inspired décor for those beachfront homes, and rustic, wooden touches, complete with thick, knitted blankets for a mountain lodge or cabin.

Just take a stroll around your area to find inspiration for the theme of your own vacation home furniture and think of creative ideas on how to decorate the interior.

5. Invest in good quality, durable furniture

In general, furniture in a vacation rental will wear more quickly than in a regular home due to the stream of incoming visitors. Some items of furniture, such as mattresses, are easier and cheaper to protect than others.

But for those large pieces which are more at risk of accidental damage (such as dining tables, sofas and so on), investing in practical, durable furniture is a wise move that will save you money in the long run.

Bonus tip: It’s common practice to set a damage deposit for vacation rentals as this helps guests feel a greater sense of responsibility for the property they’re staying in.

6. Be generous with storage

It may not strike you as the most creative part of furnishing your home, but storage is an important factor to take into consideration for any vacation rental.

In particular, if guests traveling to your location are likely to stay for a week or longer, be sure to provide ample closet, drawer or clothes rail space to enable them to unpack and feel completely at home. Even the most minimalist rentals don’t have an excuse – there are many stylish options that can also serve as a design feature.

For example, in the Netflix series Stay Here, host and designer Genevieve Gorder fabricates a “dressing room” within the master bedroom from some vintage doors, a hanging rail, and an antique dresser – as shown above.

7. Use lighting to create space

Whether it’s indoor or outdoor, bedroom or living room, bright or mellow – the lighting choices in your vacation rental have a huge effect on how guests perceive the space and how they enjoy it.

Not only can you use lighting as your secret weapon to create an illusion of spaciousness, but you can also play with different fixtures such as hanging bulbs, table lamps and spotlights to illuminate each area of your home.

What’s more, it’s worth investing in energy-efficient lighting solutions such as LED bulbs, as these will last longer and are more eco-friendly. This will also help avoid any mishaps such as an essential bathroom bulb burning out in the middle of a Saturday night!

8. Cover up any flaws

“If you find yourself thinking ‘are guests going to notice that?’ – they’re going to notice it”, says Peter Lorimer, the other host of Stay Here, during an interview with Build Brunch. That’s why it’s essential that your rental paintwork is impeccable, there are no threadbare sofas or soft furnishings, and that everything is in proper working order.

If, for instance, you have a small hole or chip in a wall that’s difficult to repair, you can easily disguise it by hanging a painting over the top. Sometimes, however, what you think could be seen as a flaw may actually be an authentic reminder of your property’s history which guests will love.

For example, a property in Barcelona may boast authentic tiles from years gone by. But during renovations, these could have been damaged slightly, or not all of the floor is fit for purpose. Keeping a small part of the original tiles and pairing them with new ones can breathe new life into an old floor while simultaneously preserving its historic element!

9. Don’t overdo it

While cramming every surface full of objects and souvenirs may be how you like to decorate your own house, for a guest on vacation, it can soon feel overwhelming and cluttered. Recent tendencies of minimalism exist for a reason – they make the space feel clean and can even have a calming effect on people.

Let your guests truly enjoy your vacation home by keeping worktops as clear as possible and spacing out decorations such as mirrors, paintings and plants.

10. Pair old and new furnishings

We all know that stores such as IKEA and Pottery Barn are great for finding everyday items, but to give your rental that unique touch that none of your competitors will have – you’ll need to delve a little further.

A rummage through antique markets or thrift stores can soon provide you with one-off pieces of furniture or decorations which you can mix and match with store-bought items to build your signature style.

Best furniture for a vacation rental

You’ve already got your furniture game plan in place, but the journey isn’t finished just yet. Choosing the best furniture for your vacation rental is what’s going to ensure a top-notch guest experience and repeat reservations. “Best” can be a bold term, so let’s define what we mean by that by breaking it down into the most frequented sections of the home. The best furnishings are the ones consistent with your rental rates, so keep that in mind too when we talk about each room.

Living room

This area can be described as the heart of the home. Many people vacation to spend time with their family and the living room is the place to do that. So what makes good living room furniture? Here are some factors to consider for this part of the room:

  • Comfort. Will guests want to sit here for extended periods of time?
  • Capacity. Does your occupancy limit match the amount of seating offered?
  • Flow. Do the furniture and layout make sense for the purposes of the space?

Answering some of these questions as well as finding inviting, comfortable pieces that compliment your home will ensure that you choose the best living room furniture for your vacation rental. 

Bedroom

Have you ever stayed at an accommodation that had a beautiful bedding set and right when you lay down you feel like you’re sleeping on bricks? Vacations are supposed to be restful. Your vacation rental bedroom needs to support this idea fully.

A comfortable mattress is essential, but good vacation rental furniture doesn’t end there. Having a bed frame and nightstands that make sense is equally important. Let’s say, for example, you mainly host workcationers. Having a small nightstand that’s designed for style and not function won’t be able to fit the needs of that particular guest: an alarm clock, a phone, or any reading material. The best bedroom furniture for your vacation rental strikes the balance of comfort and functionality.

Dining room

On a similar note as the living room, the dining area is intended to bring guests together. More specifically, this is a place for vacationers to spend time and meals together. While the living room focuses on comfort, the dining area should be practical and inviting. The perfect dining room set should be comfortable but also durable. Remember that you’ll be hosting a multitude of people and your dining room furniture needs to be up to the test of stains, spills, and scratches. 

Kitchen & bathroom

When we talk about organizing your budget in the way of priorities, the kitchen and bathroom are the perfect examples for this. What do we mean exactly? If your budget requires you to make decisions as to what furniture you’ll prioritize, the bathroom and kitchen should be at the bottom of your list.

Furnishing your Airbnb

Any standard bathroom or kitchen should already include the essentials (appliances, built-ins, etc.). Anything that you plan to add here, an island, vanity and stool, or a chaise, should be considered an extra. If your budget does allow for these add-ons, think of what would be best for your clients. If your clients are seeking a spa-like experience then furniture pieces that compliment this would be perfect. 

Backyard furniture for a vacation rental

If your home flourishes in the summer months, it might be worth investing in outdoor furniture. If you have the space and budget, it’s a great way to increase the value of your property and consequently gives you the opportunity to ask for a higher daily rate.

Backyard furniture will largely depend on your clients, once again. If you normally host couples, an intimate table setting under a gazebo might be perfect. Larger families might be looking for another entertainment space and you could add furniture to meet this need. 

Summary

Furnishing a vacation rental is the fun part! You can engage with your creative side by finding pieces that add value to your guests’ stay. It can be really rewarding to see your hard work come together to make your home appeal to all your visitors.

Use our guide as your starting point, invest in smart furniture choices that will last a long time and don’t forget to add a splash of personality. Always remember to think about how your property will come across in photos – after all, that’s ultimately what the guest will base their final decision on!

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