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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.

While a blank slate of a property is the dream for some homeowners, it fills others with dread to even think about the potentially mammoth task at hand.

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!

1. Know your target guests

Establishing who your target market is from the outset will make your furnishing decisions that bit easier. Depending on the size and layout of your property, it may be a suitable destination for families with young children. 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?

2. Decide your budget

Back in the initial stage of buying your property, you’ll probably have already come up with a rough estimate of what you’re willing to spend on renovating it. Inside the “renovations” category comes – of course – furniture and furnishings, and the price tag they carry. It’s advisable to be generous with your budget, that way you have a cushion for any extras that will give your rental a special touch.

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.

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!

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 home.

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.

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 which is harder to stain, scratch or break is a wise move which 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 which 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 its 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 thread-bare 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.

Furnishing a vacation rental is one of the most creative tasks of being an owner. It can be really rewarding to see your hard work come together to make your home appeal to incoming guests. 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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The Beginner’s Guide to Furnishing a Vacation Rental
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