25 Vacation Rental Interior Design Changes That Make a Big Difference

Whether you have a Bed & Breakfast or a villa,  your vacation rental’s interior design has a much bigger impact on bookings than you might think (and if you’re already aware of this, you’re one step ahead!). One area where hotels (especially boutique hotels) still have a leg up over vacation rentals is in their design. After all, hotels can bring in professionals to carefully curate and stage their rooms and common areas for maximum comfort and beauty.


Thankfully, we can change that. A few simple rental interior design changes can make a noticeable difference at your property, while still keeping the personality and local inspiration that make vacation rentals so special.

Interior Design for Short-Term Rentals

You might be surprised to hear that the interior design of your vacation rental can psychologically affect your guests and uplift their mood significantly. According to a report by Tracie Weeks, different textures and patterns result in a lasting sensory experience and can release positive emotions. Calming environments can actually lower our stress hormone levels, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety or depression. 

The majority of guests choose a vacation rental property because its interior design is different from their own home. This means you have a prime opportunity to charm guests – even during the research stage.

The Importance of Vacation Rental Design

When you go on vacation and rent out accommodation, much of the experience has to do with the detail that goes into the design. The modern-day traveler has high expectations and even if your rental isn’t a beachfront penthouse in the Caribbean, a well-thought-out interior can transform a seemingly average space.

That being said, the right Airbnb decor or apartment design can leave a lasting impression on guests. Below, we’ve collected our favorite “dos and don’ts” from a group of vacation rental staging pros: a photographer, a seasoned traveler, and a hospitality expert. You’ll also find a few bonus tips to help you go the extra mile. 

Use these tips to get your vacation rental photo-ready (and guest-friendly!). The best part? All of these can be done in a day… and they won’t break your budget.

The Photographer: Tyann Marcink, Marcink Designs

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1. DO: Invest in throw pillows. Throw pillows can add a great splash of color and, when made from local or traditional fabrics, tell an interesting story for your home.

2. DON’T: Forget to trim tags and loose threads from throw pillows. Shabby pillows aren’t shabby chic, and your photos will show every detail.

3. DO: Use local art and souvenirs on your walls. Support local artists and small businesses while giving your property a story to tell. Inspire your own guests by showing off some local souvenirs around your place. This doesn’t mean you should fill your property with tacky ornaments and fridge magnets, but rather display wall hangings, independent neighborhood artists’ prints, or ceramic collections.

4. DON’T: Rely too much on small art. Large art, whether canvas pieces or framed photographs, pull a room together and look great in your property photos.

5. DO: Hang your art at eye level. The placement of your art changes the way it’s perceived. Eye-level is a safe place to start but we recommend always using removable hooks to make adjustments later on.

The Seasoned Traveler: Lynne Martin, Author of Home Sweet Anywhere

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6.  DO: Hang hooks for your guests. Owners: remember that people need a place to hang robes, towels, cosmetic bags, and other belongings. Please don’t be stingy with hooks! They’re appreciated in bathrooms, bedrooms, front halls, and kitchens. 

7. DO: Let there be light. Travelers love to read – especially guide books, bestselling novels, travel books, and maps. Place lamps or overhead lighting where people actually need them: by the bed, near the armchair, and in the kitchen. A bigger bulb won’t break the bank and your visitors will be delighted.

8. DO: Provide lots of hangers. These things are cheap and disposable, so why not make your guests wildly happy by providing an abundance of them? If you’re feeling extra kind, throw in a few skirt hangers. Your karma will improve if you do!

9. DON’T: Let your pillows get lumpy. Decent pillows are a luxury that everyone appreciates, so spring for some really nice, fluffy pillows and replace them often. Plopping one’s head on a clean, inviting pillow at the end of a long day of sightseeing is a delightful experience and will help you get those great reviews.

The Designer: Mercedes Brennan, 1 Chic Retreat

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10.  DO: Add some blue to your interiors. 42% of all people, across all geographies and ages, say blue is their favorite color. Blue equates to trust, friendliness, and calm. There’s a reason why the world’s most powerful corporations have blue logos. You should, too!

11.  DON’T: Go overboard with earth-dominant interior colors. The world’s least favorite colors are browns and beiges –they equate to decay in people’s minds. Balance your browns with blue and blue-greens and you will make your guests happy and attract more bookings.

12. DO: Base your color palette on your specific rental. For example, many beach destinations will likely use blues and turquoises in their interiors to reflect seaside shades. Countryside homes, however, may use more natural palettes and woody elements to bring the outdoor feeling inside. It’s important to remember not to overdo it with too many patterns and styles.

13. DON’T: Start painting before you have a plan. You don’t want your vacation rental to be a rainbow of colors that clash. Sit down and plan the aesthetic of your rental with time before getting started.

14. DO: Mix vintage and new furnishings together. Adding in some antique and vintage furnishings along with some new items makes a vacation rental feel more authentic and high-end. A stack of vintage books next to a new lamp, for example, gives the room patina style.

15. DON’T: Furnish a room with all antiques or all new furnishings. The former makes your vacation rental look like a dusty second-hand shop; the latter makes your house look cheap and rushed.

16. DO: Incorporate nature into your home. Almost everyone loves plants and they provide a great look for any home. Don’t worry if you’re not a plant connoisseur, there are plenty of options for beginners like pothos and snake plants. If your rental accepts pets, be sure to double-check which plants are dangerous for animals to nibble on!

17. DON’T: Buy furniture of the same height. A common rental design mistake is to buy furniture that is the same height. Instead, think of creating a balance of different heights and proportions to complete your property.

18. DO: Match with your company’s brand. It’s always a good idea to complement your interiors with your business branding and website design, so there is coherence both on and offline!

Extra Tips for the Perfect Rental Design

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19. DO: Keep your linens fresh. Washing between guests is a given. But you should also spot-check them when they come out of the dryer, too. Products like Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing can keep sheets sparkling white and turn small stains into “no big deal.” And tuck that bed to perfection every time! No exceptions.

20. DON’T: Recycle your own home’s linens at your vacation rental. If your linens are more than two-to-four years old, it’s time to reinvest for the sake of your guests. If you’re going to splurge on something, it should be top-notch bedding!

21. DO: Go for the high-design, minimalist approach. In other words, keep things simple and updated, which makes for a clean, open feel (and makes the housekeeper’s job a lot easier!).  Make sure the items you do leave out have a purpose.

22. DON’T: Overdo it with knick-knacks. Fake plants, statues, and other ornaments collect dust, and that ultimately increases your cleaning bill. Instead, choose a few special, well-placed touches – bonus points for local pieces!

23. DO: Invest in eco-friendly materials. Eco-friendly options are becoming increasingly popular for the socially conscious traveler. Adapting your interior design to become more environmentally friendly can help you to attract more guests, and inspire them to change their behavior once they return home. Even small changes, such as adding energy-efficient lighting and offering the right recycling facilities, can help guests to reconsider their own habits.

24. DON’T: Stick to just one furniture brand. We all love IKEA but guests are quick to notice when a home is fully furnished from the same place. Keep your rental interior design fresh by researching a variety of budget-friendly brands.

25. DO: Repurpose found objects. With the rise of inspiration source sites such as Pinterest, more and more people are discovering they have the confidence to undertake DIY projects themselves. There is a huge market for repurposed objects, but often, ready-made items can come with a hefty price tag. Plus, half the fun is getting stuck in and doing it yourself! Some ideas could include repurposing pallets as outdoor furniture, kitchen scales as a towel holder, or an old door as a master bedroom headboard.

There You Have It!

One of the biggest advantages of vacation rentals is the opportunity they provide for owners to be creative with interior design. Unlike traditional accommodations, such as chain hotels which are generally quite rigid with their design and tastes, alternatives like vacation rentals come in all shapes, sizes, and styles.

Not only will these touches give your property a unique and original character, but they will also encourage guests to think about how they could transform their own homes and give new life to discarded objects. Whether you completely change the color choices you use, or simply add a few local artists’ works to your property, you want to create a rental where your guests feel relaxed and at home.

Use these ideas for interior design inspiration to help get your renovations underway! Do you have an easy, do-it-in-a-day tip for adding a little beauty and comfort to your rental? Let us know in the comments below!


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