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white bathroom tiles with black grout in monochrome bathroom from metricon

Decorating a Holiday Rental: 9 Steps to a Booked-Out Airbnb

Decorating a holiday rental is something a lot of homeowners don’t do well. But let me assure you, good interior design allows you to charge people more per night to stay in your property – and makes your airbnb a true must-see destination!

In today’s post I want to give you some design pointers to make your holiday rental stand out from the crowd, and highlight a few things you’re probably doing wrong. It doesn’t matter if you’re considered low or high-price accommodation either, these are universal rules.

So let me give you some insight into how you can interior design your airbnb to start charging more.

dark bedroom wall with pink and sofa grey bedding in coastal theme and sheer curtains

1. Develop an Overall Design Scheme

People are booking a holiday rental over a hotel because they want to feel they are living your life for a moment. They want to feel they are part of the community, and they want to feel immersed in a culture. So you need to make them feel they are walking into an amazing, well-designed, real home.

Home is the key word there. We’re not talking designing your airbnb to look or feel like a hotel. But there should be a consistent theme across the home. And you can easily pull inspiration from the suburb you’re in, or what the area is known for.

A coastal home calls for a relaxed beachy theme. An inner city apartment can feel more chic and sophisticated. Or a suburb that attracts larger families can embrace colour and fun a little more. Always think about the area you’re in and allow it to inspire your home’s design. But also consider your target market (an all-white Scandi scheme is not going to work with kids, for example).

The market you want to attract is key. There’s no point decking out your home in a colourful family theme if you’re in a wine region that attracts couples. Try to get into the mind of your potential clientele and develop a scheme for the home from there. 

Some trend articles on the blog that’ll help you hone in on a style:

One of the four styles above will set you straight, so click on one of the links and get inspired!

house rules 2018 leigh and kristie nautical entryway

2. Think about First Impressions – Where’s the Wow?

When decorating a holiday rental, you need to create a design moment in whatever area your guests are going to land in first. This is their first impression of the home and you want it to be a good one.

If there’s a dedicated entry/foyer zone, think about a large mirror, somewhere to hang jackets and coats, an entry table etc. Ensure this zone isn’t cluttered though. Guests are likely to have bags or suitcases with them and you don’t want the space to feel tight.

If you’re entering right into a living space or kitchen, try adding an eye-catching painting on the wall. You want the first thing your guests see to be impressive and impactful. Again, look to your surrounds for art inspiration. A coastal home’s art would clearly be beach-focussed. If you’re in wine region, photography of rolling hills or a nearby winery would be wonderful.

My top tip: Avoid smaller, cheap art pieces. By all means opt for affordable artworks for hallways or bedrooms, but first-impression art needs to have wow-factor.

modern coastal bedroom with dark carpet and sheer curtains

3. Make a moment of the Master Bedroom

It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling alone, with your partner, your kids or a group; everyone wants to talk into the bedroom and feel like it’s a sanctuary. That means not skimping on the bed, bedside tables, lamps, or bedding.

I’m not saying you have to purchase 2000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheet sets, but have it feel soft to the touch. And please go to the effort to make the bed well; layer it up.

When decorating a holiday rental, the master bedroom should include:

  • A headboard for starters (no lonely ensembles without a bedhead)
  • Fitted sheets and flat sheets in soothing neutral tones
  • A quilt cover rolled back and a throw on the end of the bed
  • Two European pillows at the head of the bed, with four standard pillows in front
  • Two cushions in front of your standard pillows

You might think this is excessive, but it’s all about the feeling you evoke when someone walks into the room. You want to see plush pillows, plump quilts, and soothing colours on the bed. It’s things like this people will tell their friends about. And who doesn’t want an amazing night’s sleep?

If you need some more bed styling tips, this post has you covered.

When it comes to lighting, opt for larger lamps that have presence. It’s so tempting to go cheap here, but trust me: a grand master is something your competitors probably aren’t doing. So now you have them beat! 

You might even want to consider installing pendant lights (here’s more on those), or wall sconces. This is a master after all.

modern master bedroom with grey wallpaper design and white bedding from metricon

4. Secondary Bedrooms should not feel Second-Rate

Ensure you carry the chosen interior design theme across the entire home. Consistency is key. And just because you’ve made the master bedroom feel grand and welcoming, doesn’t mean you get lazy with the other bedrooms. Whoever doesn’t get the master bedroom doesn’t want to feel as though they’re slumming it in a crappy consolation prize room.

You don’t have to opt for a bed as elaborate as you did in your master, but still make it feel welcoming and impressive. You can opt for a little more colour in these secondary bedrooms. They’re likely to be used by kids or teens if it’s a family market you’re targeting, so they don’t need to feel as sophisticated as the master. But still keep the tone of colour fairly muddy or muted.

Also think about creating a focal point in secondary rooms. You could do this through artwork really easily, but also consider wallpaper or painting a feature wall.

There’s such a temptation to keep everything plain, boring and inoffensive, but that’s not what people are paying for. They want an experience. Some wow. Some interest. So give it to them!

metricon outdoor area with timber decking and glass pool fence

5. Ensure the Outdoor Zones feel Designed too

You can’t forget the alfresco areas when decorating a holiday rental. Aussies love outdoor living. In summer, couples, families and larger groups will all want to utilise the outdoor area, so ensure there’s ample seating here.

Every outdoor zone is different, so whether you choose a table and chairs or an outdoor lounge will be your call. My advice: make sure it’s comfortable! Nobody wants to relax in a cheap metal chair that’s rusting and has no padding on it. Invest in some easy-to-clean materials outdoors and your guests will remember you for it!

Also make the outdoor zone usable. Put a barbecue outside and leave instructions on how to use it if you think guests might get confused. You can also consider outdoor games if your zone is large enough. Simple things like a dartboard give guests something to do while the food is cooking.

Metricon Lookbook Somerset Home in Glen Waverley TLC Interiors

6. Create a Social Media Moment

We live in a digital world, and everyone wants to share their travels on social media. I’ve stayed in plenty of airbnb’s where I’ve not wanted to share any photos because the interior design has been so boring. Old, cheap, and boring. That’s the formula most people follow when decorating a holiday rental, and it needs to change.

Try to create a moment in one of the main living areas that feels special. A backdrop people will want to have a photo against. I love the idea of a map decal on the wall that reflects the area your holiday rental is in, but let your imagination run wild.

If your home is in an iconic destination, celebrate it. Get a signwriter in to do a mural on the wall that says “Mornington Peninsula” or “Bondi Beach”, or whatever location you’re in. Hang a gallery wall of iconic photos from the region. The more that guests photograph themselves in your home and put it online, the more free marketing you’re getting!

And on that note, you must create a hashtag for your airbnb and encourage people to use it. Have it on the wall, have it in your airbnb listing. It’d even go so far as to create a social media account for your holiday rental and share photos on it to draw people in.

You should also get professional photos taken of your holiday rental once you’ve implemented all of my ideas 😉

Rustic Wooden Chest of Drawers - Metricon's Provincial Trader Trend

7. Mix New and Old Decor (and Keep it Local)

I hate staying in airbnb’s that have furniture I recognise. Stuff from Kmart, or IKEA, or Fantastic Furniture. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have these brands included when decorating a holiday rental, but you should also think outside the box a little. Decorate the airbnb in a way that feels special and homely.

Your guests have a lot of that affordable decor in their own homes already. The last thing they want to do is pay to stay at your house and see the exact same brands they have back at their place. That’s not an experience. And a holiday rental is all about creating a long-lasting experience.

You do not want to be remembered as the airbnb that looked like a Kmart catalogue (even though I love you, Kmart!). A good idea is to invest in sturdy, easy-to-clean pieces of furniture (leather or slip-cover sofas, for example). Think things like the sofa, armchairs, dining chairs and beds – invest in those. And then go cheaper on the smaller accessories like coffee tables, sideboards, and entertainment units.

The other thing you need to do though, is include some unique decor moments. Find a second hand/vintage store in your area and pick up some pieces from their to include in the home. This gives your holiday rental heart and soul. You can even tell guests where they can go to buy the style they see in your home. Which brings me to my next point…

modernist living room design from metricon with mid century glass top coffee table

8. Create a Guide for Guests

You are the expert of your area. You know it and you love it. Guests are landing in your suburb and potentially have no idea where to start in terms of getting around. What are the best places to grab a coffee? Is there a must-try wine bar down the road they’ve got to experience? Where are the kid-friendly restaurants in the area?

These are all things you can tell them in a guide you create for them. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to put this together. Use a program like Canva and select one of their templates to customise.

You could even have a chalkboard somewhere in a main living area with these must-see hotspots listed out, along with tourists brochures or business cards for destinations in the area.

Let people know if there are stores they can purchase antiques or stationery from (or basic things like convenience stores and chemists!). People love to take a bit of their holiday home with them, so let them in on the secret.

feature tiles in bathroom via metricon | TLC Interiors

9. Little Touches go a Long Way

When decorating a holiday rental, consider little moments that can make guests feel you’re taking care of them. Go the extra mile and include things like…

  • A welcome bottle of wine and chocolates for them in the kitchen
  • A coffee machine, and tea (and include milk and sugar for them to use)
  • Stack some soaps and shampoos on towels in the bathroom
  • Include some books on bedsides and coffee tables (picture books, design books)
  • Have umbrellas inside the door they can use for rainy days
  • Include things like iPod docks or bluetooth speakers so they can play music

Also don’t forget: Guests want to feel they are in a home, but not your home. Take down personal photos and pack away mementoes that might seem weird to someone who doesn’t know their origin.

decorating a holiday rental decorating an airbnb coastal bedside table ideas

Need a Designer to Decorate your AirBnB?

Stuck decorating a holiday rental and need some help? You’re in luck because I offer an AirBnB refresh service. Drop me an email at chris@tlcinteriors.com.au and we can discuss how I can transform some of the pockets in your holiday rental to make it feel more special for guests.

The good news is that is doesn’t cost a fortune to make a home feel just that extra bit special. I bet your competitors aren’t doing it, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Let me know if you have any questions about decorating a rental home in the comments below.

This post includes images and/or videos of Metricon display homes and events, reproduced with permission.  © Metricon Homes Pty Ltd 2016.


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Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you for your insight, Chris.
    We are the owners of a new villa on the coast, that we will be offering for holiday rentals.
    I was quite timid to start any interior purchases, but I think I can progress now.

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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