My daughter and I recently took a trip out west to visit national parks in the Tetons, Yellowstone, Zion and more. I wanted to have a unique experience by staying in places that weren’t the norm for us. I started looking at AirBnBs and motels to find places which reflected the “local flare”.
Some rooms appeared nice while others lacked appeal. As a designer, I tend to put a lot of attention on how a room and space look, especially when only experiencing it online. I just can’t help it.
The appearance of the room is its calling card; one that a potential guest judges within seconds. And when people see it online, it’s truly like speed dating. You’ll attract or not attract in 4 seconds or less. It’s the same for staging home that goes on the market.
[clickToTweet tweet=”First looks matter when it comes to vacation rentals online. #airbnb #maderavine” quote=”First looks matter. “]
While seeing is believing, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on the furnishings and accessories to make it look fabulous. Money does need to be spent though and you should view it as an investment for your potential and lucrative income.
When planning for your investment, the three main concerns of your guests are safety, functionality and appearance.
People strongly desire to feel safe wherever they go. If they can’t see the location in person, photos speak volumes! To help them achieve that feeling of comfort and ease, you’ll need to take good quality photos in natural light. Show off the features of your room, place and surroundings (inside and out). Highlight as many things as you can that will give them an understanding of what their experience might be like.
Key vs keyless…that is the question.
For some owners, they want to meet their renters and be accessible for them. That adds a nice touch of service. But you don’t want to be too accessible especially when your guests are there to relax and enjoy their time alone. One idea is to go with a keyless entry for your rental. This can cost a little upfront but it makes the whole process of checking in and out easy, especially if your guests arrive when you are unavailable. Here’s a great article on the pros and cons of using a keyless entry…you decide what’s best for you.
Price at time of publication: $184.99 on Amazon.
Another great idea is to offer a place for guests to lock up their valuable in the room when they go out on their adventurs. Consider a locking cabinet or piece of furniture, or a mini safe. Make sure to list that in your description.
How a space functions makes a difference not only in practical terms but it also sets a tone mentally. You want people to feel comfortable in a space that is well thought out, planned and designed.
Placement of furniture is key.
I once saw a place online that could sleep up to 6 people. The owner crammed 3 double to queen size beds into one room which didn’t allow for any other furniture. It looked awful and had zero personality. Plus the photos were dark.
If you have only one room, there are great options to increase sleeping without overcrowding a space. Consider adding a sofa or sofa-bed, cots with comfortable mattress pads, or a trundle bed.
This cot I found the other day is compact, easy to set up and affordable!
At my father and stepmom’s home they had these great trifold sleeping mattresses. We found them to be very comfortable and you can place them on the floor or on the cot. We even slept on these within our tent. I like them because an air mattress can deflate easily (which our girls experienced); these will not.
Consider where your home is located (mountains, beach, desert, hill country, etc). What draws people to your town? If you’re unsure, look to your local Chamber of Commerce to see why people come to visit.
If you’re in the mountains, consider going with a mountain or lodge theme. Look at colors, materials, fabric patterns, accessories that fit that style. For example, wood tones, plaid blanket or throw, antlers, artwork reflecting the area, etc.
Other themes to consider: city, metro, cattle ranch, beach, country, vintage, lake, rustic, cottage, etc. Cultural and personal touches help make it special, but less is more. Remember, it’s all in the details.
Photograph all the features that tie into your theme. If you can share great views of the area that are visible and or accessible to your rental, people will get a sense of where they are escaping to.
Choose a color pallet based on your theme options. Look on Pinterest, hotel sites or in magazines for ideas. Try to limit your choices to three colors. Neutral color schemes provide comfort. Punches of color can come in the form of decorative pillows, art and accessories. Accessories are easily interchangeable especially if you add elements for different seasons or holidays.
Quality furniture doesn’t have to be super expensive. With most of the new furniture coming from overseas, the quality will and does vary. So pay attention to what you buy. You can find great deals on resale sites, Craigslist, or at garage sales. These pieces might need a little love but you can make some great updates to freshen up their look and style.
Get a quality mattress. This will be an investment; one that is critical if you are hoping for great reviews. When you go to a mattress store, tell them what you need the mattress for and they’ll guide you toward your best options. Another way you can go is to call one of your favorite hotels and ask what kind of bedding they use. Compliment them on your experience there and tell them you’d like to recreate that comfort at home.
Important pieces to invest in include:
- Chest of drawers
- Night stand(s)
- Desk and chair
- Sofa (bed) and chair for lounge area
- Coffee table
- End tables
- Lighting (lamps by bed, in lounge area, over head fan)
- Mattress /box spring
I love it when I go to a hotel and they have toiletries unlike other places. It shows me that they like to offer something special and unique to their brand.
When I travel, I do consider taking what I’ll use on a daily basis. But if I’m going somewhere for a short time, it’s easier when I know they’ll have the amenities we need to freshen up.
Rather than purchasing big box store products for people to use, consider doing what hotels do. Buy small toiletries from vendors who cater to hotels, rental homes and AirBnb owners. You can buy minimum quantities and find a great and unique line; one that ties in with your theme and/or your style.
Here are a couple of companies to check out. I was impressed with their packaging, their options, and what they are about.
Vacation Home Amenities
Ilonka Berryman founder and owner of Vacation Home Amenities saw a need to provide luxurious spa products to the rental market.
She shares, “We have been in the rental business for many years, and have learned that it’s the little things that set us apart from other rentals, and go a long way in helping to get great reviews from our guests. That is why we set out to create bath amenities that are Eco-Friendly, affordable and luxurious!”
When I asked her what makes their products special, she said, “Customers tell me they love the colors of the packaging and the scent. Our amenities are all designed to complement the properties location and are more fun than the boring and generic amenities that most stores offer. Our customers like that they can order in smaller quantities so that they can have something upscale to offer their guests, without having to order large quantities from a hotel supplier.
We are also in the process of designing a new collection that will be geared towards Lake properties which should be available towards the end of the year. ”
Beach Therapy is enriched with Aloe Vera, providing natural hydration to soothe and revitalize skin and hair after a day at the beach. The Paraben Free Formulation features a subtle Tropical Fragrance that is both light and refreshing. Biodegradable packaging.
The Mountain Escape collection is inspired by the great outdoors and perfect for lodges and Mountain properties. It’s formulated with white lemongrass fragrance, is paraben free and has Biodegradable packaging .
Another great compay to consider is Accent Amenties
Christian at Accent Amenities shared with me that their newest and most popular line is their Nurture Collection which is formulated using argan oil and spa quality formulations, without parabens. The fragrance is one of his favorites! Their Starter Kits, designed with AirBnB and vacation rentals in mind, contain 50 each of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, and 100 soaps and makeup remover wipes.
No matter what your style, design or decor is, they are sure to have something that compliment it. Accent Amenties offers eight elegant collections of “spa-grade hotel toiletries that will exceed your guests expectations.”
Additional vacation rental amenities offered by Accent Amenities include a wide range of personal care products: mouthwash, deodorant, shave cream, ear plugs, loofah sponges, makeup remover wipes, and more.
You can even get custom lip balms!
And the beauty again…no minimum order requirements provide an economical solution for smaller hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals while making a LASTING impression.
This is a recommended list of amenities to consider offering your guests. Take time to reflect on this. Put yourself in your own room as a guest and see what you’d most enjoy and appreciate. If you have hard time being objective, ask a friend or family member to shoot straight with you. You ultimate goal should include providing each guest with a memorable experience and have them telling their friends about you!
- Pot holders
- Serving and cooking utensils, knives
- Pots and pans for cooking
- Cutting board
- Paper towels, napkins
- Plates, bowls, coffee cups
- Glasses, wine glasses
- Snacks (granola bars, cookies, fresh fruit)
- Coasters for drinks
- Bottled waters
- Cleaning supplies
KEY TIP: If you find out your guests are celebrating an anniversary, have a bottle of champagne or wine for them. Listen to your guests and their travel reasons to share an extra special touch. They will never forget your thoughtfulness and it’ll show on your reviews. Win win…
- Clean towels
- Toilet paper, Q-tips, toothbrushes, toothpaste
- Hair dryer
- Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash, etc)
- Extra linens in closet; placed in zippered bags.
- Quality white bed linens
- Quality mattress and pillows
- Mattress cover
- Ample hangers for closet (wooden or velvet). Make sure they match and look new.
- Full length mirror
- Iron & Ironing board
- Alarm clock
- Mini safe, cabinet with lock or lockbox for valuables.
- Information Guest Binder (3-ring) with information about your place, amenities, local restaurants, pubs and attractions, gym facilities, emergency numbers, grocery store, etc. Also include how to work things in the room/apartment/home (i.e. thermostat, oven, etc); house rules; check out procedures; etc.
- If you’d like to see a great example of compiling a fabulous Welcome Book, click here.
- Guest Sign In Book, Journal or Map for guests to sign where they’re from
- Notecards or postcards (pre- stamped) for guests to write a note home
- In-room coffee maker (with supplies, coffee and tea)
- In-room refrigerator
- In-room microwave (for guest who travel outside of restaurant hours)
- I-phone for international travelers to use (high end amenity).
- Books or current magazines
- USA Today newspaper for business people
- Surge protector with USB ports
- Wifi… number one guest request
- Cable/Movies on Demand
- DVD library
- Sitting area
- Desk area
- Laundry facilities
- Keyless entry (to avoid losing keys or waiting on locksmiths)
LET’S LOOK AT SOME VACATION RENTALS…
I decided to share a few examples of different AirBnB rentals that I came across. Some are in great shape and others could use a bit more attention. I’ll expalin what I see and what I’d recommend.
This is a small, stuffy, private room in NYC rented for $91 a night. During a Super Bowl game, it was listed for $427 a night. I think I’d pass at that price.
What I would recommend to make this room more appealing:
- Use white crisp bed linens. Lay an attractive blanket or coverlet at the foot of the bed. Have a couple coordinating decorative pillows or simply use shams that match the bedding.
- Replace the floor lamp with a table lamp, sconce or hanging lamp to free up floor space.
- Add artwork and drapery panels to warm up the room.
- Take better photos to share the room, it’s features and it’s natural surroundings.
- While I can’t see the rest of the room, having a neutral color palette and city theme would help make this room.
This room is located in Western North Carolina. It’s clean and simple.
What I would recommend:
- Bedding that compliments the wood tones. Add a bed skirt to cover the box spring.
- Add a headboard.
- Make sure there are hangers in the closet.
- Add nightstands to give guests a place to put a glass of water or their eye glasses.
- Add artwork
- Add drapery panels to help the room be more cozy. Fabric panels could also be added to the closet.
- While I can’t see the rest of the room, I’d also suggest a dresser, chair, mirror and lamps for the nightstands. To really up the wow factor of the room, I’d suggest painting the paneling or going with more of a mountain themed décor.
- In the bathroom, close the toilet when taking photos. Use white towels for they are easy to brighten up with bleach if necessary.
- Front porch, add containers of plants/flowers and make the front inviting.
- For his profile photo, I’d recommend a great head shot of him alone.
This room is located in Western North Carolina as well . It’s clean and simple.
What I would recommend:
- Take photos with natural light to avoid the yellow hues of the lamps.
- Relocate the TV and fridge to a better viewing spot in the room. Guests will have a hard time seeing the television from the bed.
Design wise, it’s really cute!
Another great example of smart design. This owner is offering a unique experience in a tepee located in WNC! I love the color palette and easy furnishings they provide. You can definitely get a cozy feel from their photos, while understanding how you’d live in that space. I think they did a great job!
CONNECT WITH YOUR GUESTS
People want to connect with other people, therefore a good quality profile photo is important. Don’t get cutsie and post a photo of your pet or a random object. Show who you are and let them get to see your presence.
Also, invest in a photographer to take photos of your space if you aren’t able to take them yourself. Make sure they have experience photographing real estate; there’re are certain nuances to making the photos pop. If you can’t afford professional photos, consider bartering by offering a free stay in exchange for photos. In doing so, you can also get a great guest review! Remember, photos will make or break your online “dating” chances for securing great guests.
While our experience with AirBnB did not pan out, due to unforeseen circumstances, I do believe there are incredible experiences you have and share with others.
Should you need design assistance in pulling together your “theme, color palette or room design”, I’m always available for consultations. No project is too small or too far. Any design help you can gather will pay you dividends on your investment. Just contact me here.
Think and act like a business owner. Focus on your guests experiences and give them the best you can.
If you are a host, do you have any great tips to add to this post? If so comment below.
And if you’ve stayed at an AirBnB, what did you love most about your host and experience? Can’t wait to hear!
Cheers to you and yours!