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How to Design a Short-Term Rental

While short-term rentals seem to be the latest "darling investment" of real estate investors - primarily because of their ability to bring in a higher level of cash flow than long-term rentals - don't find yourself in the trap of assuming setting up an #airbnb is easy. Sure, there is a lot to take into consideration: location, local STR laws, who will manage it, competition in the area, running the numbers to see if they work, etc. This alone is enough to make your head spin. But let's just say you make it through all those hurdles in your due diligence, the final hurdle is interior design. Most people don't realize how crucial a role it plays in whether or not you get bookings, but trust me GREAT INTERIOR DESIGN IS EVERYTHING!

Hopefully this little cheat sheet will help you in designing your #airbnb so you get maximum bookings from the get-go. If not, hire a designer. I promise you it will be well worth the investment. Without further ado, the tips:

Tip #1: Include a nod to the location in the decor

This one is essential. If you are booking an #airbnb, you want it to feel like the place you are traveling to. After all, that is why you are going there. If you go to Palm Springs, you want desert vibes, you want mid-century modern vibes, you want a pop of color. If you are traveling to the beach, you want it to give you cool tones and breezy vibes. Places that don't align with the local design tend to get passed over when people are looking to book. So whether you love it or not, you need to design with the aesthetic that people are looking for when they travel to that area.

Photo Credit @Rebecca Perez

Tip #2: Don't be "kitchy"

Now, this is the one caveat that relates to Tip #1. There is a way to give a nod to the local scene without going too far into the "kitchy" realm. For example, let's go back to the beach listing. There is a way to do beach vibes without starfish being printed on every pillow and shell sinks being installed in every bathroom. Use light colors and textures instead to give that beachside feel. Perhaps sheer curtains blowing in the breeze with rattan blinds that you pull down? Save cash by styling with jars of sand and sea shells, and splurge on an awesome lantern that has light house vibes sitting there? Essentially, move away from literal beach decor to items that capture the vibe in a creative, upscale way.

Tip #3: Use art from local creators

The best way to do Tip #2 is through local artists. Take time when curating your listing to find creations from local artisans. Not only will the act of seeking out local work be more rewarding and teach you more about the community, but it will also be great content for social media - if you're into that. One of my favorite tasks when putting together my most recent listing was to search all the local antique shops for just the right pieces. Each time I found one, I made sure to post the story behind it and where it came from, in order to promote that local business. It created layers to my design and also helped me meet new people in the community and build awareness of my own airbnb that was coming.

Photo Credit @MackofAllTradesNY

Tip #4: Ensure your place is set up for practical use

Remember, the point of your listing is to have people book, stay and enjoy. Function is everything. Little details like having night lights in the bathroom, and labeling unusual or potentially confusing light switches go really far. It helps make the stay easier for the guest but also helps them to feel like they are really being "hosted." As the old saying goes, it's the thought that counts. This shows you are thinking about them and their experience. Just remember to make sure it stays in line with the aesthetic. If you are providing a hair dryer (which you should) and your bathroom is white and sending "clean" vibes, find a hair dryer that matches that aesthetic. It shouldn't be hot pink. All items must match the design aesthetic.

Tip #5: Make sure the address easy to locate from the street

Our town requires this for our #airbnb, but I think it's such a valuable point. A lot of your guests will be coming in late at night. The easier it is to spot the home, even if it's tucked back from the road, the less stressed they will be. If your house is hidden, make sure the driveway has a sign that is up-lit at night so they can see exactly where to turn. Make sure the number is super large and visible and again, make sure it is lit at night. Perhaps you have solar string lights lining the driveway so it makes it easier to see? Or you have a motion flood light that comes on when a car is detected? Just plan for something so that visually you can see the house quickly and easily as you are coming in.

Tip #6: Use durable materials when selecting items for your #airbnb

This is where the goldilocks rule comes in handy... not too cheap, not too expensive, just right. If you buy cheap items, you will end up replacing them often - very often. If you buy expensive items and they get damaged, it will cost you a lot to fix or replace them. Middle grade tends to be my preference here. For example. I bought my couch from Ashley Home Store. It's a solid, one-piece leather couch - easy to wipe clean, but sturdy enough that it won't fall apart. It looks great, and it will hold up over time, as well.

When it comes to rugs, I only buy ones that are machine washable. They will be dirtied. Be ready for it. So mine all have to be super easy to clean and super durable.

Dishes need to be quality, but not fragile. Machine washable is critical since they will get cleaned - A LOT.

Beds, I prefer metal over wood. Not only are the sturdier, but heaven forbid someone brings bedbugs, they can't live in a metal frame.

To sum it up, think select items that will endure extensive use. Your guests will cause more wear and tear than you do on them. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Tip #7: Have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher

Accidents happen. They just do. They happen when you are staying at your place, and they happen when others are staying at your place. You wouldn't stay in a hotel that doesn't meet fire code or have the basics for a medical emergency. It's the same with your #airbnb. Make sure you have these basic items and then check them, along with the smoke detectors every six month to make sure they are still ready to go should an issue ever arise.

Photo Credit Paul Hanaoka

Tip #8: Have extra linens and mattress protectors

Linens get used hard. Even when guests are being super respectful, linens get used the most. So keep the linen simple. I like mine to be white so that I can bleach them easily if need be (case in point: why do you think hotels have white linens?). I also don't buy the cheapest sheets. This will take away from guest experience, they won't hold up in the wash and you will end up having to replace them more often. This is worth spending a bit more for your own sanity, if nothing else.

Have backups just in case. Accidents happen, which leads to my next point of having mattress protectors. This will protect from liquids that get spilled. It also will help protect from potential bedbug calamity. It protects your mattress, which is an investment, especially if you bought expensive mattresses. They have great ones now that aren't plasticky, so they don't make noise when someone rolls over in the middle of the night.

The general rule of thumb for me is for every bed, I have 3 sets of backup sheets. One out, in case the guest needs it, and one in the owner's closet for the next turnover, just in case it is a quick one. The more sheets you have, the less stress. Bonus pro tip: sheets and linens are usually on sale in January following the holidays, so I stock up then. I recommend you do the same for the best bargains.

Photo Credit Tina Witherspoon

Pro Tip #9: Have black out curtains and noise machines and

While I can sleep through any afternoon with a sunbeam streaming onto me like a turtle sunning on a rock, I know that not all my guest are the same way. Some people prefer privacy and some people prefer darkness in order to be able to truly get sleep. The #1 thing that will determine whether a guest enjoyed their stay is the quality, or lack thereof, of their sleep. Little things like black out curtains, noise machines, and soothing scents like lavender go a long way. This gives them the option to use it if they choose to, but they don't have to if they don't want to. You don't have to put them throughout the house, but in the bedrooms, it is a nice touch. An added benefit is that many black out curtains now serve the added function of insulation. So they can help keep a room warm or cool depending upon what temperature is most comfortable for the guest.

So there you have it. Just some initial thoughts I take into consideration when designing my #airbnb experiences for my guests. If you have any to add to this list, please leave a comment below or DM me on Instagram @mackofalltradesny. And for those interested, you can hire me to design your airbnb for you. As always, #igotyou!

Forever grateful,


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