The vacation rental industry is a massive and growing $170B market. In the United States, there are over 2,250,000 potential rental properties ranging from coastal condos to glamping environments. Outside of a coveted location, how will you ensure that your property is competitively positioned for maximum ROI? Since most potential guest only invest 59 seconds of viewing time to a listing, design is your optimum booking strategy. Here are my ten fail-safe tips for outstanding design:

  1. Know Your Audience
  2. Set a Realistic Budget
  3. Identify Architectural Style
  4. Define a Color Scheme
  5. Select a Design Style (Top 3)
  6. Consider Scale + Functionality
  7. Accessorize for Polish
  8. Add Comfort
  9. Provide Coveted Amenities
  10. Host Excellence

Set a Budget

This is where most design projects fall off a cliff. Setting a realistic budget is essential to designing a space that serves as the foundation to achieving your revenue goals. Allocate a larger portion of your budget for items that need to have durability, are a focal point in the space and are multi-functional.

Don’t settle for selections that will not create the design experience the space needs just to save a few dollars. Knowing where, when and how to shop are all elements that keep a project on budget.

Remember, your target audience will be able to ascertain the quality, or lack thereof, of selected furnishings through photographs. Avoid eliminating your property from consideration due to not setting and allocating a proper budget for your vacation rental. It has been proven over time that smart decisions will generate a ROI.

Know Your Audience

What market are you trying to reach with your rental property? The most popular vacation rental guest groups include:

  • Luxury
  • Couples
  • Families
  • Multi-generational Families/Groups
  • Millennials or Boomers

Even though these audiences most often have different vacation needs, they do share some collective desires. It is important to anticipate your property’s target audiences needs and desires to deliver an experience beyond their expectations. Ultimately, how you want to be treated, is how your guests desire to be treated. Tap into the nuances to achieve five-star ratings and repeat guest stays.

Architectural Authenticity

Every home has an architectural style. Great design starts with understanding a home’s specific style blueprint and accentuating those attributes on the exterior and interior. The end-result creates architectural authenticity. This comprehensive approach creates a stunning environment that feels good, looks inviting and effortlessly facilitates how people will behave in the space. Utilize the architecture and the surrounding environment from landscaping to views to make your rental the crown jewel of listings.

Establish a Color Scheme

Use the power of color to set the mood, tell a story and provide an infrastructure for the type of experience that you have designed for your guests. Typically, three to five colors woven throughout the home through paint, furniture, accessories, furnishings, art and appliances to create a cohesive theme. Incorporate complementary metals to add dimension to the color scheme. Every room should WOW through color and design.

Define a Cohesive Style

The most popular interior design styles are:

  • Contemporary style which features soft, contoured lines. Fabrics are usually natural fibers in neutral colors. This style genre is great for adding in pops of color and layering patterns.
  • Modern style is comprised of furniture and accessories with sleek lines and minimal ornamentation. Polished metals, especially chrome, acrylic and exotic woods are signatures of this style. Abstract art and minimal, yet well-appointed accessories are hallmarks of this genre.
  • Transitional style is a fusion of traditional and contemporary styles. Wood and leather are common materials mixed with deeper traditional colors and presented in contemporary patterns.

Scale + Functionality

All furniture, accessories and furnishings should accurately reflect the scale of the property. High ceilings accommodate items that are larger in dimension and have a slightly exaggerated height. Expansive rooms can house more seating and interactive vignettes. More compact spaces, including rooms with lower ceilings, should have appropriately scaled items.

Functionality is key in the space planning process. How and where people sit, stand, congregate and play are all details that great design anticipates in advance. Remember to consider guests within multi-generational groups and with disabilities.


Accessories for the home are like jewelry in fashion. They really are the details that add the finishing touch for a polished space. Accessories to consider include pottery, plants, books, vases, art, florals, accent pillows and decorative objects. Most faux plants make spaces look outdated. When using faux plants select with a curated eye and incorporate a limited quantity. Appoint accessories that are appropriate for the space, décor and guest audience.


Vacationers generally seek adventure, R&R and comfort. Your city can provide the adventure. Your rental property can provide the backdrop for a fantasy lifestyle.

Pillows, mattresses and linens are at the top of the comfort list. Natural fibers, like Egyptian cotton, are still a top preference for sheets, duvets and towels. Lush, tactile textiles for throw blankets and bathrooms are comfortable luxury item.  A variety of pillows and a few extra mattress pads are thoughtful additions to cater to guests’ preferences.

Window treatments also play a role in guest comfort. They provide light control and privacy which are often overlooked, yet vital, elements in a space.

Put yourself in their shoes, what are the small things that make you feel at home? Make a list and chances are that guests will appreciate these luxuries as well.


Select amenities that fit the property and the guests’ profile. Consider the guests’ range of activities and interactions. Family dinners, pet-friendly areas, games, books, fire pits and other resources all comprise the elements that make a vacation truly special and customized. Great memories generally equate to repeat stays. Remember, technology is playing an increasing role in vacation rentals. A smart home system may make sense for select properties.


Welcome your guests with the ultimate hosting experience of professionally prepared and arranged beverages, hors d’oeuvres and a stocked refrigerator of waters, wine, beer and champagne. A welcome gift, basket or box with a hand-written card is a signature gesture by the classiest host/hostess.

Be honest about the home’s condition. Are there areas that need improvement to reach your target market? How does your listing compare with surrounding top performers? Design is a business strategy that can increase guest reservations and rental revenue. A team of professionals that create success include credible management companies, interior designers, architectural photographers.

Incorporate these tips to provide guests an unforgettable travel experience.

Photo credit: Artiom Vallat

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This