Part III - Design Trends
Today’s Short-Term Rental (STR) industry must be innovative and fresh. Under the mission of hospitality, STRs must respond to trends and guest demands. One area that is increasingly relevant in the Short-Term Rental landscape are design trends that frame the STR experience. What follows are some things to consider avoiding…and some ideas that will help create a bright, fresh, and well-thought-out environment in your STR – one that appeals to family vacationers, work-from-homers, business travelers, and adventure seekers.
No Matching Furniture Sets
This trend is outdated and will give the STR a boring and unoriginal look and feel. Instead, owners should search for coordinating pieces that create visual appeal, like mixing fabrics or patterns within a color palette. Be sure to keep in mind your location and target demographic. A rustic cabin in the mountains will be furnished differently than a contemporary condo in the city.
Not just for aesthetic appeal, real wood furnishings are more durable and, in most cases, can be repaired, if necessary. Particle board or faux wood furniture is not meant to stand up to the heavy traffic typical of a vacation rental and may need to be replaced after just one season. If it makes more sense for your ambiance, metal is also a good choice.
Coffee Tables and End Tables
What’s worse than bringing your drink or snack into the living room to watch some TV or curl up with a book and then having nowhere to put them? Your guest will see this as, at best, an inconvenience, and at worst, a lack of thought or care for their comfort. Which doesn’t make them likely to return to or recommend your rental.
Easy Clean Surfaces
Give your housekeeper a break! This will, in turn, give your guests and ultimately you a break, too. Don’t stock your property with hard-to-clean items like thick rugs, accent textiles that can’t be washed, or kitchen surfaces or appliances that need special attention. Anything that slows your housekeeper down translates into longer wait times for your guests, which translates into guest frustration. Don’t allow a guest stay to start off on a negative note if you can avoid it.
Be Mindful of Your Artwork
Unless your theme is minimalism, make sure to put artwork up on the walls. People rent STRs to have the feel of “home”. But be mindful of the artwork you choose. Make sure it fits in with your overall theme and color palette. And also, be mindful that the size of the artwork should be appropriate for the space you’re displaying it. As an example, don’t display two 4” x 6” pictures on a long wall. Conversely, don’t hang a statement piece in a small or lightly trafficked area.
Much of the pleasure of a vacation (or a change in scenery for a WFH situation) is in enjoying the outdoors, whether it’s a balcony in the city, or a deck or porch at the beach or in the mountains. It’s important to furnish these areas with the best quality seating possible to enhance your guests’ experience and earn you good reviews and repeat guests. Plastic furniture is not durable and tends to break easily. Treated wood furnishings are the most durable option.
Keep in mind that most groups and families love having a grill to add to the outdoor experience.
Quality Beds and Bedding
This was saved for last because it may be the most important. It cannot be stressed enough how critical quality beds and bedding are to the success of your STR. Even if owners have to cut back on other items, the bed should be the absolute best quality they can manage financially. And that purchase should then be complemented by high thread count cotton sheets, luxurious bedding, and lots of fluffy extra pillows. This one thing can easily make or break your rental. It’s truly that serious. No one wants to wake up with an aching back because of a poor-quality mattress. That is the quickest way to ruin a vacation.
While design is a topic that has many layers and we could offer nearly endless suggestions, starting off with the above will put you head and shoulders above the crowd. Always remember to ask yourself, “Would I want to vacation here?” Whether the answer is yes or no, you’ll know what to do next. Again, trends will continue to evolve as traveler's needs and wants change. STRs are an important part of the travel and lodging landscape and design trends in Short-Term Rentals will always take their lead from the wishes and expectations of the traveling public.
Mike Harrington is the CEO & Owner of Carolina Retreats, a specialty lodging and vacation rental management firm serving more than 300 vacation property owners throughout the Cape Fear region. Before founding Carolina Retreats in 2015, Mike spent 10 years on the Outer Banks as CEO and General Manager of Resort Realty, a high end real estate sales and vacation rental company with 600 properties under management, five offices, and more than 100 full-time employees and real estate agents. Mike is a Past-President and Board Member of the Vacation Rental Manager's Association (VRMA), the largest international trade association for the vacation rental industry, as well as Past-President for the North Carolina Vacation Rental Manager's Association (NCVRMA). He is frequently asked to speak at seminars and trade conferences on the latest vacation rental management trends in marketing, operations, and strategy. Mike holds a MBA from East Carolina University, as well as a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management and serves as an Advisory Board member for East Carolina's School of Hospitality Leadership.