This post was first published on 1st November 2019. Updated and republished on 7th May 2021.
Decorating a second home that you hope will attract paying guests is different to decorating your own home. That’s a fact. It’s been four years now since we first renovated our holiday cottage, and I’m happy to say that most of our decisions turned out to be spot on. You’ll soon know it they’re not by the reviews you receive! But long story short, you want to appeal to as many people as possible across all age groups. The following advice is from my own experiences as a holiday let owner rather than as an interior designer. One with all the normal budget restraints and considerations of making a second home pay for its keep.
Keep it Simple
In order to appeal to the mass market it’s really best to keep the decoration of your holiday let simple. Guests will want to see and experience a calm, uncluttered space. So keep your personal tastes and possesions for your own home and keep the interior light, bright and inviting. An added bonus to this, is that it will be easy to keep clean and tidy, whether you’re doing the cleaning yourself or whether you have someone doing it for you. That’s not say that it should be completely devoid of decorative items, just keep them to a minimum. Guests shouldn’t be made to feel that they are intruding on your personal space.
Consider Your Location
Remember your guests will be on holiday, and they’ll expect an interior that reflects this. So if your home is by the sea a little bit of coastal inspiration might not go amiss. I’m not one for lots of gift-shop type paraphanalia, but a subtle blue and white colour scheme might be uplifting as well as apt. Similarly, if you have a cottage in the country, consider decorating in a modern country style that reflects, and is in tune with, the surroundings. However, don’t go down the themed route too far. A nod is all you need.
Comfort is Key
Comfy seating and comfy beds are key to making your holiday let the best they’ve ever stayed in. No one wants to sit on a hard sofa after a day out hiking or sightseeing. And a luxury mattress will make your guests want to stay forever and most importantly, come back. Along with the luxury mattress you should invest in hotel-quality bedding too if you can possibly stretch to it. Mattress and pillow protectors will keep your bedding cleaner and even last longer, and if your cleaner will agree, get him/her to iron the sheets. It’s always appreciated!
Make sure the sofa has plenty of soft cushions and a throw or two to curl up with after a long day out. I’m split when deciding whether to dress the beds with cushions too. They look good when the bed has been made and dressed, but they can be a nuisance to guests who usually just end up throwing them on the floor. The decision is yours. I just usually use them when taking photo’s I must admit.
Provide Ample Storage
No guest enjoys living out of a suitcase so wardrobe space is a necessity. Make sure the wardrobes are always clear of clutter and provide enough hangers. Matching hangers always look better and you can buy hotel-type hangers from Amazon which ensures they don’t get packed in a suitcase by mistake. Lining drawers with pretty paper is a nice touch too. Somewhere to put toilettries in the bathroom is always appreciated, so is enough towel rails. We have a heated one in the bathroom and an extra towel rack in the bedroom too.
A cupboard in the living room keeps games, DVD’s and books out of sight but still accessible. And a drawer or two provides a place to put takeaway menus and pamphlets for local attractions.
You might think that holiday-makers would be keen to escape technology for a few days but you’d be wrong. Most guests expect Wi-Fi these days and you’ll be missing a trick if you don’t provide it. Especially those with teenagers of guests who want to catch up with work while they’re away. A smart TV would be nice but not essential, just so long as you provide a DVD player at least and a selection of films. A radio and a speaker for Spotify are also appreciated.
If you’re lucky enough to have some outside space make sure it’s also furnished as comfortably as possible. A table and chairs for dining at the very least. Plus an umbrella for shade on sunny days too. We debated whether to provide a barbecue or not and on balance decided it would a) stain the newly laid patio tiles, b) be a fire risk, and c) always need cleaning so decided against it. It’s a personal decision. A washing line is something that guests appreciate too.
What extras you provide is entirely up to you. (I don’t consider towels and tea-towels extras btw). But at a minimum I’d always make sure there are at least a couple of rolls of toilet paper, handsoap by the basin, washing up liquid, new dishclothes, bin liners, candles, matches, a torch, spare light bulbs, teabags, coffee, sugar, salt and pepper. If I was on site, I’d supply fresh milk too, but it’s difficult when you are 100 miles away. In my experience guests are starting to expect more and more, so to stand out from the crowd it might be an idea to leave a cake or dare I say it a bottle of wine. Word of caution though, leaving wine might be against current licensing laws, ridiculous as that seems. But all of these things are entirely up to the discretion of the owner. It is ‘self-catering’ accommodation after all.
My final piece of advice is to stay in your holiday let at least a couple of times of year yourself. It’s the ideal opportunity to put yourself in your guest’s shoes and decide if there is something missing/something you could do better. It’s also the time you’ll notice anything that needs an extra deep clean.
If you are interested in booking Brimstone Cottage you can find rates and availability on the VRBO website.