How to make the most of your rental
Interior designers offer advice on how you can make your holiday home stand out among a crowd of online listings and decorate it so that it withstands damage
RENTING out a holiday home, or even a spare room in your apartment in the city, is easier than ever, thanks to sites such as Airbnb and Homeaway. But making your rental stand out in a crowd of online listings is another thing.
And even if you manage to attract guests, how do you decorate a space so that it withstands damage caused by even the best behaved among them?
We asked interior designers with rental homes of their own for advice.
Avoid furnishings and “perfect lacquered finishes” that are impossible to maintain, advised Steven Gambrel, a well-known Manhattan designer who recently built a high-end rental in Sag
Harbor, New York, that resembles a 19th-century Federal-style house.
He suggested instead “creating a palette of materials that get better with age and develop a patina”.
At his rental everything from the plaster walls to the linen bedsheets was chosen for their durability and tendency to improve with age.
Salvaged antique pine floors were bleached and finished with matte polyurethane. The kitchen was fitted with stone counters treated with a suede finish “to create age and warmth” and a “patina from the beginning”, he said. “It has a nice weathered edge so that instead of being upset about a new chip, you’re actually just enhancing the spirit of the house.”
Kerri Rosenthal, founder of KR Interiors in Westport, Connecticut, said: “When designing vacation rentals, simplicity in furnishings is the key. Keep the furniture highly edited and the accessorising to a minimum.”
Use neutrals as your foundation and then build on that with accent colours, she said.
When Rosenthal decorated a home in Southport, Connecticut for a client who planned to rent it out, she used modern furniture in white, leather and wood and accessorised with “big, happy art”, throw cushions and colourful vases and bowls.
Check out the competition, suggested Joe Nahem, of the design firm Fox-nahem Associates.
“It makes sense to me, in whatever price category you’re in. Look at what else is out there – compare. What can I do to make mine a little better?”
More than 20 years ago, Nahem and his partner, Jeff Fields, bought a modest 1960s ranch-style oceanfront house in East Hampton, New York, then tore it down and built a two-storey home with expansive ocean views, a gym, a hot tub and a pool.
Guests have included the king and queen of Jordan and actor Robert Downey jr and his family.
“I knew that having all bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms was an important feature, that having soaking tubs, steam showers and two equal master bedrooms with accessible outdoor space was an upgraded feature. Upgraded mattresses and rugs in every room also help for a more homey feel,” Nahem said.
“Rooms should always be functional for your guests,” said Cortney Novogratz, an interior designer known for making eyecatching spaces (and reality shows such as HGTV’S Home by Novogratz).
Among those spaces is a fivebedroom house with a pool, hot tub and trampoline that the family owns in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and rents out on Airbnb.
Each bedroom has bedside lamps, solar shades with blackout drapes and an ottoman, chair or bench, so guests “have an easy place to throw their bag or suitcase”, Novogratz said.
Beds are dressed with crisp, white linens (as they would be in a hotel) and decorative pillows that brighten the space.
“To add character, I like to pull from my collection of vintage quilts and have one at the foot of each bed,” she said, noting that you could “add fun books on the side table, with fresh flowers for an inviting touch”.
Guests should have places to congregate, but they also need private spots. “Our side porch has beautiful natural light,” said Novogratz, who furnished it with a vintage daybed. “It’s the perfect place to cosy up and read a book.”
In the family room of a farmhouse in North Branch, New York, owned by Elizabeth Bolognino, a New York City designer, and her husband, Justin Bolognino, twin Eames chairs with ottomans frame a wood-burning fireplace. That spot is “really good for conversation”, she said.
Bolognino’s house, which she rents on Airbnb, is part of a 8-hectare retreat called Silent G Farms, and it tends to attract New Yorkers in need of rest, she said. It make them feel pampered.
Bolognino focuses on details that a host might overlook, providing things such as soaps, towels and burlap place mats monogrammed with her farm’s “G” logo.
At Gambrel’s Hamptons rental, you will find not only leather upholstery and high-end bedding, but also extra-thick, custom-cut sisal carpets. “There’s a certain level of warmth it provides,” he said of the sisal, noting that although it has to be replaced every few years it adds character and elevates the overall design.
The idea is that if guests have a better experience with the house, “hopefully they take better care of it”, he said. “The more you finish a house, the more you complete the story, the more respect people have for it.” |