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4 Designers Spill Their Best Tips For Decorating a Rental

Kitchen in beach house rental property.

Design: Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski; Photo: Patrick Biller

When decorating your own house or apartment, there are plenty of ways that you can add customizations to suit your preferences and needs. Feel like hanging a floor-to-ceiling gallery wall with family photos or peppering your place with leopard print? That’s entirely your call.

But, if you’re decorating an investment property that you plan to rent out to guests, you’ll likely want to take a different approach in order to make your space as appealing to vacationers as possible. We spoke with experts who shared their tips on how to set up a winning rental home. 

01 of 05

Think About Guests’ Lifestyles

Beachy kitchen counter with open shelving.

Design: Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski; Photo: Patrick Biller

Tiffany Leigh Piotrowski, who designed and now rents out her beach house in Ontario, cited a few key instances in which guests’ lifestyles will be different than traditional residents inhabiting a space long term. For example, she notes, “Kitchen storage isn’t as important when it comes to short-term rentals, as you aren’t storing as many supplies and food.”

So why not let this fact inform your styling choices? “Have some fun and opt for a mix of open shelves to display beautiful items,” Piotrowski suggests. Take some time to select cute tea canisters, bar accessories, and anything else that will help guests feel more at home. 

Additionally, clothing storage solutions in a short-term rental can differ from what is needed in a standard home, Piotrowski notes. “Include lots of hooks,” she suggests. “Often, during short-term stays, big closets aren’t necessary, but lots of hooks to hang towels, jackets, sweaters, bags, etc. are key and can be a charming design feature.”

Aesthetically pleasing and majorly useful? That’s a win.

02 of 05

Consider Finishes

High end dining room with modern light fixture.

Alvin Wayne

You’ll want to put plenty of thought into the finishes and fixtures that you select for your rental property, designer Janet Lorusso explains. “Higher-end target markets will require higher-end finishes like stone-look porcelain tile and stone or quartz counters, hardwood flooring, and outdoor spaces,” she says.

Lighting, she notes, is critical to add a “wow factor” to spaces like entryways and dining rooms. To save some cash in the process, Lorusso recommends opting for semi-custom or stock cabinetry as well as lower-priced porcelain and stone. 

03 of 05

Choose Colors Accordingly

rustic cabinets-house on hillside lane

House on Hillside Lane

Anaïs Chaumien, who designed several Airbnb apartments, believes that creating a space that will appeal to the majority of visitors is essential. “You shouldn’t design it according to your personal taste, but according to the design taste of the majority,” she explains. Chaumien suggests incorporating largely neutral elements but then adding color through touches such as plants, a rug, or pillows. 

Rather than going too midcentury, boho, or grandmillennial, stick to a more general scheme. “You can always inject some humor and fun with decorative accent pieces, but the bones of the home should feel inviting and welcome for all tastes and styles,” designer Amy Leferink, who has designed lake house rentals, says. 

Yet at the same time, there’s something to be said for veering off the beaten path if you wish. Piotrowski incorporated a pink sofa and pink penny tile floors into a short-term rental that she designed—because why not?

As she says, “This isn't a space that you spend all of your time, so you can take some risks with color or material without the risk of tiring it quickly.” 

04 of 05

Don’t Splurge or Succumb to Trends

Bright and airy living room.

Burchard Design Co.

In general, Chaumien advises rental property owners against purchasing pricey pieces that can easily be damaged by clumsy guests. And in general, she discourages spending too much on furnishings in general, as certain styles may not stand the test of time.

“You should always be prepared to change the decor to suit the current decorative trends,” she notes. “Nothing worse than an outdated Airbnb apartment.” 

05 of 05

Embrace Your Surroundings

Grand tropical family room that extends to outside.

Brophy Interiors

Whether your property is at the beach or in the mountains may also inform some of your décor choices. As Leferink points out, “You want to play on the local nature of the home, because most renters visiting are likely new to the area and want to learn and absorb the space around them.”

So, go ahead and embrace the coastal look or Southwestern style if that best suits your property.