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How to Decorate a Vacation Rental Home

In just under two years, we turned our beach cottage into a successful rental property. Styling a vacation rental home is a little tricky! It’s not the same as designing your own personal home, there are some key elements to keep in mind. It was a rewarding design challenge for me and I honed my decorating strategies specifically for the competitive vacation rental market!

vacation rental home

While many vacation rental home sites give really great advice about big items, like finding a property manager and what to essentials to stock, I think they overlook design!

After creating (and then selling) a profitable vacation rental home, I’m sharing my top decorating tips for for those looking to build a successful rental property!

And if you’re looking to sell, check out my Home Staging Tips for Selling Your House.

beach house with couch and view

1. Honor Your Location

Whether it’s a breezy coastal cottage or a rugged cabin, stay true to the location! Our beach house was in Manzanita, Oregon – a breath-taking, rugged and adventurous coastal town. There is not a palm tree, sea horse, or tropical fish in sight. Because of this, I was very (VERY!) careful about what type of nautical elements to include.

It is likely that fishermen, pioneers, and sea captains stayed in our home at one time. I chose to honor this with a few elements; nautical maps, captain’s chairs, a ship’s wheel, globe, and vintage artwork.

printable royalty free vintage nautical ship art
printable vintage nautical art

An agent we spoke with during our vacation home rental search told us about one house in her market had very low rental income despite beautiful architecture and location.

What went wrong? Well, it was a mountain cabin in the Oregon high desert decorated in a lighthouse theme. Lighthouses were likely not what potential guests were looking for!

Pro Tip:

I found free vintage art work in the open domain (meaning available for use without a copyright) which I then printed and framed.

dried stems in vase home decor

2. Include Greenery or Botanicals

I know, I know. Rental websites all tell you to avoid plants. They’ll just wither away. Fake ones are so 80’s (or so they say) and gather dust. Well, I say every place (rental homes included!) needs some some sort of greenery or botanicals.

Plants and stems give spaces a sense of vitality and prevent it from feeling like a generic hotel room.

modern botanical art print
Modern botanical art print livens up the space with greenery

So, how do we solve this? Well, dried stems like eucalyptus and olive tree branches hold up well. Botanical art prints are another easy way to bring in nature (check out my post on creatively incorporating greenery without fake plants or my favorite source for online art prints).

cozy bedroom nook with beautiful views

3. Choose Neutral Paint

I’m already a big fan of neutral wall paint and with a vacation rental home, paint an opportunity to create a warm, cozy space that will appeal different people (not shock them with bright yellows or intense reds). I chose a neutral white paint (Chantilly Lace from Benjamin Moore).

Neutral paint keeps the focus on the landscape, any architectural details, and shared space. Feeling like you need some color? Go with neutral navy blues or understated greens. Not sure about which paint to use? Check out My Favorite Neutral Paints post for specific ideas.

4. Make It Feel Like Home… But Not Too Much

I really wanted our vacation house rental to feel like home. I worked to make the beach house comfortable where people would gather, eat, drink, read books, get cozy, make memories, play games, and sit outside.

modern bathroom with cozy home decor for successful rental property

However, I also tried really hard to not make it feel too much like home. You know, not the parts of home that are cluttered, mismatched, and stocked with unnecessary items. So not that side of homey. Just the good parts of home!

This meant consistent white linens, baskets for organizing, and no outdated magazines on my watch.

kitchen wood shelving with beautiful serving ware

5. Add Easy to Replace Details

We know people will inspect every little inch of a vacation rental home (It’s human nature, right? I mean, I do…). However, things break, get lost, or sadly, get taken to a new home.

Focus on details that are both lovely, and easy to replace!

For me this meant details like white coffee mugs (easy to replace), white solid linens, mix and match throw pillow sets, solid color bed covers, basic glassware, and simple woven rugs.

Using easy to replace items all helps your overall profit to create a successful rental property.

black ans white fireplace with neutral beach art print for vacation rental home

6. Keep It Simple

Since minimal and uncluttered design is crucial in a vacation home rental (less things to replace, more appealing to guests). Look for ways to make a design impact without adding more stuff.

For example, our beach house had a huge, original fireplace. It was a showstopper (I wish I still had a photo!). We cleaned it up, painted it, and let it stand alone with a single vintage ship’s wheel. It didn’t need much else to be a star.

Another idea is to make a statement with the functional design. Use something like light fixtures to make a design statement.

basket pendant lights
{Basket pendant lights}

Vacation Rental Home Decorating To-Do List:

  1. Honor the Location (no lighthouses in the desert)
  2. Include Greenery or Botanicals
  3. Choose Neutral Paint (Use my Neutral Paint Guide for help)
  4. Make It Feel Like Home – the good parts of home!
  5. Add Easy To Replace Details
  6. Keep Design Simple (use home details to make design statement)

If you need more support with each room, check out my post How to Decorate a Room From Start to Finish for a complete step by step guide to decorating one space.

If you’re curious about owning a rental home, I suggest doing all the research! This Complete Guide to Beach Dream House has practical advice like maintenance tips and home warranty information.

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