Furnishing a Vacation Rental Without Losing Your Mind

Furnishing a Vacation Rental Without Losing Your Mind

The end of our Sedona Building Project is in sight! All the furniture is in. Kitchens are fully stocked. I’ve spent hours if not days washing towels and linens to get rid of that plastic-and-packaging smell. The wall art is en route, due to arrive in a few days.

And somehow, despite the dire predictions of what a giant building project would do to our sanity and our marriage, we’re still (mostly) having fun with it.

(Disclaimer: if you’re just here for a photo essay of a completely finished property, you might be disappointed. I’ll share all our photos when our rental listing goes live next month. What is in this post is several pictures of the chaos we’ve created for ourselves as well as some pics from friends’ nicely-appointed rentals. So keep reading.)

A distressing number of sheer curtain options on display at BB&B.

Furnishing a dwelling from scratch has been a brand new experience for us. We’ve both always been very minimalist-ish, so accumulating lots of stuff bugs us. Yes, we were those people that put “no gifts” on our wedding invitation.

In the 8 years since (which has seen the addition of 2 kids), we’ve increased home size very slowly, never really needing or wanting to buy more stuff than what we already had.

We have one other rental out of state which is a long-term, unfurnished rental. So up until now we’ve had zero experience with furnishing anything big or doing any major home decor overhaul.

What’s in Our Vacation Rental

In short? Everything we’d want if we were living there, minus anything personal (such as photos of our family).

Cooking utensils: check. Coffee supplies: check. Five different kinds of soaps: check.

And almost everything is new. We didn’t want this to be one of those rentals where the owners clearly just turfed all the junk they didn’t want in their main home.

I’ll spare you the listicle of “things to have in your vacation rental” because you can find an abundance of those online, like this one from VRBO. I will say that even some of the recent lists out there have been made obsolete by modern technology. No one wants your old magazines, books, or DVDs in their rental, and no one under age 75 expects a land line or a clock radio.

Get fast internet and a smart TV and keep your space free of clutter.

The kids helping assemble the main living room. Or trying, at least.

Picking a “Theme” for a Vacation Rental

As mentioned above, the theme should not be “things I don’t want in my current house anymore” or “whatever was on sale at the thrift store.”

Don’t get me wrong though; if you can do a good job with second-hand decor, re-furbished items, or antiques, more power to you. I have a couple of good friends who have amazing up-cycling skills, and I’m always impressed by that. It makes for a much more unique look and is much less wasteful than loading up on an entire home’s worth of new posessions.

Another popular theme I dislike is “locations that have nothing to do with the geographical area of the rental.” A great example is Lake House themed decor in the middle of a generic suburban neighborhood, complete with pictures of the owners fishing. There’s no lake, people. Nix the Lake House stuff. Same goes for Beach House themes unless there’s an actual beach within 2 miles or Hunting Lodge themes unless you’re furnishing an actual hunting lodge.

If you’re lost on a theme, it never hurts to go for a classic look with just a little modernization thrown in. Think neutral colors, lots of light, and smaller items that are easy to change out like plants, wall decor, or throw pillows.

Not our rental – just one we like in Phoenix that was recently remodeled by friends of ours. You can view the listing here.

And a little nod to travel is always a win, since most of your guests will be traveling to get to your rental. (Note the compass wall art and globe in the picture above.)

Want a little more color? Deep red, blue, and green accents are always appealing (jewel tones, not neons or pastels).

Also not our rental, but one that is close by in Sedona and owned by some good friends. You can view the listing here.

If your rental is in an awesome location, make sure to feature some photos or paintings of the surrounding area.

Our Vacation Rental Theme

We attempted to get a family-friendly look with a touch of Travel and Arizona Adventure themes. The house itself has a “southwest desert” feeling with the stucco and stone exterior. The landscaping is all rock and native vegetation.

View of the main house from the street.

For the cabinets, tile, walls, granite, and major furniture pieces, we went with neutral, crowd-pleaser colors. Our contractor told us “it looks like a Marriott.” We’re not sure if he intended that in an approving way or not, but we think it means we hit the nail on the head for mass appeal.

To keep it family-friendly we went with durable, textured materials and colors that won’t easily show the red dust of the Sedona area (with the exception of the linens, which are all white so we can bleach them like crazy). One of the bedrooms has a “tree fort” bunk bed, making it as obvious as possible that kids are welcome.

Assembling the bunk bed in the kids’ room.

Getting the “Arizona travel and adventure” part dialed in was pretty easy, since the natural wild beauty of Sedona and the surrounding area – including the Grand Canyon – is fairly well-known and therefore well-photographed. The majority of the art in the house is photography from around Arizona; two of the larger pieces are photos we took ourselves.

Most of the art is on canvas so that there’s no glass to break and no one can get badly injured if something falls off the wall. Highly recommend.

One of the photos we put on canvas for the Sedona house: Kachina Trail near Flagstaff.

How High-End Should a Vacation Rental Be?

The reality is that anything really cheap is going to attract people who don’t care about the space they’re in and therefore don’t care about your rental. They are going to throw parties, have their buddies crashing on your couch, and bring pets when your contract specifically says not to. But anything super luxurious is going to attract snobs, deter families, and likely not be rented out as much due to price.

So since we were designing a vacation rental from scratch and wanted to maximize income (and we were lucky enough to be in a desirable area), we went with a moderate-high-end vibe. Nothing is super customized or worth stealing, but everything is nice.

This will hopefully attract people who are willing to spend money on a quality place, put down a large security deposit, and take good care of their lodgings, but not the kind of people who are looking for a Ritz Carlton experience from a rental home.

Whether you want to do a cheaper rental or a luxury rental, I firmly believe that all hosts need to shell out for decent silverware (hint: if it hurts to hold the silverware or it flexes with normal use, you need to upgrade!), high-quality mattresses, and super comfy sheets. Your fellow travelers thank you.

Sedona at dusk.

And this brings us to the next logical question:

What Does Furnishing a Vacation Rental Cost?

The answers you’ll find online will range from almost nothing to oh-so-much money. You may come across the “rule of thumb” that you just take your square footage and tack on a zero to figure out what you’ll spend on furniture for a new space (to say nothing of things like cooking utensils, linens, etc.)

None of these online numbers are particularly helpful for your individual situation. Sadly, I can’t tell you exactly what furnishing your particular space will cost.

I can tell you what furnishing our vacation rental (5 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 living rooms, 2 outdoor patios, 1 full kitchen and one kitchenette) cost us. I’m also happy to share the suppliers and brands we chose.

Our budget for furnishing was $50,000 for everything from the cheese graters to the bunk beds to the wall art to the outdoor furniture (and please don’t think we have that kind of money growing on tress; we’ve been saving for this since 2015).

How did the numbers shake out?

That’s Monday’s post, which will be linked right here as soon as it’s live!

Take-Home Tidbits for Furnishing a Vacation Rental:

Plan for the massive project that this will be, including setting aside the time and money you’ll need to execute it efficiently.

Don’t reinvent the wheel; use the many checklists that have already been made for you online.

Be intentional about your decor; go for furnishings that have mass-appeal, attract the type of guests you want, and compliment the location that your rental is in.

Spend money where it matters. In my opinion, this means good silverware, nice mattresses, and high-quality sheets. I really can’t over-emphasize the importance of not cheaping out on silverware.

4 Replies to “Furnishing a Vacation Rental Without Losing Your Mind”

    1. Thanks for the compliment, A.L.! Glad you’re enjoying them. I hope to have more for you in the near future!

  1. Hey first time commenter here. Really enjoying these posts. Thanks for sharing about this vacation rental process.

    1. Thanks for commenting Mindy! I really appreciate that feedback. 🙂 Stay tuned for more vacation rental posts soon!

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