Setting up a holiday let: Decorating and furnishing

Setting up a holiday let: Decorating and furnishing

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The choices you make when decorating and furnishing your holiday let are so important. A tasteful, functional and welcoming interior will help generate bookings for your property through its marketing photos, ensure a comfortable stay and positive reviews, and also encourage repeat bookings. 

Holiday home interior design really can't be underestimated!

Sandpiper

If you're lucky enough to be starting with a blank canvas, you'll find plenty of tips on how to decorate a holiday home in this article. Or, if you're looking to revive dated decor, or simply inject some contemporary design features into an existing property, our holiday home decorating ideas should help you make the most of the space and design you have already.

Read on for a whole host of tips on how to furnish a holiday home, complete with links to more of our useful guides on more holiday home decor ideas.


How to decorate your holiday home

If you're looking for inspiration on holiday home interior decorating ideas, take a look at our guides to see how to achieve vintage, nautical, minimalist and Victorian styles. You could even opt for an Art Deco style if it suits your property!

vintage themed decor

Vintage

Carefully selected pieces of furniture from eras gone by, upcycled accessories and muted colour schemes come together to create a welcoming and homely environment. Discover how to decorate in a vintage style.

 Vintage style

nautical themed decor

Nautical

Harness the allure of the coast and imbibe your holiday cottage with nautical-themed loveliness. Keep things subtle and sophisticated - find out how to achieve the perfect coastal style.

 Coastal style

minimalist decor

Minimalist

Clean, uncluttered, bright and inviting, plan an aspirational interior that would be worthy of any interior design magazine. Keep things sleek and simple with a modern minimalist design.

 Minimalist style

Victorian decor

Victorian

Embrace the textiles, patterns and style features of the era of Queen Victoria and use them to inform the decor of your holiday home. Take a look at how you can bring the elegant Victorian era into your property.

 Victorian style


Beautiful styling in a beachfront propert

Styling your property room by room

When you have a whole property to decorate and style, it can feel like a daunting process. One approach is to tackle the property room by room, picking out holiday let furnishings that will complement your chosen aesthetic.

Below are our suggestions on how to furnish a holiday home, room by room.


beautiful holiday cottage kitchens

Styling your kitchen

This is a space where your guests are likely to spend a lot of their time. While some will eat out and order takeaways, others will expect to be able to cook daily as they would at home. Your holiday home kitchen, therefore, needs to feature all of the same equipment and appliances you would need for a fully self-catered stay. A fridge/freezer, oven (with grill), hob, microwave and toaster are expected as standard and, if you don't have a utility room, appliances such as a washing machine and tumble dryer may be found in the kitchen too.

The design of the kitchen itself is dependent on budget, the style of the property and the look you want to achieve. Farmhouse-style kitchens are well suited to converted barns or character cottages, while a sleek contemporary set-up would suit a new-build property. Think about any special features that would complement your design and be attractive to guests, such as a range cooker, Belfast sink, or branded coffee machine.

Expert advice:

"Aside from the requisite tick list of appliances and equipment, a stylish and inexpensive Nespresso machine is still regarded as a treat for many visitors. When choosing flooring, select one of the many design-led vinyl floors to complement adjacent flooring, as these are soft underfoot and more forgiving of falling crockery." - Ashton House Design


East Neuk by the Sea living room

Styling your living room

The living room is a place of rest and relaxation, and as such, your furniture and design choices should be made with comfort and homeliness in mind. A deep sofa with a quiver of cosy cushions will not only look great in your marketing photos, but it will also contribute to your guests' enjoyment of their evenings. Make sure that you have sufficient comfortable seating for your property's capacity - if your property sleeps ten and there's only room for five of them to sit down, it will cause problems when it comes to spending time together.

Carefully consider the way the furniture is arranged - a combination of sofas and armchairs arranged around the focal point of a TV and/or fire is usually a good set-up. Other furniture items to consider are bookcases and storage, a coffee table and a TV unit. If you are going to make board games and books available, find suitable storage for them here. 

When you're making your furniture choices, keep wear and tear in mind. For example, it's a bonus if sofa covers can be removed for cleaning, and real-wood furniture will fare better than veneered options.


beautiful holiday cottage bedrooms

Styling your bedroom

One thing you definitely want to get right is the beds. Guests so often comment on the comfort of the bed, whether good or bad, in their reviews, so choose quality bed frames and mattresses. Guests are often looking for a little more luxury than they have at home so, if space allows, king-size beds are a perfect choice. Zip and link options are also available, which helps you in terms of flexibility, and may make the difference between guests choosing your property over another. Two pillows per guest should be provided, and cushions and throws help tie colour schemes and themes together. 

Storage is an important consideration in bedrooms too. There should be bedside tables, a wardrobe, and a dressing table if space is available, and these should all be good quality and able to withstand the daily use of your guests for many years.

Of all your rooms, bedrooms are the ones where curtains are arguably the most important. Ideally, they should be thick or blackout curtains to block out the morning light.

Expert advice: 

"Invest in the most comfortable beds that your budget permits, and protect that investment with mattress protectors and mattress toppers. These can be easily laundered or replaced; a good mattress will last for 10-15 years if turned regularly. The selection of ottoman-style bed bases below the mattress will provide ample storage for turn-around linen – all of which should, of course, be fresh, white and 100% natural. As far as the property allows, do plan for a healthy ratio of washrooms to bedrooms." - Ashton House Design


Peony Cottage bathroom

Styling your bathroom

Luxury cottage interiors will always be inviting to guests, and one room that lends itself to a luxury overhaul is the bathroom. Think roll-top baths or rainfall showers, beautifully tiled wet rooms, or his and hers sinks. If you have the space and resources to create a spa-like sanctuary in your holiday home, it will certainly be valued by your guests. 

That said, a sleek and carefully designed standard bathroom will also stand your property in good stead if the height of luxury isn't your aim. A power shower, supplied toiletries and impeccable cleanliness can all steer your guests to good reviews!

Expert advice: 

"Consider fully tiled walls - for design purposes, but also to diminish the annual decorating exercise. Include generous towel radiators (on concealed timers) and plenty of ledges/shelves. Stand-alone showers are more appealing than those over a bath and, if you do find room for a bath, look at double-ended models. Remember the lighting rules in these intimate spaces, and provide for ambience, tasks and even a night light." - Ashton House Design


The Old Rectory Hallway

Styling your hallway

The impact of a beautifully styled hallway should never be underestimated - it is, after all, the first part of your property your guests will see, and there's much truth in the old adage 'first impressions count'.

Think about your movements when you enter your own home - hooks for coats and keys, a sturdy doormat and a shelf for depositing loose items are all small things that make a difference. It's also your first chance to impress with your holiday home interior design skills, so keep things light and bright, with touches such as artwork, a few ornaments and aesthetic lighting to give a homely feel the moment guests step through the front door.

Expert advice: 

"A practical porch, or defined entrance area, will defend your interior from the spread of wet, muddy or sandy clothing. Plan for plenty of boot and shoe storage, with pigeon holes and welly trees. Provide plenty of pegs (the more the merrier), as these help to keep clutter off the floor. If there is a utility/boot room, consider the addition of a walking boot warmer for engaging the top end of the market." - Ashton House Design


Stylish mix of furniture at 2 The Old Chapel - Westward Ho!

How to furnish a holiday home

One way to ensure that your furniture choices complement each other and your property is to pick items based on a subtle theme or style. The following tips will help you make the right choices when it comes to furniture and design.

Valleys End

Mix and match holiday home furniture from different shops

Buying all of your furniture from the same brand can make a room look too uniform, and guests can feel as if they’re looking at the pages of a catalogue rather than a comfortable holiday home. Mix and match to keep things interesting and to add a touch of personality to your cottage. 

Expert advice:

"Comfortable furniture should be obligatory and bulky designs should be avoided. The scale of seating should suit the demands of a cosy cottage or a cavernous, open-plan living room. Mix it up here, and resist the temptation to buy everything from one source. Your interior should appear to have evolved and should include pieces that appear to have been gathered over time, with eclectic allure." - Ashton House Design


Giffin Cottage

Be practical with your holiday home interior design

Think about the longevity of your decor and furnishings, not just about their appearance. Light-coloured carpets and bed linen, for instance, can stain easily, while stocking up the kitchen cupboards with bone china could just be tempting fate! Accidents can happen when guests come to stay, but thinking practically when kitting out your home can help minimise them.

Expert advice:

"Explore the growing number of fabrics with enhanced technical features, such as those completely resistant to spillages. Consider loose covers for your upholstery and contemplate summer and winter sets to reflect the seasons and photo opportunities. Use replaceable scatter cushions to add pattern, and convey the style of your interior." - Ashton House Design


Drovers Rest

Don’t skimp on quality, but don’t go overboard

Furniture and decorative items should be seen as an investment, and should hopefully last you a few years before you need to give the place a refresh, even if you have plenty of guests to stay. Buying cheap furniture and appliances will cost you more in the long run as you will have to replace them more often. Guests may also notice when you have cut corners and furniture has started looking tired. 

That said, you also have to bear in mind that by splashing out on expensive furniture, you may increase the number of bookings and satisfied guests, but you may not see a full return on your investment. A happy medium is best: strong, durable, attractive furniture which is built to last, but which won't break the bank.

Of course, if you're positioning your property at the high-end of the market, it's all about luxury cottage interiors - beautiful fabrics, bespoke elements and even investment pieces!


Stylish lighting can add a personal touch without being too personal!

Add some personal touches, but not too many

Giving your holiday cottage an injection of personality can be a good thing, and helps the interior of your cottage stand out over others. Try using a few items of feature furniture or even just some striking decorative pieces of art to give your interior a lease of life. Just make sure you don’t overdo it – putting too much of a stamp on the cottage can deter guests – they will want to feel at home, rather than like they are staying at a friend's house surrounded by personal belongings.


The Forest Coach House

Cater to parties of different kinds and sizes

The key to attracting more bookings is being able to cater to the needs of your guests. Using zip-and-link beds, for instance, can make the sleeping arrangements at your cottage much more flexible and therefore cater to more groups of people. If you’re looking to also attract families to your property, consider adding some baby-friendly and child-friendly features, such as stairgates, toys, and child-sized crockery and cutlery; you should also make sure your furniture has no sharp edges.


Laurel Bank

Pay attention to space

Space can be hugely important in a property, especially when a large party is coming to stay. Cramming too much furniture into an area can create problems, especially for those with mobility issues, and can look like you are trying too hard to fit in as many guests as possible. On the flipside, however, leaving too much blank space can make your cottage look sparse and unfinished.

Expert advice:

"Before any improvements to the property are implemented, scaled plans of the property and possible furniture layouts should be drawn up. These will guarantee the best use of the available space, and will inform all elements of a refurbishment – namely lighting positions, radiator locations and plumbing routes – well ahead of any furniture choices." - Ashton House Design


Upper Thornbarrow

Use the local area as inspiration

The local area is often the main reason that people are thinking of visiting your cottage, so why not bring it into the design? Local touches you could add may include anything from local produce hampers to works by local artists, pictures of the nearby coast or countryside or even local materials such as wood or stone.

Expert advice:

"Furnish the walls with interesting art. Perhaps engage with local artists for your inspiration, and for work that will resonate with visitors. You could even negotiate to include their studios in your visitors’ guide; securing exclusive access for your guests. More generally, settle upon an interesting neutral paint colour, against which all colours look good, and opt for those boasting a wipeable surface." - Ashton House Design

Art ideas for your holiday home


High Meadows View Lighting

Choose lighting to enhance your property

You may have the most beautifully designed and furnished cottage, but if the lighting's not right, it won't be shown off to its full potential. Guests will want lamps and more muted 'mood lighting' for evenings, as well as brighter lighting in kitchens and bathrooms. A combination of lighting is best, and it can be a design feature as well as an essential item.

Expert advice:

"Your furniture plans should inform your lighting design, but the choice of fittings is one of the most important keys to creating attractive interiors in any property. Blend focused lighting with ambient lighting, but make sure that all lighting is indirect - ensuring that the source (lamp/bulb) is shielded to prevent unpleasant glare. All lighting should be LED (to minimise running costs) but do consider the option to dim some circuits, and offer multiple lighting circuits that allow flexibility for the visitor. Select fittings that are neither fragile nor precious, and mix it up! Combine selective use of downlights with 'pocket of light' floor lamps (for reading) and softly shaded wall lights. Include a statement table lamp in a protected corner, and quirky pendants above a table."  - Ashton House Design


Parsonage Honeysuckle

Flooring for holiday properties

Flooring can be one of the biggest investments when decorating your holiday property, so it's important to make astute choices to guarantee longevity and suitability. Carpets should be reserved for bedrooms and maybe the living room, while wipe-clean flooring should be chosen for high-traffic areas and rooms where hygiene is key, such as the hallway, kitchen and bathrooms.

Your flooring can be both functional and aesthetic, and bear in mind that options such as wood floors and tiles may outlive the other decor, so it's best to go for neutral and hardwearing.

Expert advice:

"Practical, hypoallergenic, pet- and child-friendly – the criteria is demanding! However, there has never been a broader range of appropriate floor coverings available. Timber floors still hold great appeal – but this look can also be achieved with convincing porcelain or vinyl planks. Bleach-cleanable woven carpet offers the appearance of seagrass (without the drawbacks) and vinyl versions are an outstanding, durable choice for small bathrooms. In all areas, consider the addition of forgiving rugs and runners (even machine washable products are now available) for protection, but also their furnishing value."  - Ashton House Design


The Turnstone

Don’t forget the necessities

So, your guests like the look of your photos and have booked a stay – how can you ensure they return? Think of your holiday home from the point of view of a visitor; if you are able to, staying in your own property for a night or two will help you identify anything which is missing or any spaces which need rearranging. Tick off all of the essential items, from a kitchen fully stocked with appliances to supplying toiletries, tea and coffee.

Expert advice:

"Relaxed guests will have a happy stay, and are more likely to return. Supply throws and blankets for sofas and chairs, great for both snuggling up and for protection from general wear and tear. Make it easy for your guests to respect your home. Include seasonal room diffusers; fresh scents for spring and spiced aromas for winter."  - Ashton House Design

Holiday home essentials


Drovers Rest

Make sure your choices are photogenic

Many guests base their choice of where to stay on the photos of the accommodation, so making your property look as photogenic as possible is key. Make sure there is plenty of lighting available to really show off your property, while you should also consider what kind of furniture does and doesn’t photograph well. Glass tables, for instance, may be difficult to wipe fingerprints from, while dark leather suites are also hard to photograph.

Holiday home photography tips


Customer feedback book

Use customer feedback for pointers

Even if you feel sure you've considered absolutely everything, there will always be something that can be improved. Your guests are in the best position to identify anything you may have overlooked. Take a look at customer reviews or feedback in your guestbook for any suggestions they may have offered. This is the best way to ensure that anything they found to be under par won't be a problem for future guests.


Garden House

Garden design for holiday homes

Unless you'd like to spend hours tending to your holiday home garden, you'll want to find the sweet spot between attractive and low maintenance. From picking the right plants for your flower beds to implementing a 'no dig' strategy, we take you through our top tips in our guide to low maintenance gardening ideas for your holiday home.

Gardening tips


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Whether you're just starting out or giving a new lease of life to an existing property, we're here to help. Our friendly team are on hand to offer free advice and answer any questions you may have about holiday letting.

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Many thanks to our friends at Ashton House Design for their contribution to this article. holidaycottages.co.uk cannot accept any liability for the content provided by Ashton House Design.

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