Photography: Handmade Hotels
Katie Herbert is a property developer and the host of Handmade Hotels, a series that explores the creative ways homeowners transform their properties into short-term rental opportunities. The program offers insight into this growing market along with design tips for anyone considering creating a short-term rental space. Handmade Hotels airs on Makeful Television.
Gone are the days of staying in generic-style hotels that have little personality. Short-term rentals offer travellers a departure from the norm, with bold and personalized spaces, rather than just a place to sleep.
The inspiration and design that sets short-term rentals apart comes from passion that may stem from a love of art, eco living, colour or vintage furnishings.
What struck me as I visited these properties was the degree to which short-term rentals can turn traditional design on its head. We often cite kitchens and bathrooms as the most important spaces in a home, but in the short-term rental market, the key spaces are the bedrooms and the communal areas where guests meet to eat, relax and sleep.
The second key factor is personalization. Travellers are looking for spaces with personality and interesting features, rather than the “neutral first” look that characterizes longer-term rentals or hotels. Vintage, reclaimed and retro styles are prevalent, and the more unique the space, the more popular and memorable it is.
The personal touch is what makes short-term rentals such enticing opportunities for any aspiring or established designer.
The most successful rentals have a consistent theme or style throughout the space. In The Wilk, we saw homeowners determined to create an authentic 1970s ski-chalet vibe, complete with ’70s wallpaper and furnishings.
One of the most romantic spaces we saw in Season 1 was The Sanctuary. It’s an impressive church conversion that oozes charm, sophistication and romance with its open-plan layout. The bed takes centre stage on a raised altar.
Vacation rentals are all about spending time together, regardless of the size of the group. Creating rooms with flexible, comfortable seating while still following a design theme is where homeowners have had the most success.
Short-term rentals also provide an opportunity to furnish with reclaimed, repurposed and vintage pieces, which emphasize charm and uniqueness. Family heirlooms, salvaged pieces and antiques can all find a new lease on life in short-term rental spaces.
Glen Oro Farm’s rustic cabin mimics an early settlers’ experience. Almost everything in the space is hand-made, with a mix of historic family furnishings, farm-inspired decor and new pieces crafted from farm materials. They create warmth and connection to farm life and an instant detachment from the modern world.
Dining areas are central to the short-term rental experience and are more than a place for just eating. Guests use them for working, playing games and gathering to chat.
Cressy House features communal spaces. The owner, passionate about food and the experience of dining, created multiple opportunities for people to come together. The tea room overlooks a private vineyard and lakefront.
Guests want a good night’s sleep, making comfort and ambience crucial. Circular beds, interesting accent pieces and quirky art are all fair game, but there are some rules to heed. A comfortable mattress and good quality linens and towels are essential.
Consider the natural features of the room. If there’s a great view, can you make it a focal point? Provide guests with extra blankets, throws and pillows to add coziness. Explore how the space ties into the rest of the rental and what makes it memorable for guests.
Travellers seek experiences and want to connect with a space. They want shareable moments. Successful short-term rentals offer this in one inclusive package.
My favourite short-term rentals have all been conceived from passion and creativity. Handmade Hotels offers a glimpse of what’s out there. I look forward to seeing how this trend will continue to grow and evolve. •
TIPS FOR DESIGNING SHORT-TERM RENTAL SPACE
1. Be bold and distinctive
Memorable and unique short-term rentals enjoy higher occupancy and yield of return for owners
2. Stay true to your design aesthetic
No matter the theme or approach, be consistent with it throughout the space.
3. Think about guest experience
Be aware of how your guests will use the space, their needs, and how you can create a special space to fulfill those needs.
4. Focus on the key rooms
The bedrooms and communal rooms are the most important spaces for your visitors.
Originally published in the Spring 2020 issue.