How to Furnish Vacation and Short-Term Rental Properties

By Bailiegh Basham · July 20, 2023

How to Furnish Vacation and Short-Term Rental Properties

How Furnish Vacation & Short-Term Rental Properties

Every experienced vacation rental and Airbnb owner knows that furnishing a property for short-term guests has different requirements and challenges than furnishing your own home. This boils down to the desired experience, the strain of rotating visitors, and viewing the space as a business rather than a source of self-expression. 

To help those new or struggling with cultivating a desirable (and profitable) short-term guest property, we spoke with a number of professionals to compile helpful tips for furnishing vacation rentals.

Furnish Your Vacation Rental to Achieve a Vibe

Don’t furnish your vacation rental as if it’s a typical home

As stated by Peter Evering of Utopia Management, “It's important to understand that vacationers are seeking a unique and distinct atmosphere that differs from their own homes. Therefore, opting for furniture styles and materials that deviate from traditional single-family home aesthetics is advisable.” 

Our advice? Clearly define a color scheme and decor theme and let it guide all furnishing decisions both big and small. While home decor can be eclectic to reflect your nuanced preferences, the rental property’s aesthetic should be consistent and reflect the destination.



Create Instagrammable moments within your decor

Sasha Barak of Enso Connect emphasized, “your entire property needs to photograph well. High-quality photos are key to attracting guests to your property, so choose furniture that looks appealing in photos.” In fact, many younger guests will choose their vacation property with Instagram and social media specifically in mind! Ideas on how to furnish the short-term rental space to photograph well include:

  • Accent walls - Perhaps this is a fun wallpaper, decorative wood paneling, or painted artwork. 
  • Choose a truly unique accent piece - Perhaps this is a colorful couch, a live edge dining table, or a dramatic barn door headboard. 
  • Plants and plants galore - Plants offer universal appeal and photograph wonderfully. Just choose plants that don’t need to be regularly watered or are finicky with the amount of sunlight needed, as you shouldn’t expect guests to maintain the plants on your behalf. 
  • Welcome in natural light and offer a diversity of (warm) lighting options - Not everyone likes overhead lights, so offer lamps of varying heights and strengths so people can light the environment how they wish.

Know Your Audience

Speak to a specific demographic and their preferences

Creating a target audience and speaking to their tastes is essential, as highlighted by Chris Engelsman of All Seasons Resort Lodging.“If your audience is younger and hip, the décor will need to match them . . . We find the properties that have an updated décor rent faster and more often than dated, worn out furniture and décor.” 

Similarly, determine if you'd want a vacation rental that could have universal appeal (but lack distinct personality) or something that could appeal to a small but passionate demographic, such as bachelorette parties, fishing enthusiasts, and more. Such decisions can influence everything from the artwork on the walls to whether you choose bedroom sets that may appeal more to women or men

Tips on how to get to know your guests better include:

  • Think about what draws guests to vacation in your area - Are you in the heart of a cool urban environment? A quiet patch of woods? Furnish your short-term rental property as if it’s an extension of their vacation. Take this concept one step further and incorporate overtly local touches, such as artwork of the area or condiments from the farm down the road!
  • View guest profiles if possible - Platforms like Airbnb let you view some details about guests, including where they’ve stayed in the past. Examine these insights on a greater scale, and you’ll start to determine who is your ideal vacation home guest and what kind of furnishings they prefer.
  • Take note of the party-size of the guests - Document the number of people, ages, and any other known facts about your guests in order to distinguish patterns. Why? You can leverage such insights to make informed decisions about how to furnish specific properties. Let’s say you operate a short-term rental big enough for four guests in the mountains of New Hampshire. Does it tend to attract young hikers? Leisurely senior citizens? Young families? A blend of all three? Collecting such insights can help you determine whether a bunk bed or rocking chairs would be a more worthwhile investment. 
  • Meet and greet your guests in person - Nothing beats getting to know your guests in person. Check out their luggage; for example, if guests tend to have tons of bags, you’ll know that perhaps purchasing a mule chest dresser may be a worthwhile investment. If a lot of guests chat about how excited they are to hike, perhaps offer local maps and a particularly large, sturdy door mat for muddy boots. 
  • After guests check-out, determine which areas receive the most use -  Guests rarely leave the space just as it was prior to their arrival. Therefore, look for the telltale sign of use to determine where they may spend the majority of their time. For example, if the kitchen looks like it’s consistently utilized, consider diversifying your offered utensils and offering an increasing number of cooking spices. If the fire pit is heavily used while the living room remains fairly untouched, you may want to double-down on your rental property’s outdoor furnishings rather than the indoor space. 

Want insights on reinvigorating your vacation rental’s furnishings and decor? Get inspiration with Tips for Updating Traditional Dining Room Decor.



Choose whether to cater to children

Whether you want to speak directly to family’s needs will shape much of your vacation home furnishings decisions. Considerations to make if you choose to adopt the space for families include:

  • The choice of beds - Furnishing options like bunk beds or cribs could make your vacation home stand out from the competition! For more insights, read Guide to Kids Bed Sizes and Styles - Ages 4-10.
  • Whether you want to make it easy to childproof the space - The promise of a pre-baby-proofed vacation home takes a lot of stress off of parents’ plates! So have baby gates at the ready, install locks on kitchen drawers, secure heavy furniture to the wall, and cover electrical outlets. 
  • Your choice of furniture upholstery and design - If you plan on hosting a number of families in your short-term rental property, consider foregoing cream-colored upholstered seating in favor of darker colors. And perhaps choose a table edge profile that is more rounded in case children fall and hit themselves on the wood. 

Prepare for vacation rental guests to be clumsy when choosing furnishings

Children aren’t the only ones who tend to knock things over. After all, most of your guests are on vacation and may “let loose” with an extra glass of wine. Alternatively, they may simply fumble in the dark on the way back from the bathroom in an unfamiliar space. To minimize the risk of items breaking:

  • Minimizing tabletop decorations, opting for primarily wall-art - This not only lessens the number of items guests can accidentally bump, but also lets them use the surfaces however they please. 
  • Avoiding decorations made from delicate materials - This means glass, clay, and certain handwoven textiles. 
  • Near-eliminating tripping hazards - This means having no electrical cords in the middle of floors, taping rug corners down, and creating spacious areas to walk throughout the home. 
  • Have nightlights - Guests can pull them from the wall if they prefer darkness, but you’re at least giving them the option!

Choose Furniture Which Can Withstand Regular Use

Sasha Barak noted, “furniture in rental properties tends to experience more wear and tear than in a typical home, so investing in high-quality pieces that can withstand frequent use is crucial.” 

Chris Engelsman agreed saying, “we always suggest using sturdy furniture, and not cheap disposable types because they’ll spend more money in the long run if they must replace it every couple of years.”

While cheaper furnishings will not only need to be replaced semi-regularly, they’re more likely to show signs of wear, tainting the guests’ perceived value of the vacation rental. 

To learn more about solid wood furniture, read Buying Solid Wood Furniture Made in the USA - Why it Matters.


Don’t Neglect Your Floors!

Your choice of floor coverings (or lack thereof) can have a surprisingly sizable influence on your guests’ experience and the longevity of your short-term rental property. Ingrid Poole of Destination Unknown Life recommends, “consider using dark-colored, low-pile rugs in high-traffic areas like the living room and bedrooms. These rugs can help protect the flooring from scratches and stains, reduce noise, and add a touch of style to the space.” 

Another place she recommends giving floors extra attention? Your entryway. “Place door mats at the entrances of the rental property to encourage guests to wipe their feet and reduce the amount of dirt and debris brought into the space.”

Our recommendation? Opt for solid wood rather than anything made with particle or engineered wood.

Additional Tips for Furnishing Your Vacation Home

  • Avoid furniture that is innately hard to clean - Examples include upholstered furniture, woodworking with deep and intricate carving, or textured materials to which dust clings (like rattan). 
  • Invest in furnishing your vacation rental’s outdoor environment - Think about diversifying the types of outdoor seating you offer to accommodate varying preferences and levels of mobility. However, always make sure that the pieces always come from the same outdoor furniture set or else the space can come across as an afterthought. 
  • Invest in a quality mattress and pillows - You can’t guarantee that guests will make full use of the dining room or living room couch. However, you can have full certainty that the beds will be put to good use. And nothing can ruin a vacation home experience like a poor night’s sleep! 
  • Have to convert furniture to accommodate a greater number of guests - Modifiable Furniture can help you convert the space to fit greater (or fewer) guests including butterfly leaf tables, murphy beds, and fold-out couches. Our advice? Learn about the head-count in advance and set-up the furniture if needed, removing the burden from the guests of figuring out how to set up the various pieces.

Checklist of What Furniture Your Vacation Rental Property Needs

Living Room:

Comfortable sofa and armchairs
Coffee table
Entertainment center or TV stand
Television and cable/satellite subscription
DVD player or streaming device
Sound system or speakers
Cozy rugs or carpets
Side tables
Floor lamps or table lamps
Curtains or blinds for privacy
Decorative items (e.g., artwork, vases, plants)

Dining table and chairs
Oven and stove
Coffee maker and/or espresso machine
Toaster or toaster oven
Blender or food processor
Cookware (pots, pans, baking sheets)
Utensils (knives, spatulas, measuring cups)
Dinnerware (plates, bowls, glasses)
Flatware (forks, spoons, knives)
Mixing bowls and kitchen gadgets
Storage containers and plastic wraps
Trash cans and recycling bins
Dish towels and oven mitts
Cleaning supplies (dish soap, sponges, garbage bags)

Comfortable mattresses and bed frames
Pillows, bed sheets, and blankets
Nightstands or bedside tables
Dressers or chests of drawers
Wardrobes or closets with hangers
Lamps or bedside lighting
Alarm clocks or smart speakers
Full-length mirrors
Window treatments (curtains, blinds)
Extra blankets and pillows for guests

Toilet paper holders
Towel racks or hooks
Shower curtains or screens
Bath mats or rugs
Hand towels and bath towels
Soap dispensers or dishes
Toilet brushes and plungers
Waste baskets
Basic toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash)

Outdoor Spaces:
Patio furniture (tables, chairs, loungers)
Umbrellas or sunshades
Grill or barbecue equipment
Outdoor lighting (string lights, lanterns)
Lawn chairs or hammocks
Lawn maintenance tools (mower, trimmer)
Outdoor storage (shed, deck box)


Author, Baileigh Basham

Bailiegh Basham is Lead Sales & Marketing Strategist at Countryside Amish Furniture. She's been a team member since 2014. Bailiegh is deeply passionate about furniture design and home decor.