7 Secrets to Creating a Kick-Ass Airbnb or Vacation Rental Kitchenette

So Guests Will Book Again and Again and....




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June 18, 2016
Nora P kitchenette

I think kitchenettes need to pack a huge punch.


Because kitchenettes are mistakenly viewed as the ugly step-sisters to their proper kitchen sisters. You typically find them in mini vacation rentals or in the rented-out portion of an otherwise owner-occupied home (think Airbnb). And often such spaces are designed as afterthoughts.

Or worse, on the fly.

This is a lost opportunity. Why?

Because although owners don’t put much thought into kitchenettes, guests do.

In a big way.

Here’s the thing. The entire goal of a kitchenette is to provide a super convenient means to prepare simple meals – toasting bagels, making coffee or tea, baking a to-go pizza or even frying an egg – saving guests both time and money. Going to restaurants for mundane meals is something most guests want to avoid  (which gets expensive after several days on vacation.) When you do something nice for guests like saving them money and making it easier to prepare food and drink, they like you more. In fact, they have warm and fuzzy feelings towards you.

So basically when put that way, the kitchenette is the star of the show, right?

And because it’s the star of the show, it should be designed as such. The key is to create a kitchenette so eye-worthy that it hooks people into booking. Without hesitation.

How do you do that?

By copying from kitchenettes who are already crushing it in beguiling convenience and alluring design. The following kitchenettes all follow several, if not all, of the seven design principles outlined below. Look, learn (and copy.)

1. Minimalism and seamlessness

Karin Montgomery Spath is a master at the kitchenette. In the loft apartment topping a two-car garage she designed for an Auckland couple, the cooking area is surprisingly ample. And yet if you look at it closely, the actual square dimensions are typical. What’s Spath’s secret?

Minimalism and a seamlessness.

Spath elected to forgo upper cabinets and instead put in shelving, which gives an uncrowded look to the kitchenette. The slim bar sink and sleek two burner stove allow for more counter space, while the cupboards below store small pots and pans. The absolute bare essentials needed for two people are kept on the shelves, such as two wine and water glasses, coffee cups, and French presses. Because the surface materials – the backsplash tile, shelf and cabinet colors, and countertop – seamlessly match the colors of the room, the kitchenette appears larger.

Notice how your eye doesn’t easily distinguish where the kitchenette’s walls end? That’s because they blend in with the loft’s color scheme.

kitchenette vacation rental spath

Karin Montgomery Spath designed a sleek and minimalist kitchenette, which is seamlessly incorporated into the rest of the room, adding instead of detracting from the room’s design. Remodelista.

Getting the look:

I love electric kettles in kitchenettes, especially beautiful ones. They heat water more quickly than their stovetop sisters and save a stove top burner for cooking food.


electric kettle Kitchen Aid

The Kitchen Aid electric kettle will liven up any kitchenette counter with its sleek lines. $80 on Amazon

A French press is a compact method of making coffee, a good option in kitchenettes where critical counter space makes drip coffee makers ungainly. These days, with ever more sophisticated coffee aficionados booking vacation rentals, the taste of pressed coffee is particularly appreciated. Although glass French presses are more common, I suggest stainless-steel to avoid breakage.

Bellemain French press vacation rentals

Stainless steel and thus impervious to breaking, the Bellemain French press enhances a shelf or countertop with its fantastic design. $24 on Amazon

2. A Dedicated Niche

Creating a kitchenette is often easier if it’s located between two walls. Doing so allows for more storage on the side walls, giving guests more counter space to prepare meals. In designer Michelle Slatella’s one-car-garage-turned-cottage, a bookshelf was built around the bathroom doorway, creating another wall for the kitchenette. Two upper Ikea stainless shelves span the distance, storing just the necessaries for two guests. (I particularly like the idea of storing forks, spoons, and knives in a cup, saving a drawer for other tools.)

kitchenette guest cottage

Kitchenettes with their own dedicated niches look fabulous. This one, using mostly Ikea components, was created using a built-out bookshelf, which conveniently donated the second wall for the kitchenette. Gardenista

Getting the look:

Composed almost exclusively of Ikea elements, this kitchenette proves that chic does not equal costly. The cabinets are stainless steel Sektions.

ikea Sektion cabinet

The stainless steel Sektion 3-drawer cabinet fits the storage needs of most kitchenettes. Try some brass pulls on the outside and you’re styling. $231 from Ikea.

The compact Grundtal dish drainer frees up critical counter space:

kitchenette dish drain for vacation rental

Ikea’s Grundtal dish drainer and accompanying rail free up precious counter space. $26.99 from Ikea.

Another chic and brilliant space-saving device is a undershelf paper towel holder:

Yamazaki paper towel holder

An under shelf paper towel holder, like this one by Yamazaki, frees up critical work surface area for guests. $17.50 Amazon.

3. Shelves and rails

Back when I was getting my masters degree in interior architecture, I had the good fortune to be in class with Lilian Pan, who went on to found Studio Pan in Paris. Lilian designs fantastic buildings, but here I focus on a kitchenette she made in a Parisian work/live space. The all black palette is terrifically chic, but I particularly admire the way she packed in highly functioning kitchen tools into the tiny space.

Her secret?

Rails and shelves. On all sides.

Rails and shelves not only free up critical food prep areas, but they allow guests to see what they are looking for. Glasses, plates, a tiny espresso maker, cutting board, pots, lids, and herbs are all visible and available at a moment’s notice.

Also brilliant is the induction cook-top donating more surface prep when not in use.


Lilian Pan, the founder of Studio Pan in Paris, created this kitchenette in a tiny work/live space in Paris. It has virtually everything one needs to make a meal. Pan’s secret is hanging racks and shelves. Atelier-logement au coeur de Paris

Getting the look:

I like induction burners for kitchenettes because the flat surface frees up counter space. This portable model can be “built-in” to a counter, or stored below and used when needed.

Kitchenette stove tops

The True Induction S2F2 Cooktop with two double burners can be inserted into a counter (with cord hidden beneath) or placed on top of a countertop. $321.92 on Amazon.

And the Grundtal rail is all your will ever need for hanging tools.

kitchenette rail Grundtal

The Grundtal rail allows you to hang much-used kitchen tools in your kitchenette, freeing up storage space in cabinets and drawers.$7.99 in Ikea.

4. Eye-catching architectural elements

Hotels are increasingly trying to capture the vacation rental audience by making their rooms, well…more like vacation rentals, and one big trend is cashing in on kitchenettes. The Hotel Covell, in Los Angeles, is doing it outstandingly.

In fact, gorgeous kitchenettes are their motto. Check out the one in Suite 5.

Beautiful gold tipped bulb sconces flank an art print, a lacquered black shelf holds artisanal cups and saucers and an eye-catching brass sink and faucet all combine to beguile people into booking. In fact, I want to launch myself in that room and begin preparing myself a cheese platter accompanied by a glass of chardonnay this very minute.


So don’t be afraid to make it pretty folks!

Hotel Covell kitchenette

The Hotel Covell’s kitchenette in Suite 5 features a snazzy brass bar sink. The combination of artwork, becoming tea and coffee selection and a bottle of wine for two sends the message that the hotel deeply cares about pleasing guests. Suite 5, Hotel Covell.

Getting the look:

One of my favorite bar sinks is the Barclay. The aged patina gives off an old-world feel.

Barclays brass prep sink

The Barclay brass prep sink will chic-ify any kitchenette. $268 on Amazon.

And here’s the exact faucet the Hotel Felix features:

brass bar faucet

The Kingston brass bar faucet is both cheap and chic. Only $51.97 from Faucet Direct.

You can find the hip Fairfax sconce on Park Studio. Pair it with a gold dipped light bulb and you’re good to go.

Fairfax wall sconce

The Fairfax is a hard wired wall sconce that features a sleek, square back plate. The sconce has been finished in a flat black powder coat and has a single medium based socket. The Fairfax sconce is UL listed for both dry and damp locations. Put a gold tipped bulb to avoid glare. $215 from Park Studio

5. Make it personal

The best kitchenettes are personal and approachable like if they were suddenly changed into people, you’d want to shake their hands and be instant friends.

Look at how friendly this one is (ok, so I’m using the Hotel Felix again as a teaching tool, but wow, how can I not? They are masters at the kitchenette, especially when it comes to personality and uniqueness)…

The artwork, handmade items, a suitcase and books all give Suite 7’s kitchenette character and whimsy.

Cavell Hotel Kitchenette

Each suite in the Hotel Cavell in Los Angeles features its own very individual kitchenette. The artwork, suitcase, books and handmade-ish cutting board all give personality to the room.

Getting the look:

Look for items found nowhere else (or at least close to it). A handmade looking cutting board or a vintage oil give a singular quality to a kitchenette.

kitchenette cutting boards

A small, beautifully crafted cutting board can add great style to a kitchenette. $35 each on Home Stories.

Vintage painting vacation rentals

California Plein Air paintings can be had for as little as $89 on eBay.

6. Don’t be afraid to use mini-appliances (if codes allow)

Drawer dishwashers, mini-fridges, and built-in microwaves make cooking and cleaning up really easy for guests, and if codes allow, might be considered into the design. Mesh Studio managed to squeeze in some major players into their tiny kitchenette.

kitchenette vacation rental

Mesh Studio designed this compact kitchenette with all the bells and whistles, like drawer dishwasher, mini fridge, microwave, and stovetop. It’s amazing how much you stuff you can fit into a kitchenette with forethought. Mesh

One flaw: you probably wonder, where the heck is the prep space, right? There is none. I’d add a mobile kitchen island to this setup to complete it.

Getting the look:

Drawer dishwashers are wonderful in kitchenettes. I don’t know about you, but I loathe washing dishes on vacation. Enough said.

SPT Countertop Dishwasher, Silver

The SPT Countertop Dishwasher in Silver can also be installed below the counter if you provide its own niche. And it’s only $247.99. Amazon.

7. It’s okay to expand out a bit

When designing your kitchenette, remember you can spread out a bit; you don’t have to cram every single thing into the dedicated area.

Nora Sheppard, one of my favorite Italian designers, creates kitchenettes with floating rectangular and square shelves outside the sink and cooking area. Storing glasses, plates, and other tools in beautifully painted boxes frees up storage in the upper and lower cabinets.

Nora P kitchenette

This kitchenette by Nora Sheppard, the Italian designer, is a jewel. The deep greens, creative accessories, and wall shelves all combine to attract bookings. Nora P.

To get the look:

Floating shelves are plentiful and economical. You can even make them yourselves (as Sheperd did) and paint or leave them natural.

kitchen shelf

With plenty of shelf space, this three-tiered shelf can fit many items needed in a kitchenette. $99 from Ballard Designs.

Love Nora P’s unique sink? Here’s one from Normann Copenhagen that will do nicely. They come in a variety of colors.

Washing Up Bowl

The Normann Copenhagen Washing Up Bowl, shown in red here, comes in a variety of colors and could be used as a countertop sink. $87 from Normann Copenhagen

Chalk paint comes in handy when covering up boring or ugly cabinets because it needs virtually no surface prep. Annie Sloan Paints come in many colors and have the power to transform in a mere day with a brush.

Annie Sloan chalk paint is very forgiving of most surfaces and has the power to transform ugly wooden cabinets.

Annie Sloan chalk paint is very forgiving of most surfaces and has the power to transform ugly wooden cabinets.

Did I miss anything?

I’m sure I did. Please share more ideas on creating a kick-ass kitchenette in the comments section below so we can all look, learn (and copy)……


  • An inspiring article Mercedes. Even in homes that have a full kitchen, there may be a place for a kitchenette by a swimming pool or on a patio. A couple of things I would warn others against though. Ceramic sinks are a lovely to look at but a pain in practice because they are very unforgiving of plates – you end up chipping all your china. Brass faucets also are fine when they are polished but they can look daggy very quickly. They usually have a coating that promises to last but it does not, so you are forever polishing.

    • I agree on the ceramic sinks, Nick. Stick with stainless or other chip proof ones. Thanks for sharing, as always. :)

  • journeymaven

    Lovely and inspiring examples. We spent a huge amount of time designing the kitchenette at our Sea Zen vacation rental studio on the Great Ocean Road, Australia. You are spot on about it needs to look great, be very functional but spare and not in your face. We also went with 2 induction top, a convection oven/ microwave and small fridge. We added some extras like rice cooker, sandwich maker in the pantry and explained to guests how to do scrumptious roasts in the Baby Q BBQ! But we found from feedback the most important thing is the coffee machine!
    Thanks for the great post.

    • I love your holiday retreat, Sibylle. In fact, I just shared it to inspire subscribers. Furthermore, your kitchenette is gorgeous. I would highlight it in one of your photos so guests see how functional and chic it is. May I ask what kind of coffee maker you have?

      • journeymaven

        oh thanks so much, that’s lovely of you. And that’s a great idea to do a kitchenette photo, in fact we have just added a smoky dark mirror splash back and it looks even more sensational so time for an updated photo as you suggest!!

        Re the coffee machine – we have a Nespresso machine. Although we try very hard to be environmentally friendly and really do not like the individual pods, we have learned from experience and feedback that guests find these machines much easier to use than the other type with the open coffee which are a bit more fiddly.

        I am a new subscriber to your posts and very much enjoying reading the back posts and threads. I adore good design and you have a fabulous eye and talent:)

  • Such refreshing ideas Mercedes, thanks once again :)) I particularly like the green escaping one that curves around its niche and onto the surrounding wall.

    The only kitchenette we’ve ever done was in the entrance hall of an apartment with very high ceilings, so we had the option to go up and up for storage. It comes with a step-ladder! As the apartment was so historic, with gilded ceiling and frescoes etc, we kept it very simple, though if I was doing it again I might be tempted for a teeny bit of brassy gold somewhere. I’m embarrassed not to have a better picture than this, but here it is, below. The unit above the 2 ring hob is an extractor fan which may not have been as necessary as we thought at the time, and lost prime space. The wooden work-top is danish-oiled and works really well as long as it gets a new coat every few months. It was made on a very tight budget by a local carpenter who was great at the detail. The fridge is in the living/dining room together with coffee/tea equipment. We really need better pictures :-/

    Thanks for another really helpful post.

    • Wow! I love it! In fact, I just shared it on social media. You are a master at this and if you had a clearer photo I’d put it in the post above. Thanks for the inspiration, as always.

      • That’s so kind Mercedes and I’m sharing away where I find it. We’re still in shock – as is our apartment business – after the recent terrorism awfulness, so every bit of appreciation is enormously appreciated, thank you.

        • Yes, take more photos, Julia! Love it!

          • Thanks Amy :)) You’re both right and I need to prioritise photography there… appreciate the gentle prods!

      • Hello again Mercedes! I finally got a clearer picture of this little kitchen. It’ll be 10 years old next month and is bearing up pretty well considering.

        • I love it! It’s small but extremely efficient looking. I like how you have a built-in stove-top. I think going with white was a great idea, Julia! Do you mind if I share it in my upcoming kitchen book? I’m doing a chapter on the kitchenette.

          • I’d be thrilled if you shared it Mercedes :)) A credit/link to the business, the apartment or me as designer?! much appreciated.

            We couldn’t squeeze a fridge in (the bottom right hand cupboard hides a clothes washer/dryer machine) so the fridge is in the living room, with a coffee/tea station on top. To be honest the kitchette doesn’t get much use as there’s such a choice of restaurants and cafes in the neighbourhood, so it seems to be lasting quite well. Any questions please just ask. We’d be so pleased if you could use it in your book!

          • I will definitely credit you, Julia. Thank you so much!

  • Allenkain

    Local search listings are a powerful way to connect with people looking for Vacation Rentals in your area using search engines like Google. With a local listing, people googling for vacation rentals will see more detail about your listing right inside Google, things like pictures, descriptions, and reviews. You can also connect the listing back to your property website to allow people to get in contact with you directly.

  • Mercedes! So on point! I’m plotting a quick reno of our owners unit – which will allow us to accommodate 3/2 instead of 2/1. No need for “two” kitchens. My intention is to create a beverage center coffee tea and bar necessities: Ice maker etc. Love the Ikea rail system and Annie Sloan chalk paint – don’t get me started. Thanks for reposting !

    • Super happy to have helped! Would love to see how it turns out!

  • Lydia

    OK, I love Mercedes – we must talk in due time.

    Thank you so much for this post, I’ve already clicked on some of the items and I’m purchasing them.




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