Are You Interrogating Your Airbnb and Vacation Rental Guests

Without Knowing It?




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June 30, 2015
Movie Marathon Man

Vacation rental and Airbnb owners love to make their guests happy. Happy guests write 5-star reviews. Happy guests rebook. Again and again.

Some owners go to great lengths to make guests happy – greeting them with welcome treats, having uber comfortable mattresses and linens, being super responsive, providing all the little amenities that make a difference – and those guests give back by writing mini-memoirs of why their stay was so wonderful and “how they can’t wait to come again.”

On the other hand, there’s a sad handful of owners who are striving to get everything right – the welcome treats, yatta yatta yatta – but reviews and rebookings remain wimpy. Guests check out unwowed.

“What am I doing wrong?” these owners wonder. “Was it something I said?”

Weirdly, guests can’t often pinpoint what exactly made their stay fair to middling. Both great stays and awful stays yield detailed reviews – “loved the open floor plan and how comfortable the beds were!” or “the dishwasher was so noisy we couldn’t hear ourselves talk!” – but mediocre vacation rentals commonly get this response: “house was fine.”

It’s the big, infamous and booking-killing ‘meh,’ kind of a thumbs-neutral sort of thing. Not up, not down, just mid-lining it.

And mid-lining definitely doesn’t cut it in the Airbnb and vacation rental business.

So this post is dedicated to one critical design mistake that multitudes of short-term owners make. This error is almost never identified by guests, it remains a hidden, elusive 5-star review and rebookings killer. You rarely, if ever, will see it in a review. It’s like a really bad song that comes on the radio while you’re driving that annoys the heck out of you but, for some reason, you don’t think to change the station, so you stay annoyed for a whole three minutes.

So without further ado, let me introduce…….

The Culprit

Threatening Ceiling Fan

Do you have one of these in your vacation rental? More specifically – because this is the kiss of death – do you have one in your vacation rental bedroom?

If the answer is yes, get rid of it.

Now would not be soon enough.

Why? Because it’s your sworn enemy. It kills 5-star reviews and rebookings. Relentlessly and without mercy.

How? Some explanations are hard to put into words; they have to be felt before explained, so if you have a few minutes today, go do the following:

1. Walk into your vacation rental bedroom.

2. Turn on the ceiling fan, complete with the down-lights that came with it.

3. Pull off your shoes.

4. Without looking up at the fan, get in bed and get comfortable. Plump up the pillow just how you like it.

5. Lie down – remember not to look at the fan – and close your eyes and think of a beautiful landscape, a place that makes you really happy. Keep your eyes closed thinking about this wonderful place until you feel noticeably at ease. Notice how your breathing slows.

6. Ok, life is good, right? Now open your eyes and look at the ceiling fan looming over you. How do you feel? How do the lights angled down at you make you feel? How do those dark, clunky blades make you feel? Be honest.

Do you feel annoyed? I’ll bet my blog you do.

There are two reasons why the looming ceiling fan is never a good idea in your vacation rental:

1. It’s looming! Remember what the word ‘looming’ means? Here’s what has to say:

to loom, verb

gerund or present participle: looming
  1. appear as a shadowy form, especially one that is large or threatening.
    “vehicles loomed out of the darkness”
    synonyms: emerge, appear, come into view, take shape, materialize, reveal itself

    “ghostly shapes loomed out of the fog”
    • (of an event regarded as ominous or threatening) seem about to happen.
      “there is a crisis looming”
      synonyms: be imminent, be on the horizon, impend, threaten, brew, be just around the corner, be in the air/wind

Few people can look at a monstrous fan hanging ominously overhead without the inevitable “what-if-it-falls-off-the-ceiling-in-an-earthquake-and-decapitates-me!” image coming to mind, complete with the aftermath of your partner finding your head on the pillow, still smiling, but not attached to your body anymore.

You get my point, right?

Those big, dumpy ceiling fans make people feel unsafe. No one wants a big, fat ungainly thing with blades over their heads, especially when they’re sleeping.

2. The second aspect of these horrible looming fans is they almost always have angled, ugly glaring lights that mercilessly interrogate – “Tell me your name. Now!”

If you’re like most people, those probing lightbulbs (almost always fluorescent) make you feel a little like Dustin Hoffman, waiting to be “questioned” by the Nazi dentist, in the movie Marathon Man.

Remember this scene?

Movie Marathon Man

There are few things more horrifying than watching Laurence Olivier’s Nazi dentist drill into Dustin Hoffman’s teeth (the healthy ones because it’ll hurt more, naturally), under a glaring light bulb. Photo courtesy of The Next Reel.

That’s how your guests feel under your looming ceiling fan lights.

Ok, ok, I know I’m being hyperbolic, but sometimes I have to exaggerate to make a point – you can’t, you simply can’t – put this type of fan in your Airbnb or vacation rental anywhere, but especially not in the bedrooms. It’s a guaranteed happiness and (romance) killer.

If you have one of these horrible fans and think I’m crazy for hating them because you’ve never received a complaint, I will tell you the truth: guests don’t recognize that the fan is the thing making them unhappy. Instead, they experience unidentified ‘malaise.’ These dumpy monstrosities with their tentacle lights are like radon gas, a silent killer.

Of 5-star reviews anyway.

“But what about air circulation?” you protest. “What about keeping the room cool? Isn’t a stuffy room more of a problem than a clunky fan?”

It’s absolutely true that a stuffy room is unacceptable in Airbnbs and vacation rentals and should be avoided at all costs. You do need a fan in places where air circulation presents a problem.

However, there are fans and there are fansAnd I’m going to show you the difference.

The Solution

1. Look for a Slim, Ultra-Chic Shape (think Lauren Bacall)

We all admire the supremely elegant Lauren Bacall. Not only was she one of Hollywood’s most alluring and chic actresses, she was also discreet. In other words, she was stunning but wasn’t in your face about it. Why do I mention Lauren Bacall when I’m on the subject of ceiling fans?

Ceiling Fan as Lauren Bacall

If Lauren Bacall was magically transformed into a fan – lean, chic, subtly stunning and discreet – that’s what you would want in your vacation house. Images courtesy of the Aviation Ceiling Fan and The Red List.

Well, if Lauren Bacall could be translated into a fan, you’d want her shape and feel in your house, right? As in lean, subtle, and aerodynamically stunning. Such shapes do not intimidate or feel threatening; instead, they compel you to admire them. Even if they’re hanging prettily over your head in bed.

Here are some Bacall-ish stunners:

48" Industrial Fan

Love the sleek industrial look of this Emerson fan in stainless steel. And it happens to be the best buy in this post for only $159 on Lumens.

Matthews Fan Company"s Diane Ceiling Fan

The Diane was the first oscillating directional ceiling fan on the scene and can be hung in small spaces to make more efficient the heating, ventilation or air conditioning. And the best is that it’s devastatingly beguiling (without being in your face about it). $445 from YLighting.

Air Ceiling Fan by Lucci

Aerodynamically stunning and unobtrusive, the Lucci Air Ceiling Fan looks particularly fetching in modern settings. £204.99 from Amazon UK.

Period Arts Bodega Ceiling Fan

An Arts and Crafts style fan looks great in traditional vacation rentals. Its slim, hammered body is unobtrusively chic. $368 from Euro Lighting.

2. Rules of Thumb on Fan Lights

I don’t know why but most people automatically think they have to attach a light to their ceiling fan. Maybe it’s the logical ‘two for one dealie-o’ thinking at work here, but it doesn’t have to be this way, folks. In fact, there is a rule of thumb on when and when not to attach a light to the fan.

Rule #1: Put direct fan lights above areas where people tend to look down, not up, such as above a dining table, kitchen island, game table or task area. As long as the light itself is attractive (and you don’t – God forbid – use fluorescent bulbs), a down light is great for areas that need task lighting. Who wants to squint over a backgammon game, for instance?

Here’s a winner:

Emerson's Fan Highpointe

The Highpointe fan’s vibe is a mix of both modern and industrial with a price well below other modern fans. Sturdy, chic and expensive looking, the Highpointe will work in both modern and eclectic interiors. And don’t you just love the exposed cables? $341 from Lumens.

Rule #2: Avoid downward directed fan lights where people tend to look up. For instance, spaces with sofas, reclining chairs, beds, chaise lounges or stretching areas should be free of glaring overhead lighting. Not only is it hard on the eyes but it also highlights our bumps, lumps and all things we don’t want to think about. In fact, I cannot finish this paragraph without getting back to the subject of the bedroom again and warn you that soft, diffuse light is the only acceptable option for sleep zones.

My preference is no ceiling fan lights in bedrooms at all, just the fan; however, if you must (or insist), look for a soft light that is not directed downward, such as the following two options:

Fanimation's Beckwith Fan

The Beckwith Ceiling Fan’s light is directed to the sides, providing a nice, soft diffuse light. Great for lounging areas, such as beds and sofas. $472 from Y Lighting.

The Bristol Ceiling Fan

The Quorum Bristol Ceiling Fan works in both traditional and contemporary interiors, in two finish/color combinations. The bulbs at the top direct light upward and outward, resulting in a diffuse, soft light. $382 from Lumens.

One last uber-important suggestion on fan lighting: DO NOT USE FLOURESCENT BULBS! Instead, choose LED bulbs with a color temperature of 2700, which will last upwards of 15 years and are superior for mimicking the inviting tones of incandescent bulbs.

The Wrap-Up

Now that you know pretty much everything you need to know about ceiling fans and their rules of engagement, there’s nothing stopping you from replacing your old dumpy clunker for a chic ‘Bacall-ish’ stunner.

Before concluding, a word on prices. Unfortunately most ceiling fans don’t fall into the ‘reasonable’ – under $150 – price point I try to stick to in vacation rentals, so if you’re looking to keep things below $300-$500, write down the more expensive manufacturer’s names and plug them into Craigslist and Ebay for more affordable options. Overstock occasionally offers up some darn gorgeous ceiling fans too.

Before you go though: Engagement is one of my biggest goals and feedback is one of the ways I measure it. So please give me two minutes and talk to me in the Disqus comments below. Have a ceiling fan you’re not sure about? Thinking of getting a ceiling fan? Love your own sleek ceiling fan and want to show it off? Tell me!

Oh! And shares are hysterically appreciated.

  • Mary (

    Love this tip. We recently updated our own living room fan with this lovely thing and I am so much enjoying it. After reading this article, I am hot to update the one in our bedroom. No wonder I never loved it.

    PS– We bought land overlooking the ocean last fall and plan to build a vacation rental in the next few years– keep the good info coming!

    • Mary, that oil rubbed beauty is positively Bacall-ish. I love the wood! And the price is great too. Thanks so much for sharing with everyone. Everyone, look at Mary’s fan!

    • Very nice fan, thanks for sharing it Mary!

  • Great blog Mercedes and great irony to make your point! :-) I have chosen a white fan that hides itself with the white of my walls and ceiling. My VR is small and I did not want to give prominence to the fan to ensure it would not steel space visually. There is also a great technology inside that makes it super silent which is super important. So, in my case I chose a “mimetic” fan. For the fellow followers of the 1 Chic Retreat based in Europe I chose Pemba model from Faro at 260€. Thanks for such a great article!! Paola

    • I just checked it out and love it, especially how unobtrusive and sleek it is. The close to the ceiling option is such a good one in a small room. And yes, I agree with you. White fan against white ceiling makes a room feel bigger. Thanks for sharing!

  • Barbara C

    Hi Mercedes, Funny you should write about this now. I’ve recently changed out 4 outdated, palm leaf style fans for Haiku Fans by Big Ass Fans- All of the renters I’ve hosted since the installation have commented on how the place looks so much better than the pictures (as I haven’t updated the pictures yet). It’s something that makes a big difference but you don’t really know what the difference is. As a side note the fans have the added bonus of working with my Nest Thermostat to keep energy usage and costs down! Lovin’ my new fans – One more to go in the bedroom – which really needs the air circulation – but I need to redecorate it and haven’t been struck with an idea of what I’d like yet. Picture is with the old outdated fans. Getting new pictures at the end of the season.
    Love your Blog – keep em’ coming!

    • That is so interesting Barbara! Please share your new fans with us when you get a chance. We can’t wait to see them! And I’m really interested in how it integrates with your Nest (do you like your Nest?). Was it easy to set up?

    • Love to travel 2014

      Would you think those fans would be considered outdated in an outdoor gazebo in a tropical setting?

      • Which fans?

        • Love to travel 2014

          I was referring to the ones in the photo above that Barbara C thought were outdated for her set up. I’m looking for some fans that would work in an outdoor gazebo in a tropical garden setting? Don’t want to go too cheap but was thinking of something that I could get from like a Lowes or Home Depot.

      • Barbara C

        I think those fans are perfect in a tropical setting!

    • Barbara C

      Hi Mercedes,
      Here are the pics of the new fans up and running – They work GREAT – silent, great air flow and they look good too! I changed the lighting over the pool table and the wall sconces as well. The fans work great with the NEST- the NEST is already saving me money – well worth the investment. You can check an adjust the settings from anywhere on your smart phone; this works out great because I’ve had renters that will put the heat on in one room and the AC on in another. It’s coming together – slow and steady!


      • I love them! They go much better with your house than the old ones and thanks for the tip on the Nest. I hear nothing but great things about them!

        • Barbara C

          PS – I also bought a LIFX light bulb that will talk to the NEST – When the Nest senses you’re away the bulb will come on at different times. Love this stuff!

          • I should do a post on the NEST and LIFX, Barbara. It sounds like it can save owners a ton of energy bill useage.

          • Barbara C

            Being so far away from my vacation rental, it offers piece of mind as well.

  • JanStevensDesign

    I knew I didn’t like those ugly light kits stuck on ceiling fans but now I know why. Mercedes you are so insightful. I too have an ultra quiet, sleek, hurricane air moving Haiku fan from Big Ass Fans in our front bedroom. LOVE IT!!! I have to admit that I did get the LED light included …….it is obnoxiously cool and bright but I only use it as task lighting……..finding socks under the bed requires a very bright light for this usually very dark room…….Hoping my guests don’t push the “light” button while laying in bed.

    • Hi Jan, I love Big Ass Fans, especially that they are so quiet. Thanks for sharing the Houzz link with all the photos. As far as your fan’s light: as long as people have the option of turning the light on and off, I think it’s fine. Also, alternative lighting, such as bedside tables or wall sconces allow people the option of the overhead light and the more subdued task lighting besides the bed. Thanks for sharing, as usual!

  • Love to travel 2014

    This is so funny. When I started reading the article I thought you were going to say that we should get rid of all ceiling fans lol. Our major renovation project started as a result of me needing two ceiling fans. Neither worked in the space. One thing led to another and I was in the middle of a major reno.

    • Yep, I know the feeling! You identify one thing that needs changing out and then suddenly you’re redoing everything. LOL!

  • Beach Guy
    • Hilarious!! Think that about takes the cake. Thanks for the laugh.

    • Barbara C

      So funny – made me LOL!

  • Jeanine

    Oh, dear. The fans were already installed in the living room and both bedrooms. I’m the property manager and designer. Now, I must tell the owner to spend more money and change them. He’s not going to be happy with me. The property is located in Tucson, Arizona where the temperature can reach 110+ in the summer. I thought it would be a plus, not a minus. The fans make no noise whatsoever. We are awaiting the final approval for uploading everything on the website and I stumbled across your post, so no guests as yet. Do you still have the same advice? Rip ’em out?

    • Don’t panic Jeanine, do the fans have lights angled down? If so, you can take the lights off the fans and put in softer bedside lighting. Send me a photo of the fans and I’ll tell you if they work or not. You can also post an image here too.

      • Jeanine

        I’ll take some photos soon. I already have nightstands on both sides with reading lamps in each room. Thanks for your help.




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