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How One Airbnb Owner is Killing it with an Eco-Luxury Niche

And differentiates herself from stiff competition!

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Amenities airbnb

I heard a phrase last weekend uttered by VRSS keynote speaker, Matt Landau, that has stuck with me over the last few days and perfectly melds with the goal we strive for when designing Airbnb homes:

Create a niche vacation rental, vastly different from your competition, and guests will not only book, they will line up to do so.

In other words, be unique.

It’s a simple idea, yet so easy to forget, or just dismiss. After all, many owners assume that in order to create a niche property, you have to have either geographical or architectural differentiation, such as this safari tent outside of Austin, or this house on an Icelandic peninsula.

However, there’s another way to get to the top of the food chain in achieving absolute uniqueness, and you don’t need a 360-degree cliff view or an architecturally unique home to do it.

You merely have to design your short-term rental with a unique focus.

If you do this, you can be located in a neighborhood with stiff competition and still achieve ROI greatness.

Remember Tiffany, owner of the Beach Lodge in Hollywood Beach, California, who we previously featured on 1 Chic Retreat? In order to stand out among dense competition, she created a bohemian beach retreat and Instagrammed the heck out of it. She has effectively created a niche property by decorating it like no other rental in her area and consequently remains booked up all year long.

Today’s article features another niche phenomenon, Trinette and Chris, who together own Farmhouse Oasis. You may remember this gorgeous Sonoma house from a previous article, Three Vacation Rental Properties Crushing it in Branding, wherein I featured them for their branding savvy.

farmhouse oasis on 1 chic retreat

Farmhouse Oasis has distinguished itself from its considerable vacation rental competition by embracing an eco-luxury theme in its retreat.

Trinette and Chris have distinguished their rental by creating an eco-luxurious lodging experience, meaning almost everything is either organic or sustainable, with a preponderance of natural materials. It’s a niche that works well in northern California wine country, where guests tend to focus on health and well-being.

I asked Trinette over a series of emails how she set up her ecologically focused vacation rental and I learned a lot. Here is what she shared with me.

MB: Trinette, why did you decide to go with an ecological theme?

Trinette: Health is very important to Chris and me. When we set up our holiday rental, we thought back on what we didn’t like about some of the Airbnb’s at which we had stayed over the years and it was always the same issue –  artificial or unhealthy products. This is why we made our rental eco-friendly. We wanted everyone to be happy and healthy while staying in our Airbnb.

airbnb kitchen

Most of the kitchen elements in Farmhouse Oasis are made from sustainable materials. All stocked food is organic.

MB: Were there any specific products that bothered you most?

Trinette: Absolutely! The top of the no-no list is any type of artificial fragrance. They drive me nuts because I’m allergic to most of them.

For example, the smell emanating from perfumed detergent on sheets causes me to toss and turn all night and I wake up with a headache. I now bring my own sheets when staying in Airbnb’s. Just as bad are the artificial sprays and plug-in fragrances. I am so sensitive that I email the hosts ahead of time to request that they unplug them or not to spray any air freshener anywhere.

I recommend that owners use unscented detergents or natural ones because there are guests like me, who suffer otherwise. We were at a rental recently, for instance, that had mini jars of air fresheners everywhere; it was so overwhelming and made us feel horrible within an hour. We went through the entire house, gathered them up and moved them outside. Aside from the overpowering fragrance, it made me wonder what the heck they were trying so hard to mask. Was it not clean?

MB: Wow, that’s not something I would have thought of because I’m not sensitive to artificial scents; however, I think artificial scents tend to smell fake and I appreciate a non-toxic environment certainly. What products do you recommend as an alternative for those rentals that get a little stuffy otherwise?

Trinette: We are lucky because we have mild weather in our area of the world and can keep our windows open so our guest house stays pretty fresh; however, when we have a bout of cold weather, we use essential oil reed diffusers. Furthermore, if you supply your rental with natural soaps and oils, as well as natural cleaning products, the house just smells better all around.

Amenities airbnb

Whenever possible Trinette uses local purveyors for amenities, such as Griffin Remedy and Soap Cauldron.

healthy air freshener airbnb

When the house needs refreshment, a natural aromatherapy spray is available for guests.

MB: How do you feel about scented sticks in a pretty jar? I love to see those in Airbnb’s.

Trinette: The majority of them have fragrances that can trigger allergies in sensitive guests. There is only one brand I recommend and I love it – Rare Essence. The smell is heavenly, but subtle, and the properties are 100% healthy.

aromatherapy diffuser

Trinette stays away from any artificial air fresheners in her Airbnb; instead, she uses essential oil diffusers, like this one from Uplifting Reed Diffuser from Rare Essence Aromatherapy.

MB: Is it because of chemicals that you decided against an outdoor hot tub and put in an infra-red sauna instead?

Trinette: Avoiding chemicals and the cleanliness factor were the reasons I chose a sauna. I personally get grossed out when I see a hot tub because I think, “who had sex in here?” On the other hand, a sauna, especially an ultra-low emf infrared one, is easy to keep clean, has proven health benefits, and is just as relaxing.

Furthermore it differentiates us hugely. There are no other Airbnb’s in our area who offer an emf infrared sauna.

airbnb saunca

An infrared sauna awaits guests upon arrival. What a nice way to wind-down.

MB: What are your thoughts on bedding?

Trinette: Anything that touches skin has to be 100% natural, preferably linen. I also love all cotton sheets. I always look at the tag on sheets when I check into Airbnb’s and hotels to see if they have polyester in them, and get very judgmental if they do. LOL! If I see them in a rental, I just feel like they bought cheap linens and don’t care about comfort. Polyester makes me itch for some reason; I can’t wear it in my clothes either. I realize all cotton sheets wrinkle but I don’t mind that look. I remember your article on the messy bed and that is definitely a look I embrace in Farmhouse Oasis. Furthermore, sheets must be white! They don’t look clean otherwise.

bedding airbnb

Farmhouse Oasis beds are dressed in 100% linen and 100% wool bedding. The decorative pillows are made of linen grain sacks.

Our blankets are 100% wool from Coyuchi. They are expensive but I know they will last 10 or more years. They actually look better with time and guests know instantly that they are high quality and thus feel pampered.

blankets airbnb

A 100% wool Coyuchi (made in Northern California) blanket hangs seductively over a wooden ladder in the bedroom.

MB: What kind of detergents and fabric softeners (if any) do you use to wash your bedding?

Trinette: Natural all the way! We live in northern California and I have to assume that guests in this area want natural detergents. We use an all organic laundry detergent and don’t use any fabric softeners. And I’m not alone. Many of our local high-end hotels are starting to use natural cleaning products, including detergents, so there must be increasing demand.

laundry organic airbnb

Trinette and Chris use Organic Laundry Detergent Mountain Fresh for all washing.

MB: And what about your mattresses?

Trinette: Our mattress is 100% organic and to top it off, we feature an organic lambswool mattress topper that is dreamy to lie on. In fact, we feature it it in our promotional photos so everyone knows it’s what’s under the sheets. It’s an absolute hit!

mattress topper airbnb

A wool topper from Holy Lamb Organics sits rolled up for all prospective guests to see. Trinette is all about promotion. “If you have something special, let everyone know!”

MB: Doesn’t a wool topper get too hot in the summer?

Trinette: No it’s actually the opposite. Wool toppers keep people cooler in the heat. Conversely, it keeps you warmer in the winter.

MB: Anything else that comes to mind that you’d like to shout out to the world?

Trinette: Yes, I highly recommend welcoming guests with organic tea. People in our neck of the woods tend to expect coffee (which we have) but when they see organic tea as well, it’s intriguing.

airbnb tea

Five Mountains organic tea awaits guests in the Farmhouse Oasis kitchen.

Also, guests love our woodcut game which melds perfectly with our eco-friendly theme. I recommend putting an interactive game into Airbnb’s. People are looking for things to do besides being on their phones. We know our guests appreciate it because they make mention in their reviews.

guest games airbnb

Farmhouse Oasis places the Woodcut Memory Game on the coffee table. It’s beautifully displayed in a promotional photograph.

MB: Last but not least, are there any particular products that you love and recommend for people interested in creating an eco-friendly Airbnb?

Trinette: Yes! I love Seventh Generation for dish soap and paper productsSky Organics Essential Oil in this diffuser when the house gets stuffy, and Mountain Rose aromatherapy sprays for the back of all toilets.

MB: Thank you so much for sharing the secrets of your very special niche, Trinette. You have certainly differentiated yourself and it’s clearly paying off. I’m sure our community really appreciates it, especially because guests are more and more eco-conscious and will appreciate healthy products and suggestions.

Trinette: My pleasure!

Trinette’s Must-Have List for Creating an Eco-Friendly Airbnb

  1. Have a natural non-toxic mattress.
  2. Have natural, non-synthetic bedding materials.
  3. Use natural non-toxic cleaning products.
  4. Use natural non-toxic paint and finishes.
  5. Use natural non-toxic soap for hands, dish soap, and shampoos/amenities.
  6. Use natural essential oils for scent, never synthetic perfumes or diffusers (no Fabreeze or plug-in scent things). You can get an aromatherapy diffuser or just make your own room spray with essential oils.
  7. Install reverse osmosis water drinking filter (don’t use plastic water bottles). A shower filter or whole house filter is a big bonus to remove chlorine from shower water.
  8. Provide a compost bin for guests and compost food waste. Provide a trash can that separates out recycling and trash (our recycling can is always more full when a guest checks out then the trash is). Most Airbnb’s only provide one trash can and it’s not environmentally friendly. I like the Simple Human trash can that has two slots, one for recycling and one for trash.
  9. Use biodegradable trash bags, as well as eco-toilet paper and paper towels.
  10. Buy furniture without fire retardants and stain guards on them.
  11. Buy throws made with natural materials.
  12. Use solar power for house or pool.
  13. Use salt water to treat pool or this amazing company that uses hydrogen peroxide instead of chemicals (we are planning on doing this when we have the money).
  14. If you provide coffee, tea, sugar, and creamer, make sure it’s organic (and local if possible).
  15. Don’t use pesticides or insecticides anywhere on the property (there are companies that treat pests with all natural essential oils).
  16. Provide a HEPA air filter in sleeping areas.
  17. No teflon or aluminum pans! Provide cast iron, ceramic, or stainless steel pans. Use glass storage containers rather than plastic.
  18. Provide wood, stainless steel, or silicone cooking utensils.
  19. If you provide any spices, oil, etc, make them organic and high-quality.
  20. Use as many natural materials and textures as possible, on rugs, curtains, furniture, pillows, etc.
  21. My last suggestion isn’t eco-friendly per se, but it’s golden advice so I’ll list it anyway: have nice pots and pans for your guests and good sharp knives. Our last guest mentioned how much they appreciated our good quality pans and that our knives were actually sharp; they said that is “so rare in a rental.” We also have a feedback card that we ask guests to fill out before they check out if they have time. We have received lots of great feedback from that practice and have integrated requests into our rental, making it even better.

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