The Virtually Unknown Secret Behind Mega Vacation Rental Bookings And Gushing Reviews

(and it has to do with sex).




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The sheets in a New York vacation rental by Jersey Ice Cream Co.

As a vacation rental interior designer, I get a lot of questions by both owners and managers (and even random people I meet from time to time) about vacation home stay design. Questions like “What colors do guests like the most?” or “What sort of cookware do you recommend?” are pretty common. But there is one question I get asked over and over again – more than any other – and it’s

 “What is the single most powerful design feature that gives the biggest punch to getting bookings and repeat bookings in vacation rentals?”

You know, like the magic formula? Don’t we all want to know the magic formula? Fortunately, I actually do have the answer and I will even go out on a limb and say that it’s the magic formula. In other words, if you implement this strategy, you will see a huge jump in both bookings and repeat bookings. Oh, and of course, lots of great, gushing guest reviews. But first, before I get into the how-tos, let’s begin by facing a basic fact about your vacation rental or home swap business.

People have sex in your vacation rentals and home swaps.

Lots of sex. Sometimes it’s all they do in your retreats – have sex, eat a little, have more sex, maybe go out to dinner (at one of your stupendous recommended restaurants), come home and have more sex, go to sleep, wake up in the morning and have sex. Sometimes sex is the reason they come to your vacation rental in the first place.

Let’s face it, it’s hard for people to keep up the romance at home – they are tired from working all day, little kids come in the bedroom at all hours, teenagers stay up way too late, the bedroom is a mess, partners are working in bed with their laptop or tablet, the lighting isn’t right, walls are thin, etc. etc. The list is long. There’s a reason why people say “vacation sex” is better. It’s distraction free.

Romantic Couple on vacation

Couples are naturally more sexual while on vacation; they are away from their everyday lives and thus more openly sensual. Deliver them romance and they will adore your vacation retreat. (Photo courtesy of Eric Chan on Flickr)

It’s imperative to deeply and thoroughly accept that sex plays a huge role in vacation “activities” in your lovely vacation rental!

Dwell on it. In fact, embrace it because if you don’t, you’re just putting your head in the sand. And putting your head in the sand is never a good idea in the vacation home stay business.

So embrace it. Plan for it. Design for romance. In other words, give your guests great vacation sex.

And they will thank you for it. And worship your vacation home stay.

In fact, not only will they thank you by leaving a gushing review but they will book with you again and again, becoming loyal customers because they can always count on great sex (again and again).

Okay, so how do you give them great sex? No, we are not talking about sex toys or 50 Shades of Grey props. We want to be subtler than that. We are talking about creating a sensuous experience or “atmosphere” in your vacation rental bedrooms. And it’s not hard to do. In fact, it’s pretty easy. I am a deconstructionist so I’ll break it down as usual and explain exactly how to accomplish this. The following is essential in creating a romantic, foreplay-inducing and very sex-friendly vacation rental boudoir:

Create a Ceres Throne –

Throne of Ceres

In ancient Roman religion, Ceres was a goddess of fertility, agriculture, grain crops and motherly relationships. She sits on a high throne, wears a soft, billowing gown, holds a lit torch and always has a basket of wheat by her side. (Drawing courtesy of Gutenberg, labeling is original to Mercedes Brennan at One Chic Retreat)

Okay, so… what in the heck is a Ceres Throne? Well, I sort of made it up, at least the part that has to do with great bedroom sex. It’s the easiest illustrative tool I have found for helping my clients figure out how to create romantic bedrooms.

Before I go any further, I’ll refresh your memory on some ancient Roman mythology.

Ceres was the ancient Roman Goddess of fertility (fertility! fertility!), agriculture, grain crops and motherly relationships. She is commonly depicted atop a throne wearing a soft, billowy gown and holding a torch of fire. By her side is a basket of wheat.

She’s over here on the right in this cool Gutenberg mythology drawing I snagged from their site. The red labeling was done by yours truly for your benefit, to draw attention to the  7 Elements of the Throne. Most or all of these 7 components are present in winning romantic bedrooms, so pay attention:

1. The Throne Back

The throne back is essential in creating a sense of security, intimacy, and belongingness in a bedroom. It is the area in back of a bed. It is most frequently a headboard, but sometimes it’s something suggesting a headboard or back support, such as artwork, a window, a piece of cloth, a niche in the wall or a combination of all of these. Psychologically, the throne back protects the back (“I’ve got your back!”), putting people at ease and allowing them to let their guard down. And of course, letting one’s guard down is key in romance. Here are some uber romantic guest bedrooms with successful throne backs:

An Illustrated Throne Back

The headboard, bed pillows, bedposts, and mirror form the throne back of this romantic bedroom retreat. (From Lonny )

Thone backs are most often accomplished by a headboard with perhaps some artwork, a mirror, or other fetching design element above. This bedroom, found in Lonny, is a more traditional approach to the throne back. A mirror was placed between the bed posts and above the headboard.
Cloth throne back

A piece of cloth, pinned to the wall in back, suggests a throne back. The bed pillows add to the effect. “Come and lie upon me,” the bed beckons. From Coyuchi.

A throne back does not have to be a headboard per se. In the example above, a piece of cloth is tacked to the wall above the bed. The pillows also play a role in creating a throne back.

Hotel Room in La Maison Champs Elysee

Martin Margiela designed this fantastic hotel room for Maison Champs Elysees in Paris. The recessed “headboard,” along with playful, decorative elements inside, make up this original throne back.

Even a wall niche can be a throne back, as seen in the sublime work of Martin Margiela for La Maison Champs Elysees, above.

2. Throne Arms

 These are the practical elements to the Ceres Throne; it’s where Ceres places her hands while she is sitting on her throne and likewise, in the romantic bedroom, this is where guests put their things – phones, books, water carafe, eyeglasses, alarm clock . In other words, have some furniture on both sides of the bed – or on one side if the bed is pushed against the wall – for guests’ convenience. Guests find it maddening when there are no bedside tables. Furthermore, the “arms” of the “throne” complete a very regal setup. Guests feel taken care of when their needs are met, and visually, it looks more elegant. Check out Aerin Lauder’s Aspen vacation bedroom for an illustration (and inspiration!) below:

Aerin Lauder Vacation Home

Aerin Lauder’s Bedroom in her Aspen vacation home. The bedside tables, along with the mismatched lamps that sit on them make up the Throne Arms of her romantic, rather sexy bedroom. (Source is Vogue).

3. Cere’s Billowing, Soft Gown

I’m sure you’re getting into the groove of this by now and have already guessed that Cere’s Billowing, Soft Gown is the symbol of your bed linens, right? Of course, they are!

Bed linens must be so supremely soft and luscious that your guests will revel in them; literally wrap themselves inside them and not want to leave the bed. There are no alternatives to high quality bed linens. They are a must have. Even if you have everything else figured out perfectly, if you fail here, you will fail utterly and miserably and epically. Do not cheap out here folks! This is where you spend your money.

The sheets in a New York vacation rental by Jersey Ice Cream Co.

Soft, high-quality sheets are so important in sex friendly vacation rental bedrooms, that if you fail here, you will fail miserably. Interestingly, sheets don’t have to be ironed to be fetching; in fact, there is something very becoming and sexy about wrinkled, elegant sheets, aren’t there? Bed designed by Jersey Ice Cream Co.

Luscious bed linens beckon

A layering of soft sheets, pillows, and blankets will seduce even the most proper guests into romantic activities. Paula Eklund’s home seen in Ikea Living.

Recommendations for heavenly sheets?

There are lots of wonderful possibilities, but recently I discovered two excellent vendors. Exceptional Sheets, based in Evansville, Indiana, is an on-line company offering 400 to 1500 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets for prices starting at $149 to $292. However, I just bought a 1000 thread-count queen set on Amazon for $143.99 (normally over $200 on their website) and they are a smashing success. I literally don’t want to get out of bed in the morning!

1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets by Exceptional Sheets

These heavenly 1000 thread-count sheets by Exceptional Sheets, were bought on Amazon for only $155. The company stands behind it’s authenticity: it will refund you 125% if you are not 100% satisfied!

My bed linens

This is my bedroom in the morning. Since putting on Exceptional Sheet‘s 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton bed sheets, I literally hate to get out of bed. I think of all sorts of excuses to stay inside these sheets. They are delicious!

The second company I recommend is The Distinguished Guest, founded by Alanna Schroeder. Alanna has sourced a set of 200 thread count sheets paired with 250 count pillowcases and the result are crisp, clean, and relatively wrinkle-free wonders. They are made in the USA and are super economical at only $45 for a queen set! I recommend that you wash them in one cup of baking soda the first time to soften them and then tumble dry them with a tennis or lacrosse ball to pound in some extra softness. My husband says they remind him of his “grandmother’s sheets.” And that is a huge compliment considering that she lived in the Hamptons hamlet of Watermill, NY and had maids who ironed her sheets with lavender water!

Sheet set by the Distinguished Guest

“Your guest will sink into these crisp, white hotel sheets after a long day of sightseeing,” says the website, The Distinguished Guest. These sheets combine 250 thread count pillowcases with 200 thread count sheets, a little trick of the trade, to provide maximum comfort. All sheet sets include a flat sheet, fitted sheet and two pillowcases in white and are a no-iron finish. The sheets are a 60/40 cotton polyester blend made with Pima cotton and are made exclusively for the hospitality trade by the USA based Thomaston Mills.

4. The Throne Seat

The mattress is, as you may have already guessed, the “throne seat” in our illustrative lesson on creating lusciously romantic bedrooms. The mattress must be heavenly, just like the sheets. Yes, hea-ven-ly. Have an extremely comfortable mattress in all bedrooms; so comfortable in fact that guests never cease commenting on it.

Pampering the back is perhaps the most important design element in any vacation rental. Period. But this especially applies to guest sex. If your guests’ spines aren’t deeply cared for, it puts a big damper on having good sex, and consequently, they will silently (or thunderously) curse you and all your descendants forever. And they will make sure to take time out of their busy day to give you a lousy review. Guaranteed.

Sinya's Romantic Bedroom has a mattress guests comment on!

Sinya on Lone Pine Creek, a vacation glamping vacation rental outside Austin, receives numerous gushing reviews on her mattress. “Like sleeping on a cloud,” one reviewer says. The owner revealed that she uses a Simmons Beautyrest Classic Plush Firm Eurotop Mattress.

Happy backs lead to happy sex and happy sleep; the two are intimately intertwined, excuse the pun. What feels good for sleep, feels good for sex and vice versa.

I wish I could tell you the absolute best mattress out there but the reality is there are many very good mattresses that will make your guests happy. Here is one that has been well reviewed in the vacation rental community you might consider.

The Mattress at the W Hotel

The W Hotel mattress is famous for comfort in the hospitality world. Guests had asked about buying  them so frequently that the company started selling the mattress on their website.

The W Mattress – from The W Hotel Chain – is renowned for its comfort so you really can’t go wrong here. At almost $1,599 for the luxurious pillow top queen (without boxspring), it’s not cheap, but keep in mind that The W Store has frequent sales and just a month ago the same mattress was around $1,000.

5. The Ceres Torch

The Goddess Ceres, as you see in the illustration above, carries a torch by her side. How it relates to creating your sex-friendly guest bedroom is threefold:

1. Romantic lighting

Try to have some lights around the head of the bed, they double as both romantic and task lighting (for reading later). Please avoid compact fluorescents because they make people look ugly. Fluorescents often depress those around them as well. Sad people don’t want to have sex. Instead, go for equally efficient LED lightbulbs with a color temperature of around 2700K. Higher color temperatures (3000K plus) emit a cooler light and we definitely don’t want “cool” in the bedroom; it is inhibiting. Need we say more?

LED Philips Light

Philips LED, 2700 K, fully dimmable A21 has an extra long lifetime of up to 22.8 years, reducing the hassle of frequent light bulb replacement. It provides a warm, white light and is perfect for general room and accent lighting. Available on Amazon.

Avoid glaring ceiling lights. Instead, change them out for wall washers (ceiling lights that are directed at the wall and “wash” it. Lighting the walls creates an instant flattering atmosphere and gives a more romantic vibe. If there is a light above the bed, make sure the light emitted is diffuse and not glaring down, hurting people’s eyes and highlighting their perceived body flaws.

Blaentrothy Cottages

Paradise Cottage, a Blaentrothy Cottages rental, gets romantic lighting. The overhead chandelier’s diffuse light does not glare down on guests in bed. I’ll bet many happy couples have spent time here!

2. “Fire” it up

Make sure to have some remote controlled candles in your romantic vacation rental bedroom. I do not suggest real candles because of fire hazards; the remote controlled ones are really snazzy these days and guests love them. Make sure to get good, dependable ones though; otherwise, guests are going to be irritated.

Candles with a remote control

I like these remote control “candles” because they look like the real thing. Molded in real wax, they even flicker! Found on Amazon.

3. Put a little bit of red in the room

Every romantic bedroom needs a little bit of red. Just a little bit. It can be anything – a book, a vase, some red flowers, a coverlet, a pillow, you name it. Color studies confirm that red stimulates sexual appetite, so this is key in your vacation retreat bedrooms. Look at the following examples:

Chateau de la Resle and their sex friendly hotel rooms

The cherry red underside of this cool bedspread – found in the Saint-Bris Room of Chateau de la Resle – is provocative. Believe me, expensive hotels design for hot sex in their rooms! This is a home run.

Guest Room in The Wild Rabbit

Wow! This bedroom in The Wild Rabbit is super sex friendly. You can see the Ceres’ Torch in all three manifestations – the red book, the diffuse hanging lights near the headboard and the candle beside the bed. Clearly crushing it in guest romance! I’ll bet guests spend A LOT of time in here.

* Word of Warning on Red – Remember that red goes a long way; too much red leads to aggression and sometimes violence. My motto: Less is more.

6. Ceres’ Footrest

Did you know that the feet have a quarter of all the body’s bones? There are  52 bones in a pair of feet! During an average day of walking, the total forces on your feet can total hundreds of tons, equivalent to an average of a fully loaded cement truck!

Feet are one of the most neglected parts of the body.

Standing for hours, wearing high heeled shoes or stiff dress shoes and general lack of care leads to sore and tired feet. The feet take a lot of pressure and they need to be pampered on vacation.

Put a soft rug beside the bed. A plush rug’s feel on the foot is like very light foot massage every time your guests get in and out of bed. When the feet are cared for like this, people relax all over and relaxation is an essential component of great sex.

Knowing that a rug is there to soften the blow of the hard floor and to keep barefoot guests warm at cooler times of the year will seduce your guests with happiness.

Even in warmer weather vacation rentals, such as those found in tropical areas, I still suggest rugs; however get the flat-weave variety. They will serve to cushion the feet against the hardness of the floor. The body is always looking for a soft transition from bed world to real world and the rug serves as a psychological transit area.

Also, to put it bluntly, sex takes place in all sorts of places and a rug is nice for guests to stand on. ;)

Bedroom at Shipley Corner

This soft inviting bedroom, in an upstate NY vacation cottage called Shipley Corner, has a few rugs beside the bed. Rugs soften a room, making it more sensuous.

7. The Basket of Wheat (or Flowers are Queen!)

Ceres was the Goddess of Agriculture and Crops so it makes sense that she is depicted with a bushel or basket of wheat or other crop by her side. Likewise, when designing a Ceres Throne, the “wheat” gets translated into “flowers or other brightly colored plant.”

In other words, put some flowers in the bedroom.

There are scientific studies that show a link between flowers and elevated mood.

A team of researchers at Rutgers discovered in a 10-month study that flowers have an immediate impact on happiness. All study participants expressed “true” or “excited” smiles upon receiving flowers, demonstrating extraordinary delight and gratitude. This reaction was universal, occurring in all age groups.

Furthermore, flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods. Specifically, study participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.

Symbolically, flowers are intensely sexual. Their colors and forms are sexy, vibrant and life-sustaining, all suggesting fertility and reproduction and therefore they aid in making guests feel more conscious of their own sexuality.

El Carligto Villa Bedroom

The flowering plant in the bedroom of El Carligto Villa, in Andalucia, Spain, gives the room a sensuous vibe. In fact, that flower is downright sexy!

You need not go to the florist for fancy arrangements; picking a simple bouquet from your garden is fetching and very natural. When flowers are out of season, placing a simple vase of green leaves is equally inviting.  


So that wraps up my lesson on how to create a kick-ass romantic bedroom for your guests. If you implement these strategies, I guarantee your guests will thank you many times over. Not only will they leave you positively glowing reviews, but many of them will become loyal customers and book again and again.

These tips don’t take very much time to implement, but they can yield big results in your vacation rental and home swap business.

I hope you implement at least one of these strategies, and if you’d like to add anything, or suggest a tip of your own, I’m sure the community would be very thankful! Just add that into the comment section below. Or post on my Facebook or Twitter pages.

If you’ve found value in this post, please click one of the buttons below to share it! Thanks so much, and here’s to you and your vacation retreat success!

  • chicretreat

    Beautiful flower

    • chicretreat

      yup it is

  • Christopher Krueger

    Wow, great stuff Mercedes!
    you are so smart!
    I am going this week to the Amazon store to buy new headboards, arms, sheets, matress, rug, flowers and something red. did I miss anything?

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  • tokillamockingbirdfromtexas

    Great article! Makes me want to go on vacation….and not to sight see ;)

    I have all but one or two elements and will add those! I bought my sheets from The Distinguished Guest found in another article of yours and everyone really likes them. Thank you.

    • So glad to have helped out! That’s exactly why I started One Chic Retreat – to help people like you!

  • I have everything you listed but 2.
    I could probably improve my sheet quality. We’re still working to find what works for us – on a tight budget I might add.
    I do have a question though about the flowers. I love flowers and indoor plants but have a problem with having them in my rental. First of all because of the watering they require – and then cut flowers just die so quickly. Second because of space. I don’t have a huge rental – it’s only 1,000 sq. ft and that is with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. I’m not really into lots of fake plants inside though we do have a nice arrangement in the dining room. Any suggestions?

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  • Jamaicavilla

    I recently purchased 1000 count thread count Italian king size sheets from Groupon,

    • Can you share if it’s not too late?

      • Jamaicavilla

        Its done, however, I will make sure I share the deals when I get them next. Kings size was $69.00 down from appx $400

  • Wondering something…my problem is with blue. Our master bedroom is blue – I mean REALLY blue. We bought the house that way and just couldn’t invest the money or the time to paint it – we had to get it to start paying for itself ASAP. I just bought a new coverlet for the room and am hoping to make up some extra pillows to tie the room color in. Next summer I am hoping to take time to paint the bedrooms but I want to keep it blue – both because it will go well with the lighter wood we have in there and because it will be easier to cover the existing color by keeping it in the family.
    Now to my question…I’ve always thought and heard that you can only make a room sexy by painting it warm colors. I want to paint it a light blue – not a baby blue but around there.
    What do you think?

    • As long as you have some orange and red counteracting the blue, you’re good to go. And make sure you have a bright white ceiling or trim to contrast the blue. I love blue bedrooms as long as they have sparks of red. Hope that helps. Post a photo is you want me to comment more, ok? :)

      • Here’s the bedroom. Not sure about adding orange/red to this coverlet?

        • What I would do here is put some white sheets and duvet on the bed and do away with the coverlet entirely. The coverlet is the same color as the furniture and so guests’ eyes won’t notice it. I would have 2/3’s white sheets and one third folded red or orange coverlet at the bottom of the bed. Make sense?

          • Your description does make sense.
            It seems like the bedding does seem to grab attention though – or something has. Since we changed the bedding our views and our bookings have both gone up…and that’s the only thing that has changed.
            I would like to get some better sheets – nice bright and white like you mentioned.
            Thanks for taking time with me.

          • If the coverlet is working for you, then fold it instead and place it at the bottom of the bed. The white sheets contrasted against it will make people take note. :)

          • I had talked about doing that the other day with my hubby. I’ll send you a picture when I get it set. Thanks so much.

          • Love to travel 2014

            CottageMom, I agree with Mercedes on this. I think your presentation looks good with the symmetry etc but if you really look at it, I think the color of the coverlet is very close to the bedhead and night table that it doesn’t really pop. It looks very safe. I think that blue wall and the wood color would look really nice with the white sheets and some color in either a pillow or throw as Mercedes suggested. Good luck and best wishes.

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  • Betsy Daly-Caffell

    Mercedes what do you think of the memory foam mattresses? I have a Tempur-Pedic and absolutely love it. Or would you recommend a pillowtop instead?

    • I love memory foam mattresses but just be careful they’re breathable because some heat up quite a lot. I have a Tuft and Needle that is fantastic and I’ve also tried out the Casper (a little more $ than the Tufts and Needle) and think it’s super comfortable. Both of these options are affordable too.

  • 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.




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