How Much Does It Really Cost to Furnish an Airbnb or Vacation Rental?

Let's Start with the Master Bedroom....




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November 30, 2017
1 chic retreat features amber interiors

“I just bought a 3-bedroom house in North Carolina that we intend to transform into an Airbnb. The house is empty and we are just beginning to buy furnishings. Can you tell me how much it will cost to furnish the whole house approximately?” – 1 Chic Subscriber Marla Christie

Today’s article is a response to 1 Chic Retreat subscriber, Marla Christie, who recently asked how much she should budget for furnishing her vacation rental.

It’s a great question and one we get all the time when working with clients.

Obviously, every budget is different, but one thing stays consistent: virtually everybody underestimates the furnishings budget.


I think it’s because owners tend to account for the big item price tags and ignore the rest. For instance, they assume they need a sofa, but they don’t account for the side table and reading light beside it; or they put a bed and mattress in the spreadsheet without the accompanying box spring, mattress protector and bedding prices.

“Oh, I forgot about that,” they sigh.

There’s always a little more than one expects.

And it all adds up.

In an effort to impart some realism into the equation, I’m going to share a master bedroom – with ALL required elements – we recently put together for a client, to illustrate typical costs.

It’s part of a larger project, a 5-bedroom house in San Diego, we hope to reveal next year. In the meantime, here’s  the nitty gritty…..


vacation rental furniture

Laid-back California design concept

We and our client settled on an airy, laid-back California design concept for the house. People come from all over the world to enjoy the sunny San Diego weather and we felt this theme perfectly reflected the Southern California lifestyle and would be most appealing to people looking to book.


Our client is drawn to canopy beds, the contrast of lighter and darker woods, and tribal rugs. This bedroom’s look is the vibe we are going for:

1 chic retreat features amber interiors

It helps when there’s a clear design direction when decorating a room. This room by Amber Interiors serves as inspiration.

Now that the design blueprint is in place, let’s pull it all together. And I mean everything (you’ll see what I mean).

1. The Bed – $995

We chose a canopy bed because they are a big hit with guests, who view them as extra cozy and luxurious. This one is sleek, neutral, and made of solid pine. It’s a great price for a solid, well-made bed.

Another nice little extra about this bed is the fact that you don’t need a boxspring, so we can erase that expense from the spreadsheet. Yay!

1 chic retreat canopy bed

Nelson Eastern King Canopy Bed $995 from Living Spaces

2. The Mattress – $1,395

Comfort, comfort, comfort is our motto when it comes to mattresses. Do not skimp. Ever! Cheap mattresses, although tempting to keep costs down, are a guarantee of poor reviews. Worship your guests’ backs and deliver high-quality mattresses in all rooms where adults sleep. We have partnered with Custom Comfort to create a mattress that we know delivers incredible comfort for a good price.

vacation rental mattress

Our recent collaboration with Custom Comfort has produced a dual sided mattress with both firm and lofty options. The cover is all natural cotton. The one above is going in our client’s master bedroom.  1 Chic Retreat King Mattress, $1395.

3. The Mattress Cover – $56

Perhaps the best investment in prolonging the life of a mattress is a mattress cover. We recommend the Evolon Elf Brand because it feels like cotton, is washable and breaths well (critical for quality sleep). Always avoid protectors that crinkle. Guests should never notice a mattress protector.

airbnb mattress protector

This dust mite, bed bug and allergen-proof mattress protector from Evolon is the bomb for prolonging the life of any mattress.

4. Four King Pillows – $105 ($52.50 for a set of two x 2)

Always furnish two pillows for each guest, just like hotels do. Why?

  • Many people like to sleep with two pillows – one under the head and one beside them.
  • People like to read in bed and like the support of two pillows.
  • Two pillows on top of each other makes a bed look fantastic when made.

We recommend Standard Textile’s pillows. They offer fantastic comfort and you can wash them and they retain their shape.

vacation rental pillows

We used Standard Textile’s Chambersoft king pillows in our client’s master bedroom. They are fantastically comfortable and retain their shape wash after wash. Set of two – $52.50, 1 Chic Retreat Marketplace

5. Three Sets of Sheets – $352.50 ($117.50 x 3)

airbnb sheets

Centium Satin Sheets are our go-to brand for vacation rentals and Airbnb’s. They withstand wash after wash and feel great.

We use Standard Textile’s Centium Satin sheets. After trying out many more brands than we can count, Standard Textile remains our #1 choice. They withstand wash after wash and feel lovely against guests’ skin.

We recommend three sets for every bed – one on the bed, one out for a wash, and one in the owner’s closet.

6. Two Duvet Covers – $100 ($49 x 2)

Our go-to duvet cover is the Ofelia Vass by Ikea. It’s white and goes with everything. We love it because you can wash it along with your white sheets when needed. Our favorite thing about it though is it always looks crisp, even though it’s naturally rumpled. See this article to understand what I’m talking about.

vacation rental duvet

The Ofelia Vass duvet cover from Ikea is our go-to option. It’s “rumpled elegance” personified.

7. Comforter – $125

We think the most luxurious and comfortable beds are those comprised of a comforter within a duvet cover. It’s just a guaranteed way to make a bed look amazing AND be comforting for guests. We chose a lighter comforter, the Luxsoft Comforter by Standard Textiles, for the milder San Diego weather.

vacation rental bedding

The Luxsoft Comforter, by Standard Textiles, is our go-to favorite for milder weather vacation rentals. $125 1 Chic Retreat Marketplace

8. Two Larger Decorative Pillows – $160 ($80 x 2)

22″ square decorative pillows, one for each guest, are key for a good-looking bed. Not only do they look fabulous, but guests can lean against them while lounging in bed. I sound like a broken recording, but again, don’t cheap out here. Good quality pillows are key for an overall stunning look.

vacation rental pillows

Hmong Tribal Batik Print Textile Pillow. These look effortlessly chic and definitely launch your room into “boutique hotel” territory. $80 each. 1 Chic Retreat

9. One Smaller Decorative Pillow – $125

We like to put one coordinating slightly smaller pillow between our two main decorative pillows. It gives more dimension to a bed and elevates it into superstar status.

vacation rental pillow

24″x14″ Hmong Batik Lumbar Pillow, $125 Etsy

10. Two Nightstands – $490 ($245 x 2)

Nightstands should be in scale with regard to the size of the bed. A king bed requires a minimum of a 24″ width. We chose a distressed chest with a 31″ width, perfect for the large scaled canopy bed.

1 chic retreat cape may chest

The Cape May Chest is an ample nightstand at a bargain price. $245 at Joss and Main

11. One Table Lamp per Nightstand $300 ($150 x 2)

Our client wanted simple, glass lamps in the master bedroom and we agreed they went well with the design concept.

vacation rental lighting

We picked out simple glass bedside lamps with burlap shades. $150

12. Large Tribal Rug – $663

Rugs are critical in bedrooms because people walk around barefoot. We favor going big and placing it under a bed so it sticks out at least 2 feet on either side of the bed, and provides a nice padding at the foot of the bed as well. Our go-to favorites are big tribal rugs, such as this vintage Afsahri. Why? They are virtually indestructible and don’t show stains. They are thick and therefore feel nice under bare feet. They are also a relative bargain considering the size and workmanship.

1 chic retreat rug

12′ x 9′ antique Persian Afsahri rug, $663

13. Chest of Drawers – $250

Dressers are where you can save money if you go vintage. Vintage dressers sometimes need a coat of wax or paint, but in the end, can be of better quality than new dressers in the same price range.

We selected a mid-century chest of drawers that we think delivers great style at a great price.

vacation rental furniture

Mid-century 4-drawer tall dresser, $250 from Loveseat, our favorite San Diego and Los Angeles vintage purveyor. Similar new dressers of this quality would cost well over $1,000, so we saved big here.

14. Bench (for Bottom of Bed) – $675

If space permits, we recommend a bench in a master bedroom or any bedroom used by adults for that matter. Guests can sit on them to put their shoes on or place their clothes on top. They make a room look edited and well thought-out.

Yvet Bench 1 Chic Retreat

Moroccan patterned bench, $650, available through 1 Chic Retreat


15. Artwork – $185

Every bedroom needs some artwork. You don’t need a lot; however, what you do have, must be impactful and beautifully framed. Photography is always a hit with guests, especially serene, stunning landscapes, like this one from Melanie Shaul.

minted art 1 chic retreat

‘Foam from Above’ by Melanie Shaul. Framed in natural raw wood. $185 Minted is one of our favorite sources for art because they offer framing along with the works; it’s very convenient as it eliminates a trip to an art framer.

Word of Warning: Never mount photography on canvas. It’s tacky and ruins a good thing. Stick to traditional, simple frames.

16. Ceiling Light – $239 (on sale)

Pretty ceiling lights are important in bedrooms. We suggest avoiding any light with bare bulbs above a bed. The Capiz from Westelm is large scalded for drama and has a subdued light.

airbnb lighting

Capiz Flushmount Light, West Elm, $239.

17. Dresser Table Lamp – $175

Don’t forget a table lamp on the dresser, folks. Your guests like lots of options when it comes to lighting.

vacation rental lighting

Surya Lamp, $175, 1 Chic Retreat

18. Blackout Curtains – $278

Blackout curtains ensure your guests both sleep soundly and sleep in. Beware though! There are a lot of tacky blackout curtains on the market! We love simple, flax linen blackout curtains from West Elm. They look great and make the room adequately dark. Zzzzz.

vacation rental curtains 1 chic retreat

Belgian Flax Linen Curtain – Natural, 96″ length, $139 each West Elm

19. Curtain Rod – $197 ($180 rod + $17 for rings)

Curtain rods should look handsome, sturdy, and expensive (although they should not actually be expensive). The idea is to make your guests guess that you have not skimped anywhere in the room, least of all on the curtain rod.

This one is one of our fav’s!

The Copenhagen brass curtain rod is handsome as heck with its juxtaposition of wood and brass. $196 Crate and Barrel

20. Faux Fig Leaf and Vase – $58.50

We always put a little greenery in every room and especially favor faux botanicals for owner’s convenience. A chic white vase is always a great choice, especially with the California Casual design concept.

airbnb flowers

This West Elm faux fig leaf is fantastic paired with a white vase. Fig leaf, $31; Vase, $27.50

Grand Total = $6,924

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?

However, if you think about each and every one of the elements mentioned, it’s clear you need all of them. If you skimp, the room is going to feel like it’s missing something.

Is there a way to do it cheaper? Absolutely! If you have the time and the inclination to shop Craig’s List, you can reduce price tags on some elements. Read this article on how to do that.


No one likes to think about exactly how much it’s going to cost to furnish an Airbnb or vacation rental, which is exactly why I wrote this article. Breaking down one room sheds some big-time reality light on setting a realistic budget for the rest of your rooms.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Scroll below and let us know! We love to hear from readers!






  • Shocker

    What a great looking room! We recently had to furnish our newly purchased vacation rental/home from scratch as well and I can tell you it ain’t easy!

    Now our home is more modest than the San Diego home you just featured so we didn’t spend anywhere near as much as you folks did.

    I spent hours scouring Craigslist and local used furniture stores for pieces to fill up the house.

    We found some great classic beds for very little $$$. The king in the master is a great solid oak tall 4 poster for only $100. The queens in the 2 other bedrooms were under 100 each, One is a Drexel all pine and the other is a rustic all pine handmade piece from a local craftsman made about 50 years ago.

    The dressers, benchs, linen chests were all similar high quality (Ethan Allen, Drexel etc) for pennies on the dollar.

    The only things we bought new were the bedsheets (big mistake on them), towels, rugs, silverware, lamps etc etc.

    Overall we did the entire house for under 10k. That includes mattresses and all bedding.

    Artwork is from Craigslist, discount stores and family.

    We have only had 2 rentals this summer as we were getting ready and had great compliments on the homey feeling of the house and the comfort of the beds.

    Also don’t forget to check used office furniture stores. I know that sounds crazy, but you can often find very nice accent chairs and tables that are stylish and very durable for just a few dollars. We have several of those in the house and the fit in real well.

    Of course we are not pro’s so they might look goofy to top notch designers like you guys! :)

    What you guys created looks amazing, but you can do a lot with a little if you really look around!

    • Leigh

      I AGREE with you here. I have a high end rental in Sonoma’s wine country. My point of differentiation is the look and feel of our home. When you charge a premium, you deserve an upscale experience. Also you have to ask yourself the time question… many days do you want to set aside for delivery windows of 4 hours or more? Time is indeed money and I set a goal of having my home done (which included painting, and minor remodeling) and ready to rent in 3 months. The ONLY way I was able to accomplish this was by choosing some established furniture brands and ordering from them and then layer on the accessories. Don’t forget the accessories and art, it adds warmth to a home. And to be honest….. I gave myself a slightly larger budget per room and chose great quality linens, towels etc…

      • Shocker

        You bet! If you are designing for a high end rental then of course you need to meet that high end standard.

        Our home, for example, is a nice lake house. Nothing fancy and not super high end so we went with decor and items that reflect that personality. I would love to have a more high end rental, but most folks in our price bracket would be uncomfortable with super upscale features.

        Actually the costs for items listed above are not crazy money really. Just more than we could spend.

        As for the time, you are right on that. We wanted to be done by 4th of July weekend, but I needed to replace the deck railings, refinish the decks, redo the deck stairs among other things and that pushed us out of the season for 2017.

        But now the house is about ready and should go like gang busters for 2018! Fingers crossed!

      • Thanks, Leigh. You are right about the accessories. I should probably put some in but as it is, readers have sticker shock. :0. I’d love to see your lovely Sonoma house. Can you provide us a link?

    • You are absolutely right about that. This article is more for those who can’t or don’t have the time to look for vintage furniture. But even with vintage furniture, you still need mattresses, pillows, mattress protectors, pillow protectors, blankets or duvets, bedspread or duvet cover, curtains, and a curtain rod. There are things you simply can’t get on Craig’s List or estate sales. Also, despite the commenter above stating the pricing is high, the prices I list above are by no means “designer pricing.” They come off standard lower priced retail sites and are typical. The only thing that’s more expensive are the decorative pillows, which you can’t go cheap on. Thanks for commenting. You made great points!

      • Shocker

        Thanks! And you are totally right on the rest. We bought all the stuff you listed new with the exception of the curtains. We had a full set of newer cellular blinds already there so they stayed.

        Also, I don’t think anything was way out of line price wise. Maybe the decorative pillows. I just can’t bring myself to buy a 150 20″ pillow! :)

        I love the site and have really taken all your tips to heart. Maybe in a couple of years we can afford to have you guys makeover some rooms!

        • Ah thanks, Shocker. We’d love to see your place. Thanks for the awesome comments!

          • Shocker

            WOOT! I am working on our website right now. Heading over to the house in a few weeks to get some more pics. :)

  • room rentals

    This is really over the top. I furnished an entire 2br apartment for $2500. It doesn’t look like a model home or a designer’s project but i have 4.9 stars and am booked solid. This year i will clear $50k on airbnb. Just wanted to add another, much more realistic perspective. Btw i paid $150 for the mattress and all my guests love it (ikea memory foam, bought off craigslist, in mint condition). Paying retail for designer-chosen furniture is just bad business.

  • Darik Eaton

    I agree with the other posters, that can you do it for cheaper? Yes but time = money. If people have an abundance of free time to scour the internet, find great deals on craigslists, deal with no-shows or already solds, etc and drag out potentially the time it takes to get set up and furnished, yes you can do it for cheaper. If you are doing this in a spare room where you are already making your mortgage payment not a big deal. That being said if this is an investment where furnishing it as quick as possible so that you can have revenue going to pay mortgage or rent, time is money in that way as well.

    Note of caution, one of the top ways to introduce bed bugs into your home…used furniture. This does not mean just mattresses. They can live on bed frames, nightstands, lamps, artwork, basically anywhere that someone has been sleeping or sitting for long periods of time could provide a heaven for bugs, or their eggs, so BE CAREFUL! They can live 9 months between feedings.

    Also, think of the investment in the furniture, and how long you plan to have the rental. Buy something cheap, that is not made well, you have to replace it. Which involves time and energy. As a management company we provide design services as part of our product offering, and are able in 100 hours or less, do what takes people trying to save a buck 200-250 hours to accomplish, and often for a lesser result. You can find a lesser coffee maker than what I suggest to our owners. That being said if in one month you have to replace the carafe and every month replace filters for it, is it really cheaper?

    I applaud you at breaking this down as I agree many people think they can set up an entire property what we suggest takes to design one room (or even less). There are a lot of moving parts to a rental, especially a well furnished one that guests will enjoy for years to come.

    • Shocker

      I hear ya Darik! I had the time to scour various places for our stuff so it really worked out well. All of the furniture in the house is made in the USA and is of very good quality so I feel we scored on that regard. Some was even unused (Hideabed couch for example)

      I did make some mistakes, like on sheets. I tried a white set made with 60/40 Tencel/Poly blend. That stuff is very soft, but wrinkles terribly and pills up amazingly fast. It was pretty inexpensive so I am not out that much, but I plan on upgrading to the recommended Standard Textile stuff for the long term.

    • You make a good point, Darik. Time does equal money. Every project is different and of course, if you have the time to shop Craig’s List and eBay, then you do save a lot on the bottom line. It’s been our experience that most owners want the entire house furnished yesterday so there is no time to shop slowly. Also, thanks for your information on bed bugs. I had no idea they could live on furniture, but now that you mention it, it makes sense. We always tell clients to protect their mattresses and pillows with covers to avoid infestation. Thanks for sharing!

  • A very realistic article that tallies with our costs for kitting out bedrooms. We have done this several times now.

    In our experience, the rough overall cost for furnishing and equipping a whole 3 bedroom house is AUS$30-40k and 4 bedroom AUS$35-45k. That is for a middle of the road home.

    Darik makes very good points about the hazards of second hand. That is especially so with bedding. As Mercedes points out, the bedding must be super comfortable. People are on holiday so spoil them. You will get it back in spades.

    • Thanks Nick for commenting and telling us your costs. You shine light on reality!

      This house is a mid-priced house and the figures you mention are indeed about what our client is spending – about $30,000. That number includes Craig’s List items, eBay finds, and a vintage second-hand furnishings store, so it could have been even more.

      I think to really outshine your competition, you have to invest in quality items. Those quality items can come from second-hand sources (as long as they aren’t mattresses!) to keep costs down though.

  • Shocker

    Holy cow Leigh! You weren’t kidding! That is one beautiful place. You have done a super fantastic job with it.

    I would really like to chat with you about how you manage the property and get some tips.

    Top notch job!

    • Lydia

      I love this response Mike, I was thinking the same thing.

    • Leigh

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks so much for your kind words. Happy to discuss more but here’s my approach. I start with what I want my guests to feel when they’ve arrived. Dawn Hill Ranch is a brand and an experience I’ve pulled it through everything…my written materials, my little notes and signs throughout the home and of course the decor.
      I do indeed manage the property and won’t kid you, its more work than I orginally anticipated but in our area the mgmt companies charge 35% and I’m just not willing to give that up…. it would mean I’d have to rent more nights and this is a property my family likes to enjoy too so it is quite a commitment but I know my guests feel the connection as I work very closely with each of them to insure they have a great, curated stay.

  • Lydia

    Leigh, I love your property! It’s very inspirational for someone like me whose been building with the end in sight.

    • Leigh

      Thanks Lydia,
      You can totally do this!
      Pull together a mood board on Pinterest and define your vibe and I’d highly recommend Home Goods for great accessories. Books about the local area, design, etc.. also add a lot of interest for your guests.

      • Lydia

        Thanks Leigh!

  • Lydia

    Another great article – thank you Mercedes. You are providing an incredible service and for folks like me who have invested so much in construction it’s so appreciated. It would be ashamed to do all that and get to the finishing phase and make mistakes on things like bedding.

    I for one will be forklifting much of your ideas, I’ve already started with the kitchen articles. I won’t subject my guests to used mattresses or beddings and the risks are too great.

    Thank you for your service and please keep up the good work.

    • Thanks, Lydia! Your mindset is your greatest asset in this business: the customer’s comfort and experience comes first!

  • Jim Prugh

    Given the costs of furnishing this spectacular vacation rental, I’m curious as to the locations, nightly or weekly rental amounts and occupancy rates of that might be required for a $7000 master bedroom.

    • Hi Jim, this house is near the beach and will command $700+ a night. Occupancy is strong in SD, but there is also stiff competition so good design will really make a difference.

  • We love it Leigh! Your house if beautifully furnished! You can tell instantly that the furnishings are in line with your nightly rate. Great job!

  • Great post Mercedes! Too many people are led to believe you just buy a second home, create a listing, and away you go. There are vacation rental home shows on TV these days showing only the home acquisition and renovation costs but with no mention of what it takes to furnish and equip it for guests. It is very misleading.

    I know your article was from the furnishing/decorating perspective, but I would add one more category to the bedroom budget that I didn’t see in your inventory – Electronics. I know… not your department, but worth a mention.

    I think most guests expect a decent high def TV with some sort of media connection (cable/satellite, DVR, DVD, AppleTV, …) – if not in all bedrooms, then in the Master at the very least. We go a step further and add an Amazon Echo and bedside mobile friendly power chargers as well. Although not required, these little conveniences are very much appreciated by guests.

    Electronics prices, especially HDTVs, keep coming down but it still adds another $600-$700 per bedroom to do it at a decent level. If multiplied by multiple bedrooms, it’s a cost that new owners should also factor in.

    • Now it’s my turn to say, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” Thank you, Mark. You have just added another critical component to the master bedroom. I agree that master bedrooms need TV’s. So now that final number goes up by $600.




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