Let me ask you a question.
How many of you Airbnb or vacation rental owners follow boutique hotel trends?
Do you pay attention to boutique hotel openings? Browse their websites looking at gorgeous rooms, lobbies, and restaurants?
Do you google “boutique hotel” and study the images? Boutique hotels open all the time and get lots of media buzz so there are thousands of photos on the web. Have you stayed the weekend in a boutique hotel, soaking up all its hospitality tricks?
If you do, congratulations! You are already ahead of 95% of Airbnb and vacation rental owners!
If you don’t, good news! You are about to learn a bookings augmentation formula.
But first, why is it important to pay attention to boutique hotels?
Well, boutique hotels and short-term rentals have a lot in common. They’re intimate, individualistic, small, personal and define themselves strongly by their physical location. Both attract guests who are looking to get away from cookie-cutter, generic hotels.
Paying attention to boutique hotels is important because boutique hotels are really good (I mean really good) at persuading people to stay in them. And you are also in the business of persuading people to stay in your lovely vacation rental. Get where I’m going with this?)
And you are also in the business of persuading people to stay in your lovely Airbnb or vacation rental. Get where I’m going with this?
And how do they persuade? They use design.
Excellent, drool-worthy, unforgettable design.
You see, boutique hotels are selling “the designed life” in spades. It’s their job to stay in the epicenter of the design zeitgeist because their very existence depends on it, where decor and client experience are everything.
In essence, boutique hotels are barometers of the latest design trends.
And believe me, boutique hotels do their research. They study the style profiles of typical guests coming to their location and then hire sought-after celebrity architects and designers to create jaw-dropping interiors that will get those same people drooling.
Paying close attention to boutique hotel decor – color schemes, furniture, lighting, upholstery, textiles, art, and accessories – gives you the unique opportunity to emulate winning style in your own Airbnb. After all, the hotels have done the market research behind every design detail, down to the book cover colors, and so it pays to take note.
And it’s free. They paid for the research and the designers. You didn’t.
You get to emulate. They paved the way.
Making your short-term rental as beguiling as the boutique hotel down the street will attract a lot more looks. And more looks translates into more bookings.
Before you object and say you don’t have the money to “boutique hotel-ify” your vacation rental, hold on.
I’m not telling you to be a boutique hotel. I don’t want you to be the next Kelly Wearstler. Different business model, folks.
What I want you to consider however is incorporating certain “boutique” touches in your property. Doing so will get you more eyeballs.
The fact of the matter is if your Airbnb or vacation rental is au courant, it possesses both panache and design clout, making it stand out, turn heads, and suddenly be “the place to rent.”
Which means more bookings. Yah!
So what boutique touches do I mean?
Specifically: lighting, bedding, accessories, upholstery, and art. These are the features that, although small, are hugely impactful. And they usually don’t cost a bucketful either.
Let’s address each category and find some examples.
Hip, contemporary lighting is one of the single most impactful features that make your vacation rental design relevant. It puts you on the style map. Instantly.
Check out the room in the 404 Hotel in Nashville below. See those swiveling bedside lamps? Those are all the rage. Reason? People like to have good (really good!) bedside lighting because they lounge in bed with their tablets, iPhones, laptops and books, and need to see. Especially the over-40 crowd. Easy to maneuver lamps are convenient and look really cool.
Putting some swing arm lamps on both sides of the bed in your vacation rental bedroom will give the room an instant update, whether your vacay home is traditional or contemporary. These lamps are hip in all kinds of settings.
Bedding is one of the “bread and butter” components of your vacation rental. By “bread and butter,” I mean it’s an item that directly and powerfully affects guest satisfaction. Comfortable beds are among the most cited comments in 5-star reviews, so bedding must not only be beguiling, but supremely soft.
Boutique hotels crush it in bedding because they know it affects their bottom line.
They source top quality linens because they know that guests lie on top of beds as well as inside them; linens must deliver on both counts.
White sheets are de rigueur (and read this article to find out why) with either a bedspread or duvet. Four-bed pillows are common (two on each side) accompanied by decorative shams and smaller pillows. To top it off, a folded blanket or throw is usually found at the bottom of the bed.
Are your bed linens drab or out of date or simply boring? If so, look at some boutique hotel bedrooms and copy what they’re doing. Want an example?
Take a look at Babington House’s stunning bed……
……and copy it if you fancy. Get a white sheet set, a blue fringed blanket (such as this one from Kaufmann),
and then add this decorative pillow in the mix:
Displaying interesting accessories is a really easy way to amplify the hipness of your vacation rental. In fact, the trend in Airbnb and vacation rental photography is to include a shot of eclectic, character-enhancing accessories.
Here’s an example of something eye-catching found at the Ham Yard Hotel in London – clear glass domes with tchotchkes inside. Look how they add whimsy to an otherwise traditional library table?
To make your own, find an existing tchotchke – preferably something eye-catching and colorful – and put a dome on top. Like so….
Domes can be bought all over the web. Here’s one on Amazon:
Upholstery trends change with the wind which is why I generally favor solid colors on big pieces like sofas and loveseats; the smaller pieces, however, can be jazzed up every few years. Armchair, ottoman and pillow fabric, for example, is easy to change and delivers big, brilliant style, in keeping with current trends.
The Sir Albert Hotel*, for instance, sports brown leather chairs and sofas but their cowhide ottomans give the whole room an edgy vibe.
(* Note: the Sir Albert has an awesome promotional video on their homepage by the way. The music and images are so compelling that it’s hard not to book!)
Like the look? Ikea has some ready-made:
This is a category to pay attention to because boutique hotels have the same concerns about the artwork as short-term rentals, namely that art must look thoughtful, “curated,” and sophisticated, yet not be expensive (valuable art can be stolen).
Boutique hotels are masters at this. Somehow their pieces always look cutting edge and original, yet they’re not spending a fortune.
How do they do it?
First of all, they’re great at sourcing local artists who are keen on getting their name out. As a vacation rental owner, you can do the same thing. Local artists may even give you a discount because you are in effect promoting them. Think about it, one of your guests might like a piece so much, she’ll go to the artist’s gallery and buy something (can you say commission?)
Secondly, boutique hotels buy high-quality prints that don’t look mass-produced. The key to high-quality prints is not buying them “ready-made” (meaning framed already) from big frame, craft or “decor” shops; rather find some web sources with a more original flair. Etsy is an excellent resource, as well as West Elm, Cb2 and Roger and Chris.
Lastly, boutique hotels frame their art tastefully and (this is key!) hang it dynamically. Look at the gallery wall in the High Road House’s club room (below) to see what I mean. See how the pieces all have a thin black frame and are clustered together? You can see how just one or two of those pieces would be ho-hum, but all together? Impactful.
Kinda makes that corner, right?
Inspired? I hope so!
I hope some little boutique hotel touches in your Airbnb or vacation rental appeals to you. As you can see, it’s not hard to do. Stealing some ideas here and there pays off in a big way. After all, the point is to get people to notice you, right?
Boutique hotels are really good at that and by copying some of what they do will transform your short-term rental into a head turner.
And head turners gets lots and lots of attention.
And bookings. :)
As usual, I want to hear from you guys. Post a room in your vacation rental in the comment section below that needs a boutique hotel “touch” and I’ll give you a suggestion. Game anyone?