5 Tips For Designing Your Short-Term Rental

I am personally obsessed with Airbnb and the world of short-term rentals (STRs). For the past four years, I have opted for short-term rentals over conventional hotels 90% of the time when traveling. There is just something truly wonderful about walking into a place that feels like home when you’re discovering a new destination or visiting an old one. Instead of being surrounded by other guests who don’t know the area, you’re surrounded by residents and neighbors. It emboldens you to explore your surroundings in a different way and connect with the people around you.  



Part of the reason people choose short-term rentals over hotels is for the experience. You are automatically closer to living like a local in a foreign place. Instead of a hotel room that has the same standard furnishings no matter where you are, you can now choose from houses, cabins, tiny houses, yurts, lofts, and apartments that all have their own vibe. Depending on what type of short-term rental you pick, you not only have a place to sleep and shower – but a place to cook, lounge and explore.  

As a short-term rental owner or operator, how do you create this environment for your guests? As a self-proclaimed short-term rental userexperience expert, I feel qualified to write these recommendations.  



Where is your STR located? Is it in a city? Is it located in an area where people like to explore the great outdoors? Or will they be exploring downtown? What is the area known for? Chances are, you have the answers to some of these questions. The design of your STR can play off these themes with color, art, and even furniture selection. Here are some examples: 

Miami, FLThis city is more than its beaches and tropical weather. It’s also rich in culture, art and history. It finishes just behind New York City as the top U.S. destination for tourism in terms of international travelers. Personally, when I think of Miami I think of its strong Cuban influence, the Art Basel festival, and Art-Deco. These are all themes that can be incorporated into the design. With an all-white base that works for the beach, you could add modern furniture, bright pops of color, art deco patterns throughout, bold art pieces, and a nod to Little Havana.  

Portland, OR: A quirky, eclectic place that is home to people who value eco-friendliness, art, music, and the outdoors. The city is well known for how environmentally friendly it is. If you visit, you will notice its robust public transit systems, bike paths, outdoor markets, farm-to-table restaurants, kombucha taps, and craft beer and coffee joints. Just outside the city are beautiful places to explore such as Oneonta Falls, Multnomah Falls, and Mount hood. For a STR in this city, it’s important to bring the outdoors inside. Think light wood tones, mid-century modern style furnishings, and art and décor that reflects a natural lifestyle.  

Although these are major cities with distinct characteristics, this method can be used ANYWHERE! 



It’s important to make sure your STR has everything a guest may need to use. There’s a reason they chose to stay with you over a hotel, so it should have all the bells and whistles necessary to make it a livable and usable space. Kitchen utensils, towels, and extra blankets are all staples that should be on hand. For a more extensive list, please be sure to check out our STR guide below. Additional items that guests may appreciate are wine openers, bottle openers, games, and welcome gifts.  



Having a perfectly curated apartment is only part of the equation. Other things to keep in mind when you’re designing is the comfort level and durability of the products you’re choosing. Durability is especially important because people tend to live differently when they’re renting a place. Here are some specific tips to keep in mind: 

  • Go light on the accessories. Having too many will boost the odds that some go missing or get broken.  
  • This may be an obvious one but stay away from light upholstery. Even though that white or beige couch would be PERFECT for the space, it will never be worth it.  
  • Choose durable pieces for the surfaces in the apartment – such as nightstands, coffee tables, kitchen tables, and consoles. A spilled drink should not be able to ruin them.  
  • Having extra towels, pillows and blankets goes a long way. At a hotel, you’re able to call for room service. At most STRs, you have only what’s available to you in the apartment.  
  • If you must choose – select a great mattress and bedding over a great bed frame. People will remember and leave reviews based on the quality of their sleep.  
  • Every selection you make should be consciously chosen to maximize the space in terms of comfort, durability, and style.  



The best STRs have signs and guides when you step inside. Since people typically check in on their own without assistance, it’s important to provide all the information they may need during their stay and to present it somewhere that cannot be missed. Here are some of the things to include for guests: 

  • Wi-fi name and password.  
  • Quiet hours and building rules. 
  • Rules that have been created by the host.  
  • Neighborhood guide and nearest attractions.  
  • Public transit information.  
  • How to contact the host.  
  • How to “check out” at the end of their stay.  



One of my favorite parts about STRs are their quirks. Every host is different, so every place is different. It adds to the fun when a host provides something that goes beyond just giving a guest the keys. One way to do this is with a welcome gift. This could be a bottle of wine and a handwritten note or providing items for them to use for breakfast. Another great touch is to have a guest book. They are so fun to read through and sometimes people offer suggestions of places that they found during their stay. It creates a connection to all the travelers that came before and for new guests to leave a piece of their experience behind for the next person.  

Happy Hosting!


Lauren Ebstein

Lauren Ebstein is Model55's Multifamily Sales Coordinator. With a background in property management, Lauren is passionate about how leasing teams work together and build relationships with their residents.

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