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Perfecting the property – decorating, furnishings and fittings

Not only are unique selling points (USPs) important on the outside – such as a great view or a swimming pool – you need to offer the right ingredients inside too so Perfecting the property – decorating, furnishings and fittingsyou can attract initial interest from your first holidaymakers and ensure continued appeal for returning guests.

When decorating and furnishing your holiday home, buy the best you can afford and aim to make your holiday let stand out from the crowd. Most of all, try to avoid an impersonal hotel look. Create a home that’s warm and welcoming the minute you walk in the door and remember, many of your guests will have chosen your property over lots of others so make their choice the right one!

A lick of paint and touch of colour 

You’ll probably want to decorate the property to make it your own and when you’re choosing colours, think neutral for walls and colour for fabrics. A neutral paint palette for walls and woodwork will ensure universal appeal. Light shades are also easier to wash down and clean, and add to the feeling of space and freshness in a home.

Painting the ceiling lighter than the walls makes the room feel airy and look larger. Just choose paint a shade or two lighter than your main wall colour. 

Keep bold colours for fabrics in curtains, throws, bed covers and cushions. Accents of reds, yellows and oranges are good for creating warmth in living areas; splashes of blue are perfect for a beach property and bathrooms; a touch of green reflects nature in a rural property; and grey and black accessories bring a modern look to a city let.

Choose washable paint and fabrics – especially for sofa throws and seat cushions – to make cleaning easier and quicker.

Kitting it out 

The initial outlay involved in furnishing and equipping is one of the most expensive parts of a holiday home, but choosing quality furniture and appliances over cheaper alternatives will pay dividends by adding to your property’s appeal and lasting longer. Make it your maxim to stretch your budget as far as you can by going for the best your money can buy.

The following is a room by room guide to furniture and furnishings. As well as the basics, there are also ideas for nice touches and USPs to ensure your property stands tall above the rest.

Living area – make sure there are enough seats for dining and sitting for the number of guests, and try out the furniture yourself for comfort. A DVD player, good size TV and wifi connection are musts for most guests. Nice touches are a selection of DVDs, CDs, games and books – don’t forget to cater for all ages. In rural locations, provide blanket-throws for snuggling up by the fire. For USPs, consider a game console, especially if you’re aiming for the family market and an iPod docking station.

Kitchen – preparing and cooking food is much less of a chore with the right equipment so kit-out your kitchen to chef standards. Choose pots and pans in a range of sizes and if your property caters for groups include big casserole dishes.

Double your number of guests and buy that amount of crockery, glasses and cutlery (make sure knives are sharp – or provide a sharpener). Kettles, toasters, microwaves and dishwashers are expected. Nice touches include a supply of food basics like tea and coffee, cooking oil, salt and herbs. Kitchens with USPs come with a coffee machine, set of quality chef knives, serving dishes, baking trays and other basics.

Don’t forget to replenish regularly 

  • kitchen roll, dishcloths, all-purpose cloths, pot scourer or brush
  • broom, dust pan and brush
  • washing-up liquid, hand soap, dishwasher tablets, washing power
  •  bin liners
  •  candles, matches, torch
  • spare light bulbs
  •  pegs

Bedrooms – choose comfortable mattresses (a worthwhile investment as you’ll be sleeping on them too!) and quality linen with at least one spare set per bed. For families, consider black-out blinds and theme bed linen for children. Must-haves are bedside lamps with strong enough bulbs to read by and plenty of clothes storage and hangers. Nice touches include an alarm clock and hairdryer. For a bedroom with USPs, consider memory foam mattresses and a choice of pillows.
Bathroom – buy two sets of quality towels for each guest – white towels look nice but are difficult to keep clean over time – and remember to replace them regularly. Check lighting and mirrors are adequate and provide non-slip bath/shower mats. Put a fully-stocked first aid kit (don’t include medicines) in a secure cupboard. A nice touch is a supply of soap, shower gel and shampoo – go for local products for extra appeal. For a bathroom USP, supply bathrobes and slippers or a welcome pack of miniature toiletries per guest.


By the seaside – all guests will be pleased with beach towels, especially if they’ve travelled by plane with limited luggage space. And don’t forget a windbreak and beach umbrella. 

DIY library – start a small reference library on your area. Include travel books, maps and guides to local attractions (don’t forget to keep them updated). 

Free wheeling – include bikes in properties in rural or bike- friendly areas. 

Swimming pool – if your property has a pool make a selection of accessories (inflatables, pool toys, etc.) available. 

Gardens/outdoors – whatever the size of your outdoor space, use it to add to your guests’ enjoyment. Remember to enclose and secure your garden if you’re catering for the family market and/or dog owners. Basics include a table and chairs for outdoor dining. Nice touches are pot plants, sun loungers and/or hammocks and citronella candles for mozzie-free al fresco dining. Gardens with USPs offer a gas-fired barbecue and garden games (e.g. badminton or croquet).

Heating – most self-catering properties need some form of heating – even on the Mediterranean, winter nights are chilly. Equip your property with adequate heating and provide extra blankets or high-tog duvets on beds.

Cooling – air-conditioning is a very welcome extra in properties where summers are long and hot. Ceiling fans are a cheaper (but less effective) alternative. Consider installing a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit to get year-round benefit.

WIFI – Supplying wifi in your property is a big plus for holidaymakers. Mention the wifi connection in your advert. 

Child’s play 

Families make up a huge part of the self-catering holiday market and ‘toddler friendly’ is a key phrase when searching for holiday lets on Google. Providing baby equipment is a big USP as it saves the parents bringing it themselves. Equipment for families with babies should include:

Bath – a fold-up baby bath with inflatable base is comfy to sit in and stores away neatly.

Highchair – for easy storage, buy a folding model or one you attach directly to the table. Be ready to provide more than one if your property caters for groups.

Travel cot – easier to move and store than a normal cot, a travel cot has no mattress making it more hygienic for babies. Be ready to provide more than one if your property caters for groups.

You also might want to provide baby/toddler accessories including:

Baby monitor – provides peace of mind for parents when the baby’s asleep and they’re downstairs or outside.

Bibs – plastic bibs are the most practical and easiest to clean.

Plastic crockery and cutlery – easier for children to use and saves on breakages.

Sterilisers – a welcome extra for families with babies.

Toys – providing a few toys (easily picked up at charity shops) will make a difference to a stay in your property. If you’re by the sea children will appreciate buckets and spades, and a paddling pool is a nice touch.
Don’t forget to mention all the extras and USPs in your property in your advert.

Safety first 

Make sure your home is as child-safe as possible by installing stair gates and fences round pools and ponds (see Swimming pools). Extra child-friendly measures include slam stoppers for doors and child-proof plugs for sockets. Store cleaning products in a locked or high cupboard and keep fragile items out of reach.
Keeping it all in check
In your own home, keeping track of things as they run out or break is relatively easy; in a holiday home, it’s much more of a challenge. A detailed inventory of furniture and equipment helps with the task. Not only does it remind you what is in the house, you can also use it as a check-list to see what needs replacing or replenishing.

Based on their advertisers’ experience, recommends checking an inventory after every stay as this ensures you’re aware of any missing or broken items immediately. You may want to set up your inventory as a spreadsheet to use it to make a note of how much you spend on each item (many items are tax- deductible expenses).

Make sure everything is up to standard. Remember your potential guests are customers and paying for a service. 

Go green 

Sustainable accommodation is a big watchword in today’s tourist industry and many holidaymakers are keen to do their bit towards reducing their carbon footprints. Making your holiday let eco-friendly adds to your marketing potential and saves you money. It will also boost your property’s energy rating on the Energy Performance Certificate .Energy-saving measures for a holiday home include:

A-rating – when buying appliances, choose those with energy-saving ratings.

Building basics – insulate your home as thoroughly as possible. Get expert advice on wall, loft and floor insulation, and make your doors and windows draught-proof.

Green ‘manual’ – include a ‘green’ manual in your welcome pack for guests suggesting ways they can save energy such as turning off lights and recycling as much as possible.

Keep it local – source as much as possible locally. Find good organic outlets and restaurants in your area and recommend them to guests.

Recharge – buy rechargeable batteries and a charger. Make sure spare (and recharged!) batteries are available.

Recycle – find out about local recycling services. Use them yourself and make your guests aware of them too. Make it easy by providing a recycling bin or containers.

Switch off – buy a standby saver for televisions, DVDs and other equipment with standby lights.

Tap into the sun – make the most of the sunshine by installing solar panels or solar photovoltaics (check planning permission requirements first). Although the initial outlay is expensive, the investment soon pays for itself and saves you money on electricity bills. Check out financial incentives for solar panel installation in your area. Solar panels may qualify you for tax allowances.

The Energy Saving Trust has lots of good advice and tips on how to make your home as green as possible. Perfecting the property – decorating, furnishings and fittings