April 03, 2024 / Milly McEwan

The Art of Appealing: How to Furnish Your Airbnb Holiday Rental for Maximum Style, Durability and ROI

The Airbnb and holiday rental market is booming and is projected to generate $2.2 billion in 2024. Travellers increasingly seek unique and personalised experiences that make for memorable and Insta-worthy vacations. Beautifully furnished rentals are a key differentiator, but with fierce competition, how can you ensure your space stands out and delivers exceptional value to guests? 

We spoke to leading interior designers, Airbnb Superhosts and property managers to understand what elevates a short-term holiday rental from ordinary to extraordinary. They also share some stylish and lucrative property transformations to inspire your next project.

Holiday Rentals and The Furniture Factor

Author Laura Numeroff said, “A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams." There’s a reason why so many of us love scrolling through Airbnb, favouriting, sharing and dreaming about certain properties. The images give us a certain “feeling” — the pleasure of immersing ourselves in these carefully curated spaces.

When there's a comfy couch begging you to relax, decor that makes you feel like you've stepped into a magazine spread, and little details everywhere show the host really thought about your stay — that's the kind of Airbnb experience we're all looking for. This is the power ofwell-chosen furniture and styling. Here's how it impacts your rental:

1. Enhanced Guest Experience  

A comfortable, stylish and well-equipped space creates a positive first impression and takes the overall guest experience to a new level. Not only this — certain interior design and colour choices can even affect mood. Features like plush sofas, indoor foliage, Feng Shui styling, inviting colour palettes and and functional layouts all contribute to a memorable stay.

Elena Stepanova is a host, property manager and the founder of My Perfect Host, a platform that connects hosts with homeowners. She has seen the impact of strategically chosen furniture in her properties first-hand:

“One particular furniture choice that positively influenced the guest's experience was the selection of a cosy sofa in the living room area of one of our properties. In their reviews, guests mention that the sofa was the perfect spot to curl up with a book or enjoy a movie night. This positive feedback contributed to their overall satisfaction with their stay and influenced future guests' decisions when considering booking our property,” she explains. 

2. Positive Reviews & Repeat Bookings

Happy guests leave glowing reviews, highlighting the comfort and appeal of your space. This translates to increased bookings and returning customers. “In my 11 years of experience as a Superhost in Australia, I've learned that the furnishings in rental properties greatly impact guest reviews and overall satisfaction," adds Elena. "It's important to have high-quality, comfortable furnishings, but what sets a property apart online are unique touches like bold pieces or distinctive artwork." 

3. Increased Guest Revenue 

There’s also a strong correlation between quality furnishings and the perceived value of your rental. According to AirDNA, rental properties with unique interior design features consistently have higher occupancy rates and generate more revenue than their basic counterparts. Elena saw an annual revenue growth of 139% pre-restyling vs. post-restyling on one of her properties.

Expert Advice for Furnishing Airbnb & Holiday Rentals

So, how do you create a unique and inviting space that strikes the perfect balance between style, durability and versatility? We interviewed a variety of experts and this is their best practical advice to help you increase ROI on your rental property via furnishings.

1. Know your audience

“When I work on Airbnb and holiday rental interior design projects, part of the conversation with my client is understanding that the space is a business,” explains Trish Khoury, founder of Grace Interior Designs, a Melbourne-based interior design studio that specialises in accommodation design. “The first steps for hosts is to identify their target audience to ensure their preferences are considered and delivered as part of the interior design process,” she says.

“For example, in my own Airbnb, a two-bedroom apartment in Brunswick West, I had to decide whether to furnish the second bedroom with a bed or a desk. And if it was a bed, was it a double or two singles? I considered whether my ideal audience was a digital nomad, a visiting academic working at Melbourne University or travelling buddies from Australia or overseas on a city break. I opted to furnish the second room as a bedroom with a double bed as I felt this was a better return on investment based on average occupancy and nightly room rates,” she explains.

Peta Pathak-Perks is the Superhost of South Australian “guest favourite” holiday rental Villa Malmö in Robe. In her experience, knowing your audience is crucial. “Your furniture has to be comfortable and suit many different types of guests. For example, we have families, girls' weekends and intergenerational groups coming to stay, and they all need a seat!”

2. Visualise Your Dream Property With a Mood Board

Before diving headfirst into furniture purchases, take a step back and harness the power of the mood board. As Elena advises: "One approach that works wonderfully for me is creating a mood board that outlines the specific style and aesthetic I want to achieve for the space. This helps me narrow my options and stay focused when selecting furniture pieces."

A mood board is a visual roadmap for your holiday rental's design. It allows you to experiment, explore different styles, and cohesively bring together your design vision. Here's how to create a mood board for your holiday rental:

Identify Your Style: Are you aiming for a coastal retreat vibe, a modern minimalist haven, or a cosy rustic escape? Pinpoint keywords and inspirational images that capture the essence you desire.

Gather Inspiration: Scour online resources like Pinterest, design blogs, and travel websites. Collect images that showcase furniture styles, colour palettes, textures, and overall ambience you love at first sight.

Choose Your Platform: There are plenty of online mood board creation tools like Canva or Milanote, some offering free basic accounts. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, use a simple corkboard and pin cutouts from magazines or travel brochures.

Curate Your Vision: Organise your images, play with several layouts, and see how different elements interact. This helps you refine your style and identify potential clashes.

Consider Functionality: Remember, your mood board should include images of furniture pieces that are not only stylish but also accommodate your target audience's needs.

3. Embrace Your Local Charm

Imagine stepping into an Airbnb that feels like an extension of the city you're exploring.  Sun-bleached driftwood art hints at the nearby beach town, while a vintage map pinpoints the neighbourhood's hidden gems. This is the power of local flair in Airbnb design. It's about going beyond generic furniture and infusing your space with the unique personality of your location.

Trish advises creating universally appealing spaces that blend comfort with a touch of local charm. "A beach location or tiny home in the woods will cater to a particular guest looking for a specific experience versus a guest staying in a city apartment," she says.

This emphasis on authenticity resonates with a key finding in this 2023 Travel Trends survey by Get Your Guide: 90% of travellers prioritise experiencing destinations as locals, underscoring the allure of accommodations that reflect the true essence of their settings.

4. Style, But Make it Versatile

The key for Airbnb rentals is an ability to cater to a wide range of guests. Solo travellers, couples on romantic getaways or families with young children –  all seek a comfortable and functional space to unwind. This is where versatile furnishing is important. Explore multi-functional pieces like sleeper sofas and ottomans with storage to maximise space and accommodate different uses.

Bree Steele, interior design & Trade Accounts Manager for RJ Living, has a wealth of expertise in working with clients to furnish their rental properties. “For tight dining spaces, my go-to is a compact table with narrow chairs, or using a bench seat to fit guests without cluttering the space. I also select chairs without arms to keep everything flowing, ensuring no space is blocked off.”

Trish echoes this suggestion by adding that to maximise space “pieces must be multifunctional and minimal. For example, a dining table could also be used for work. A bed can have storage or another bed, such as a trundle. Coffee tables can store games and reading material, eliminating the need for a bookcase."

5. Make it Unique and Discoverable

We’ve all seen those iconic holiday rentals that are never available. What’s their secret? It’s usually a combination of unique location and signature style. Standing out on holiday rental platforms means furnishing and decorating your property with a distinct look.

Elena told us that she observed a substantial increase in revenue for a property after transforming it from a neutral style to a themed listing with a unique and easily discoverable name online. (more on this transformation below)

6. Choose Hard-Wearing, Easy-Clean Materials 

The experts we spoke to advise opting for materials like stain-resistant fabrics, performance leathers and easy-to-clean surfaces. Choose furniture with strong construction and consider options with removable covers or easy repair possibilities.

“Practicality and cleaning is always in the forefront of my mind when furnishing Airbnbs,” says Bree. “We prioritise long-lasting and easy-to-clean furniture to ensure that the property is always kept to a high standard for future guests.”

When it comes to fabric and materials, Bree specifies our solid timber range to appeal to both aesthetics and practicality. “RJ Living is known for our solid European oak, so we see these featured a lot throughout the properties we furnish. Solid oak is easy to clean and extremely long-wearing, so it’s a win-win.” 

7. Balance Style and Durability

As a host, creating an inviting and functional space is important. Guests crave a stylish getaway experience, but you also need furniture that can withstand frequent use and potential wear and tear. Striking this balance is key to maximising your rental's success. 

One key consideration when making these choices is your property’s location. “If, for example, your Airbnb is a coastal family home, then wear and tear is a bigger consideration than a one-bedroom city apartment,” says Trish. Another is whether you allow pets in your holiday rental, as Peta explains. “We have a lot of booking success as we’re pet friendly, so this has to be considered when buying furniture.”

To achieve a balance of style and durability, choose high-quality materials. Performance fabrics and solid wood can withstand frequent use and are easy to maintain, as Trish also explains her reasons for favouring solid timber furnishings. “Some of my favourite materials include solid timber rather than veneers. Veneers scratch and fade, whereas solid timbers add value to the overall aesthetic. Some pieces, like a dining table, can improve over time with natural wear and tear.”

Sofas get a lot of use in holiday rentals, so materials are an important consideration here too. “80% of our upholstery is heavy-duty, commercial grade, so we know we can trust our pieces to uphold their high traffic use. Fabrics like boucle or velvet are textural, so show marks and stains much less, perfect for Airbnbs,” says Bree.  

And robust furniture doesn't mean unattractive furniture. “Think of beautiful cafes, bars and restaurants. These spaces are designed for wear and tear, high volume, traffic and turnover," Trish says. At RJ Living, our focus on high-quality materials and contemporary designs means you don’t have to sacrifice style for practicality.

8. Invest Strategically

We’ve all been lured by the promise of a beautifully furnished holiday home only to discover the photos didn’t tell the full story. Droopy mattresses and paper-thin pillows, we’re looking at you! The experts we interviewed recommend spending more on key pieces to delight your guests and cultivate sparkling reviews.

According to Elena, investing in higher quality and smart furnishings can be a worthwhile expense for an Airbnb business, especially for properties in the higher-end price range. “Guests staying at upscale accommodations typically have higher expectations regarding the quality of the furnishings and overall experience. Plus, you can minimise the need for frequent replacements and repairs, saving money in the long run”.

She recommends prioritising pieces, like beds and mattresses, to ensure a comfortable stay and a good night's sleep for guests. “I allocate a significant portion of the budget towards these essential items. For other furnishings like cushions, throws and decorative accents, there are plenty of budget-friendly options available that still contribute to the overall aesthetic and comfort of the space,” she says. 

And in case you are tempted, Elena warns against flat-pack furniture due to its low quality and the time required for assembly.   

9. Follow Trends With Caution

While there are trends, like that of modern contemporary furniture, that appeal to broad audiences, Trish Khory advises against getting too caught up in the latest craze. "Success results from a unique interior design story that reflects the host and the neighbourhood. Think statement pieces with a local touch to create a truly memorable experience.

For example, an Airbnb I worked on in South Yarra reflected the host’s love of travel, colour and pattern. This unique approach sets the space apart on the platform, and as such, this listing has become a guest favourite.”

However, some trends do represent a shift in guest preferences. There is a growing preference for eco-friendly and sustainable furniture among guests. This means balancing aesthetics with environmental consciousness when choosing furniture.

10.  Work Within a Budget

Furnishing a holiday rental can be an exciting project, but it's crucial to approach it with a well-defined budget, as Elena stresses. “I always set a budget beforehand and actively seek out pieces that fit within that budget while aligning with the desired style.”

Without a financial roadmap, you risk overspending and potentially hindering your return on investment. This applies not just at the outset but over the life of the property, as Trish explains. “Furniture and furnishings will need replacement over time, so hosts need to budget to maintain the quality of the space.”

Beyond the Basics: Creating an Immersive Holiday Experience

While furniture is a major player, it's just one piece of the puzzle. Tie together the overall design story and elevate the guest experience with finishing touches like soft furnishings, accessories, lighting and artwork to add personality, texture, and a sense of place.

As Trish emphasises, "Don't underestimate the power of soft furnishings. Carefully chosen throws, cushions and rugs can add personality, texture and pops of colour, making a space feel more inviting."

1. Soft Furnishings: Comfort & Cosiness

Soft furnishings play a multifunctional role. Plush throws and cushions on sofas and beds add a touch of comfort, while strategically placed rugs define different living areas within the open space. A thoughtful colour palette can evoke emotions and influence the guest experience. Warmer tones create a cosy vibe, while cooler tones feel refreshing.

Texture and pattern are key elements, as Trish highlights: "Layering textures is key in creating a visually interesting and inviting space." And durability is essential in a holiday rental setting, so choose easy-to-clean fabrics like stain-resistant materials, removable covers and washable throw blankets to make your life easier.

2. Artwork: Setting The Mood

Artwork has the power to transform a space from functional to inspiring and memorable. It sets the mood, reflects the personality of the location, and sparks conversation among guests.

But how do you choose the right artwork for your Airbnb? Here are some key considerations:

Theme & Style: Align the artwork with the overall theme and style of your rental. A beach-themed rental might call for seascapes or nautical charts, while a mountain cabin could showcase landscapes or wildlife photography. Don't be afraid to infuse local flair by incorporating artwork from local artists or pieces that capture the charm of the surrounding area.

Scale & Proportion: Consider the size and scale of the artwork in relation to the wall space. A single large piece can become a focal point, while a gallery wall with smaller pieces can add visual interest.  

Colour & Balance: Artwork should complement your existing colour scheme. Choose colours that tie in with your furnishings or accentuate the overall mood. Balance is key –  avoid overly busy or jarring artwork in smaller spaces.

Think Beyond the Canvas: Explore alternative art forms like sculptures, wall hangings or tapestries. These can add texture and dimension to your space.

3. Let There Be Light: Illuminating Your Space

Lighting plays a crucial role in setting the ambience and functionality of your holiday rental. Utilise a layered lighting approach, incorporating ambient, task and accent lighting.

Ambient lighting provides general illumination throughout the space. Opt for overhead fixtures, chandeliers, or strategically placed floor lamps.

Task lighting focuses on specific areas like the kitchen workspace or reading nooks. Include task lighting under cabinets, table lamps on desks, or adjustable reading lights beside beds.

Accent lighting adds a decorative touch and highlights specific features. Consider sconces on walls, recessed lighting to showcase artwork, or strategically placed lamps to create a cosy atmosphere.

4. Bring The Outside in: Plants & Greenery

Plants and greenery inject life into your holiday rental, purify the air and create a connection to nature. Introduce a variety of greenery in stylish plant pots, considering natural light availability and maintenance needs.

Low-maintenance plants like snake plants, spider plants, or succulents are ideal for beginners.

Strategically place plants to add pops of colour and enhance specific areas. Hanging plants add a touch of whimsy in corners, while larger floor plants can define living areas in open floor plans.

Artificial plants can be a viable option for low-light areas or those seeking a low-maintenance solution. Go for high-quality, realistic-looking artificial plants to avoid detracting from the overall aesthetic.

5. The Art of Scents

While the visual aspects are undeniably important, our sense of smell plays a powerful role in shaping our perception of a space. Incorporating a subtle and inviting fragrance can elevate your holiday rental to a new level, whether via electric diffusers or candles.

Here's how to use scents strategically:

Choosing the Right Scents:

Subtlety is Key: Avoid overpowering fragrances. Opt for diffusers with adjustable settings or natural room sprays used sparingly.

Consider Your Theme:  If you have a themed rental, choose a fragrance that complements it. For instance, a beach-themed rental might benefit from a light ocean breeze scent, while a mountain cabin could evoke the aroma of pine or cedarwood.

Appeal to a Broad Audience: While a unique scent can be memorable, prioritise scents with broad appeal. Avoid strong or allergen-inducing fragrances like artificial florals or heavy perfumes.

Amazing Spaces: How Top Rated Airbnbs Embrace the Power of Design 

Let’s look at some real-life examples of Airbnb transformations to get you inspired. 

Transformation #1 - Forest Nest, a Themed Hideaway in Sydney 

Elena from My Perfect Host witnessed a remarkable turnaround in revenue after revamping her Sydney studio guesthouse. Originally presented in a neutral style, the space lacked a distinct personality and struggled to attract guests.


The Design Vision: 

Recognising the potential for a themed approach, Elena embarked on a strategic redesign. She created a mood board to visualise a "Forest Nest" theme, selecting sage green hues and nature-inspired décor elements to create a tranquil and inviting atmosphere.

The Impact: 

The results were transformative. Following the redesign, the property's occupancy rate soared from 54% to 76%, and the average daily rate jumped significantly from $91 to $155.  This translates to a staggering 139% increase in annual revenue.

Key Takeaways:

The Power of Theme: Elena's case study exemplifies the power of a well-defined theme. The unique "Forest Nest" concept resonated with potential guests, making the property stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Mood Boards for Success: Elena emphasises the value of mood boards in the design process. Visualising the desired aesthetic ensured her furniture and décor choices complemented the overall theme.

Financial Rewards: By investing in a strategic design approach, Elena not only enhanced the guest experience but also significantly boosted her rental income.

Transformation #2 - A Stylish Haven in Brunswick West, Melbourne

Trish of Grace Interior Designs wasn't new to the power of interior design in the short-term rental market. Her experience with accommodation design projects, including Airbnbs, gave her valuable insights. 

Trish's Melbourne property, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Brunswick West, boasted a central location in a desirable neighbourhood. It offered a wealth of amenities, entertainment and a rich cultural tapestry, including a multicultural history and a creative and industrial vibe.


The Design Vision 

Trish's personal style fused mid-century modern, industrial, and southern European influences. Mid-Century Modern offered classic lines and a touch of nostalgia, while industrial elements incorporated distressed finishes and historical references, adding a touch of character and story. Spanish-style tiles on the kitchen counter facade, French-style dining chairs and beds, and Greek myth motif wallpaper introduced a personal touch that reflected Trish's own cultural heritage.

The Impact 

The results spoke for themselves. Within a week of listing her Airbnb, Trish had three confirmed bookings valued at approximately $2,000. Within two weeks, she received an inquiry for a month-long stay valued at over $5,000, and the listing garnered nearly 200 views, proving the strong appeal of Trish's unique style, prime location and curated amenities.

Key Takeaways 

Understand the Airbnb Traveller: People seek unique experiences different from traditional hotels. Cater to this desire through design and ambience.

Presentation is Key: Professional photography and styling elevate your listing and make it stand out on platforms like Airbnb.

Embrace Your Story: Weave your design story into the space, incorporating personal touches that reflect your background or style.

A Final Word From The Experts 

Interior designers, hosts and property managers have been through this process multiple times. Here are their best tips for furnishing your own holiday rental. 

Trish Khoury, Founder of Grace Interior Designs: 

Set a budget for furnishing your Airbnb based on research on properties similar to yours, average occupancy rates and the experience you want to offer.

Don’t be afraid to differentiate your space rather than opting for a neutral interior style.

Take professional photography and consider using an interior designer to truly create a unique space.

Bree Steele, Interior Designer, RJ Living:

Always start by considering your goals for the property and how your guests will be using the space. Do they want a cosy experience or perhaps a high-end apartment city stay?

View your property through your guests’ eyes. How would you like them to feel in the space? Everyone wants to stay in a beautiful/functional space, so investing in stylish, long-lasting furniture from the outset will always pay off.  

Peta Pathak-Perks, Superhost:

Pay close attention to dimensions and specifications. Freighting furniture is a significant cost, so it’s important to get it right — once it is in the house, it’s staying!  

Easy-clean furniture is important, but my tip is to follow your gut.  If you love it and it feels right, someone else will love it too.

Be sure to declutter the home. No one wants to stay amongst other people's personal junk.

Elena Stepanova, My Perfect Host: 

Navigating logistics can be quite a challenge, especially when working within a tight budget and sourcing furniture from various sellers. By staying patient and persistent, you can create a cosy and inviting space for guests, even amidst the logistical juggling act.

Airbnbs are all about the visuals. It’s important to consider how the furniture you choose will look in photos.

Next Steps For Your Airbnb Holiday Rental 

Ready to embark on your holiday rental revamp journey? 

Consult an Interior Designer 

Consider collaborating with a designer specialising in Airbnb and holiday rentals. Our in-house interior design team can help you create a space that is both stylish and functional, maximising your return on investment. It’s a completely free service for businesses.  

Explore Smart Furniture Solutions 

We offer custom furniture packages specifically designed for Airbnb and holiday rentals, prioritising durability, renter-friendliness, and incomparable style. Chat with our team about how we can support you. 

Prepare to transform your space and your investment from ordinary to extraordinary with the power of thoughtful design and strategic furnishing. Our team of experienced interior design specialists can help you navigate the furnishing process, develop a unique design concept, and source furniture packages that perfectly suit your space, budget and target audience.

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