Location, location, location…but also style, style, style — these things go hand in hand.
As someone who runs both an antiques business and a couple of Airbnbs (and who was formerly in real estate full time), I know the value of staging spaces for maximum impact, to impress and delight customers, to make people feel at home in a gracious and relaxed sense, and also to inspire trust and confidence in buyers (and renters).
“Staging” is one of the keys to what it takes to successfully sell a home or other space, to leave buyers feeling like they could see themselves there. Staging sets the tone of an experience. I learned this years ago in real estate. And the great thing is that you don’t have to be a certified interior designer or have a degree from RISD to do it well.
Some of it is instinct and intuition, some is imitation (look at all those great Instagram and Pinterest resources), some is luck, and some is a little bit of strategy.
Now that I’m doing antiques and Airbnb (hospitality) essentially full time, I’ve transported my real estate staging skills to these business in order to achieve the same results — happy, inspired, confident customers and buyers.
The World is your Stage
At Staunton Antiques, we pride ourselves on having the overwhelming majority of our spaces* highly curated and displayed so that it’s easy to see things in context, to find what you’re looking for, and to have it jump out at you and show itself off for the unique thing that it is.
And I’d like to take that spirit into encouraging you to do the same thing for your Airbnb, whether that’s here in Staunton, over in Charlottesville or Richmond, or if you’re just passing through and collecting things for an Airbnb far afield of here.
One thing that sets Airbnbs apart from regular hotels and motels is that they’re decidedly not corporate and they are spaces people look to for being unique — for having your personal stamp on them.
But at the same time, you still need to set a tone that is professional and not sooooo personal that someone feels like they’re actually just crashing in your own bed. So it’s this perfect balance of being gracious and charming and accessible without overwhelming your guest with so much YOU that they start to feel a little creeped out!
It’s a fine art!
So here are three tips from me that you can easily implement to make your Airbnb a standout in the photos you use to attract customers and in the actual space they inhabit when they get to your Airnbb itself.
1. Keep It Simple
Unless you’re pitching your space as a spare, spa-like Zen retreat, you’ll want to have some decor and you’ll want it to be unique.
It’s my view that you can find things far more exciting, original, and fresh to outfit your Airbnb at antique and vintage shops than you’ll ever find at corporate places like Michael’s or TJ Maxx or Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel — often at the same or even lower prices.
Great signs in tin and wood to set the mood for beach, or cabin, historic, or warehouse vibes are just as easily sourced at antique shops but the difference is that they don’t look like everyone else’s, and they don’t look mass produced even if they came from the manufacturing or pop culture age. The patina of age changes that vibe.
Antique and vintage shops are awash in distinctive paintings, framed prints, and sculptural accents that say “hunt country,” or “lake house,” or “romantic retreat,” or “hip and mod.”
Find two to three pieces in a common, united theme to knit your decor together. Draw inspiration from where you live — if it’s on the Bay, go nautical; if you’re in the country, look to farming culture; downtowners can think nightlife; and if you’ve got a cabin give it a wilderness and outdoor adventure touch. People are coming to your area for what your area offers — play to that with a few pieces that work together.
And you don’t have to break the bank overstating the theme. Just a few pieces will take you from a deadened blank slate to a space with some personality.
2. Find a Signature Piece, Build a Room
If you’re going to splurge, do so on one distinctive piece that can set the tone for the rest. In this case, think of something that can stand the impact of many guests.
The easiest solution may seem to be art because it can set a mood without suffering from much wear and tear. So yes, art or art pieces are a great option. Nautical theme — how about a beach sign or cut out whale? Cabin theme — maybe a stuffed bear head. Horse Country? Try a framed print of a fox chase.
But maybe you make your statement with furniture.
If yours is trying to be sleek and moderne place get a Mid Century Modern leather and chrome couch that’s designed for durability. Guests come in and get the “wow effect” but it’s not so delicate that it’s apt to be worn down in short order.
Maybe yours is a homey historic vibe that would benefit from a nice old solid farmhouse table. These don’t cost a lot and moreover, they don’t need a polished look to say “refined.” Instead, their simplicity and durability are conveyed by their age and material and more use only makes it better! Just be sure to choose one with solid legs and good weight to the tabletop. Shore up any joints and check for poking nails or any splintering areas and clean those up before making it a part of your Airbnb dining area.
Gardens and porches also benefit from vintage and antique statement pieces. One great glider may be all you need to make your outdoor spot a favorite with guests. Or a fabulous oversized planter where you can showcase the season’s best local plants.
Start with your theme and choose one very, very distinctive but durable piece and let that dictate where your decor goes from there.
3. Accents are your Supporting Cast
Once you’ve got a theme going you can be on the look out for supporting pieces that help underscore your theme without necessarily going overboard.
You’d be surprised, for example, how many lamps, doorstops, magazine racks, foot stools, area rugs, dish and barware, side tables, occasional chairs, trays, pillows, baskets, ceramics, and other smaller scale accessories can be found in antique and vintage stores.
What’s more, these are high-quality, unique pieces at comparably affordable prices to new (and often they cost less). The difference is that older pieces are very often much better made than the cheap imports churned out today, and, chosen right, antique and vintage conveys gravitas, history, a sense of place and time — all qualities that the demographic of Airbnb users find charming and engaging.
So just as you’ve fit decor and one notable piece into your theme, you can add to it by choosing your accessories to go with or compliment your theme (based on color, shape, or material even if not on literal design) and achieve a unified, sharp, thoughtful design to your Airbnb space.
The bottom line is that before you go out to the big box stores to buy more of the same mass-manufactured and cheap material stuff that everyone gets to “do it on the cheap,” first compare by hitting antique and vintage shops to suite out your Airbnb.
You’re likely to be pleasantly surprised and even if you don’t find everything on your first outing, you’ll begin to know where to look and what you’re looking for and in a magic that we can only describe as mystical…you’ll start manifesting just that thing you’ve got a hankering for and it will all come together.
So remember to think antiques and vintage first when decorating your Airbnb. It’s good for the earth (recycling existing goods) and it’s good for your pocketbook (more affordable than you might think) and awesome for your guests (who want a unique Airbnb experience!)
— Ellen Boden, Proprietress, Staunton Antiques Center
*One or two of our spaces are more…free form! 🙂