Renting your holiday home: The Inside Story

If you want your holiday rental to stand out from the crowd, a quirky interior with a local touch is essential, says Kate Watson-Smyth
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Twenty years ago it was all so simple, you bought your holiday home, advertised it in a Sunday newspaper and furnished it with whatever was left over from your main house or something cheap and cheerful from the local stores. No one was looking for style on a two-week break to Spain so it didn’t really matter what it looked like. But that was then.

The impact of the internet and the increase in second-home ownership means that competition is now fierce. If potential renters can do a virtual tour of your villa and the one three streets away, the chances are they are going to choose the most attractive. And let’s not forget that if it’s beautifully dressed, you can charge more.

Ana Davies, who owns several properties in Porto, Portugal, and is just about to open a guesthouse, says: “We have found that despite, or because of, the economic gloom that more people are turning to self-catering holidays. If they are only going to go away once in the year, we want their stay to be memorable and we want them to be surprised and enchanted by the space they have rented.”

A cool white room with crisp white sheets might look inviting when you’re standing in it, but in photos it will be a white-out and there is no individual touch to draw in the guests.

Ana says: “We have moved away from the generic neutral décor towards a more individual look that is more natural to Portugal. Feature walls in earthy colours help to divide up the space and the guests will see the same tones reflected in their tours of the city.”

High-quality beds are a must, says Ana. “People won’t come back if they didn’t sleep well the first time round so it’s worth every euro you spend. We also use good quality bedding that doesn’t require ironing, which saves a fortune in time and electricity and therefore money, as well as lessening the environmental impact.

“We have also stopped buying cheap mass-produced furniture in favour of trying to find something more individual. We scout round the second-hand shops, often ignored by the locals, in search of something a bit different.”

It’s also worth considering spending a little more on a leather sofa. After tipping an entire bottle of red over a leather sofa in a holiday rental some years back, we were astounded to notice that it all washed off. No stain, no loss of deposit, no dry cleaning for the owners. That cream linen might seem more tasteful, but if you have to have it cleaned between each visitor you will go off it fast. And just because you don’t put your feet on it doesn’t mean they won’t. Leather is cool to sit on, and improves with age and abuse.

Just because it’s a holiday rental doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a few pictures on the wall. Take a tip from Ana and visit the local shops for some old maps or posters from local fiestas, and have them framed and hung. This will create a more homely feel and give guests the feeling that they have learnt a bit more about the area. Another tip is to have a few throws dotted about. They’re a nice touch, easy to wash and guests can wrap up in them for chillier evenings on the terrace.

You can never have too many, so buy some shelves and make sure they show in the picture. Guests will leave behind books they have finished helping you build up a library. Invest in a few phrase books and local maps, and don’t forget the children. Also, you can take all those free DVDs that come with the weekend papers, they don’t take up much room in a suitcase and are good for damp holiday viewing.

To see Ana's houses visit ref 402633 or 65789