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Staging first impressions for vacation rental guests.

In my last 2 articles I wrote about essential marketing preparations that vacation rental hosts can do to define an ideal guest, optimize their branding and packaging their whole guest experience cohesively. Let's fast forward to look at welcome home enhancements that guests love and appreciate. The fun part, kind of.


Conversations with my host clients eventually come around to pain points of operating a vacation rental home. For solopreneur hosts entering the market with their first project it can be trial by fire but even for scaled pro's it's a vigilant effort to maintain consistency while earning coveted 5-star reviews. Newb hosts will benefit by consulting with specialized vacation rental designers and short term rental management specialists to put it all together.


chic penthouse bderoom in highrise building with dark blue walls and brass bed and view of night time city skyline
Reset Decor and Welcome Lighting

One pain point is the critical 'turnover', the brief time between when happy guests depart and new excited guests arrive. The orchestration presents some challenges which we factor into design development in terms of efficiencies. When successfully executed, it's an opportunity to make great first and lasting impressions which foster brand loyalty!


What makes a guest initially comfortable? We know now that leisure guests do their research and love the convenience of FAQ information literally at their fingertips. Included might be directions to and from transportation hubs, how to get in, house tech stuff, local flavor advice, fun facts, house rules, local events schedules, co-hosted experiences sign-ups, even links to directly purchase items they love from the home, and a ton more. That's when some really elegant technology comes into play from pioneering digital guestbook software designers like Touchstay as one stand-out. Guests receive their guest book at time of reservation and can start planning for their visit and communicate with their host about requests and other needs.


I learned of the product from Tyann Marcink, a Touchstay brand ambassador and seasoned pro vacation rental host, at the first ever Vacation Rental Design Summit in April 2023, where we were panel speakers addressing operational pain points from different perspectives.


Tyann sums it up perfectly, "A well prepared guest is a happy guest. Touchstay customizable digital guidebooks offer guests access to tailored information they need on command. Prompt communications with a personal touch are key to creating memorable guest experiences."

multiple digital devices that display examples of vacation rental digital guest books
Elegant Examples of Digital Guest Book Formats

A digital guestbook gives the brand a voice and can be custom designed, content and imagery, to represent the personality of the host and enhance the character of the property. That makes a customized digital guestbook my first pro tip for setting the stage to welcome and impress guests.


Other turnover opportunities related to guest arrival are decor resets, and other ambience settings.

So, let's talk about home automated lighting schemes. Lighting has huge impact on guest experience but is often overlooked when it comes to the arrival experience. Consider that first time guests aren't familiar with where light switches are and this can be a really awkward start to arrival especially during the darker seasons. Thoughtful lighting placement throughout is a chance to show the exterior and interior at its most inviting advantage. If no automation is in place, the turnover team will need to have their protocols in place to know what the settings should be.


Lighting choices are always factored into interior design with the guest in mind. Dimmers are a designers best friend and should be part of automated lighting schemes as I list below. I recommend to my hosts to light the entrance path and doorway and provide light in the entrance space itself. Next, I recommend dimly lighting each individual space although I suggest not over lighting and let the guests explore the spaces. The goal is to romanticize the ambience and provide safe movement of guests throughout while settling in.


Preset lighting protocols:

  • Outdoor lanterns and path lights on.

  • Foyer lamp, ceiling or wall light on and dimmed 50%

  • Hallway ceiling or wall lighting on and dimmed 50%

  • Stairway path lighting on 100%

  • One or 2 Living room and family room lamps on and dimmed 50%

  • Dining room chandelier on and dimmed 25%

  • Kitchen under-cabinet lighting on dimmed 50%

  • Bedroom bedside lamps on dimmed 50%

  • Bathroom nightlights on if available

One of my favorite staging protocols is ambient music. Most new and renovated homes have built-in sound systems so as a host you can create an immersive experience with a curated sound track or streaming channel set to be playing upon arrival. Guests can control all the lighting and music preferences later.


I'm a stickler about decor resets which pertain to making sure every piece of furniture, lighting, accent pillow, accessory, book, etc. is back in original position. Light bulbs tested. Lampshades and pictures straightened. Cushions fluffed. Beds dressed. Everything polished. Plants watered. Room scents replenished, and so on. My designs generally incorporate specific table-top settings and accent arrangements, particularly coffee tablescapes and luxurious bed dressing!


It's worth mentioning that guidebooks like Touchstay have integrated management features that support turnover teams and are not client-facing and provide detailed room-by-room guidelines with photos of decor settings and even videos to help turnover teams reset consistently.


exterio landscape lighting at modern vacation rental beach house
Welcome Lighting at Vacation Beach House

SLATE interior design provides expert guidance and a network of specialized vacation rental resources for vacation rental hosts and scaling investors.




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