Social Media Tips for your Vacation Rentals

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SOCIAL MEDIA HAS CHANGED THE WAY PEOPLE TRAVEL

Social Media has changed the way people travel. Often times people aren’t even visiting travel websites to book their travel stays, they simply hop on social media, see a picture of a place they like and book through the links provided. The best part is, social media is free advertising for you!

People who book vacation rentals often share special iconic location with their friends and followers on social media, so having or creating a special experience to get your guests to post on social media are free advertisements, just for you! Your guests literally do the work for you.

It’s best to create your own personalized hashtag for your location as well. Think of something unique- maybe it has something to do with your street name (ex. #StateStreetHouse), or maybe what you want to be known for (ex. #BeachHouse), or maybe a combination of these things (ex. #StateStreetBeachHouse). Be creative!

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Is your Vacation Rental Hotel Quality?

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As you may (or may not) know, there are several known classifications for hotels. You may be thinking, “So?” Well if you own a vacation rental, you are competing with the hotels in your area. Though the motivation for someone to book a vacation rental is very different from those who book hotel rooms, none the less, they will most likely be looking at all their options before booking. So, with this in mind, you should consider what category your vacation rental falls under. For example Smith Travel Research (STR) has a “chain scale” where they break down hotel brands into several different tiers, based on their Average Daily Rate (ADR).

  • Economy

  • Midscale

  • Upper Midscale

  • Upscale

  • Upper Upscale

  • Luxury

Specifically, they state

Brands/Chains are slotted by Chain Scale based on the previous year’s annual system wide (global) Average Daily Rate. Rate ranges defining each Chain Scale are determined by STR. The STR Chain Scales – North America and Caribbean is a subsetof the larger Global Chain Scale list. Brand Chain Scale pairings are consistent with each list. Brands listed above are located in U.S., Mexico, Caribbean and Canada. If you have any questions about the Chain Scales, please email support@str.com. Copyright 2016. STR, Inc. Publishing or reproducing this information is strictly prohibited. www.str.com +1 (615) 824 8664. Last updated May 2016.

Luxury –

Luxury lodging has the following features:

  • Very high reputation and quality

  • Prime locations

  • Distinguished architecture, artwork and design (sometimes they are historic structures)

  • Superior service and staff

  • Numerous and luxurious facilities and amenities

  • Fine dining and 24–hour room service

  • Spacious, beautifully furnished rooms

  • Superior linens, finishes and materials

Upper Upscale –

Upper Upscale lodging has the following features:

  • Well–known, high–quality brands

  • Very convenient, often strategic locations

  • Attractive architecture, artwork, and sometimes dramatic design

  • Very professional service and staff

  • Many amenities and facilities

  • Quality dining

  • Large, comfortable rooms with top of the line furnishings

  • High–quality linens, finishes and materials

Upscale –

Clients can expect the following from Upscale lodging:

  • Very good quality and value

  • Convenient locations

  • Pleasant, often homelike or stylish architecture

  • Friendly and attentive staff

  • Good range of amenities and facilities

  • Pleasant dining in and/or near the hotel

  • Standard–sized, comfortable rooms

  • Quality linens and materials

Upper Midscale –

Upper Midscale lodging has the following features:

  • Simple, pleasant accomodations

  • Very good value

  • Convenient, often roadside or suburban locations

  • Simple, nice appearance, frequently with similar look and design for most properties

  • Helpful staff

  • Limited range of amenities and facilities

  • Dining usually limited, but often convenient to family dining and fast food

  • Standard–sized, nice rooms; but all–suite lodging in this category is spacious

  • Good linens and materials

Midscale –

The features of Midscale lodging are:

  • Simple, low–priced

  • Basic, sometimes older properties; often two– or three–story buildings

  • Adequately staffed

  • Few amenities, facilities and extras

  • Limited dining, perhaps simple breakfast included; family dining and fast food nearby

  • Adequate–sized rooms, with modest materials and furnishings, and average–quality linens

Economy –

Here’s what clients can expect from Economy lodging:

  • Simple, clean, no–frill, low–priced

  • Limited staff and hours

  • Basic amenities and facilities

  • Rarely have on–site dining; some nearby

  • Very modest–sized rooms, with basic materials and linens

Comparing brands and chains

Here are a few examples of some of the hotel chains you may know, and what category they fall under.

Best Western: 

  • Upscale – Best Western Premier

  • Upper Midscale – Best Western Plus

  • Midscale – Best Western

Choice: 

  • Upscale – Ascend, Cambria Suites

  • Upper Midscale – Clarion, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites

  • Midscale – Mainstay Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn

  • Economy – Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Suburban Extended Stay

Club Carlson: 

  • Upper Upscale -Radisson Blu (don’t ask me though)

  • Upscale – Radisson

  • Upper Midscale – Park Inn, Country Inn and Suites

Hilton: 

  • Luxury – Conrad, Waldorf Astoria

  • Upper Upscale – Curio, Hilton, Embassy Suites

  • Upscale – Doubletree, Homewood Suites

  • Upper Midscale – Hampton Inn

Hyatt: 

IHG: 

  • Luxury – Intercontinental

  • Upper Upscale – Kimpton,

  • Upscale – Staybridge Suites, Hotel Indigo, EVEN, Crowne Plaza

  • Upper Midscale – Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express

  • Midscale – Candlewood Suites

Marriott: 

  • Luxury – Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott

  • Upper Upscale – Marriott, Delta

  • Upscale – AC Hotels, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn, Courtyard by Marriott

  • Upper Midscale – Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites

Starwood: 

  • Luxury – W Hotel, Luxury Collection, St. Regis,

  • Upper Upscale – Le Meridien, Sheraton, Westin, Tribute Portfolio

  • Upscale – Aloft, Four Points, element

Wyndham: 

  • Upper Upscale – Wyndham, Dolce

  • Upper Midscale – Wyndham Garden, Tryp by Wyndham

  • Midscale – Wingate by Wyndham, Hawthorn Suites, Ramada, Baymont Inn and Suites

  • Economy – Microtel, Days Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Knights Inn

For a couple of non-chain hotel brands, La Quinta is listed as Midscale while Drury Inn and Suites is listed as Upper Midscale.

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Why you should use White in Your Vacation Rental

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Why you should use white in your vacation rental

Think about it like a hotel. When you think of the W Hotel, you probably think high-end, cutting edge, modern, clean, friendly, customer service-orientated, etc. Most of their hotels focus on the color white because it subconsciously sends a message to our brains that says “clean”, since this is the color we associate most with clean.

For instance if I were to say the word “clean linen”, you probably don’t think of your dirty black work socks, right? Most of us will think of white bedding sheets. Also, hospitals use white in this same way. Just think if you were to walk into a hospital that had black walls and dark colored linens everywhere. Your brain would immediately think “this is not clean”.

So this same rule applies to vacation rentals. White is the color most associated with cleanliness, so use it as much as you can.

White can also be bleached, not only keeping your linens white, but also keeping them as germ-free as can be, and making laundry very easy.

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How to Build a Brand for your Vacation Rental using Interior Decor

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OWNERS HAVE TO BUILD A BRAND TO STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD

When advertising anywhere online, having an identifiable brand, or brand recognition is key. If I asked you to think of two colors associated with McDonald’s, you would think of red and yellow. This same concept applies to your vacation rentals. Especially if you have more than one. You want the feeling that color evoke to be the same across all of your properties. For instance, maybe you love the color blue- use shades of blue through-out your properties; everything from the outside to the inside. Don’t go crazy with this color, just add hints of this color throughout. This color should account for about 10-20% of the rooms color. All other colors should be neutral. This same color scheme can be used everywhere: your website, your logo, etc.

This helps associate these colors with your brand, establishing trust, which can not be bought.

Having your guest trust you is the ultimate goal. If your guests trusts you, then they will book again. The only way for your guest to trust you is to be consistent. What better (and easy) way to get them to trust you, than to establish consistency in your vacation rentals.

To be consistent, make sure you have the same brand of toilet paper, towels, bedding, pillows, etc. so they know they can depend on you to have what they love. Remember having a vacation rental is all about the home-away-from-home experience.

Having this consistence will also help you stand out from the nearby “crowd” of other vacation rentals, as most are owned and operated by the home owner, who probably doesn’t have a clue about how to create brand recognition- but you do!

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How to Price Your Vacation Rental

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Vacation Rentals are similar to boutique hotels in the sense that there are tiers of price ranges. Most hotels fall within a 5 tier category. Imagine Motel 6 being at the bottom, Best Western, Hilton, and Marriott falling in the middle, and the W Hotel landing at the top. As you can imagine not only will the price of the Motel 6 location be far cheaper than that of the W Hotel, it will also be furnished with items you would associate with this level of expense. For instance, you wouldn’t walk into a Motel 6 room and expect to see luxury linens, soft towels, quality fabrics, and crystal chandeliers. However if you were to walk into a W Hotel room and you opened the door to a run-down mattress, rough towels, low lighting, and a chair with a broken arm, you might be furious because the cost doesn’t match the quality.

These same principles apply to vacation rentals. Whatever price you have chosen to list your property at, it will need to match the expectation associated with that price tag for your guests. If your property is in an area with several ‘Motel 6 quality’ rentals around you, then you could opt for cheaper furnishings to match your competition. However if your rental is in an area where other rentals are ‘W Hotel’ quality, you will need to match this as well if you want to keep up with the competition and not be priced out of the market. After all, who wants to pay $300 a night for a $60 a night quality? This is where a lot of home owners mis-step when turning their properties into vacation rentals. How do you know what quality looks like? Hire a professional- like me! After all, this was supposed to be a passive venture for you, you don’t need to stress over whether your sofa is ‘W Hotel quality’ or ‘Motel 6’, that’s my job! I know this industry inside and out, I can go into detail about what makes one piece of furniture worth it’s price tag in value, but all you want is passive income, right? Unless of course, you really do want to know these details, which I am happy to share with any client as well, but you most likely won’t have time to do all this research and order the furniture before your first booking (hopefully!). So all you really need to remember is that there are different tiers of price tags associated with each rental and the area it is located in. Leave the rest of the work to the professionals who will bring a higher value to your rental and make you more money in the long run!

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Your Vacation Rental isn't just a hobby, it's a Business!

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So you just bought a new vacation rental, now what?

Running a vacation rental is a lot of work. Many people now make it their sole job to keep vacation rentals up and running. There are so many parts to keep track of; from booking, to bookkeeping, to cleaning and making sure everything is as described in your listing- there’s no wonder this can become a full time job for some. But don’t worry! It’s not as hard as it seems.

Since you are now running a small business with your new vacation rental, any new business idea requires a business plan. By setting objectives from the outset, you have a realistic plan to adhere to, and to measure your success against. As part of this process, you’ll need to first define what you want to get out of your ideal vacation rental. Do you want it booked on the weekends so you can enjoy it during the weekdays? Or do you want a professional to rent it during the weekdays and you can use it on the weekend? Maybe you don’t want to use it at all and just want it to cash flow for you. Maybe this is just enough cash flow to cover the mortgage, or maybe you want to fully live off of this income. Whatever your goals are, you’ll need to set a nightly rate first. How? Take a look at your competition. Is your rental nicer than theirs? If not, how can you improve it so that you can get top dollar for your rental as well? One of the easiest ways to immediately add value to your property is to use a professional designer’s expertise to turn your property into a money making machine. That’s where I come in! You can contact me by clicking on the contact page on my website.

Sources: 

AllTheRooms will give you an idea of rental rates for all vacation rentals in your area.

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How to Add A Personal Touch to your Vacation Rental Using Interior Decor

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More and more travelers are choosing vacation rentals for a “home-away-from-home” adventure. One sure-fire way that owners can help guests to have the best time possible is by sharing recommendations of your own favorite places with anybody who stays there.

Preparing a local guidebook for travelers is both a thoughtful and helpful addition to any vacation rental. As you’ll already have plenty of local suggestions for eating, drinking, etc.

Creating a personal list of your local favorites will help your guests feel more welcome and like one of the locals, giving them a truly unique experience. You can do this by including your curated recommendations by incorporating it into the decor. This could be photos of local music concerts or historic landmarks. You can also incorporate your food recommendations (restaurants, markets, grocery stores) by supplying a map with their locations and your own personal reviews of why you like each location. You can even include a favorite recipe for the grocery store locations.

These lists can be incorporated into the decor in many different ways- anything from chalkboard walls to framed lists on the wall in fancy writing. Be creative with your list and how you show guests!

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The Best Mattresses

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As you probably already know, mattress shopping is one of the most tedious tasks you could do for your home. Yet mattresses are also one of the most important items to purchase. Mattress’ provide you with a good night sleep,which is important for your health. We all have a story about a bed that we have slept in which gave us a bad night’s sleep- very similar to the story of Goldie-locks and the Three Bears who tried all the porridge to find the right one. Hotels know this better than everyone as their business is based around a good night sleep.

To help narrow down your mattress search, I’ve listed some of the best mattresses, which you can test out at home for a trial period!

SPRING MATTRESS: Luxury Firm Saatra Mattress. Why? Because of their:

  • HIGH-QUALITY-  Designed to provide perfect contouring comfort for a restful night’s sleep with advanced coil-on-coil construction and enhanced lumbar support.

  • AFFORDABLY PRICED— Experience a premium mattress without paying a premium price. No retail overhead = No markups. No gimmicks. No pushy salespeople.

  • ECO-FRIENDLY— Designed to be as eco-friendly as possible, with an organic cotton pillow top, recycled steel coils, an antimicrobial treatment, and a natural thistle flame retardant, Our Mattress has no chemical sprays, formaldehyde, so you can sleep worry-free.

  • RISK-FREE— 120-night trial, free shipping & setup, 15-year warranty, 24/7 Customer Service

MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS: Loom & Leaf Mattress. Why? Because of their:

  • QUALITY MATERIALS- Engineered with 4 layers including premium, high-density memory foam that provides support while contouring and conforming to your body.

  • SLEEPS COOL- The Designed to sleep cool with a non-toxic, proprietary cooling gel layer.

  • ECO FRIENDLY- Memory foam mattresses designed to be as eco-friendly as possible, with an organic cotton pillow top, eco-friendly foam, a natural thistle flame retardant, and an antimicrobial treatment.

  • UNMATCHED VALUE- By eliminating the overhead associated with retail stores, we were able to put in all of the luxury features found in premium mattresses. We could charge a lot more for the Loom & Leaf, but we prefer to pass the savings on to you.

  • SUPERIOR SERVICE- 120-night trial, free shipping & setup, 15-year warranty, 24/7 Customer Service

LUNA MATTRESS COVER

  • Made of cotton, in the USA.

  • Protects against allergens, dust mites, bacteria, perspiration, urine and fluids (15-Year Warranty)

  • 100% waterproof membrane with fitted sheet style design - Queen Size Mattress Protector - 60" x 80" fits up to 18" deep

  • Luna Airflow Technology allows air to circulate through the protector, but repels liquids

  • Hypoallergenic cotton terry surface is noiseless, will not change the feel of your mattress and naturally absorbs moisture

  • Great for asthma, eczema and allergy sufferers (every Luna mattress protector is sourced and made in USA)

STANDARD TEXTILE Pillows

Pillows are just as important as your selection of mattress. Standard Textile is one of the best companies I have found for pillow options. These pillows can be found in luxury hotels around the world, and are engineered for maximum comfort in all sleep positions. These are constructed with three chambers, no-shift construction provides comfort and support. Outer chambers contains hypoallergenic gel fiber, while the inner core is filled with sterilized duck feathers.

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How to Organize & Declutter Your Home

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Now that the holidays over, it’s time to focus on a new year and new beginnings, and what better way to start off the new year than with a clean slate- literally!

Check out my e-book HERE on Amazon for only 99 cents!

Here is what you will learn from this book:

  • How to Start

  • How to Make a Schedule

  • How to create a check-list

  • How, What and where to store important information

  • Ideas on how to start organizing and keep organized

  • How to clean up

  • How to create a command center (and even involve your kids- if you have any)

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The 5 Step Process To Working With An Interior Designer

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It can be very confusing to work with a designer, especially if this is your first time. So let me break down what we do into a 5 step process:

  1. Initial Client Contact: You hop online or ask a friend for a designer in town that they worked with or know of. You call or email that designer to ask about their services. Maybe you chat a little bit about what styles you like, what the scope of your project is, your budget, etc.

  2. Set up an in-person Meeting on Site: You meet the designer at your home so they can take measurements, you can chat more in depth about what kind of services are needed, maybe they even make some suggestions for you. Sometimes Designers will charge for this meeting, as it does take their time away from other projects, but often times Designers will credit back a client the initial design fee once the contract is signed (I do!). You will have to discuss these details with your designer, as everyone runs their business’ a little differently.

  3. The Designer will take all of their notes and measurements, turn these into a “project scope” which will be outlined in their contract agreement. If you agree to their prices and the scope of work they are suggesting, then you can move into the next step:

  4. The Designer gets to work on your project! They will usually start with a floorplan, drafting your space and figuring out what size furniture will fit best in the room. Then the designer will access their vendor lists and select furniture that is the right size and scale for your space. Often times designers have access to vendors that clients do not (I certainly have a great list of vendors!). Designers will use these furniture selections to create a few options for you and your space (I usually provide 3 options for clients in the “first run”). Of these three options, clients can pick what they love, don’t love, want to see more options of, etc. There are NO HARD FEELINGS if you don’t love what a designer came up with. Really! Don’t feel bad if the selections they picked for you aren’t perfect for you and your home. It is your home, you are going to live there, surrounded by these things- your Designer is not. Be PIcky! Designers are trained to “read between the lines” so they more specific you can get about what you love, don’t love, and why, the better! This is where I think most clients are concerned; “What if my designer takes control and I don’t have a say?” Well, unless you are on TV and the entire design is a surprise to you, the process should be a type of partnership. You should work TOGETHER with your designer. REMEMBER: You came to them because you liked their aesthetic (or you liked what your friend or family member’s house).

  5. After you and the designer have selected all the furniture, art, accessories, drapes, etc. in your home, the Designer will come up with a budget (or this may be discussed along the way during your “revisions” in Step 4. Once the total budget has been determined, the Designer will (or should) present you with what we call “cutsheets” which are sheets of paper with each item and all the details about that product written down. For example, if it is a custom sofa, it will have the fabric color, leg color, type of cushion, type of leg, length/width/depth, etc. to make sure what you and the designer discussed are the same, and that you both came to the agreement of all the details on their piece of furniture. Each vendor will require different “down-payments”, sometimes it is half the total cost, sometimes more or less. Your designer and you can discuss how payments will be made. Then your designer and their team will start purchasing and coordinating shipments and deliveries. You can either have the “grand reveal” like the TV shows, or you can have items shipped directly to your house as they are ready. I usually suggest the “grand reveal” because it allows for the Designer to correct any errors prior to delivery, and if items are delivered, they may not have the right space to be stored. For example, if you order a table lamp, but don’t have the table the lamp is supposed to sit on yet, where will you safely store this lamp?

  6. Installation: (This isn’t really a step in working with a designer, but it is good to know what happens on the day of installation). Designers will coordinate with all professionals needed for times and dates that work with everyone’s schedule. Once the installation is complete, the final reveal happens! You get to see your whole “new” space for the first time. You and the designer should walk around the room, making sure everything is working, there are no broken or damaged pieces (if there are, the designer will work directly with the vendor to handle this usually), then you can sign the final bill, and write that final check. Now, you get to enjoy your space! Have a party, invite friends, family, and neighbors over! Show off your professionally designed space!

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How to make your Guests Feel at Home

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Since our homes are often filled with family and friends for the holidays, likely the hardest part of making your home feel welcoming to guests is finding the motivation to get started. I get it. Life gets busy, and preparing your guestroom is probably the last thing on your mind.

Often times people travel for the holidays and stay with friends and family. As a host you want your home to look beautiful, and welcoming to your overnight guests.  Here are a few helpful hints to remember when preparing for guests:

The Prep Work

Declutter

Do your best to de-clutter the room so your guests feel comfortable moving around the space. Check out our e-book “How to Organize and Declutter Your Home” for more help with this!   

Clean

Clean thoroughly. Clean the surface. Then, clean deeper. Give extra attention to corners and windows and hard-to- reach areas.

Bathroom

Just like in the bathroom, make clean and bright your goal. If you’ve successfully removed a good portion of personal possessions, you’ll find this task far easier to complete.

Give your bathroom the attention it deserves. Put away personal hygiene products. Scrub bathtubs, toilets, and shower walls. Make clean and bright your goal.

Bathroom Needs- Make sure whatever bathroom your guests are using is well stocked with toiletries and easy for them to use and replace if needed. It’s also nice to have extra toothbrushes, hair ties, toothpaste, etc. for guests who might have forgotten these items. Also, be sure to have plenty of towels and washcloths.  

Bedroom

Have a light on the nightstand next to the bed for those people who may be “night owls” or perhaps may need to get up during the night.

Lots of pillows and bedding: keep sheet sets together by placing a neatly folded set inside its matching pillowcase or, for a pretty and functional detail, tie the whole set with ribbon.

Provide a place for guests to unpack. Having an empty dresser is nice, but if that’s not possible or not something you want to encourage with your guests, be sure to leave some empty floor space or a resting place for your guests to easily open their luggage.

Provide privacy. This means doors, window treatments, etc. to help make the room more private.

Temperature controls- whether you provide a fan or heater (depending on where you live), be sure your guests are comfortable.

Kitchen

Kitchen utensils- including enough silverware for you and your family, but also enough for your guests too. Nothing's worse than running around your kitchen trying to find your guest a clean fork.

Entertain

If your guests are staying with you during your normal work week, it’s always nice to have a copy of your key made so they can come and go as they please.

To entertain your guests while you are at work or otherwise unable to entertain your guests yourself, I suggest making a list of local tourist attractions, or a list of your favorite local spots so they have something to do while you are away.


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How to Decorate Your Home for the Holidays

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Since the holiday are fast approaching us- check out my e-book How to Decorate Your Home for the Holidays” available for purchase on Amazon for only 99 cents! Here are a few key tips straight from my book to help jump start your holidays this season:

How to Decorate your Home for the Holidays

Decorating can be the most overwhelming part of design because there are so many options, and so many ways to go wrong. What you need to decide is what style do you really want? Sometimes even deciding what your style is can be the hardest part. Don’t worry, I am here to help guide you, no matter what holiday you celebrate.

Pick a Color Scheme

To start decorating your space for the holidays I suggest you pick a color scheme.

Below are a few of my favorite color schemes:

● Red and/or Green

● All Neutrals

● Blue and White

Here is a bonus tip:

Smells like Christmas!

Scents are one of the strongest memories we have, so if you want your Christmas memory to be a good one, I highly recommend buying a few candles (something mellow like vanilla, or something seasonal like “Christmas Wreath”), room spray, or even making your own room scent (boil water, cinnamon sticks, vanilla sticks, and sliced oranges) so your home smells like Christmas. Baking cookies also gives the aroma of the holiday cheer which will fill your home. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, having a home that smells nice is always a good idea!

Here is one happy readers review:

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What kind of Art you should hang in your house

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Have you ever thought about what kind of art would look best in your room? Or maybe you are trying to decided between several art options for your space. Let me give you a little advise:

  • Personal art (photos) are to remain in personal spaces: bedrooms only.

  • Pick two to three types of artwork; photography, oil, paper, acrylic, etc.

  • Now pick 5 colors that you like (I usually suggest one cool color (blue,green,purple) and one warm color (yellow, orange, red) along with 1 additional cool or warm color, and two neutral colors.

  • Find art work that has only the colors you have chosen and that are the type of artwork you have chosen. By doing this, you have created a color scheme for your home.

  • It is usually best to have neutral colored walls where you plan to hang your art, unless your artwork is only a neutral color (Neutral, Black, Grey, White, etc.).

  • Your frame is arguably one of the most import parts of your artwork. A rustic wooden frame can make a room feel casual, while a silver leaf frame with a double white matte can make a room look elegant. If you choose to get your artwork professionally framed, tell the framer what feeling you want your home to have- this will help him/her narrow down what options will best fit that feeling. And of course- consult a designer!

  • See my post [HERE]: the 5 best ways to display art

  • See my post [HERE]: the 10 best website to buy art

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Why quality furniture takes (so long!) 8+ weeks!

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This might surprise you, but often quality furniture can take 8 weeks or more to create and deliver. Some pieces can even take as much as 6 months! Shocking- I know, but let me explain. The main difference is in the quality of each element that goes into the manufacturing of all pieces used to make each furniture.  

For instance the construction of a sofa seat consists of many parts, but one of the main elements in a quality seat made with tempered springs, on an eight way tie, with both foam and down as the seat cushion. This eight way tieing is done by hand, which can take some time to accomplish. There are some lower quality furniture Manufacturers who will do a 5 way tie- this is not as high of a quality furniture pieces as the eight way, though it will take a little less time. 

If you are looking for a quality leather sofa, be sure you are looking at top grain leather. Genuine leather is a misleading label and often is the lowest quality of leather. Top grain leather is often dyed and usually by hand, so this also takes some time. 

The frame of a quality furniture piece will be made with kiln dried wood. Why? Because if you build a piece of furniture that has been made with almost any other treated wood, it will most likely bow and change shape over time as moisture escapes the wood over time. when wood is kiln dried it is highly unlikely it will warp or change shape since all the moisture has been removed from the wood. This process can take several days or even weeks depending on the type of wood.

Drawers and corners of furniture that are made with a detail called dovetailing are only found in quality pieces of furniture. Often lower quality manufacturers will simply nail and glue the corners of their furniture together because it takes less time and costs them less to manufacturer. The only problem is, the furniture pieces don’t last as long. 

There are several other elements that make a quality piece of furniture, but these are some of the easiest elements to be able to see when you are shopping for furniture. That being said, be aware that all of these quality elements are usually hand made, and take time. Because these elements take time and skilled personnel to make them, they will take a longer period of time to make.  

Designer Tip: Don’t be mislead by labels! Simply because it has a higher price tag doesn’t mean the furniture is a quality piece. For instance Restoration Hardware, though is very good at advertising and has some amazing photographers, be aware that not all of their furniture is made with these quality manufacturing elements. that’s not to say that all of their furniture is crap either, but just keep an eye out for details like the ones I listed above to determine what is worth your time and money, and which is not. 

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What you should know about retail furniture

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Retail furniture vendors like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, West Elm, etc. have always been a great source for the general public to purchase their furniture needs. However, being a designer, I want to let you in on a secret- almost none of these vendors make their own products. They buy their furniture from wholesalers around the world including China, India, and various other locations, often commissioning these manufacturers to make “exclusive” designs specifically for the retailers.

Ever wondered why the quality of one piece of furniture was so much better or worse than another at the same retail store? It’s probably because different manufacturers made them. Each manufacturer will have their own standards, own materials, own methods, etc. that will be different from the next. Some will be made with better materials, some not-so-much. Most retailers, while they might have “standards”, often times rarely enforce these standards at the manufacturing level, often producing less than high-quality furniture.

There are a few exceptions to this like Ethan Allen, a manufacturer and retailer who owns and runs their own manufacturing plants around the world, allowing them to have quality control over every item they sell.  

Before you dismiss all retail furniture - consider your lifestyle. All levels of furniture have a place in life, whether you have growing kids, young pets, or perhaps you are renting and don’t own your home yet, a lower level furniture purchase can be a perfect fit for your lifestyle - they are durable enough to survive a few years, but after some time, they will begin to show their flaws and you will want to start looking for a replacement for these, which often times is a perfect moment in life to considering buying a high quality piece- once the kids are old enough to not be jumping on the furniture or spilling their drinks and food, or once your pet is old enough to not scratch or chew on your furniture, or once you have purchased a home and have “settled down”.

Perhaps you are in a different phase of life completely, maybe you already own your home, and you are wanting quality pieces of furniture to last for many years to come. This is not the time to buy retail furniture! It might be tempting to, simply because retail furniture items are cheaper than custom or semi-custom pieces, but don’t be swayed- keep in mind you are purchasing furniture now that should last you the rest of your life- or longer. But, should you choose to ignore my advise, and want to purchase retail furniture, please be extremely careful- this could just be a waste of money, and in the end you could end up spending more than you would have if you just went with custom or semi-custom furniture from a quality manufacturer.

A great way to determine if you are buying quality furniture is to understand how furniture is made. See my blog post [HERE] that will tell you everything to look for when purchasing furniture. Also, you could simply ask the sales person in any retail store how their furniture is made and what makes it different from any other manufacturer. If they can’t answer this question, or if their responses are vague, wrong, misleading, or they don’t know, I would suggest you ask a manager or for another associate for assistance. This is usually a sign that this is not a quality furniture store. Also, beware, some associates will lie directly to your face simply to get a sale, so be sure to do your own homework. Often times the furniture you are investing in will last longer than the home you purchase, or the car you drive, so you want to make sure it is a quality investment.  

Designers have access to quality wholesalers and manufacturers that the public does not. And a good designer will have done the research on each of these manufacturers to have a better understanding of the quality of furnishings they produce and should be able to share this information with you.  

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Top 7 Questions to ask your Interior Designer before hiring them

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Every designer is different and they all run their businesses a little differently, but there are several questions that you need to ask every designer during every interview:

Start by saying “Let’s review your Contract(s) and make sure we are on the same page”:

1. What will you need from me before getting started?

2. How do you charge, and when will I be billed?

3. Please explain to me how your design process flows, and at what points you will need me most? (You may end up having several more questions after this question based on your designers responses).

4. When will you purchase my furniture/art/accessories?

5. When will the furniture/art/accessories be delivered, and by whom?

5. Will you be attending the deliveries? This is often referred to as the installation date(s) by designers.

6. How will you follow up with me after the installation?

7. When will I know the design process is completed?

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How to Determine Your Budget

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Let’s not focus on what you “should” spend, but instead what you are comfortable with. I like to call it value engineering- we can mix higher end items with lower end items- it all depends on where you want to invest your money. For instance if you like to entertain people and often have movie nights, I would suggest putting more a focus on a comfortable sofa and seating arrangement and less on accessories or art- we can find some great options at a fraction of the cost. Or if you like to surround yourself with well curated accessories, we can put more focus on these items, and less on the furniture in the room.

Now what would you feel comfortable investing into the purchase of your sofa? $10,000? $6,500? $3,000?

*** go through each item in the room- keep a running budget list going. Once you have gone through all large items in a room, add up all items- this is now your rough budget.***

 

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Avoid Common Furniture Mistakes

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Here is a list of common mistakes I see clients (before they hire me) make:

- window drapes are too short

- window drapes are mounted too low on the wall

- too short or too tall nightstands

- too short lamps

- Artwork is mounted too high on the wall

- artwork is too small or too large

- too many accessories

- under utilization of storage options

- ceiling lighting is too small

- too trendy

the list goes on, but these are some of the most common mistakes I see clients making. If you would like to better understand how to avoid these mistakes, check out my e-book "Everything You Need to Know About Interior Design" on Amazon and you will get every little "secret" I have on making your home mistake-free! Click HERE for my e-book.     

 

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Is my designer charging me too much?

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I get this question a lot. And the short answer is it depends. It depends on the scope of your project, the size of your house, the location, the market, if you want project management included in the designers fee, the contractors needed, etc. all of these factors will affect your designers fee. There’s no set standard fee for a designers services because there is no one project that is identical to another.

That may not be the answer you are looking for, so to be a little more specific, consider that most designers charge anywhere from $75-$1500 an hour. That will depend on your location, the designers experience and the scope of their work. If you are working on a commercial project (restaurant, office, etc), often times designers will charge a flat rate that can vary from $3/sf-$20/sf. 

A healthy budget for product is usually around 10% of the cost of your home. For instance if you bought a $100,000 home, you should expect to pay $10,000 in home goods. So if your designer is budgeting for right around 10% of the market value of your home, they are probably right on target. This 10% budget is a good example for any middle class family who is looking for quality pieces mixed with affordable pieces. I would suggest not going any lower than this, or you will be replacing your furniture far too often since cheap furniture will break down at much faster rate than any quality piece. You could also increase this budget signifanctlly if you are looking to purchase only heirloom quality furniture and accessories. But 10% should give you a good starting point for product price ranges. 

Not to mention a designer also has to consider their profit margins. In order for a designer to stay in business, they must have a profit margin. Asking someone to adjust their profit margins for you and your project simply because you believe they should make less on your project than they would be is not only rude but could be considered insulting. Would you ask your doctor to lower their profit margins on the prescription drug they are going to give you simply because you have already paid a fee to see them? Most of us don’t even think twice about this, so why would a designer be willing to negotiate with you on this? 

So so if you are concerned that your designee is charging you too much, take a look at;

1. The designer. How many years experience do they have? What qualifications do they have? Do they have any designations (ASID, CID, etc)? How many clients have they had? Are the fees they are charging reflective of this information?

2. Your budget. How much are you willing to spend? I’ve given you an outline of what to expect on furnishings and the hourly rate you can expect from a designer listed above, so what are you ready to spend your budget on? 

Other options you have:

I’ve had clients who are willing to pay for my services by the hour, but want to purchase the furniture at a later date due to budget constraints. Some designers can be flexible like this and work with your budget over a period of time. 

Another option is to ask your designer to only shop retail locations and you can purchase their furniture on your own. Keep in mind, with retail stores, their furnishings are fashionable, and can often be discontinued, so don’t wait too long to get that perfect sofa or table lamp, because it could be gone next week.  

I now only offer clients retail shopping lists through my online design service package, this way my clients can purchase at their leisure, whenever the budget allows. I feel that this takes a lot of the pressure off of the client-designer relationship and puts the client in charge of their finances, which most clients seem to enjoy.  

 

Every designer has their own way of running their business, and unless you ask for a breakdown of services versus product, you may think their overall fee is very high, but in actuality, when you break everything down, their services and product fees are probably pretty accurate- that is if you have a good designer who understands what they are doing.  

Even if I am not the designer for you, I want you to be armed with all the knowledge I can share with you, so you can make the best decision for you and your home.  

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Get more for your vacation rental!

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If you have a vacation rental, or are considering renting your home out as a vacation rental, hiring a designer could help you get top dollar! 

A Designer will help layout your home so that it functions at its best and feels welcoming. Often times when we live in a space for a long period of time, we often overlook little details that a designer could point out that might make a guest feel unwelcome. For instance, family photos can add a touch of personality to a home, but it can also make a guest feel unwelcome- as if they are staying in a room that belongs to someone else. While this might literally be the case, you don't want a paying guest to feel as if they are staying in someone else's room.   

Designers are great at making a room feel pulled together, but also welcoming. Many designers offer design only services and paid-for advise (I do!), in which they will share their professional opinion on your room, so you can get top dollar!  

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