A visually attractive space is a major way to increase bookings.


Decide Budget and Theme

While budget and market research is outside the scope of this article.  You will want to check out your competition in your market, and some of the best listings you can find on Airbnb to see what they look like.  Then back into what you want your space to look like.  

To determine your budget, you should take into consideration how high end your space will need to be to compete.  Figure out the projected cashflow, and work backwards to something that will have a reasonable payback period. On my rentals I figure it needs to be profitable with a pay down period of about 12-24 months.  
Some hosts go very far with their “themes” and do things like calling their listing “the coffee house” or “the beer house.” Which can be a nice way to differentiate your listing.  What I am focused on when furnishing the space is more along the lines of what do I want the feeling to be.  Should it be modern, clean, cold, warm, cozy, bright, traditional, contemporary, rustic, etc.  

Looking at hotel chains and how the decorate is a great way to research and figure out what you want to do.  While Hyatt and Hilton are fairly comparable chains on amenities, pricing etc.  The way they go about furnishing their rooms is very different.  By looking to hotel chains for inspiration you can cut a bit of the guesswork out as they have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into their decor.

Using this research, you can now write out a short description to describe your style.  I went with a concept of modern, clean, minimalist.  The minimalist aspect has two purposes in that it is cheaper to keep things sparse rather than trying to fill every space with furniture and decor.  Besides writing it down, you can also create a Pintrest board that visually encapsulates this idea.  

It is important to start with a direction/theme because purchasing this many items inconsistently will not lead to a design that catches the eye of people scrolling through the listings on Airbnb.  

Find Major Items First

I recommend starting with finding a sofa, bed frames, nightstands, dining room table and chairs first.  Coordinate each bedroom to have a similar style.  I like to keep the bedrooms different because purchasing 3 identical bedroom sets does not look that fun and interesting in a set of photos.  

I have not found a sofa sleeper or sofa that I really like online.  I think designing a sofa that needs to be flat packed just doesn’t result in something that visually appealing or sturdy.  Please prove me wrong and show me the light though. I would love to turn buying sofas into the online experience that is the rest of my Airbnb furnishing adventure.  

Amazon is a great place to go for bedframes and nightstands.  Remember to pay attention to the scale of items on amazon. It is very easy to order something because it looks nice then realize it is way too small or too big for the room you intend to put it in.  I have had a lot of success with the brand Zinus.  They have been very reasonably priced stylish items that are easy to assemble.  

I purchase almost all of these minor items from Amazon.  It is just easier to build out a spreadsheet ahead of time, review what I want to purchase before the space is even ready, then put in the order.  It is also great for purchasing items I only realized are needed once the other furniture is in place.  

I recommend purchasing most of the smaller things on Amazon.  I also recommend purchasing items that need to be replenished and linens on Amazon to keep the supply chain simple.

Finding decor

This is probably the hardest part for me.  My actual house does not have a whole lot of decor, or if it does its mostly sentimental items.  


For my first unit, I took it slow.  I bought a few things, put them in the space and moved on from there.  This iterative approach worked great for me.  It is not how a professional would do it.  For instance our stager we use for our flips plans a space, comes with one moving truck full of everything, and installs it all in one day. I am not a professional interior designer.  Not by a long shot. So the iterative approach worked for me.

My biggest tip is to look to the furniture you already picked to inform you on how to decorate the room.  For instance, I bought a bed frame that has a very angular tufting pattern for the headboard.  I ended getting art that was a series of triangles to work with it.  Then some square but geometric seeming nightstands and lamps.  

All of this then ties together pretty well.  

The other bedroom in that house has a bedframe that is knotty pine.  The shape of the frame is pretty modern, but the material is pretty rustic.  Not what I was going for initially when I saw the furniture online.  I ended up getting nightstands that had clean white tops and a similar wood base to try to pull it towards the modern side.  Then I got some simplified abstract pictures of leaves for art for the walls.

Linnens

I purchased all of these on Amazon. I have seen recommendations to try discount stores like TJ Max.  The way they contract manufacture some of their stuff under labels makes me nervous.  

For bedding I bought a few different brands on Amazon and have settled on the Mellanni microfiber sheets.  I have also tried the amazon basics and Pinzon brands.  Pinzon makes a pretty great percale cotton sheet.  Which being 100% cotton results in slower drying time and more wrinkles.  The microfiber drys fast, feels very luxury.  Being around $25 for a full sheet set also means it will not brea the bank to replace them.
I have found the Amazon basics towels to be quite sufficient.  

Stocking the kitchen and bath

There are so many SKU’s for the kitchen and bath.  It is a bit of work assembling all the items to make a complete experience.
Coffee is a big area of concern.  

Sourcing notes

My end goal with Airbnb is to build a scalable solution.  Though I think there is a fallacy of premature optimization for scaling, spending too much time working in an unscalable fashion can lead to trouble as well.  It will create mental blocks when thinking about starting a new listing in the future.  
I mentally categorize time spent sourcing in 3 ways.  


Learning    

Shopping around and figuring out what works takes time.  When just getting started, I checked out many of the discount furniture and decor stores in my area.  Many of the stores, I was not impressed with and did not think they provided much opportunity.  

I did find one store that seemed very helpful for decor style items.  I also found a store that seemed to cary floor models or other one off items from local furniture stores. They had a lot of dining room chairs that were not sold in sets for $10 each, which could be useful as side chairs or desk chairs in bedrooms.  They also had really nice looking larger dining tables.  Then they had a whole area of Sofas.  A lot of the merchandising was in a similar style to what I am looking for.

Inefficiency permitable at small scale    

While the goal of scale may be to have a list of items you can order online, and an email of a sales rep at a local furniture company where you can send a couple lines and they send back a quote and then deliver the item to your Airbnb.  I find it ok to do more of this work myself at small scale.  Maybe there is time when scale does not permit spending an extra 20 hours researching and running around town purchasing to set up an individual listing.  On the first few, I think it is ok.

Do what is best for your business at current scale.  If you fall victim to premature scaling, it can hurt your business today and delay actually being able to scale in the future.  

Actually sourcing    

This is the time spent that I consider hard to optimize away.  Likely someone in my business is going to have to do this work.  For instance, building the spreadsheet orders based on the actual space.  Picking items to decorate with.  Assembling and arranging furniture in the Airbnb listing.  
Looking at my time spent this way helps keep me sane.  It allows myself to give myself some grace when doing something the first time and trying to figure out if there is a long term opportunity here.  
Personally I like the mid century modern look.  As such, I have a decent amount of furniture.