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5 Simple Ways to Make Your AirBNB Look Better

By 10/28/2020December 7th, 202047 Comments

I’ve stayed at a lot of AirBNBs over the years and I’ve noticed they all seem to be lacking a few style essentials. In fact, I often bring these 5 items with me to make the AirBNB look better and feel cozier while I’m visiting. Perhaps this advice will help you add more style to your AirBNB and your home!  

We have arrived to stay at a cottage in Comox, 10 steps away from the Health Retreat Terreeia and my Mom are attending this week!

Terreeia is doing another week because she’s clear she didn’t listen the way she’s listening now since it took until the third week (the last time she was here) for the message to land.

And the message is: Food is medicine, you CAN heal yourself.

She invited my Mom to come and share it with her and I’m here because I can work from anywhere, so why not somewhere where I’m looking right at the water.

We are 10 steps away from the beach AND the facility so it’s perfect for the 3 of us while we’re here.

In September when we were staying at an AirBNB not to far away we dropped by to take a look at the interior.

Overall, it was just fine for a really convenient spot to stay during the retreat, but this is what the living room looked like:

The place was, shall we say… NAKED.

No lamps. No decor. And the furniture looked like it was under arrest because it was pushed up against the walls 🙂

Since we were driving, I brought a few items that would instantly make this space feel cozier and of course I couldn’t wait to arrange the furniture:

Are you impressed that I happened to have a turquoise tray in my accessories room, haha? I was.

I looked at so many AirBNBs in this area when we stayed here before. And wow, there’s a lot of badly arranged furniture out there and literally NEVER enough (if any) lamps.

5 Simple Ways to Make Your AirBNB Look Better

So if you have an AirBNB, here are 5 easy ways to make it look more appealing to your guests.

And, if you are driving to one, I highly recommend that you bring a few of these items with you, like I did.

1. Each room should have at least two lamps 

Here are a few of my favorite neutral lamps. Remember to purchase these in pairs.

And if you are just planning to stay at an AirBNB, I promise you won’t be disappointed if you show up with a few extra lamps.

style airbnb best lamps

Shop Lamps for AirBNB
Top Left | Top Middle | Top Right
Bottom Left | Bottom Middle | Bottom Right

2. Add a tray to the coffee table

If you have a few objects you need to corral (say, AirBNB instructions, vacation guides, etc.) a tray automatically creates the perfect tablescape and keeps things looking tidy.

I just happened to have a perfectly matching turquoise tray in my stash, but a white tray would have worked as well.

Easy ways to style airbnb trays

Shop Coffee Table Trays for AirBNB
White Acrylic Tray | Marble Tray | Woven Tray | Double Tray | Wood Tray

3. Add a stack of magazines or coffee table books

If you don’t have any coffee table books, a stack of magazines is easy to come by. They work great as a pedestal for any decor objects or even as a coaster.

And read this post if you need my 5 easy steps for creating a beautiful vignette or tablescape.

4. Add 2-3 throw pillows and a cozy blanket

I have discovered that AirBNBs (and hotels, for that matter) never have enough throw pillows. And, draping a nice, cozy throw blanket over the sofa softens everything up in the room.

Read more: Here’s a Shortcut to Arranging Pillows on a Sectional Sofa

5. Add a faux potted plant (or two) in a trendy vessel

A trendy vase for succulents, faux greenery or even a supermarket potted plant is a great way to level up your AirBNB style and makes any vignette look better. Plus, I think a beautiful vessel (whether it’s filled with faux or real plants) is an essential object for a beautiful tablescape.

AirBNB decorating essential plants

Shop Trendy Plant Vessels
Geo Planters | Pedestal Vase | Mid Century Planter | Hand Painted Pots

Bonus decor objects like votives with tea lights and a shallow bowl of green apples or moss balls will also amp up your AirBNB style.

How to arrange your AirBNB furniture

This advice is for anyone who has not considered that their furniture needs to be moved CLOSER together. Your furniture should create a conversation area.

There was almost 5 ft behind this sofa with a chaise (once I pushed it in to create a conversation area), so that means there’s room against the wall behind it for cabinet with art above it, and two lamps on it, or a starburst mirror.

If you have less room, then you might add a sofa table instead.

Read decorating secret #18 in this post for more advice about creating a conversation area.


And one more piece of styling advice for your AirBNB (or your home): Do not add charcoal to black (i.e. charcoal rug above with black sofas). Charcoal and black are both too dark to make each other sing.

Yes, I realize a black or charcoal rug might be easy to find, but those colours simply die together.

If you’re shopping for a sofa for your rental, read this post first.

Over to you my lovelies! Who else brings home decor with you to make a stay more comfortable? I can’t be the only one?

If you’d like help creating a living room that fills you with joy every time you walk in, check out my Get me Started eDesign package here.

Related posts:

How to Style a Vignette in 5 Easy Steps

How to Create a Vignette or Tablescape

What’s Missing if Your House is Not Trendy (Who cares?)

85 pins


  • dia niels says:

    I don’t understand why you go to other people’s places and critique it all? Do you have their permission? Nobody needs coffee table trays at an AIRBNB, you are likely writing off the cost of staying there as a business expense by bringing a pillow and a throw. Doesn’t anyone hire you to stage / decorate their space?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I very much appreciate receiving your comment! And just so you know, I do this for me. There are millions of spaces that look like this. This is a free post to help you and everyone else who needs it, create a cozier space since it’s that time of year! This happens to be a cottage attached to a hotel, but I have stayed in many hotel suites that looked very similar. Since I’m a blogger and a decorator and I can make any interior look better, it’s fun for me to do it and if I can help someone create a space that makes them happier with a few simple tips, it’s my pleasure to do that! Maria

      • Maria Killam says:

        One more thing! NO, not enough people hire me to decorate their spaces (locally) so my creativity gets poured into my blog or anywhere I happen to be at any given moment 🙂 YOU NAILED IT, HAHA. Maria

      • DeniseGK says:

        I do something similar to you! I’m not a decorator, but I am a darn good cook. When we travel I bring all kinds of kitchen stuff. And we grocery shop on the way to where we’re staying so that we have the food we need after unpacking the car and don’t need to make an extra trip back into town. Everywhere we have ever stayed has the essentials and usually lots of other stuff. But, a lot of times it is a cheap, rather crap version. My stuff is good! All my knives are sharp and have ergonomic handles and well-balanced weight. My cutting board won’t damage my knives or walk the counter or run out of room after slicing 10 cherry tomatoes. My coffee grinder and coffee maker make excellent coffee because they are not full of old coffee residue or mold spores. I could go on because I bring plenty.
        THE POINT is that this kind of stuff is all over the internet and social media – there is no shame or criticism of people like me who bring kitchen stuff to a place with a stocked kitchen. It’s ‘allowed’ right now. There’s really no difference between me and you as far as reasoning and justification for our actions. It’s just that living room stuff or decor stuff hasn’t gotten the right celebrity treatment yet to influence the zeitgeist and gain popular ‘allowance’. I do what I do because I cook even on vacation and having the kitchen the way I want it allows me to RELAX completely even though an outsider might see me and think I haven’t really gone on vacation from regular life. If you need lamps and a fake plant to relax on your own vacation, then it is a sign of intelligence that you bring them with you and don’t hamstring your vacation before it even starts.

    • Lorri says:

      I would LOVE a coffee table tray to hold all the instructions and area guides that come with vacation rentals! Always found all that stuff unsightly and messy. Having it in one place on a tray would have felt less chaotic.

    • Diane says:

      Geez, what a grumpy bump. Maria’s article was very helpful and was trying to spread some joy. I think all designers just can’t help themselves I just want to make the world a better place for everyone. (It is a blessing and a curse we share) I thought I was the only one that covered up the pillows or rearranged the furniture! We went to Key West one year thinking oh that’ll be aqua turquoise white and happy. NO we felt like we were in a Gulag prison camp. it was all stark white and black, even the art work. Yes, that can be pulled off in some settings, but it was really harsh and not spring break friendly. I think establishments now are trying to do less upholstery and fabric because of the cleaning factor in the sense of germs and just opening back up and staying COVID free. I noticed many chain hotels are taking carpet out completely. Architect/hospitality design/past hotel owner

      • Maria Killam says:

        Thanks Diane, I think it’s hard to travel when you live in a lovely home yourself. I immediately understand why the super rich have homes in the 5 cities that they love (for example). Then they aren’t dealing with bad decor, no lamps, no pillows, and above all, uncomfortable furniture. Thanks for your comment! Maria

  • Kay says:

    I spend a lot of time online looking for Airbnbs that already look pretty good, so have not brought styling items. What I do bring is an electric tea kettle, a teapot, good tea, good olive oil, and good sea salt. Also my raw milk for the tea. I can manage almost anything when fortified by a proper cup of tea.

    You’re so right about furniture arrangement and lamps. Also lamps on both sides of the bed, for reading. IMO, Airbnb owners should live in the space for a day or two before renting it out. If they aren’t comfortable, their guests certainly won’t be.

  • Norine says:

    You are always about the tips, Maria. That’s why I have been following and learning for a few years.
    I do not think I would bring decor, BUT I see it makes a world of difference. You made the room appealing and more inviting. A motel is just a bed, so we go to BnBs to have a place to sit, converse, relax, and have more choices for downtime and bad weather.
    In these COVID days, it makes sense that owners would strip out pillows and throws to avoid the “ick” factor that clients would mistakenly conjure. A little bit of staging would make a world of difference in this place. . . otherwise I think stale dorm room of hand me downs.

  • Alexis says:

    I loved your changes. Simple, but very effective.

    May I ask a silly question? I have never understood throw pillows. Are they simply an opportunity to repeat colors and make things look cozy? Or do you actually use them? I usually move them out of the way, but perhaps I’m missing something here.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, you must have a comfortable sofa if you don’t need them on your sofa! Certainly they are needed in this place with the stiff leather sofas, but I use them with all my furniture 🙂 yes they make sitting more comfortable, but maybe I’m just old 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Maria

  • Julie S says:

    This is great – we have a tiny house guesthouse that we are planning to rent out for weekends at some point soon and I’ve been thinking through all the things that make a place cozy and inviting as decorating is such a high value for me. Free surface space is almost nil in such a small, packed space but I’m still taking all these ideas to heart! A swing arm shaded wall sconce will be workable as a lamp next to the sofa for instance.

  • Joan says:

    Another great post, Maria! You have a seemingly effortless way of bringing beauty to the world. You’ve given me some ideas for setting up my new home this week. Now I think I need that round coffee table tray — haha.

    Welcome to the Island. Have a wonderful week. My love to all.


  • priscilla says:

    OMG Maria, you crack me up! I have been a secret follower for about 15 years (can that be?). You have me laughing so hard because you bring things to hoosh up your airbnb! Of course you do! Lamps and trays and throws and potted plants and LAMPS! (I know, I know, you were driving so why not throw in the kitchen sink?).
    AND, it’s such a great idea! I am going to do this from now on. Sometimes the places are so sterile and thrown together it makes me want to weep.
    I do get a kick out of you. Carry on being you, you are the best you I know!!!

  • Sally says:

    I’ve been following you for years and took your lamp tip to heart in my own house, and we also have an Airbnb. I have placed lots of accent lamps throughout, and I turn all of them on the day the guest arrives, so it creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

  • Mary says:

    We are closing on a vacation home in two weeks that we will be renting part time. I can’t wait to purchase one of your design packages to give me the playbook to make it a fabulous rental – yay!

  • Nikki says:

    Maria, I just love it when you show us how to style! You’re like the Barefoot Contessa as she sets a fabulous dish out and says “How easy was that?!” I love how you can work with what you have and add some touches to turn it from “drab” to “fab”.

    Looking sadly now at my own rather “drab” living room – wish you come here and work your magic!

    Have a wonderful time! Keep going Terreeia, someday you’ll look back and wonder why you ever ate the way you used to! And there is nothing better than being healthy! On a personal note, I gave up sugar years ago. It was really tough and I swear sugar is addictive. Once I got past a certain point I had absolutely no craving for it anymore – now almost everything is too sweet for me and I wonder why I ever ate cake and candy!

  • Lynda says:

    Oh Maria, your decorating advice is spot on but if this is about hosting a BNB, there are some other things to think about. I have had a BNB for years on the Oregon coast, and grading myself against your list, I probably would get a B or a B minus. It has a comfortable and cozy feel and people write good reviews. But no free-standing lamps, no fuzzy blankets, no magazines. I agree that warm lighting is important, but in real life lamps get knocked over and broken. Better to use sconces or heavy floor lamps tucked out of the way. Fuzzy blanket? Somebody’s baby is going to barf on it and then they either leave it there to become disgusting or they pitch it in the trash. Pillows don’t stay put, either. They wander anywhere. Magazines and books disappear, too. Maria, you didn’t hesitate to move the furniture and the people before you probably didn’t either. That could well explain the unfortunate arrangement you found. My experience is that people even move furniture (and art!) from room to room. So I would say, make your BNB feel feel inviting, but don’t depend on movable things: use wall color and wall-hung accessories.

  • Carolynne says:

    Agree! People are trending toward longer-term country AirBnB rentals to escape the crowds in COVID times. Clean, comfortable, AND appealing encourage longer stays. Earlier this year, our guest apartment became the perfect place to quarantine my niece returning from Europe. We made it cozy and homey for her—lamps, pillows, throws, books, puzzles and games. Now it has charm and personality that renters appreciate

  • Benesse says:

    Well…I suppose it is an improvement.. But why stop there?
    Get a potted tree, get more lamps with interesting shades, and for God’s sake get some art/prints on the walls. Like lots. This is not a huge expense (that would be too easy) but it does require some thinking and creativity.

  • elle says:

    The additions you made add so much! I love looking at what you do, the colors you pick and how decor items relate to other aspects of the room. But if I were to come into a rental with throw blankets and lots of pillows, I would wonder how clean they are and if the throw blanket had been washed between guests. It would be more comfortable for me to bring my own, but if I were flying, there just isn’t room.

    Here at home, I have been pondering what kind of pillows I can add to increase the cozy and styled factor. I have ideas but cannot find either ready made pillow covers or fabric that has the texture and colors I envision. Sigh. I need Maria!

  • Lorri says:

    I don’t bring decor with me, but I often tweak what’s there. Our family stayed in a three-story rustic cabin a few years ago, and I definitely “adjusted” some stuff. 😉 I didn’t do anything major, but it did look a lot better.

  • Cher Donovan says:

    I laughed when I saw your post on redoing the room. My family has a timeshare on the beach close to where we live and we go there for a week, two times a year. One of my favorite things is to load up the car with styling items and every time make it different. I have been doing this for years. Like you, I love a beautiful room and get depressed when there is not beauty around. Perhaps, Dia can understand that some of us do this for US as we get depressed if beauty is not surrounding up and also redoing spaces makes us SO very happy. First thing I do when arriving in the condo is get some magazines, put my throw across the couch, take out some large platters and dishes and fill them with fruit. Then I go out for a walk, pick flowers and put them on the table. Then I rearrange the furniture and throw some colorful beach towels on the patio furniture outside. I have not thought of pillows, plant and a tray… time I’ll do that. In Southern California, we have flowers and plants all year long, so I can snip some succulents or tree or bush branches and bring a cool pot. Thanks for the ideas. I will now tell my family to stop calling me crazy for doing this each trip. I will point them to your blog…ha ha.

  • Christine Kwasny says:

    Great tips for hosts! Only decor I bring are tea lights. I have a box of cooking and cleaning essentials including a fresh kitchen sponge, dishwasher disinfectant, a saute pan, a cutting board, and two sharp knives. Most rentals are pretty gross in these areas….the sheets and bathroom may smell of bleach and be sparkling clean but the sponge is typically ancient, and the dishwasher may never have been cleaned. 🤢 No idea why these get overlooked.

  • Martha says:

    We have stayed at a number of really nice guest houses and condos. Most of the time there are very few if any lamps. I always lament that there is never any real place to read.

  • Anonymom says:

    Throw pillows are a way for children to torment us by moving them askew as they play, so the room immediately looks untidy. That’s their purpose! I remove them to a closet shelf asap.

  • Linda R Gabry says:

    Hi Maria. What a fun post. I have never brought things to add to a rental, but I do rearrange furniture. In fact, wherever I am, in anyone’s house, I rearrange furniture in my mind, though I would never be so bold or offensive to take action, even verbally. Just a little mind hobby!

  • You are not alone in this, Maria! My family thinks I’m mental but I can’t relax in a space that feels neglected. And I agree with your list of “rules” although I prefer 3 lamps 😉
    Love your work and happy healing to you all!

    • Maria Killam says:

      OMG let me rephrase that then, every living room should have a minimum of 6-8 lamps, I’m just asking that an AirB&B have a minimum of two rather than zero, haha. Thanks for your comment, Maria

  • Heidi says:

    I love that you did this of your own volition! We have a (currently closed) 5-star Airbnb and I concur with everything you say. It’s all the little touches that people mention that have given us our perfect reviews. Non-decor things that help, too: snacks, usb chargers absolutely everywhere, all the bathroom stuff like q-tips, cotton swabs, lotion. I just think of what made my visit to a spa feel special and do that.

    Oh yeah, the other thing that a lot of Airbnbs do is have really flimsy furniture! Please don’t do that.

  • Kristine C. says:

    I love these before and afters. I learn so much from them!

  • Melissa says:

    I’m cracking up Maria!!! I’m surprised you haven’t painted the place or at least left instructions to call you when they are ready for that too!

  • Renee says:

    Many winters ago, we rented an oceanside low rise condo for 6 weeks in California. From the 4th floor, we had a panoramic view of the ocean, the beach and splendid sunsets. The condo was fairly well decorated because the owners spent every summer there with their children and grandchildren as occasional visitors.

    There were a few things that needed to be taken care of immediately in the condo: removal of the fake plants that had years of dust on them – one on the counter between the kitchen and the dining room Yuk! and the other in the middle of the dining room table double Yuk! I picked them up with the tips of my fingers and hid them in a spare closet. The dining room table was well laid out with attractive placemats, plates, bowls and napkins but there was an ugly plastic tablecloth beneath all of that which I immediately removed only to discover that the tablecloth was used to cover numerous and very obvious marks on the oak tabletop. 🙁

    My husband went back to work after 3 weeks so I was left by myself to enjoy the warmth and the sunshine for another 3 weeks. I had already explored the environs with my husband and was left with a dilemma – Oh, what to do? A light bulb went on. I went shopping and returned to the condo with all the supplies I needed to refinish the solid oak table. I didn’t ask the owners; I just started working on it. Luckily, there was a big balcony with giant doors which allowed me to put the table outside to strip it. Once that was done, I brought it back in out of the ocean spray and proceeded to finish my work over the next three days. The table looked gorgeous! I returned home without saying a word. The next day I received a message from the owners thanking me profusely for their lovely table. Sometimes, all you need to improve a place is to take good care of what you already own.
    Have you ever been in a hotel room and attempted to move a lamp to give yourself better light for reading and the light is solidly affixed to whatever it’s sitting on? There’s a reason for that; people steal. It’s a sickness; even honest people steal from hotel rooms. They take anything that’s not screwed down. I suspect your B&B room was decorated so sparsely for that very reason. It’s a good thing you brought your own decorations. Good job Maria!

  • Ann Crutchfield says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for so long, that you feel like your a friend! I laughed when I read that you were styling your Air BnB and said to myself, “Well, of course she would” (like I really know you). Because of your blog: (1) I have a conversation area in my living room (2) 4 lamps in the living room (3) my books are arranged on the bookshelves by color (4) my bathroom has while subway tile. Unfortunately, I remodeled the kitchen before I “met” you.

  • Krisanne says:

    I am new to your blog and I feel like I have learned so much from you in such a short time. Congrats on your anniversary!

  • Monica says:

    I think these are great tips for anyone! The before and after is amazing really.

  • Becky says:

    We had to put away all of the pillows, throws and soft goods in our rental because of covid in order to comply with county health rules

  • Becky says:

    PS. It goes without saying that if your readers rearrange the furniture, please put it back the way it was…don’t make any extra work for the cleaning crew….who work very hard and in most cases have to “turn” the unit in A short time and move on to the next.

  • Patricia says:

    I love the styling you did! Btw, can you tell me where the gorgeous velvet pillow came from? Looking for something like that for a client!

  • Dee says:

    Yes, Maria! My sister has always done this. She brings family photos in frames and will place a couple in the living area and also one or two on the dresser and night table in her bedroom. Also candles and flowers in vases. She will even rearrange the furniture if she doesn’t like the layout. We tease her about it but it really does make her room feel cozy like home. Truth be told, we always prefer to spend time socializing in her space!

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