How to Set up the Ultimate Airbnb Space

It seems like everyone you meet is talking about setting up an Airbnb these days. It’s a great way to turn a spare room into some extra income, or earn a little extra money while you’re traveling. It seems like every house I drive past here in Nashville has a separate attic apartment added onto their bungalow.

As a customer, I have stayed in many (many!) Airbnbs in addition to hotels over the past five years. I see some real advantages and I understand why so many people prefer them. In my life, there is definitely a place for both, but when we have our kiddo or dogs with us, we almost always choose a home above a hotel.

Today, I want to share some of my tips that I’ve learned as a host and as a customer for setting up the ultimate Airbnb space!

This post is sponsored by Brooklinen, a company we use and love! It’s great to be able to buy something like bedding online and be able to trust the quality without having to go to a store. In fact, this quilt is so cozy I was tempted to steal it for my own bed. High quality bedding is a HUGE part of setting up a comfortable space, since many guests will do very little more than sleep in your space. It’s the one aspect of the house that everyone cares about!

Here are my five tips!

Tip 1: Think practical. 

I am a person who loves art, little vintage finds, cute rugs and fancy espresso makers. I’m a detail person! But it’s important to remember that not everyone is. It’s important to remember that the decorations actually matter very little in comparison to the practical elements of the space. So nail down those first!

Here are few BIG ones that have made me CRAZY in past bnb stays when I couldn’t locate them.

-Wifi password … make it SO obvious and post it a few places.
-Spare towels and toilet paper. The essentials.
-A hair dryer (see below for the cute bag I found for mine!)
-Space to unpack bags and hang some things.
-Iron.
-Wine/bottle opener (lol … but seriously)

(Found these on Amazon—super functional since they make it so easy to find!)

A place to hang your clothes is an essential. It doesn’t have to be a full-size closet.

2. Decorate minimally. 

Obviously, I want my spaces to be cute enough for my guests to take an Instagram in. But there is no need to overdecorate and overfurnish. Keep it simple and sweet.

3. Splurge on nice bedding.  

There are so many things you can be thrifty with in a guest space, but I think it’s important to choose nice sheets, a quality mattress and good towels. Picking quality sheets can elevate the whole look and feel of your bedding. The sheets I picked from Brooklinen for this space are super cozy without being heavy, so guests will be comfortable regardless of the season they stay at the home. The comforter I picked is incredibly soft! Oh! And don’t forget a combination of soft and firm pillows.

Turning back the covers is such a nice touch! Bonus points if you leave chocolate or a nice note!

4. Minimize personal details and clutter. 

It’s weird staying in someone’s space with a ton of family photos everywhere. So keep it chill. And if you are renting out a room in your home (or your whole home), go through and minimize the personal clutter before your guests arrive. They will appreciate the gesture!

5. Most importantly … always sleep in a room before your guests do. 

You need to know about that weird creaky sound, or how hot it gets or if blackout curtains are necessary. Sleeping in the room helps you to remember little details like adding a night light to an area with stairs or buying black wash clothes for removing makeup.

Thank you Brooklinen for sponsoring this post! As an extra bonus they’ve created an ABM promo code! Just use ABM20 at checkout and you can get $20 off your $50 purchase plus free shipping. It makes me so happy to work with brands that produce super nice products like these!

If you have any additional tips about how to set up a comfy Airbnb, I would love to hear them!!!! xx. Elsie

Credits/Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

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  • AirBnBs have proliferated in our town, too. Unfortunately, most are illegal–they don’t pay taxes and have code violations. It makes it hard for those of us who do pay the taxes and adhere to safety codes (like smoke detectors). And in our historic district, renovations have strict requirements–costly ones, like what kind of windows you can put in–which also hurts the owners that respect the requirements.
    We left an empty shelf in the bedroom, so guests have a place to strew their stuff. Adaptor plugs. Flashlight (just in case!). Coffee, tea, sugar. We also supplied creamer, but kept throwing it out because every guest used something different–almond milk, full cream, skim milk…
    As for sheets, we bought antique cotton and linen sheets, which, thanks to their age, are organic, and are beautifully embroidered. They are hard to iron, but it’s worth it, they’re so beautiful. It’s hard to find antique pillow cases, especially in the right size (they get worn more than sheets do), so I made some out of other antique sheets.
    Being a host has been so rewarding. We’ve met so many lovely people. Lots of newlyweds, wedding anniversaries and birthdays, and it’s heartwarming to witness the love.

  • When I look for an Airbnb, the number one thing I care about is the bedding. If it is colorful or a pattern I usually pass. There is just something about crisp white bedding or just quality bedding – the Brooklinen above looks like it would pass my test 😉

    I’d be interested to hear an update in a few months of how running an Airbnb is going and the finances behind it. Is it a better investment than a rental property, for example.

  • I really enjoy staying in airbnbs and yours looks absolutely lovely. I allways stay in smaller appartments or even just rooms as it is only two of us but would love to rent a place like this one day.
    If I don’t like a specific airbnb it has usually something to do with one of these two things:
    Lack of storage space – not just a place to unpack (not just clothes but general stuff as well) but also things like space in the bathroom to hang wet towels, clothes, pj’s etc
    Cleanliness – I’m sure your house will be spottless but even things like comforters and decorative pillows and throws on the bed make me uncomfortable because I doubt these are washed after each guest.

  • Such a great idea to stay the night in the room yourself – I definitely would not have thought that! I’m not sure if I’m an AirBnB person, I love hotels so much, but if the place looked like yours I definitely see the appeal! You always do a lovely job Elsie!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  • I love this!! I’ve stayed in a few Airbnb’s and in one specifically, there was a chalkboard right at the entrance with a friendly note welcoming me and my friends as well as the wifi password and other important information. The host also used magnets to hang keys and left us a bottle of wine! Definitely logging all of this away for when I finally get to open one of my own.

  • I loved watching the process of creating this Airbnb. Definitely hoping to be able to visit someday!
    The worst Airbnb I ever stayed in had no extra little amenities – not even paper towels and no soap for the bathrooms. The beds were uncomfortable and the towels they provided were slightly stained (probably makeup) and also were just smaller, like the ones you get at a hotel for the pool. So definitely quality towels and bedding are a huge bonus.

    The best Airbnb we stayed in truly went above and beyond, but it was so nice to stay there. They provided extra toiletries (shampoo, lotion, and toothpaste) the bed was so comfy and the towels and linens were amazing. They had a binder with all the info about the house, from WiFi password, where to find stuff to make coffee or tea, and how to use the TV and washer/dryer. They even had a binder of restaurants and attractions nearby. They included how to get to public transportation as well as personalized recommendations based upon why we were visiting. I obviously don’t expect all Airbnbs to go to this level, but the thoughtfulness was incredible and I will always choose to stay there again if it’s possible.

    • I love the idea of giving a list of places to visit… we’ve been working on a similar idea for our house. :))

      Ugh- I totally hear you on the no shampoo.. that’s not ok. I’ve stayed at some really gross ones (and really awesome ones) too. The little details matter a lot!

  • So cute! The airbnb me and my husband stayed in on our honeymoon had a list from the owners of all of their favorite local places. They also had a guestbook guests would sign and would write about places they loved to go in the town as well! It was a nice touch and gave us some fun things to go do we didn’t know about and restaurants to try!

  • Excellent post! Totally agree as a frequent AirBNB guest.

    For Wifi, please please please take a moment to change the password to something that’s easy to tap out on your phone. It’s soooo annoying to have to carefully enter 16 alphanumeric characters that I can’t remember.

    To your point on clutter — it’s tempting to want to accessorize a space. But it’s really annoying as a guest when there are no horizontal surfaces to put things on. Finding a place to simply put down necklaces, phones, etc. is sometimes a challenge!

    • Yes on both accounts! I stayed at one place in Brooklyn where I seriously had to put all their clutter in a closet just to have a place to put my toiletries and phone chargers down!

      Ooh that’s another tip — have a place to charge devices by the bed if you can.

    • Ah interesting! We kept our wifi code because the man who installed it told me it will automatically reset if the power ever goes out… so I figured it was easier to just keep it the same. But I love cute wifi names so I was sad! lol

  • All the tips and comments above — yes! For me, also, the sheets need to be cotton, not yucky microfiber or something polyester-y. Spend the extra $ and get real cotton sheets!

    While it’s nice to have a binder with information, it’s much less nice to have a bunch of passive-aggressive notes taped all around the house.

    Also, in the listing, always make sure to list whether there is construction going on nearby, or if you’re on a busy road. Nothing worse than showing up to a place where the photos were taken to look all secluded and realizing that you’re going to be listening to hammering all day. I can deal with noise, for sure, but it’s good to have expectations set accurately.

    Haha can you tell I’ve stayed at many Airbnbs and had many good and bad experiences?? 🙂

  • I’ve stayed at so many air bnbs and hotels it makes knowing what you need and what you don’t need very obvious. I’ve always found when staying in air bnbs- I usually have a question really late at night. It’s nice to have a book in a central location with passwords, channel lists, things to do in the area, local resteraunts that deliver or are close by, and where cleaning supplies are and instructions for the morning you leave. It makes it so much easier.

  • Cleanliness is huge. We’ve stayed at several places where it looks gorgeous but then you just wonder where that throw has been and what exactly has been against an upholstered headboard, etc. I don’t want to wonder, lol.

    Sharp kitchen knives are a rare find unfortunately, as are resealable food storage items for leftovers/food prep. Basic seasonings and ingredients are so nice to have on hand bc buying a whole thing of flour or olive oil for two meals is annoying. Maybe just keep one kitchen cabinet set aside with some starter stuff that guests can use/add to and tape up an inventory/date added list inside the door. The cleaning crew can purge as needed.

    Knowing where basic cleaning supplies are kept is helpful (broom, vacuum, extra paper towels and trash bags). Major bonus points for free dishwasher tabs and laundry detergent, as well as clear instructions on how to use the appliances.

    Having a second key is rare (why??) but really helpful when a group splits up for a time.

    An easily reached and prompt contact person is also important. A power outage can mean WiFi needs to be reset or something and I’ve read lots of bad reviews that gave the poor owners one star just because the WiFi wasn’t perfect (lame but oddly frequent).

    • I’m from Italy. I managed a large Airbnb apartment in Milan for about 10 years (for 6-8 people), and for the past two years I have been managing an Airbnb apartment on Lake Como, where I live.

      Providing only one key serves to empower guests, because when you offer a second set of keys, they are systematically lost or taken away with guests at the end of their stay, due to lack of attention.

      Providing extras such as plenty of toilet paper, or a choice of bathroom products, or other items such as paper for cleaning the house, or two types of coffee or biscuits, causes people to be less aware, and to waste detergents, bath and food items nonchalantly. Some foreign guest has come to the point of stealing toilet paper! It’s all about finding the right middle ground in what to offer and what to limit, as an Airbnb howner.

  • Great suggestions! I would add to the list: make sure there is a mirror in the bedroom, especially if guests will be using a shared bathroom! I hate having to walk down the hall and hog the bathroom just to put my mascara on.

  • Beautiful space! I never would of thought of staying in the space before hand, what a great idea!

  • you know what ? I usually don’t like when people give advice to other people, but when YOU give people decoration advices, it seems so legitimate to me. You’re my favorite decorator ever, so I drink your words (i don’t know if this expression exists in English), you’re sooooo talented that you can give me any lesson (and Laura can about DIY you know … )
    Thank you girls, you’re my favorite blog since … I don’t remember when

  • Hi! Just wondering where you got the bamboo basket purse on the bookshelves? Super cute! Thanks 🙂 love your blog!

  • Love the white and gray color scheme and all that built in shelving!
    One funny thing is that I recently bought the same bamboo clothing rack to house my textile in collection in my design studio- I am loving it an highly recommend it for many reasons- it’s compact, the designer look and it folds up- also affordable!

  • If you advertise it has “kid friendly” you might want to imagine a vacation mode, tired, sugar high 2 year old in the space 🙂 The first Airbnb we stayed in we had our 2 year old son. It was a great apartment in a great location but there was danger and anxiety at 2 year old eye level! Ahhhhh! Martini glasses with little cactus planted in it! Crystals, dvds and books perfectly placed for throwing off shelves. The dining table was a glass top with no back high bar stools. A beautiful space to most was our toddler nightmare! Lots of rearranging happened during that first nap. Now I know to ask more questions. And you are a momma to a 2 year old so you know! But I thought i’d Share 🙂

  • I just want to cozy right up in there! Seeing pictures of the bed/linens is ALWAYS a deciding factor for me in choosing an Airbnb!

    I love when there’s a little guest book left in the home-it’s fun to read through and see what everyone says! We’ve gotten recommendations for local eateries and fun spots from the guest books.

    Another tip–try to create several spots that could be used to get ready, not just a bathroom. When I’ve traveled with my girlfriends in the past we’ve had difficulties all getting ready at once because there weren’t enough mirrors, and lighting was scarce so putting our makeup on was not easy!

  • I never considered staying in the space beforehand but YES! Of course! Personally, I like having a binder with passwords, little notes, etc. AND a few cutesy framed signs with wifi info etc are extra handy. It makes it easy to get information late at night but also is a constant reminder for me that the kids need to take their shoes off. lol. I love when the binder has cute little notes about the best places to eat, events that are happening that weekend, and little notes about the house.

  • Can I ask where the bed is from? I’ve been looking for one like that-

  • You mentioned a wine bottle opener & coffee but a small coffee pot was not on the list. That would definitely be something I would want in a space where I was staying, unless maybe you are within a mile of a coffee shop.

  • Can you please tell me where you got the fan light combo? I’ve been looking for one that’s not ugly and I like yours! Thanks!

  • I would also love to know where the ceiling fan is from!

  • Great post, I agree in general. However, the first AirBnB rental I ever stayed in was SO lacking in personal detail (although cute), that it lacked warmth and was eerie. I didn’t feel comfortable, and it made me wonder if anyone had ever stayed there before me – including the owner. It was surrounded by beautiful woods, not a place I wanted to feel eerie!

  • I always like having a fridge and a microwave. It’s helpful to have a place to put items you might want from a grocery store.

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