The saying goes “You never know how many friends you have until you own a home at the beach.”
If you live, have ever lived, or visit the beach often you already know that the elements can take its toll in the harshest of ways. The salt air, the sand, and the sun can turn your most prized possessions into a rubble of rust or faded lump of dust.
I love chatting about practicality with the interior designer at work. Between working as a reservationist for a real estate agency that managed 800+ properties and working at a furniture store that caters to those properties, you can only imagine what we have seen and heard.
One truth can be told if you are looking to rent out your beach home. People will tear your SHEET UP! I don’t know why, but some people don’t care because it is not theirs. Are people extra disrespectful these days or is it just me getting older and more crotchety?
In my experience, you have three options when furnishing a beach home that you plan to rent out. (Please refer to my 10 tips for furniture shoppers)
1. Go cheap
2. Buy quality
If you choose option 1, you will probably have to replace it by the next season. Real estate agencies can be strict about appearance and the condition of your furnishings. If you don’t care about your renters, it will affect your profitability. A well-kept beach home WILL be appreciated and attract repeat business. Not every renter is a jerk, and some do genuinely appreciate that you have opened your home to them. Remember, they have spent their hard-earned money to relax and enjoy themselves. The good renters will remember your attention to detail and quest for making their stay comfortable.
If you choose option 2, you risk your investment due to others negligence. I think it’s worth the risk. Usually, there is an insurance written in your contract or the renters can be charged for the damages if the items are a complete loss, so there may be some monetary recovery for you. Choosing a quality piece can ensure the safety of your renters as well. Think of a small child swinging on the edge of a dining table, or a heavy-set person pushing down on a glass dining table/cheaply made table to help him/her get out of the chair. Think of the most insane thing that can happen, because it will. I also recommend choosing option 2 if you have a ‘sandcastle’ and/or allow it to be used for large events. If your home is worth a million bucks, don’t cheap out on the furniture. Keep it classy and beautiful to attract more business.
If you choose option 3, you need to be handy/crafty and willing to put in some time, elbow grease, and hopefully you live near by. I would not choose this option for upholstery or mattresses unless you find a great deal on a ‘like new’ quality sofa. Feel free to repair and repaint case pieces; just make sure they are free of mold and buggies. Repurposing furniture for your beach home is a labor of love, and can save you a pretty penny. However, sometimes its worth it to spend the money, because your time can be better spent elsewhere.
What to look for in furniture?
When shopping for upholstery steer away from 100% cotton. Look for synthetic fabrics like olefin, polypropylene, polyester, acrylic, rayon, and Sunbrella. Children will flop on sofas in wet bathing suits, covered in sunscreen, while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drinking brightly colored sodas. Natural fibers will not stand a chance. Keep in mind, cotton strengthens when paired which synthetics, so don’t rule it out completely when you find a blend that is aesthetically pleasing.
My employer offers a line of upholstery that can be covered in any Sunbrella fabric. I think this is the best option for beach houses, whether you rent it to strangers or use it yourself.
The windows are open, the salt breeze rustles the crisp white curtains, you hear the roar of the ocean, and you are curled up with a good book on the bright white slip cover sofa. Possible, yes. Beautiful, yes yes. Practical for a rental property. HECK NO!
Proper upholstery selection is my main concern for a beach home; next in line is bedding. I’ve had customers who were so impressed by the quality of mattress at their vacation rental or while visiting a friend, they went out of their way to call the real estate agency to inquire where to purchase the same mattress to take home!!! So when it comes to bedding, you can make a big impression on your renters. How would you feel after sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress for a whole week, after dishing out $5,000+? How would you feel after the most amazing nights sleep on your vacation? I would definitely call the real estate agency to book the same home for next year.
Case goods can be a little more forgiving. Dining tables can be outfitted with table pads or table cloths to protect from stains. End tables, night stands, bedroom furniture, and accents won’t receive the same abuse as mattresses or upholstery. I would still make sure the piece has adequate weight and good construction. It would be a good idea to anchor tall and heavy pieces to the wall.
Area rugs, while they can really showcase your investment property, will take the most abuse. So look for synthetic construction, like your upholstery.
To protect your furniture, consider window coverings that protect the furniture from sunlight. Shades, blinds, or window tinting will make sure your furniture is protected from fading and sun damage.
Accessorizing is a little tricky. It’s tempting to outfit the space with knick knacks and accents to make the space visually appealing, but ultimately, these items will become souvenirs. I have seen large pictures, tapestries, pillows, etc go missing; so I HIGHLY recommend not to emotionally invest in your beach home decor that will be rented to strangers. If you want to add some final touches, I would decorate with driftwood, shells… anything that can be replaced by nature for free. Bolt expensive items to walls. I think it would be funny to leave a sarcastic note behind or underneath more expensive items discussing general morality.
Bottom line– when you want your beachy investment property to look like a page from Coastal Living, its best to think practically and decorate like a sterile hotel room, for the sake of your sanity and pocket-book.
Thank you for reading! Come visit me at the beach! And remember, stay cool!
Now, tell me about your vacation home experiences? nightmares? destruction? etc.