8 mini room make-overs that made my Airbnb pics pop

Wondering why your Airbnb property is languishing with minimal views and even fewer bookings?

Could it be that your pics are boring and your space is nothing special in a sea of other listings? With the explosion of properties listing on Airbnb globally, your place is facing unprecedented competition. You can wring your hands, blame Airbnb, blame the universe and the economy, or you can take action.

Check out these Before & After shots of rooms I have transformed.

I often hear hosts say that their space will never do well because: • it's not a million-dollar penthouse • it doesn't have views • it's not in a great location • it's too big • it's too small • it's too old • it has no outstanding features • they can't afford to renovate • they have no talent/taste/time

I'm calling BS on this right now...

You don't have to spend a fortune and it won't take much effort to take your space from ho-hum to WOW!!! Here are my top tips, and before & after pics of some rooms I've transformed. To give you some context, these are all rental properties and the furniture mostly belongs to the landlords so I had to work with what was supplied. I did not have the option to replace furniture in most of these properties, much as I would have liked to in some cases! But that just makes me all the more determined to reveal the silk purse hiding behind the pig's ear.

If you've read my posts before you will know that I'm fond of saying that I'm nothing if not cheap. Don't take that too literally. In my own home, I will spend considerable amounts of money on good quality furniture and fittings, but in a rental it's a different story. That's a business proposition and you need to consider return on investment so I am much more inclined to look for low cost, high visual impact decorating solutions. However you can take that too far so be careful.

  • Is the piece a reasonable quality?

  • Is it in good condition?

  • Does it look great in its setting?

  • Is it fit for purpose?

There's no point in buying a cheap piece of furniture if you will need to replace it in a short space of time, so don't go too silly when trying to save a buck. You have to learn to look at your space through the eyes of a guest, one who is searching through thousands of pics on Airbnb to find just the right property for their stay. Which one are they going to want to spend their money on? As a frequent traveller myself, I can tell you what I look for...

character!

I don't have a million dollar budget, but what floats my boat (apart from cleanliness) is some lovely artwork, a well-made bed, an uncluttered environment, natural light, bold colours & textures and most of all HUMOUR. Quirky artifacts are a winner in my book.

Before we begin, here are some basic tips:

  • Begin with the end in mind. Why are you doing this? To stand out in search results! Think of how that room is going to look when photographed. Is it going to jump out against the competition?

  • Don't be a colour coward! There's nothing worse than a washed-out looking picture. Pick a colour (possibly from existing elements like a picture, bedspread or cushion cover) and be bold!

  • Create a focal point. What's the first thing you see when you walk into the room? If you already have a great focal point, make it the hero and remove distracting elements. If not, create one! A bold piece of art, a stunning artifact, a feature wall, a floral arrangement

  • Go BIG or go home especially with pictures on walls. There's nothing worse than a small picture lost on a large wall with no anchoring point (such as a bed or table beneath it). There are plenty of examples of this mistake in the Before shots below

  • Make the bed! I can't believe how many pics I see with rumpled beds and grotty-looking ill-matched linen that looks like it came out of a charity bin. If you can't be bothered making the bed before you take the picture, I won't be staying with you and I imagine other guests will feel the same. You might like to consider linen hire if you have this service available in your area - although it adds cost, the benefits are that you will always have hotel-quality linen, you won't have to foot the cost of regular manchester replacement, and you will no longer care if your guests wear their make-up or fake tans to bed!

  • Harness your hoard, especially in the kitchen. You don't need to have all your herbs & spices on display and if you have pics with dishes in the sink, don't be surprised if you have no views. Clear kitchen counters with just one or two elements like a bowl of fruit or a nice vase of flowers are the way to go

  • Go green - Especially if your space is an apartment in a high-rise, you want to dispel the impression that guests are living in a concrete jungle. Some plant life adds to the visual appeal and brings the outdoors in, even if it is only an illusion. The judicious use of artificial plants and flowers can work wonders. Although good artificial plants can cost a bit, they last forever and are a worthwhile investment. I often use both real and artificial in the same space to great effect

  • Reframe it - a change is as good as a holiday. New matching frames for existing prints are cheap when purchased from K-Mart or thrift stores, and can really pull the look together.

  • Re-Knob it - Same with doors & cupboards, especially in the kitchen. The cheapest make-over is to replace outdated door & drawer knobs with nice modern ones. It's surprising how a doorknob can make a place look out-dated, and replacing them with modern new ones can give a kitchen an instant face-lift.

  • Re-evaluate every piece. Before you start, take a look at what you already have to work with. Take all artwork off the walls, gather everything in front of you and assess the whole lot. Keep the items you like, donate anything that you don't. Be brutal. You might find a "hero" piece that can provide the theme, colour scheme or focal point for a room, or you might identify pieces that can be grouped together.

  • Retrain your brain. Just because there was a picture on that wall before, doesn't mean you should put one up in the same place. Just because you have that bark painting that Great Aunt Hilda left you in her will, doesn't mean you need to feature it in your rental property. Every piece on every wall needs to earn its keep and fit within the theme you have chosen. Does that space need something? What size, shape and colour? Have you got something that will suit, or do you need something new?

  • Theme it. You can do this by room or apply it to the whole property. It's great if the theme can have relevance to the local area. It could be the Seaside, a colour like RED (below), Travel (use cool transport, railway, airline, motoring posters), Sport, the city you are located in (ie: iconic images of Paris, Sydney), Vintage, the Outdoors. One Host I know has themed his whole apartment around Cycling, with bicycle bits & pieces everywhere - A wall clock made of a bicycle wheel, vintage cycling bits displayed on walls, and even an old pedal assembly fashioned into a toilet roll holder. So cool!

For even more priceless tips on decor, read this HOUZZ article - 10 Timeless Pieces of Decor Advice

BEFORE

If you're after a bit of excitement in the bedroom, you won't find it here! This bedroom needs some serious lovin'.

What needs improving:

  • No bedhead

  • No focal point

  • Little colour in the room

  • Bottom mattress is visible

  • Print lost and off-centre on a large blank wall One little framed p

On the up-side:

  • A blank canvas is easy to improve

  • Cute little vintage print on the wall can be used elsewhere

  • Hotel-quality bedlinen is a plus

  • Existing bedside tables & lamps are inoffensive

AFTER

This room was very easy to improve:

  • I picked red & black for this room as it ties in to other decor in this apartment, is bright and easy to match, red is very eye-catching in photos

  • Black valance to cover the bottom mattress

  • Black comforter for the end of the bed adds visual appeal, makes the bed look more luxurious and also useful for cold winter's nights

  • Canvas with painted stencil design creates a light-weight inexpensive feature for the main wall in the room

  • Red satin dress with a plastic flower hung on the wall adds a bright, quirky touch to the room and fills the long wall visually

  • The floral cushion covers were made using some fabric remnants, and tie all the colours in the room together

COMPARING BEFORE & AFTER

You can see what a difference the splashes of colour have made to this room. I often use this as my hero shot for this property. My guests love the dress on the wall!

BUDGET: Total $96

  • Queen size bed valance $30

  • Canvas for wall art $32

  • Red dress $6 from charity store

  • Plastic flower $3 from charity store

  • Quilted comforter $25 from K-Mart

BEFORE

Wake me up before you go-go because I may have died of boredom! Nothing in here says "come hither".

What needs improving:

  • No focal point

  • Little colour in the room

  • Two little framed prints completely out of proportion to the spaces they need to fill

  • The bed slat base was broken and the mattress in danger of falling through

On the up-side:

  • Cute little vintage prints on the wall can be used elsewhere

  • Hotel-quality bedlinen is a plus

  • Existing bedside tables & lamps are inoffensive

  • Lots of natural light

AFTER

Apart from replacing the broken bed frame, the room was cheap & easy to improve

  • Replaced the bed with a sturdy new frame

  • Red comforter for the end of the bed adds a punch of colour, makes the bed look more luxurious and also useful for cold winter's nights

  • Red is very eye-catching in photos

  • Red poppies are actually wall stickers which are easy to apply and remove if need be. Perfect for rental properties. They fill the wall nicely and are a knock-out focal point for the room

  • A pair of gold sequinned shoes on the bedside table add a quirky touch

  • Fluffy red cushion adds texture

  • Framed print on the wall came from another room, is larger and better scale than the smaller one it replaces

COMPARING BEFORE & AFTER

You can't deny the use of red is a winner for these pics - very eye-catching and easy to work with as you can find lots of decor items to match in department stores and even charity & thrift shops.

BUDGET: Total $111

  • Not counting bed frame which is a repair & maintenance cost

  • Wall stickers (2 packs) $80 from IKEA

  • Red cushion cover rotated from another room

  • Framed print rotated from another room

  • Quilted comforter $25 from K-Mart

  • Gold sequinned shoes $6 from charity shop

BEFORE

Here's the lounge in the same high-rise apartment. In this room I mostly worked with existing decor pieces, spending almost nothing.

What needs improving:

  • Although there are splashes of red about, there is nothing to pull it all together

  • Framed vintage pics on the walls are spread out and out of proportion to the walls they are on

  • Balcony has a concrete jungle look

  • On the up-side:

  • Lots of natural light

  • Lots of decor in the room can be reused or repositioned

AFTER

  • The room is much brighter with better arrangement of decor and a few additional items to tie it all together

  • A new floor rug adds a visual anchor to the room and provides some much-needed warmth underfoot

  • Red butler's tray acts as a mobile coffee-table and adds to the red theme

  • The timber MELBOURNE letters above the coffee station have been painted red

  • Red place-mats protect the white table surface and pack a visual punch

  • Repositioning of existing framed prints - small prints have been grouped

  • Some artificial bamboo & pot-plants on the balcony break up the concrete (not shown)

COMPARING BEFORE & AFTER

This apartment now makes no secret of it's location - you are definitely in MELBOURNE and you have a birds' eye view of it right from your own balcony!

BUDGET: Total $178

  • Floor rug $50 from Fantastic Furniture

  • Framed prints grouped more effectively

  • Place mats from K-Mart $20

  • Artificial bamboo plant from IKEA $79

  • Butler's tray $29 from Fantastic Furniture

See this property on Airbnb

BEFORE

Could this room possibly be more boring? It is almost sterile in it's whiteness. A polar bear would feel at home in this room!

What needs improving:

  • It has virtually no colour!

On the up-side:

  • The existing print on the wall is cute and a good size

  • Hotel-quality bedlinen is a plus

  • Existing bedside tables & lamps are inoffensive

AFTER

This one was easy-peasy - just a simple case of adding colour with some nice bed-dressings.

  • Matched the coral colour elements in the framed print above the bed

  • Purchased a fluffy throw for the end of the bed

  • 2 plain coral cushion covers

  • 2 new cushions with covers matching floral to plain colours

COMPARING BEFORE & AFTER

That's better! This room now packs a visual punch and comes up so much brighter and more appealing in photos

BUDGET: Total $20

  • Coral throw for $20 from Bed Bath & Table

  • Plain cushions from another room

  • Floral cushions made from my stash of fabric remnants

See this property on Airbnb

BEFORE

Minimal decor makes this pic of bedroom + adjoining study nook very bland and easy to overlook in the photo gallery.

What needs improving:

  • Needs lots more decor

On the up-side:

  • All existing furniture is good

  • Hotel-quality bedlinen is a plus

AFTER

Again, minimal time, cost and effort needed.

  • Made matching bed cushions & sham from fabric remnants

  • Put some artificial greenery in the vase on the desk which is reflected in the mirror for double the impact

COMPARING BEFORE & AFTER

Even something as small as putting the chair on an angle for the photo shoot makes a difference, It looks more professionally styled, and the bedroom next door is now much more visually appealing.

BUDGET: Total $10

  • Artificial palm frond & orchid $10 from thrift store

  • Cushions & sham on bed made from my stash of fabric remnants

BATHROOM

Here's a quick little tip for boring bathroom window-sills:

Line them with a row of artificial pot plants for instant visual appeal. Low maintenance, waterproof and will last forever.

See this property on Airbnb

BEFORE

This seaside apartment needed lots of help! It was dull and gloomy, and you would never have guessed it's unbeatable location just one block from the beach from the tawdry decor. Luckily the owner was willing to invest in some new furniture and giving the place a mini make-over.

What needs improving:

  • Walls were painted in a dull avocado green which was gloomy and depressing

  • Existing couch was worn and the cover concealed cracked faux leather seats

  • Cushions were stained

  • Lots of really cheap & nasty artwork, inappropriately positioned on walls

  • Interior did not reflect the apartment's seaside location

  • Not a lot of natural light in this property

On the up-side:

  • Unbeatable beach location gives me a great theme to work with