Advice to Make Your Unit Airbnb Rentable

Would-be renters should mind their space and audience and commit to style.


Interior design by Ricco Style Interior Design; photo by Daniel Blue Photography of interior design by

It’s hardly news that home prices in the Bay Area are completely out of hand. With mortgages that are burdensome for all but the highest earners, many are looking for ways to help lighten the load. One of the most popular solutions is an in-home rental unit, though homeowners should mind their communities’ laws and regulations. Carving out a well-designed apartment is no small task, though, nor is it a small expense. Here’s a bit of advice for how to do it right.

First, consider your space. If the home can support it, create an as independent a dwelling as possible. A separate entrance is a plus, as is a private kitchen and bath. You’ll be able to charge much more for the unit if it has these amenities, and you’ll be able to better preserve your family’s privacy, too. (Be aware of local laws, however. Last year, Berkeley banned the renting of backyard cottages as short-term rentals.)

Next, think about your audience. Couples on vacation may prefer a sophisticated, luxurious atmosphere. Think sheets with high thread counts, sparkling surfaces, and a place to prop up their feet after a long day. They’ll want some sort of kitchen for sure, but with so many good restaurants in the area, they’ll likely be happy with a kitchenette. As long as they have the means to make a cup of coffee, pour a glass of wine, or fix a bowl of cereal, their cooking needs should be met.

Young families have a totally different set of requirements, however. They’ll want multiple beds: at least a queen for the grown-ups, and twins or cots for the tykes. They’ll also appreciate a fully equipped kitchen. Families require special attention when it comes to furnishings, too: Use materials that can take a beating, like leather sofas, indoor/outdoor rugs, and weathered wood tabletops.

Visiting academics are another demographic to consider. They come with their own set of needs. Since their stays will be more long-term, they’ll want a full kitchen, ample closet space, and a pleasant, light-filled area for hammering out that research.

No matter whom you court, don’t scrimp on style. Choose a design direction and commit to it. You could make the apartment as tasteful and as clean as possible: a kind of exercise in neutrality, like a hotel. Or you could amp up the personality to the max. Think modern farmhouse, ’60s bachelor pad, or country retreat.

With so many people creating rental units, you’re bound to have competition. But with careful planning, thoughtful design choices, and a clear stylistic point of view, your place will stand apart from the rest.


Sarah Coombs is an interior designer in Alameda.

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