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Interior Design Tips: How to Style a Holiday Cottage

Reading Time: 13 minutes

How the design of your property looks will be one of the key factors that will influence holidaymakers to book your property. However, getting the right look isn’t easy. How do you design a holiday home that everybody will like? The simple answer is: you can’t.

But are you trying to attract everyone? You’re likely to have a niche or specific market your accommodation is aimed towards. They should be the focal point when styling your holiday cottage.

Regardless of the audience, note that old-fashioned, thrown together designs look hideous. Whilst constant coordination and dull colours look average. And nobody wants average. Holidaymakers want the equivalent or better than what they are used to at home.

Ideally, you’ll want a property that grabs guests attention but looks like a relaxing retreat that people can enjoy together. You want it to ooze memories and good times.

Another trick is to theme your home around your property characteristics. For a seaside property have an ocean design by using shades of blue to emphasise the location.

Ultimately, think about how your photos will look on your website and listing sites. How will your staged photos help market your holiday home and draw the eye of a holidaymaker? For that is the end result – more bookings.

Stylish design sets you apart from the competition. And the best part? You don’t have to blow the budget doing it either.

After researching the ‘perfect’ design, we’ve compiled a list of simple styling tips that will help you turn your holiday let into a desirable oasis for holidaymakers.

Creating an Inviting Interior

First impressions count. Although this applies to the entirety of your holiday home, there are some rooms which warrant a little more investment than others. These being the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room.

Such rooms will be used the most and you’ll want something that looks clean, modern and stylish. You want guests to picture themselves using these spaces and creating memories.

Below are a few tips to get you started.


Spend time designing the bedrooms as guests will be expecting a room that is comfortable, inviting and romantic. Ideally, bedrooms should be carpeted as tiled or wooden floors can be cold first thing in the morning. However, you can add thick rugs to make it cosy underfoot .

As for the furnishings, consider the essential items and what guests might like to have. Firstly, never underestimate the happiness of a good night’s sleep. To ensure your guests sleep well invest in:

  • Highest quality mattress.
  • A large bed, preferably king-size.
  • Plain cotton linen as it can be easily replaced when needed.
  • Scatter cushions and a throw draped on the ends of beds.
  • Black-out blinds or thick floor length curtains that are fully lined.

Make sure guests’ needs are fully accommodated to with:

  • Bedside tables on either side of the bed.
  • At least two pillows each.
  • Plenty of power outlets (look into sockets with USB ports so guests can charge multiple devices at once).
  • A wardrobe, you can save space by having sliding doors.
  • A chest & dressing table.

Also, consider ways to add to the room depending on your guests. To add romance to a room, have dashes of red fabric, artwork, furniture and soft lighting to create ambience.

Make sure your room has a focal point. Hanging artwork over the bed adds character to a room. Preferably hang a large piece or three individual smaller pieces, rather than two medium size ones which often looks odd.

Avoid all white, be bold and have a feature wall or patterned wallpaper to give a room the ‘WOW’ factor.

Children’s Rooms

Families often prefer holiday homes over hotels as they have more space and amenities to make their life easier. To attract families, you’ll need bedrooms suitable for children.

Bunk-beds are a dream item as they save space, but they can take over and dwarf a room if you’re not careful. Combat this by installing built-in bunk-beds to make them less prominent and maximise space. They’re also enticing as they bring fairy-tale fantasies and mystery alive with hidden hideaways. Remember, guests are looking to make memories.


You don’t have to spend a lot on making a bathroom look good. Colour wise you could choose a white finish which looks fresh and elegant or go darker for a cosier feel. The colour scheme should fit the style of your typical guest.

The essentials in a bathroom are:

  • A power shower is a must, baths are a nice feature but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
  • Always have blinds instead of curtains or drapes as these attract mould.
  • Provide storage for toiletries, a nice touch is to have baskets, they look good and are cheap.
  • Power outlets for shaving and hairdryers.
  • Adequate lighting is essential.

Ideally, each bedroom should have access to a private bathroom.

Living Room

In the living room comfort is your priority, then style. It’s the place holidaymakers will want to rest and relax so make sure the room oozes that.

Invest in a comfortable and long sofa that guests can sink into and lie on after a hard day exploring. Don’t cut corners and choose a sofa with removable, washable covers for easy maintenance. Along with a sofa use brightly coloured armchairs to give the room more character and seating.

You’ll also want to position seating in a ‘U’ shape or circle so guests can converse easily. For more comfort and to bring the décor scheme together scatter cushions around the living room.

Furniture wise, opt for oak as it’s easier to match with interior schemes. However, don’t go for overly expensive items that are likely to get damaged, scratched or marked and will need replacing (such as the coffee table). There are many cheaper options that are equally as nice and robust as expensive ones.

Ensure there’s plenty of storage to minimise clutter. Use furniture with storage space like a coffee table, cabinet, TV stand etc. to hide books, games, consoles and remotes.

Finally, have variously sized lamps that project soft lighting to create ambience in the evenings.


Kitchen design is highly important, after all, it is known as the heart of the home.

Before ripping everything out, assess the condition of the units. If they’re in good condition, then simply revamp them with new doors or re-paint them. Focus on replacing worktops and taps to refresh the room. Kitchens can be expensive to renovate but if you’re savvy you could save a fortune.

There are many ways to revamp your kitchen such as:

  • Minimising clutter by using baskets and trays to store kitchen essentials (tea towels, utensils, spices etc.).
  • Invest in decent pots and pans that can withstand regular use.
  • Save on storage by having cabinets that reach to the ceiling.
  • Hang wall fittings to maximise on cupboard space.
  • For small spaces, use white cabinets, light tiles & light wood to make the room feel bigger.
  • Add an island or seating area that guests can relax around.

After you’ve got the style down try adding something quirky like a blackboard where you could write recipes or a welcome message for guests on arrival.

Guests spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so, ensure it’s a welcoming area where they can gather.

Other Rooms to Consider…

Dining Room

Dining rooms should be cosy enough to keep guests sitting at the table long after the meal has ended. To do this…

  • Make this space open with plenty of overhead lighting & an option for soft background lighting.
  • Have a large table and extremely comfortable chairs.
  • Install a fitted bench for small areas to maximise seating space.
  • Provide candles for ambience.
  • Add a vase of flowers for a powerful touch.

Hallway & Landing

Hallways and landings can feel empty and unwelcoming, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be stylish. Brighten them up by…

  • Placing a table and chair or a bench with pillows to fill the area.
  • Add mirrors and art to draw the eye.
  • Use monochrome colour schemes to keep it neutral.

The Exterior is Just as Important as the Interior

Outside areas and gardens are an oasis (if decorated correctly) that holidaymakers can retreat to and enjoy on a summers day or night. It’s easily argued that during summer months the exterior is equally important as the interior. And no matter the size you’ll need something that sets you apart from the competition.

There are three areas to consider when decorating your exterior.


Garden design solely depends on the size but think as creatively as you can without overcrowding the space. Think about:

  • Planting vibrant low maintenance flowers that burst with colour.
  • Plant a vegetable or herb patch that guests can help themselves to (this is more ideal for homeowners who live nearby).
  • Add a water feature for elegance.
  • Additional seating if you have the room or a secluded hammock where guests can create ‘me’ time.
  • A hot tub is one of the most in-demand features guests look for when booking. Installing a hot tub could be a savvy investment.


A patio is a great social area that guests can relax in, so it’s best to take time to design cosy retreat. Think about adding:

  • Decking, if you have the room use tiers to make the patio feel bigger.
  • A table is a must as is having enough chairs for the number of people the property can accommodate.
  • Install lighting, a heater, log burner or fire pit that guests can sit around at night.
  • A BBQ & BBQ station so guests don’t have to balance food, plates and sauces etc.

The Front

Getting the design for the front of the house is integral. It’s the first thing guests will see upon arrival and you’ll want to make an impression.

  • Use flowers or plants to frame the doorway for a pleasant and ‘pretty’ welcome.
  • Have a proper path and parking areas. Guests don’t want to be traipsing through an uneven and muddy surface.
  • Paint the front door to make the cottage stand out from neighbouring properties.
  • Add a sign showing your cottage name.

When you decorate your exterior, whether that be with lights, candles or cushions make sure it matched your theme. This way your home will look coordinated.

Interior Design Secrets

You’ve cracked the design of the key rooms, now it’s time to think about the little things that can lift a room, give it a personality and make it feel welcoming. Here are a few things to consider.

Focal Point

A focal point assigns a purpose to a room that draws the eye, this could be a fireplace, artwork, a mirror or a piece of statement furniture. Either way, each room should have one. Note that larger rooms can have more than one focal point.

Colour Schemes

Every room should have a main colour scheme and then one or two bold contrasting colours that inject colour into a room. Bold, contrasting colours make a big impact but make sure to use these sparingly for more of an impact. You can use pillows, cushions, throws, flowers and artwork to make the colour scheme in a room work.

Alternatively, you can add colour by adding a feature wall, this works particularly well in a master bedroom.

Warm Colours

Warm colours (pink, violet, green and blue) make a room feel welcoming and add personality to a room unlike, plain magnolia walls.

Pro tip: Blue is a powerful colour that many homeowners and brands opt for. Why? Well, research has found that nearly half of the world, including England, loves blue! 

Bright White Paint

Expand small spaces using bright white paint with a matte finish. White is a reflective colour that opens a room up, making it appear bigger than it is.

Plenty of Storage

Provide plenty of storage so guests can organise their luggage, shoes, books, nick-nacks etc. Help them get organised by leaving space on shelves, cabinets, in cupboards and provide a fold-away luggage rack for suitcases.

Be Symmetrical

This is a great tactic for twin bedrooms, making them look symmetrical looks smart and clean-cut. Which instantly looks good.


Provide plenty of blankets and cushions to add comfort to a room. You can make these stand out by using different textures in the same colour.


Add accessories like candles and artwork to enhance a room and make them look interesting, but don’t just scatter these around your home. Make sure they’re coordinated.


Plenty of mirrors is a time-old trick used to make a room look bigger. They reflect light and views outside which tricks the eye into thinking a room is more open.


Art brightens a room up and gives it a focal point, but you need to be wary of what you choose. Think of the style of your holiday home, is it a modern apartment, coastal or country property? Factor these into your art and make sure it has a purpose. Don’t add something for the sake of adding it.

Quality Over Quantity

Consider each item in your property. Is it necessary, does it add value? If not get rid. Focus on quality items that add something to your holiday home rather than items that fill ‘empty’ spaces.

Ask a Friend

We all have a brutally honest friend and they’re the perfect person to ask whether something looks and feels good. You need an objective, honest opinion who will tell it like it is and help you design the ‘perfect’ holiday home.

Alternatively, you could hire an interior designer to look over your property. This will cost you but could be money well spent for a few hours consulting.

Where to Get Inspiration – For Free!

Designing a property isn’t the easiest of tasks. Where do you start? What theme do you choose? What is considered stylish?

If you’re not an interior designer it can be difficult to settle on a design that suits your property, ideal guest and your personal taste.

The good news is you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. There are lots of free resources you can use to get ideas. Look to social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and holiday cottage agency websites. Alternatively, seek inspiration from professional interior designers and websites such as:

Each site regularly publishes articles that offer design tips for both the interior and exterior covering colour schemes, layout, furniture pieces and current trends. They are useful resources to get ideas if you’re unsure how to style your property.

Interior Design Mistakes to Avoid

Styling a holiday home is no easy feat, it does take a trained eye to get it perfect but employing an interior designer isn’t always feasible. So, the job is left to you, which can lead to styling mistakes. Here are some common mistakes everyone makes and how to avoid them.

Bland Colours

Using monochrome or bland colours in rooms is practical, but it often leaves properties without any personality. They might look smart but not exciting.

Painting first

It can be hard to find fabric and furniture to match a colour which can leave a room looking bare or even worse, mismatched.

Before picking the paintbrush up, find the furniture you want, choose fabrics, rugs and pillows and then pick your paint to match. Not vice versa. This way rooms will be more coordinated.

Fabric Shopping Online

Never buy fabric online before seeing a sample. You need to feel the material and see the colour. Online images can be misleading so don’t waste your time or money. Try before you buy.


They might keep light out, but they also have a habit of looking bulky in small spaces and can distract your eyes from the view. As an alternative, use white roller blinds as they provide privacy but keep the space clean.

If curtains are necessary for windows, then use a rail that extends beyond the frame so the window is fully exposed when the curtains are open.

Cheap Furniture

Cheap furniture is easy to spot, it looks tacky and has the habit of breaking. There are certain things you will have to pay good money for and furniture is one of them.


Clutter is caused by too many accessories or items in one room and results in the main assets of a room being lost.

To truly declutter you have view each room objectively and be strict with yourself. Is each item serving a purpose? If not remove it. Otherwise, you can be faced with items building up over the years causing a home to look messy and clustered.

Furniture Size

The wrong size furniture can throw a room out of balance. Large furniture in a small room will make it feel claustrophobic whilst small furniture in a large room will look empty and unwelcoming.

Furniture Height

Try to invest in furniture of different shapes and sizes so that the eye is drawn to such items and not overwhelmed by the room itself.


Little trinkets are stylish additions, but make sure you don’t randomly scatter them all over your home. Use the rule of three (things arranged in odd numbers are more appealing and effective than even-numbered groupings) and have collections of accessories as they look better.

Don’t Rush

There’s no rush to get every little item at once. Shop around and buy items over time. This way rooms won’t look too regimented.

Ugly Antiques

If you don’t like something, then get rid of it. Don’t repurpose old antiques handed down in the family. The chances are if you think it’s ugly then so will your guests.

Failing to Plan

Buying furniture without measuring a room or thinking how it will be placed in a room is a disaster waiting to happen. Planning ahead and setting a budget make your shopping trip more fruitful.

How Much Does it Cost to Furnish a Holiday Home?

Start by setting a realistic budget and investing in the most ‘important’ rooms for maximum ROI. You should always shop around and avoid making expensive, impulsive buys.

Of course, certain items you will need to splurge on, these will mainly be the essentials like a mattress and sofa etc.

Plan ahead and hit the sales. During peak sale times you can secure huge discounts for quality furniture and accessories. Remember, your furniture is likely to sustain wear and tear and will need replacing regularly, so investing thousands in a bespoke item isn’t cost effective.

Mix and match where you shop, you’re not required to buy everything from Marks & Spencer, Next or John Lewis. Supermarkets, The Range, Dunelm and B&M Bargains sell furniture and accessories that are a fraction of the price of ‘designer’ outlets.

1 Chic Retreat does an excellent break down of how much it costs to furnish an average holiday property (you’ll just have to convert $ to £). This will give a general idea as to what you’ll need to invest in your property.

Picture Perfect

Once you’ve got the styling perfected, you need to shout about it. Think about getting in a professional photographer to take photos that truly capture your property and really help sell your holiday rental.

Carry out your photo shoot during the summer months, this will allow extra light in rooms and give a better view of your flourishing exterior. Alongside this, include snaps that capture close-ups of paintings and flowers. Here’s are some tips on how to photograph your holiday home.

To make your property seem homely, stage photographs by using props such as bowls of food, wine glasses, children’s toys etc. A professional property photographer will have the skills to make this happen!

Once you’ve got the images upload them to your website, listing sites and social media accounts. Post before and after shots on your blog that emphasise the improvements. These images often make a property look even better and more enticing!

Remember a picture paints a thousand words, so get snapping and sharing so holidaymakers can see what awaits them when they stay with you.

To Summarise

Styling your holiday home doesn’t have to be a mammoth task. In fact, a lot of it is about adding elegant touches, vibrant colours and making sure your property looks homely so guests want to stay there.

If you do it right, you only have to do it once. After that, all you’ll need to do is general maintenance like replacing worn items, repainting the walls and keeping up with the trends.

Plus you’ll get feedback like this in your reviews:
“Although the pictures of the cottage are beautiful, they don’t do it justice. Simply stunning!”


  • Chloe Sanchez |

    I’m seeing a lot of blogs of modern styled houses and I noticed a thing! It seems that those houses are playing with color schemes and they’re so FAB! I really love it! it makes me want to redecorate our house. I will take your tip on your article to have the main color scheme and then one or two bold contrasting colors that inject color into a room. I will definitely match the walls with some decors that will go with the colors to add more drama.

  • Harvey Lee |

    Great Tips! Your tips are very helpful. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • Rachel Davies |

    Some great tips here. As a hospitality designer I would add that you need to consider lighting very carefully too.

    Getting the best out of your property means getting a design which is in keeping with its location and character too.

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