Apartment Therapy On... Bad Vacation Rental Décor

Some choice selections from rental getaways

Renting a vacation home is often a wonderful way to escape—you can cook your own food, explore a new area, maybe enjoy a new view, and usually for less than you'd pay at a hotel. But for those of us who are design-minded, researching vacation rentals can be a harrowing experience. Spend a few minutes paging through VRBO and Craigslist, and you're likely to come away reeling from all the cheap veneer cabinetry, chintzy country curtains, and pleather easy chairs. So what explains the phenomenon of bad vacation rental décor? We've got some thoughts, along with a few ideas about how to seek out getaways that won't offend your sensibilities...

It makes good sense, when you think about it, that many vacation rentals should suffer from bad décor. A lot of rentals are second homes, and perhaps for many owners, buying a second place means not having enough money left to decorate it. Second homes might also end up with cast-offs partly because owners are reluctant to invest in interiors that are likely to become damaged or worn with many renters coming through.

This doesn't quite explain, however, why so many vacation rental interiors lack style; we all know, of course, that with some ingenuity, it's possible to furnish a stylish home for cheap. We suppose what it comes down to is that when you rent from strangers, their taste is bound to differ from yours.

That being said, here are a few research tips we've found helpful when poking around for vacation properties online:

Use keyword searches, plugging in design words to find styles you like. Craftsman, mid-century, what have you... often the owners, if they've put some thought into their décor, will try to advertise in this way. You can also use adjectives like "hip," "stylish," or "tasteful," but often you'll find these are empty marketing terms. Still, they might help to narrow things down.

Consider going in with friends. Sadly, many well-decorated vacation rentals also seem to be the most expensive properties. Often they're also larger, however, and will sleep crowds, so you might consider vacationing with friends to split the cost. Sometimes there are main house/guest house situations that will allow for privacy, so you can choose just how "joint" you want your getaway to be.

Use word of mouth. Craigslist and VRBO are great, but as with any kind of travel, asking friends for recommendations will almost always yield better results.

Give your design sensibilities a vacation too. In other words, try not to sweat it if the carpeting or bedspreads in your vacation rental make you cringe. Easier said than done, perhaps, if you're a design blog devotee; still, in any home there are bound to be some design choices you're not crazy about, so you might as well relax and ignore them.

Tell us your vacation rental stories! Have you had any bad rental décor nightmares? What are your tips for finding the best of what's on offer?

(Images: Vacation Rentals by Owner)