Where to Shop to Furnish Your Vacation Rental
Where to Shop
Where to shop to furnish your vacation rental or second home
Personally, I'm not a shopper. I'd rather do almost anything else than run to the store for something. Professionally, I've become adept at finding everything needed to furnish our vacation rental and have invested much time and thought in choosing every single item. Nothing was purchased or returned on a whim or without weighing the pros and cons of how that item fit into the rental property or not.
Many snowbirds own a vacation rental, second home, lake, desert or mountain home and/or simply want to know where to find the charming items stocked in their winter rental. That used to be me. Where did the owner acquire the rugs, pillows, lighting, accent pieces, furniture, artwork and outdoor patio set? Now I'm that person supplying these items and we've had guests ask, "Where exactly did the mattress come from and what is the specific model # of it?" A true compliment!
It's ironic that being a shopper in a professional capacity changes your outlook on what you are looking for. You are not only shopping for what you like, you are anticipating what your guests will like. It's not just the adults, you have to appeal to the teens and kids too. There's a mix of every personality staying in a rental unit, which means it's critical to identify the overall theme. I've written about this topic in another post [The Basics of How to Furnish a Vacation Rental Property] and it's important to get it right. A guy's rustic fishing trip kind of place is completely different than a ladies' luxury getaway or a romantic couple's retreat.
Everything needs to work together in a cohesive way and you have to know what the limits are. When is enough, enough? How much is too much to spend? Is good enough, enough? Is it time to stop shopping?
Your furnishings must not only look appealing, they need to endure wear and tear to get through at least one entire busy season. Value, quality and brands do make a difference for many items that need to last much longer than one season. Other items, such as bath towels and wash cloths need only meet your minimal standards because they will be replaced before showing lots of wear. No one wants to use a thread-bare towel or make-up stained wash cloth. This also applies to chipped dishes. Buy a moderately priced brand that will be available from year to year and replace every single chipped item. Tired, imperfect and dirty is what many guests have at home and they want to escape to fresh everything. Below, I will share where I shopped to furnish our vacation rental. Consider every possible bricks and mortar store and online resource to find the mix that works for you.
I love Walmart for anything where you only need the basics, large and small.
- Ceramic every day dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, serving platters
- Glassware such as short and tall drinking glasses, juice glasses, wine glasses
- Casserole dishes in various sizes
- Flatware and serving spoons
- Utensils such as wooden spoons, whisks, spatulas
- Stainless steel utensil caddy
- Chip-resistant Corelle bowls, dinner and salad plates (kid friendly)
- Coffee cups
- Coffee filters
- Dish racks and storage solutions
- Dish clothes
- Dish towels
- Drawer organizers
- Plastic wrap, aluminum foil
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons
- Plastic nesting mixing bowls
- Glass pitcher
- Plastic pitcher
- Nesting skillets
- Pots and pans in various sizes
- Disposable salt and pepper shakers
- Cleansers: toilet bowl, glass and multi-purpose
- Liquid hand soap
- Laundry soap
- Laundry hamper
- Collapsible drying rack
- Coffee maker
- Alarm clock with charging portals
- Mattress pads
- Mattress topper
- Pillow cases
- Light bulbs
- Paint brushes, drop cloth and supplies
- Spray paint
- Glass display jar for sea shells
- Outdoor cushions
- Markers, coloring books and sketch pads
- Games, puzzles
- Bar stools (I had to return them due to odd counter height)
Home Goods is great for discounted prices on better quality close-out items
- Knick knack decor items that add charm to every room
- Wall art
- Beach towels
- Ice bucket
- Wooden charcuterie board
- Cutting boards in various sizes
- Household items such as coffee mugs, measuring utensils, serving spoons
- Paper towel holder
- Decorative liquid soap dispensers for kitchen and bath
- Area rugs
- Place mats
- Pillows for both bed and outdoor use
- Vanity seat
- Foot stool
- Games, puzzles
I also shopped regularly at Tuesday Morning for these same items, but unfortunately the retailer closed it's stores in 2023
Big Box Stores: Lowes and Home Depot
Big box stores fill in a lot of gaps for practical household items
- Outdoor cushions
- Outdoor rugs
- Welcome mat
- Wire closet shelves
- Rubber wire coated dish shelves and racks
- Hardware such as hammer, screwdriver and miscellaneous hardware
- Paint brushes and spray paint
- Room darkening curtains
- Light bulbs
- Cleansers: for toilet bowl, glass, shower and multi-purpose
- Gallon-sized liquid soap refill
- Laundry soap
Thrift shops are ideal for pre-owned household items at a greatly reduced price. Typically, I drop off donations and then visit the shop to see if there's anything of interest. Thrift shop furniture is typically very well built if it's more than 20 years old and often will look fresh again with a new coat of paint.
- Barware such as gently used glass beer mugs, wine glasses, pilsner glasses and rocks glasses
- Games, puzzles, books
- Kitchenware, pots, pans, casserole dishes
- Furniture, mirrors, artwork, housewares
Restaurant Suppliers: Gordons Food Service
Restaurant suppliers such as Gordons Food Service are great for commercial grade products that need to wear well for many seasons.
- Baking sheets in multiple sizes
- Muffin tins
- Glass pitchers
- Serving utensils
Amazon, Etsy and other online retailers such as Overstock and Wayfair offer practical specialty and unique items.
- Driftwood decorative bowl
- Knife set with butcher block holder
- Hand towels, wash cloths, bath towels, bath mats
- Hair dryer and cloth storage bag
- Plastic storage bags with zippers
- Custom signage
- Oversized plastic serving bowl
- Specialized Christmas/holiday decor
Surf shops are great for finding local items that add that extra special touch.
- Starfish, specialty shells and sand dollars
- Beachy front door decor and signage
- Coastal accessories
Let's be real, there's no need to pay for free driftwood and shells from your local beach. Buy the items that you can't find at the shore.
Local Retail Shops
Local mom and pop retail or consignment shops, such as Retail Therapy in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida typically offer local products for a one-of-a-kind purchase.
- Original art and ready-to-frame prints by local and regional artists
- Handcrafted local items
- Books by local and regional authors
- One of a kind decor and items unique to the area
Local and Regional Furniture Stores
Mattress Firm, Rooms to Go and local furniture stores have practical options at various price points for big ticket items.
- Bedroom set
- Coffee tables, end tables
- Buffet servers
- Dining room set
- Easy chairs
- Mattress with adjustable tilt bed frame
- Area rugs
- Wall art
National Retail Stores
National retailers such as Marshalls/TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, At Home, Kirklands, Five Below and other medium to large home stores offer items you might not find elsewhere.
- Mirrors and wall art
- Decor and accessories
- Kitchenware and utensils
- Bedding, pillows, towels, blankets, bedspreads
- Most any type of housewares and goods related to the home and patio
Before Bed, Bath and Beyond closed stores in 2023, I shopped there as well.
You have to know when to edit yourself and stop shopping. If you can't do this on your own, ask a trusted friend or family member for honest feedback. No one wants to stay in a place that has too much of a good thing. If necessary, rotate your regular and seasonal accessories so returning guests feel there's something new to enjoy for their stay. Retire items that start to show a little wear, not after they are worn out or too dirty to clean. Never keep broken items, not only is it a safety hazard, it's unbecoming.
As a professional shopper, it can be fun, but it is a LOT of work. Pace yourself so you can think about each item and how it relates to what you already have. If necessary, return it or donate it to a local charity. I bought a charming $35 lamp with a sea-grass shade at Home Goods. Upon installing it in the rental unit's bedroom, it didn't quite look right. So I decided to paint it a coastal blue hue to blend in better with the decor. It still didn't look right and now it had an imperfect paint job. I felt it was time to retire the lamp. Letting go of the items that are not working for one reason or another is better than making a bad impression.
One more thing: don't forget to keep an eye on the trends. After a few years, it's important to replace dated items with fresher things, not because they actually are bad, just to keep ahead of or equal to your competition. Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy the large and small items that provide the extra special charm.
"Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.”
-- Gertrude Stein, American Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Art Collector [1874-1946]
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