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How to Furnish and Decorate Your Dream Vacation Home

Make your vacation home a true vacation!

Make your vacation home a true vacation!

Make Your Vacation Home a Retreat!

When someone buys a vacation home, they are looking for a place to which they can regularly escape the pressures of their everyday life. They are looking for that get-away retreat where they can reconnect with their spouse, family, or even just themselves. It might be in the mountains, by the ocean, in some sunny desert climate, or even a tropical paradise.

If you have recently invested in a get-away, congratulations! You've taken a step toward putting balance back into your life. At this point, now you are probably planning how to get the new house in order so that you can soon make your escape for a weekend.

The key thing to remember when setting up and decorating is to keep your initial goal in mind. While we all want to stay in touch with the outside world to some degree, keep that interaction to a minimum. After all, how can you escape life's pressures if you take it with you? Make your vacation home a vacation. Fill it with fun, adventure, and a relaxing ambiance. Plan to stay there just as you would a resort.

Keep some non-perishable food supplies on hand.

Keep some non-perishable food supplies on hand.

Have real wine glasses in your vacation home!

Have real wine glasses in your vacation home!

How to Stock the Kitchen

In your vacation home kitchen, you need what you need. Don't overdo or underdo it. Ask yourself how you want to spend your time when you're away. If you love the idea of having the time to cook or bake, you'll probably want:

  • Baking pans
  • Mixer or food processor
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Waffle iron or griddle

On the other hand, if you don't want to have to lift a finger in the kitchen, and plan to eat out or cook easy meals, you'll probably only need the basics, such as:

  • Microwave
  • Coffee maker
  • Casual dinnerware
  • Stainless Steel Flatware
  • Everyday glasses

Stock disposable dinnerware, cups, and plastic forks for those really lazy times or when you head out for a picnic. Fill a drawer with a cheese grater, wine or bottle opener, Ziploc bags, spatula, barbeque fork, can opener, and a butane lighter. Under the sink keep dish detergent and some scrubbers.

On the opposite side of convenience, if you are a wine drinker, stock real wine glasses. If you like margaritas, you'll want a blender and margarita glasses. Keep it simple, but nice.

Don't resort to paper, plastic, or styrofoam for the things that deserve a little ambiance. Wine from a chilled wine glass feels like a resort vacation, sipping it from a paper cup doesn't. If you plan to barbeque, real plates will make your steak dinner much more enjoyable than eating off a Chinette plate. A vacation home is a perfect place to use that coffee mug that says, "Screw work, I'm on vacation" or some similar sentiment!

Stock the kitchen with basic foodstuff:

  • Salt and pepper
  • Non-stick spray
  • Spices
  • Cooking oil, vinegar, and whatever your tastes require
  • Individual packets of creamer, Splenda, ketchup, soy sauce

Some items such as flour, sugar, cereals, rice, etc. might not be a good idea since these foods can spoil, become infested with bugs, or attract ants. If you spend a lot of time there, a minimal amount of this type of food may be okay, but be sure to keep it in airtight containers or the refrigerator. Insects love vacation homes!

In summary, stock the kitchen so that you don't have to bring your entire culinary armory with you and then take it all back home. But just as important, be realistic about what you plan to do in the kitchen and only stock what you really need.

Buy furnishings for both you and your guests.

Buy furnishings for both you and your guests.

Furnishing Your Vacation Home

When furnishing your retreat, strike a balance between bare and overdone. It's fun to decorate a cabin or beach home, and there are many decorating resources—but don't get carried away. Whether you are decorating with a sky's-the-limit budget or on a shoestring, keep a few things in mind:

  • Clutter creates stress.
  • Furniture needs vacuuming and polishing.
  • Knickknacks need dusting.

You want it to be furnished so that you can relax in it. You don't want a bare living room with a few fold-up sports chairs and a card table, but you don't want so much stuff that you feel strangled. Pick comfortable, sturdy, inviting, basic items that you can spice up with fun décor.

Create a Cozy Living Space

Look for comfortable furniture for your get-away. Whether you choose a sectional, sofa, loveseat, or plush chair, just be sure you can curl up in it and relax. You'll want a few side tables and maybe a coffee table for your coffee mug or glass of wine.

If the floor is tile or hardwood, an area rug is a must since the plan is for you to kick off those shoes! Even if you're an ebook and tablet type, you’ll probably want books, puzzles, and games available for entertainment. Keeping them on a bookcase or TV entertainment center will provide a way to keep things organized. Add a few lamps, and you're set.

Create a cozy bedroom but keep it simple.

Create a cozy bedroom but keep it simple.

Furnishing the Bedrooms

You'll want a bed with a comfortable mattress, a dresser, a nightstand or side table, and at least one bedside lamp (even if the bedroom has an overhead lamp). Your goal is to create a nest with plenty of fluffy pillows, quality linens, and a cozy comforter. If your vacation home is a cabin in the mountains, flannel sheets are especially inviting to cold toes after a day playing in the snow!

Plan an inviting dining area in your vacation home ready for a cozy dinner or a fun game of Scrabble.

Plan an inviting dining area in your vacation home ready for a cozy dinner or a fun game of Scrabble.

Dining Area

Some of the best times are spent gathering around the dining table, so make the dining area a place you want to hang out in.

Space permitting, pick the largest dining set that will fit so that you can be ready for family events, card games, or additional guests. If space is tight, place counter-height bar stools at the breakfast bar, where kids and friends alike can sit and visit with the cook!

Keep bed linens and towels in your vacation home.

Keep bed linens and towels in your vacation home.

Bath and Linens

Depending on the amenities, you will want to keep linens and bath sundries stored there. Plan to have enough towels and sheets on hand so that you won't have to be doing laundry all the time. In the bathroom, keep the same hair products and shower necessities you have at home since shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and cleaning products have a long shelf life. Keep OTC pain medicine, first aid ointment, bandaids, a toothbrush, blowdryer, curling iron or straightener, and sunscreen in the cabinets. Think about what you need at home and what you usually take on vacation and then stock your get-away with all of that stuff.

On the other hand, things that have a shorter shelf life, such as makeup or prescriptions, might be wasted if left in a place you don't visit often enough. Use common sense. If you plan to visit two to three times a month, you might bring everything. If you only visit during the summer or winter, plan accordingly.

With a view like this, you'll want some outdoor seating at your vacation home.

With a view like this, you'll want some outdoor seating at your vacation home.

Don't Forget Your Outdoor Space!

A comfortable outdoor living space on the patio or porch can act as an additional room. In fact, you might find you spend more time outdoors than inside (weather permitting).

Try to find room for a few patio chairs and a side table, or a picnic table. If the outdoor living space isn't covered, an umbrella or a sail cover might come in handy. If feasible, an outdoor grill will get plenty of use. It's a good idea to invest in covers for your outdoor furnishings to protect them from nature's elements while you are gone.

Shop second hand stores and flea markets.

Shop second hand stores and flea markets.

General Decorating Tips

Decorating is a must as well as fun, but your goal in picking decorative items is to create a relaxing atmosphere. You can choose a design plan that is homogenous with the surroundings; rustic for a cabin, seashells and whitewashed furniture for a beach home, cowboy cool in your vacation home in Arizona, or a jungle safari in a tropical escape. If that feels too theme park-like, Country farmhouse and Boho decor is in and creates a very comfortable hangout space.

For inspiration and ideas, look for books, magazines, and online articles in the style that works for you, and then shop, shop, shop!

As you shop, keep in mind that most of the time you don't need expensive, brand-new items. Sometimes weathered, gently used furnishings and décor add character and ambiance to a vacation home. If a coffee table has a distressed finish, you and your guests are more likely to feel comfortable to kick back and put your feet on it. A sofa covered by a soft slipcover or furry animal print throw, will seem less formal and be inviting to curl up in. A denim-covered sofa will be less worrisome than a white couch. Pick items that your kids, nephews, pets, and party-animal friends can be around without worrying you to death.

You can shop second-hand stores, flea markets, garage sales, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and your favorite retailer's bargain aisles. You can take things from your home that are sitting in the basement or garage. Many items you may own or find second-hand can be refinished, repainted, or repurposed to fit your vacation home's theme perfectly. If you’re creative, there are oodles of YouTube videos about decor transformations and Dollar Tree creations. You’d be amazed at what you can do with a few dollar items, like a glue gun and a can of chalk paint!

It just makes sense to keep some things at your vacation home!

It just makes sense to keep some things at your vacation home!

Should You Leave Your Personal Clothing?

Of course! One of the wonderful things about owning your own retreat is that you don't have to pack up everything before and after a vacation. If it is a cabin in the mountains, you might want to leave a heavy coat, sweaters, and snow boots. If it's a beach home, maybe a bathing suit, flip flops, sunglasses, and some tank tops and shorts. Stock it with clothes that make sense, especially if you won't miss them at your regular home. And what screams resort more than a plush terry robe and slippers?

One Final Tip

Enjoy it! Your vacation home is there for you to enjoy and relax in. When you get there, don't feel guilty about avoiding your texts or emails. Don't spend hours scrubbing the floors. Hire a housecleaner or landscaper to maintain your vacation home, if necessary. Show up, grab a book, and escape into another world . . . the world you've created in your very own vacation home!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 Jan Peterson


elizabeth Shimberg on August 25, 2018:

I LOVE your advise...Thank you for sharing