How Interior Design Can Impact Your Guest Experience

Welcome to Boostly Podcast Episode 511. In this podcast episode I will be taking part in a direct booking masterclass webinar with touch stay and others.

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Timestamps (audio)

00:00 Intro
00:54 Valarie intro
01:21 How did you get started?
07:04 How to avoid the trap
11:22 Advice for sourcing furniture
16:20 When should they get in touch
18:25 How Important is interior design
22:24 Quickfire questions
24:30 Outro

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Audio – Boostly Podcast




Transcript from the Episode

[00:00:00] Liam: Okay, so we're back with another episode of the Boostly Spotlight series. This is the Spotlight series on the Boost Lee Podcast, and it's a mini series where we look at individuals and businesses who offer products and services who can help your hospitality business. Today we are joined, uh, by Valerie Malone and I'm so excited to have her on.

[00:00:21] She's from Quill Decor. Um, definitely go and check 'em out. Quill and she focuses on interior design. Now, interior design is something which is important to hosts and to guests alike. At the end of the day, we're looking at how important is interior design. And what difference can it make to both your nightly income but also to a guest's experience, cuz this is what it's all about at the end of the day.

[00:00:46] So without further ado, let's say hi to Valerie. Valerie, welcome along.

[00:00:51] Valarie: Hi Liam. It's so lovely to see you. Thanks for having me.

[00:00:54] Liam: Awesome to see her. So, uh, just so people listening can get an idea, Valerie, uh, she's actually [00:01:00] a host, uh, herself or has been a host. Uh, she's an interior designer, she's a coach, and also she's a co-author of Hospitable Hosts.

[00:01:07] So we've got a lot to dive into today. Um, so for the next sort of 20 or 30 minutes, please uh, pay attention if you're listening to the podcast. And, um, yeah, let's see if we can learn some tips and, uh, what services, uh, Valerie can offer today. So, Valerie, let's get started by, , how did you get into short term rental and interior design?

[00:01:27] Cause it's quite a niche sort of aspect.

[00:01:30] Valarie: Yeah, so I have a four year bachelor's degree in interior design. So I've been doing this for a long time. And when I had a residential design business, we lived in Indiana actually at the time, and we, um, opened our own short term rental and it was, this was a number of years ago before.

[00:01:51] Before the industry has rapidly changed to where it is now, but there was just nobody really focused on the art of this particular type of hospitality design. [00:02:00] Mm-hmm. . And so it just grew from there. It grew from there being a need to have someone paying attention to the short term rental space, which at the time wasn't even called short term rental.

[00:02:09] Right. But it's the coupling of hospitality design and residential design. It's very different from designing just a home and, um, It's one I'm super passionate about because I love hosting, I love customer service and hospitality and design. So that's kind of how my business Cool. Day Core started focusing on short term rentals.

[00:02:30] And since then we've actually moved to the uk. So I live in Cambridge, England, but I run my business almost exclusively in the US and do design consulting and design coaching for short term rentals. So that's, that's the bulk of what I do. That's

[00:02:46] Liam: cool. So your, um, short term rental, you've sold up your short term rentals at the moment, but at the time, uh, what sort of thing did your, uh, host?

[00:02:54] Was it a, um, you know, was it a, a house or was it, what sort of thing was it? [00:03:00] Yeah,

[00:03:00] Valarie: it was a, it was a portion of a house and, um, so segmented off. But I just, I've always been a natural host at heart. I've always at, at like, I think I may have mentioned this in my chapter in the book, I think at like 20. It's five years old.

[00:03:16] I end a dining table for 10 people. I was always the friend that was having like 10 person dinner parties before that was even age appropriate. My friends were like, What? What do we do for a ti? I don't know. Just come on. Just bring your things and we're gonna gather around this table. So I think hosting has always been a big part of who I am and so it was a natural, um, it was very natural for me to.

[00:03:37] Transition that over into hosting people for an overnight stay. And I just found that so exciting to be able to have control over or manipulate someone's stay in the best of ways. How can I make somebody feel really special and really welcome in my place? And I found it was quite easy to do actually.

[00:03:54] It doesn't take a whole lot to pay attention to someone's needs and make them feel. Cared [00:04:00] for. And that's really, that's really all it is. And, and then of course, design is just incorporated in that. How do you make someone feel comfortable in an environment? What are the keys to making a home feel?

[00:04:11] Welcoming and like someone is as thought of when they're there, all of their needs are thought of all of the details. So the attention to detail is, is really key. I lost track of the question somewhere, somewhere along the It's ok. No, no,

[00:04:23] Liam: that's okay. The brief flow and then, uh, yeah, I mean, let's, let's dive into that then.

[00:04:28] So hospitality in general definitely gets in the blood and like you say, it was natural, sort of move into that. So interior design wise, uh, what does. Guests to feel, uh, you know, sort of a, like, it's a great stay. What, what aspects of interior design are important? And, um, how can hosts who are listening, um, capitalize on that aspect?

[00:04:51] On, on good interior design? Yeah,

[00:04:54] Valarie: so I think there's kind of two parts of this. There's the really highly practical side, which is more of the [00:05:00] function, and then there's that step up where it's like beyond the function into the highly comfortable and the more luxury side. So from a functional standpoint, you wanna think about all of the basic needs being met, right?

[00:05:12] If is there enough seating in the living room? To accommodate all of the, the maximum number of guests you wanna have in that house. Do you have six comfortable seats in the living room if you accommodate six guests? And in some cases that's not always possible. But if that's the case, think about that detail.

[00:05:28] What are some other chairs that are also comfortable in this other room that people can bring over? So it's just really thinking about how someone uses a a space and what's gonna make them most comfortable when they're using this space. And I'm sure. Your gu, your audience has heard the, um, tip to stay in your rental.

[00:05:48] So, so visit your rental, stay there yourself. Understand as a guest what it's like and what it's missing. So doing that really gives you the attention to detail. And then have somebody, if you're a very low maintenance [00:06:00] person, have your high maintenance friend. Come and stay in that place and then give you those details that you're missing, right?

[00:06:06] Like, I didn't have anywhere to put my glass of wine when I was sitting on that side of the living room. Or you know, there was just this one overhead light that felt very cold and hospital-like. Like I want, I needed a lamp. I needed to control the environment in that way. So those to me, are the basics.

[00:06:22] And then there's the luxury. So I'm hearing a lot about this term luxury. Now, I don't know about you, but it seems like everybody's talking about the luxury. Property, they're, they're throwing this word luxury around and into the title of their space, whether it belongs there or not. So what does that mean?

[00:06:39] I mean, is this something that you and, and the Boley team have kind of thought about or done any, Um, Blogs on

[00:06:45] Liam: or anything? So in terms of the word luxury, I, I see it get bounded around quite a lot. It's not, not nothing, uh, nothing that we've sort of focused on, uh, because it is just something which a lot of hosts do, just put, Oh, luxury rental.

[00:06:58] And they may have got the [00:07:00] furniture from B&M, do you know what I mean? Like, it's, uh, that's just not luxury in my mind. So, How can hosts listening avoid that trap? Because a lot of the time, I mean, there's, there's people who are doing rental arbitrage or rent to rent, uh, you know, rent service accommodation.

[00:07:14] Yeah. Um, and they're, they're, they're on a budget. How can they avoid the trap of having to, um, what, what's the best thing to do? Is it better to just not say luxury? Or is it actually better to get good quality furniture, uh, within their units?

[00:07:30] Valarie: Uh, yeah. This is, this is a lot to unpack. I. I think it's best to not say luxury if you're not luxury, And that's a really arbitrary term and it's hard to define and really nail down.

[00:07:40] So it's a tough, it's a tough one to answer. Look, and people might even be asking you, Is your place luxury? And be honest with them. Do you think it's luxury? Would you call it luxury? If somebody sold you that space as luxury, would you actually agree? So just be really honest with what your place is and what it isn't, and try and stay in your lane.

[00:07:59] Certainly [00:08:00] if you are a basic accommodation, that doesn't mean that you can't provide great hospitality and those touches that make it. More luxurious and more welcoming, but that doesn't make the space overall luxury. Mm-hmm. , right? And just high quality furniture also doesn't make it just luxury. So I think it's hard.

[00:08:17] Like I said, I think it's really hard to like completely nail down that concept. And what is luxury? There's no like, okay, well I'm on this side of the line, so I'm definitely luxury. I think it's just more about for the, for the hosts who are, have their own places or place. Be really honest about what your place isn't, isn't always have quality furniture.

[00:08:38] Never buy really cheap furniture, right? Because no matter what, that's gonna feel cheap and it's going to break and not last. You're gonna be replacing it, which is gonna cost you more than just money. It's gonna cost you time. Which is not great. And it's gonna get you those bad reviews potentially.

[00:08:53] Exactly. So, so go really high quality on your sofas, your beds and your mattresses, your [00:09:00] dining tables. Those are kind of the workhorses. And then you can save the money and get cheaper in tables. Um, you don't have to buy incredibly expensive lamps. There's lots of places you can save money, but, but go high end on the furniture where you can

[00:09:14] Liam: think.

[00:09:15] It's really important point you made about just being really accurate. And that's one of the things, I mean, when people are staying, they, they can score you on accuracy both on, you know, sort of the OTAs and, uh, you know, they may consider it in their reviews themselves. So being really accurate and, and something that we talk about a lot is really identifying your guest avatar.

[00:09:33] And if your guest avatar is, you know, families staying to visit other families in, in the week and they're not necessarily looking for an experience or perhaps they're people working and they don't necessarily need an Instagrammable kind of design wall and stuff like that, then that's absolutely fine, isn't it?

[00:09:49] Whereas if you are going after that market of, of leisure guests, people who are stand for maybe romantic stays, People who are looking to build memories and actually go and have an [00:10:00] experience, having that interior design and actually, you know, good quality kitchens, good quality furniture is, is all part of that experience, isn't it?

[00:10:09] So you've making it a really important point that, uh, you know, at the end of the day, if you are filling your properties with cheap furniture, you're gonna have that problem, aren't you? Where you're gonna get. You're gonna get poor reviews, you're gonna get, it's gonna cost you double in the long run because you're having to replace stuff.

[00:10:25] So, yeah, really, really good point. So,

[00:10:28] Valarie: yeah, and actually I'm just, I'm just writing a blog post on luxury now, , and that was the overarching idea is, Just like with everything in your rental, understand your avatar. Understand who are you trying to attract this space and what is exciting and luxurious to them because it's gonna be different no matter who you're trying to appeal to.

[00:10:47] If it's a beach property and it's families, you're appealing to just having really nice beach toys and beach Jos is probably all the luxury they need. Whereas if it's, if it's couples and they are double income earning [00:11:00] couples and they want an experience, you're gonna need to step that up a bit and provide really, Bath towels or, Yeah, that's, that's exactly,

[00:11:08] Liam: so there, there'll be people who are listening who have, you know, perhaps just got their first short term rental and they'll be thinking, Well, you know, should I just emulsion the walls, you know, standard color and, uh, just put in some furniture and, and stick on Airbnb.

[00:11:22] What advice would you have for them? What, what things could they go and do, or where could they source furniture from? Or, or what process should they really be considering to, um, maximize. Uh, quality of the interior. Okay.

[00:11:37] Valarie: I love this question. So I think number one, try before you buy anything or plan anything or do anything for the interior, try to understand what your overall plan is.

[00:11:51] What do you want the plate? What is your goal? What do you want the place to look and feel like at the end of the, at the end when you are, you know, doors open and ready to go, [00:12:00] and the more time you can spend. Really planning out where you want that end goal to be, the better you're going to be. Because listen, it's, it's not like our own houses in that when you buy a house and that you move into, or you move into a flat or whatever, you are generally slowly accommodating things over time.

[00:12:20] But with this rental, you're going from empty to. Photographed and guest ready and needs to be presentable and outstanding online and to be able to grab people's attention all at once. From empty to that. There's a lot of things to fill in the gap there. There's a lot of things to buy. There's a lot of things to decide.

[00:12:40] It's a million decisions, not just the furniture, but yeah, the walls, the wallpaper. Are you gonna do any wallpaper? So the more time you can really spend up here at 30,000 feet looking down and saying, Okay, this is what I'm gonna need, This is the planning that I need. Get a spread. You've got to plan your purchases in a budget spreadsheet so you can understand every [00:13:00] dollar you're putting into this business.

[00:13:01] So just planning. That's my number one advice. Spend some time planning and have some respect for the fact that you have to spend a bit of time on that piece, because running to, you know, TK Max, or I don't know where the majority of your listeners are, if they're UK or US based.

[00:13:17] Liam: It's about half and

[00:13:17] Valarie: half some.

[00:13:19] Okay, so the home sense, the target, all those places where you can run in and you think, Yes, that's gonna be great. I'm gonna grab that, that's fine. And you may use it and it may be great, but if you, if you do enough of that, you're just gonna end up really overwhelmed and really bogged down. So that's, um, that's why I created my design course for short-term rentals because it walks you from the beginning, empty property, step by step.

[00:13:42] What do I need to do next, need to do next so that I get to the end game as quickly as possible. I understand time is money. You know, we, we wanna get the doors open and start earning a return on that investment. For sure you make, but understanding the systemized way of getting there and getting the ultimate goal of having a really beautiful [00:14:00] space is, is really what you want.

[00:14:02] Liam: You make a really good point of, um, and, and you remind me of a situation where we've had with clients for, for my short term rental company where. Often we hear clients go, Well, we'll, we'll get it, we'll get all those ready. And we know we, we just want the photos taken and we just wanna get it done. And often, you know, getting it done is the, the enemy of, of getting it good, isn't it?

[00:14:22] Do you know what I mean? It's a case of, um, often because those, uh, photos, the photographer who goes in those photos are gonna be used for hopefully for years, you know, of building that income. So whatever it represents at the, at the time there is. Your guests are gonna see before they book that might make the difference between them booking or not.

[00:14:41] So having your space, let you say, planned out and ready and, um, All the elements considered before that photographer goes in is so important cuz so many, uh, hosts. I see this all the time. Get to the last couple of days they've booked the photographer and they just rush that last little bit. [00:15:00] And,

[00:15:00] Valarie: uh, I have people call me all the time, My photos are tomorrow, can you do a consulting session, , you know, in the next two hours?

[00:15:07] And I'm like, I, I can't. And also, that's not gonna help you. You really do have to think about things a little bit further. Down the road or, or prior to that phase. And I know I remember you saying that one of the properties you have, Liam, it that is well designed by a designer that was really well thought out and planned, is one of the most highly booked and highly profitable in your portfolio.

[00:15:29] Hundred percent. Yeah. So I think gone are the days of just like swooping up properties and slapping some stuff in there with some white. . I think we're past that. I think that to be competitive and to enter into this market, you've gotta start thinking about the design. You've gotta be competing with hotels and the other rentals who are.

[00:15:47] Clearly understanding that design is an, you cannot decouple design from this process. It's a, it is. You are selling a space, it's an experience and it's a space. And if you're selling [00:16:00] an environment, a space, you have to think about how it looks and feels, and that is the design of it. So it's, it's maybe more important now than ever in this industry.

[00:16:09] I think.

[00:16:10] Liam: I love that might be bias. I love that. So, um, there's two questions off the back of that, which I've got is, is the first one is, um, when people are listening to this, when should they get in touch with you? Is it, is it before they buy the rental? Is it once they've bought the rental? Is it the day before the photographer comes in?

[00:16:28] When, when ideally should people get in touch, uh, with, with yourself and, um, you know, sort of have a look at your website and, and look at doing the design course or consult.

[00:16:37] Valarie: As soon as possible yesterday, I think, you know, if, if you are waiting until the last minute, it's just impossible to be as effective with the design, cramming everything in at the end.

[00:16:48] So, you know, if you are looking at buying a property or you know you want to do a rental, even if you don't have the space yet, you can absolutely take my course and start to understand the concepts of how you can put a space together. [00:17:00] Um, and there may be, there may be other resources as well. You might wanna hire a local designer.

[00:17:06] If you want someone to be really hands on and you say, Look, this is not my thing. I'm not gonna do the design, that's, that's great too. There are all kinds of ways to hire help, but um, yeah, I think the sooner you start thinking about the design and aesthetics, the better.

[00:17:20] Liam: That's cool. And looking at your, uh, your services in particular and just so it's clear for, you know, the listeners, as I say, some will be in the us, some will be all over the world really, but some in the uk.

[00:17:30] What are your services and how do you help hosts?

[00:17:34] Valarie: So primarily I run the design course and I do live calls within that course, and then I'll be launching some new things. I think by the time this podcast comes out, there'll be a couple of new services I have. So I think I'll just say tune into my website and see.

[00:17:48] It'll kind of take you where you want to be based on what you might need. It's quil

[00:17:52] Liam: That's cool. That's cool. And. One, one question I'd have at the moment. So we we're recording this now in, in September, [00:18:00] 2022. There's, there's talk of, you know, rising inflation. There's, um, uh, you know, sort of worries over energy bills and that side of things.

[00:18:09] And by the time this podcasts come out, it's probably gonna be, you know, sort of closer to, uh, to December, November, something like that. So I imagine the mood when people are listening to this is they'll, they'll have high, uh, you know, high bills, um, you know, be worried. Keeping their places full. How important is interior design gonna be, um, you know, to keep your places occupied?

[00:18:33] Hmm.

[00:18:36] Valarie: I think, I think it goes back to my prior answer that, you know, if you, if you wanna stand out and you wanna be different, you have to pay attention to design. That doesn't mean you have to invest. Thousands and thousands of pounds or dollars. It can mean small tweaks and changes to make your space more comfortable for the guest, to make your space feel more put together and to [00:19:00] be just at the next level competing with the hotels of the world.

[00:19:04] Um, But I think, I think it's really important to invest some money in the design because, like you said, I think with the, you know, rise of inflation with, with um, things going the way they're going with energy costs, we're probably going to see less travel. We're probably going to see less bookings. So even more important than that, you are in that top percentage of places that does stand out that is appealing to guests.

[00:19:30] You know, all year round because it is so comfortable, even in the winter months, this is where somebody wants to come and be and, and hang out. Like how do you get someone in and warm them up and make them comfortable And um, yeah, I think it's even more critical that you stand apart and design. This is a great way to

[00:19:47] Liam: do that.

[00:19:49] I absolutely agree. That is. Um, so one thing that we must talk about, uh, you know, on this Spotlight series is, uh, you're, you're an author, you're a best selling author in the book, Hospitable [00:20:00] Host. So first of all, congratulations and, uh, you know, What I'd love to do, uh, for the people who are listening to this, is just draw attention that you can go to hospitable

[00:20:11] And this is a book which, uh, compiles hosts from all over the world who can tell their stories and, uh, you know, share their experiences and, and some of their knowledge. And, uh, Valerie is one of the, uh, hosts in the, the first book from Hospitable hosts, um, Valerie. What really gave you the idea to get involved with the project and what have you sort of learnt from it and, and how does it feel being a best selling offer?

[00:20:36] Valarie: Oh gosh. It was such a great way to plug in to such an incredible community. I think that was number one. And just, you know, I think that probably the biggest selling point for me was the fact that all of the proceeds of this book go to a really amazing charity and just, that's a huge part of what I do.

[00:20:52] I love, um, giving back as well. I give a portion of my course proceeds to a charity, a global charity. [00:21:00] Um, so I've, I thought that that was really incredible and Jody is just such an amazing. Super connector of amazing people in this industry. You know, as it as you know, running your own business, it can be really lonely.

[00:21:12] And even if, you know, you're sitting over here in your space reaching out to who you think is the right people, it can still feel really lonely. So to be plugged in with this amazing, incredibly, um, powerful group of other hosts was just it. A complete game changer. Getting to meet some of you guys in London after, you know, two years of the pandemic and being all alone.

[00:21:33] It was, it was really incredible and to read your stories and, um, you know, this business is full of really amazing people and like every industry, it's also full of people who are just maybe in it for less. Um, Stellar reasons or just to like, you know, just scoop 'em up and heads and beds and, and that was never why I got into this industry.

[00:21:57] So I think like the immediate community of other [00:22:00] people who believe in hospitality is the core of this business was for me, just an amazing selling point.

[00:22:06] Liam: That's, that's brilliant. And that, um, that's absolutely what it is, isn't that, that community and, and having shared experience, I'm, I'm a firm believer you can learn something from everyone, which is why I love getting onto these, uh, podcasts and the interview and, uh, you know, on the Spotlight series and, and on the behind the host series.

[00:22:20] So, um, yeah, I love that insight on there. So by, as we, uh, draw these to a close, we always love to do a couple of quick fire questions. So, These answers can be short as long as you like, but um, they're just a bit of fun. So what is your favorite beverage,

[00:22:38] Valarie: alcoholic or non-alcoholic? Your choice. Okay. Well my favorite alcoholic beverage is a gen and tonic, so it's a good thing I'm in England.

[00:22:46] Um, they love their gen and tonic here. And my favorite non-alcoholic beverage is just sparkling water, just as sparkly as it can get. Like I do it myself. More bubbles, the.

[00:22:55] Liam: Awesome. What's one holiday destination that you'd recommend? Everybody listening must go [00:23:00] and check out. Ooh, just

[00:23:01] Valarie: went to Luxembourg.

[00:23:04] Ooh, nice. Really cool. Tiny little country. It's amazing. It was

[00:23:09] Liam: phenomenal. Amazing, amazing. And, uh, finding who inspires you.

[00:23:16] Valarie: Oh, everyone, Everything. Um, I'm gonna say, I'm gonna give like a sweet, cheesy answer and say, My husband Oh, nice. He, he is, um, made of things that other people are not in terms of just like this constant will to just keep on going no matter what He is, works really hard and sometimes I'll go work in his office and can feel his energy and it keeps me going on the days when I don't want.

[00:23:43] Liam: That's amazing. A really sweet answer. This, uh, that's awesome. So, uh, well, Valerie, thank you so much for coming on the Spotlight series. Um, for the people listening, I know we've mentioned it, uh, sort of, uh, once in terms of the website, but just for people listening, if they want to get in touch with you for your services, uh, the website [00:24:00] is, uh, Quill Decor,

[00:24:02] so that's Q U I l l d e c o and, uh, you know, get in touch with Valerie for our services. But also if people just wanted to follow you on social media, what's the best way to do so?

[00:24:15] Valarie: So, I'm a big Instagram fan more than Facebook, so find me on Instagram. It's [email protected]. And if you wanna reach out about specific consulting, um, or design, we do virtual design.

[00:24:26] You can find [email protected]. You can send me an.

[00:24:30] Liam: That's amazing. Well, Valarie thank you so much for coming on the spotlight series today. Um, I'm sure uh, you're gonna have people get in touch with you from the back of this and, uh, yeah, just to say a great big thank you. So, uh, yeah, thank you very much and uh,

[00:24:43] Valarie: thank you Liam.

[00:24:43] It

[00:24:44] was an absolute pleasure

[00:24:45] Liam: having a blast. Gonna get it on the Bruce Lee podcast, Bruce Lee led Bruce Lee cuz it's so hard on the tees loose leaf, making up those rhymes. Don't write it just to, it loosely.

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