Transforming your property into an Airbnb rental has a lot of moving parts, from amenities to area attractions to nuts and bolts like toiletries and kitchen staples. People choose Airbnb properties for the personalization and thoughtful touches that can’t be found in hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other short-term accommodations.
But most of all, those who book Airbnbs desire luxurious amenities that set the property apart. Investing in your old house by adding these singular DIY luxuries will pay dividends in happy guests, great reviews, and maybe even Superhost status!
So, let me share five luxurious DIY projects to transform your old house into a sought-after Airbnb property that draws in your rental market with superior amenities.
Before You Get Started
Before ramping up your Airbnb transformation, consider the competition in the immediate market. Are you aware of other rental properties in your area? Have you researched competitor rentals and the amenities they offer? What stood out about them for the guests who left reviews?
Also, Airbnb and other short-term rental services are now restricted in some US cities. Know the status of your location. Also, if your old house is mortgaged, it’s advisable to check in with your lender to make sure you’re not prohibited from transforming your old house into an Airbnb. Know the rules, regulations, and local ordinances applying to short-term rentals before proceeding.
Once you’ve got your regulatory ducks in a row, you can get down to serious business. So, here are five luxurious DIY projects to transform your old house, starting with an amenity that’s having a renaissance, especially in the short-term rental market.
1. The Scando Swag of a Sauna
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The Scandinavians know how to live. From Denmark’s “hygge” to Finland’s health-enhancing sauna, the gifts of Scandinavia go well beyond IKEA. And the sauna is making a comeback! This trend of home saunas began during the pandemic and its mandated cocooning shows no sign of slowing down. Consumer demand for experiencing spa-like amenities as part of their Airbnb stay makes installing a sauna the ideal DIY project. Here’s how to go about it:
Step 1: Select the Right Location
A secluded place with enough room would be the most ideal location. Utilize the spacious bathroom or convert the basement. You can also build out an affordable sauna as a detached, outdoor space, adding it to an al fresco entertaining and relaxation area.
Step 2: Decide on the Sauna Type
Infrared saunas are easier to work with, heat up faster, and are more effective, but traditional saunas with a stove or heated rocks offer a more authentic experience.
Step 3: Choose Your Materials
If you’re handy with tools and don’t mind putting in some time and effort, go ahead and build a sauna from scratch. Otherwise, a DIY sauna kit is the easiest to set up. Cedarwood is the popular choice for walls and benches because it’s resistant to moisture and warping but pine, poplar, and hemlock are some other options. You can choose either tile, concrete, or wood for the flooring. For traditional saunas, you’ll also need a sauna heater or stove, and sauna stones. For infrared ones, you’ll need suitable wiring and infrared lamps.
Step 4: Plan the Layout
With DIY kits, you’ll have a pre-planned layout at your disposal. If you’re building from scratch, consider the placement of the benches, the heating elements, lighting, towel racks, and any additional features you want to include. Add a floor-to-ceiling window to create a unique experience guests are guaranteed to love.
Step 5: Follow All Safety Considerations and Assemble
Safety is paramount while using a sauna, so ensure proper insulation with fiberglass, aluminum vapor barrier for the floor and walls, vents near the floor and ceiling, and a timer and temperature control system. Get the electrical wiring inspected by professionals as well.
Finally, follow the manufacturer’s instructions or your custom plan to set up the sauna and offer spa-like luxury to your guests. The sauna renaissance is relatively new, so be an Airbnb first mover and offer this sought-after amenity.
2. Crisp, Clean, and Bright – The Welcoming Kitchen
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Because your house is older, leverage its period characteristics. Airbnb guests delight in heritage buildings, so leave those architectural details as they are and add a fresh finish with some DIY upgrades like these:
Switch Out Tired Countertops – Give your kitchen an upgrade with new marble, quartz, or granite countertops. If the countertops are still in good shape, take advantage of DIY countertop refinishing kits to give them a brand-new look.
Give a White Paint Facelift – Keep the look crisp, clean, and bright with white paint, accented by either varnished wood or contrasting paint color. Even older kitchen cupboards can be salvaged with the crisp, clean finish provided by white paint.
Install a Fireclay Sink – The sink is a focal point (especially if located under a window, which is often the case in older homes), so add a stainless steel farmhouse sink. A heritage-inspired detail, fireclay is a durable material resistant to high traffic and extreme heat. It will serve your property for many years while adding to its vintage appeal. Best of all, fireclay sinks are inexpensive!
Replace Worn Hardware – Cabinet knobs, pulls, and other hardware can be easily switched out to give your old kitchen an instant glow-up. Stainless steel is a classic, durable choice but if you’re going for a rustic look then materials like chrome, nickel, and wood will offer more customization options.
Illuminate With Light Fixtures – Bid adieu to your dated light fixtures and take the modern route with crystal fixtures, chandeliers, and pendant lights with warm hues for a homely atmosphere. Under-cabinet lighting is another thoughtful detail that will improve visibility and make your kitchen a pleasure to use.
Add a Backsplash of Color – Peel-and-stick backsplashes are so easy to install, even a novice DIY-er can do it. It’s a fantastic, mess-free alternative to traditional tile backsplashes, and looks just as luxe when done right. Make sure you coordinate the color with other elements of your kitchen.
And don’t forget that no matter how glamorously you update your kitchen, your guests won’t be happy unless it’s well-equipped for their stay. So, stock that kitchen with essential appliances, cooking utensils, pantry supplies like coffee, tea, sugar, salt, bottled water, milk, and maybe a half dozen eggs, and a welcome basket containing some local treats (jam, honey, crackers, energy bars, seasonal fruit) as a special gesture. The kitchen is the home’s heart, so engineer its embrace of your guests to be a big and warm one.
3. A Grand Entrance
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First impressions are lasting impressions, so a grand entrance is in order. The approach to your property should be:
- A preview of what guests will experience inside
- Well-lit and safe (no loose pavers on the front walk)
- A first impression that will last
Create a Polished Walkway With Landscaping
Whether your old house is a colonnaded extravaganza or a modest rancher, its entrance sets the tone. Pavers, flagstones, and brickwork combined with targeted landscaping are fairly straightforward DIY upgrades for an inviting first impression.
While landscaping, native, low-maintenance vegetation is key to success, making the appearance of your property consistent from visit to visit. Try lining the walkway with plant beds inhabited by low-slung coniferous shrubs or grasses and succulents growing between strategically placed rocks.
Repaint or Install a Statement Front Door
One simple but impactful change you can make is painting your front door. Paint it a bright, standout color. Red is the classic but any color will do in a rich lacquer that distinguishes it from the rest of the house. Symbolic of hospitality, your front door sends a welcoming message when painted to stand out.
For a more serious lift to the facade, consider replacing the door entirely with something more befitting the old heritage aesthetic, such as a double hardwood door, if the space allows. Also, install a keyless entry to make your guest check-in experience utterly seamless.
Metal house numbers in lieu of traditional house plates along with groups of attractive plants on the landing can also help you increase crucial eye appeal. Also make sure your exteriors are maintained to the standards your guests expect, with windows neatly painted and sparkling.
Guide the Way With Outdoor Lighting
To illuminate your walkway for night check-ins, try either solar or LED lighting. Flexible LED ropes can be wound through your plant beds for an almost ethereal effect that still provides sufficient light for guests to find their way to your brightly-colored front door. To save on electricity bills, invest in a transformer with built-in timers.
4. Create Bathroom Bliss
Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash
Just as the sauna answers guest demand for a spa-like experience, the bathroom provides an opportunity to add luxurious, over-the-top comfort. Like the kitchen, a crisp, clean look is valued in the bathroom but an air of serenity (following the “spa” theme) is also highly preferred. Here are some easy DIYs for a full makeover:
Upgrade Fixtures – If you haven’t replaced your fixtures in a while, now’s your shining moment to get it done. Installing a claw-foot tub or a modern freestanding tub is fairly easy if you have a helping hand. Make sure to choose durable materials, like acrylic, for your bathtub.
As our theme is DIY, we’re going to stay within the realm of possibility. But if you’re knocking out a wall to put in a large tub with jacuzzi jets or a massive tiled shower with an adjustable water pressure shower head, please hire a contractor to get it just right.
Install Heated Flooring – Focusing again on DIY solutions, heated bathroom flooring is a pleasant surprise for your guests. There’s nothing more delicious than standing on a warm, cozy floor while performing your morning hygiene rituals.
Once you have access to the subfloor, installing a heated floor is easier than you’d think if you have intermediate-level handyman skills. Some of the supplies you’ll need are radiant heating tiles, mortar, flooring, and basic tools like scissors, trowels, glue guns, and safety gear.
Give Your Vanity a Makeover – Give your guests a reason to admire themselves with a freshly-painted vanity that extends across one wall. Rich, dark colors like navy or cherry red look sophisticated against white flooring and walls but a soft pastel will add a touch of whimsy to the area. Install modern crystal or brass hardware and a striking backsplash for added elegance.
Install Backlit Mirrors – Choose mirrors made specifically for bathrooms, so they’ll withstand the heat and humidity. LED lighting installed behind each mirror creates a luxe, modern effect. Choose a warm, gold-toned lighting color, greeting your guests each morning with a satisfyingly flattering reflection of themselves!
Add Luxury Accents – A simple DIY accent is creating a windowsill arboretum with bath-friendly plants like ferns and pothos. Place some mirror art and refresh the bath curtains and mats as well. And please don’t forget to change the locks. Door and cabinet locks are of utmost importance.
- Sweet Dreams: Security & Luxe Comfort
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Anyone who’s ever traveled knows that falling asleep in a strange bed can be difficult. That’s even more the case if you’re worried about security. But with a few simple DIY installations, your guests will not only feel safe but also sleep soundly throughout the night.
Must-Have Security Systems – Your old house and the guests who stay in it will be much more secure with the addition of motion detector lighting, an alarm system, and external security cameras. If you already have systems in place, manage them intelligently. If you don’t, it’s time to grab a DIY home security system and install it, as security is a major concern for many Airbnb guests. Keep in mind that if your property is large, a DIY kit might not provide sufficient security.
Luxe Window Overhaul – Replace your windowpanes and repaint the frame or switch out your old windows completely if they’re too worn. Then grab some floor-length curtains made from opulent fabrics to give the windows a royal treatment. Exercise your sewing skills and add some ruffle and lace trim details. For small windows, stitch up Roman-style shades in a nice fabric.
Upgrade Bed & Bedding – Glam up the bedroom with a luxurious DIY upholstered bed frame as the centerpiece. If you’re not too keen on carpentry, get a simple plywood frame and then put your DIY chops to use with some batting, muslin, and a sumptuous fabric of your choice such as velvet or linen. The muslin will go first followed by a few layers of batting and then the main outer fabric. Add embellishments like tufting and trim and a peel-and-stick ornate wallpaper behind the headboard to make it even more of a treat for the eyes.
Finally, choose a quality mattress and linens in a high thread count cotton. Always pick white bed linens. White is a universal hallmark of fine hospitality. Add bolsters, throw cushions, and soft throws, and decorate with scented boutique candles to signal the comforts of home sought by all Airbnb guests.
Becoming the Airbnb Host With the Most
These five luxurious DIY projects to transform your old house into a stellar Airbnb property can help make your place one that guests would prefer. But to really pull out the stops, superior customer service and hyper-responsiveness to guest questions are what will get you to Superhost status.
So, get those regulatory ducks in a row, hire a contractor if you’re not dead sure about any given DIY project, and add the amenities that mean year-round guests. Start racking up those glowing reviews and before you know it, you’ll be a Superhost with a successful Airbnb!