Mid Century Bungalow Living Room: Get The Look! (Plus my design process)

airbnb design design process mid century living room Jan 06, 2023
Interior design for airbnb Airbnb Decorating services Mid century modern airbnb Furnishing Short term Rental Vacation rental décor ideas

Decorating an Airbnb (or other short-term rental property) is a slightly different art than decorating a personal home where clients live. As an interior designer who's been at it for 15 years, doing both commercial and residential design, I find Airbnb design is THE MOST fun kind of project for lots of reasons.

Whether you're designing an Airbnb that you own, or doing it for someone else, hold onto your hats and let's get this party started. In this blog, I'm going to take you by the hand and walk you through my whole design process... (But if you just want to skip to the fun bit and come back to read the full blog later, then don't miss this shoppable board below!)


1. Metal Curtain Rod | 2. Curtain Panels | 3. Floor Lamp | 4. Agate Art | 5. 11 x 14 Brass Frame | 6. Handmade Marbled Paper | 7. Agave Art Print  | 8. Bird Print  | 9. Gold Hanging Tray |  10. Velvet Sofa (similar) | 11. Plush Blanket  | 12. Blue Lamp | 13. Artist's Figure | 14. Black End Table | 15. Marble Top Side Table | 16. Faux Succulent |  17. 5 x 7 Picture Frame | 18. Sheepskin  | 19. Rug | 20. Coffee Table | 21. Ottoman | 22. Pink Crane Pillow | 23. Mudcloth Pillow | 24. Fawn Pillow | 25. Faux Succulent | 26. Globe Lamp | 27. Rattan Chair | 28. Round Side Table | 29. Marginata Plant in Natural Basket

Don't get me wrong, this process isn't easy. There's SO MUCH to do, and SO MUCH to purchase. And time is money. You may be tempted to just start stuffing generic-not-so-bad Ikea and Target stuff in the whole place to call it done, open it up, and start getting some return on that investment. But I really encourage you to take a breath, step back, and focus on the design of your Airbnb at the outset. The key to your success in this endeavor is standing apart from the competition. It's advantageous for you to think about how your rental looks in photos, but also how it feels to be in that space and use it. You're designing an experience for all those many future guests! 

I'm here to help you do just that. 

(Quick Disclaimer: I'm not anti-Ikea or Target. In fact, I totally 100% encourage folding in some Ikea and Target items here and there... As you'll see in the GET THE LOOK info at the bottom of this post. The key is mixing in these items with the higher-end things and vintage finds for a one-of-a-kind scroll-stopping rental.) 

On to the Bungalow...

The owner of this house, a local contractor, came to me for help with furnishing and decorating it. He'd already renovated the home for flipping, but instead of selling, he decided it may be advantageous to turn it into an Airbnb. So we didn't get to do any of the finish selection or kitchen or bathroom designs for this home. By the time I was hired, we had nice millwork and finishes to work with decorating around, and although there were finishes I would have done differently, it was a relatively clean blank slate. My favorite parts of this charming bungalow are the gorgeous hardwoods and that amazing natural light that streams in through the large windows throughout.

The contractor gave us a gift of having the walls all painted a beautiful clean bright white, with new trim to match. Starting with a bright white palette certainly paved the way to rental decor success! 

The Design Process: Where to begin

The first step for me in any endeavor can be summed up with the old adage: 'Know your audience.' Before I even began to search for Airbnb design inspiration, I sat down and mapped out who would be staying in this 3 bedroom bungalow. (I go into detail about how to go about defining your ideal guest and why that's an important element to Airbnb ownership success in my Airbnb Design E-Course. Check the course out if you want an easy road map to designing a rental.) 

After I defined the details of our ideal guests down to their names, occupations, and where they were traveling from, I was then able to start to search for design inspiration that would speak to these people directly.

This is how you attract the type of guests you'd like staying in your Airbnb. You design it for THEM. Not for you. 

I immediately knew the design style that would fit my ideal customers' preferences AND the house's unchangeable elements: Contemporary Cottage with Mid Century Elements (with a little boho glam layered in for added charm). 

If you have no idea what I meant by that prior paragraph, just take this QD Style Quiz from the vantage point of your ideal guests. And voila... Or if you didn't think the outcome was just right, take it as many times as you like! Once you have an ideal design style, head over to Pinterest and search for that exact style. If you search for Contemporary Cottage Mid Century Living Rooms, you'll see living rooms that should be in line with your particular style and will hopefully feel inspiring for your space. 

And for even more design inspiration, here are a few of my favorite Airbnb properties to check out:

Airbnb: Renovated Historic Sandstone Home with Plunge Pool

Airbnb: Elegant Art Deco Home in Condesa

Airbnb: Eco Luxury Farmhouse Oasis

For me the inspiration search looks something like this: Search around Pinterest, Airbnb and Instagram, Pin away and save some links, fall down a rabbit hole, climb out of the rabbit hole, find more inspiration, pin it, stumble upon some cool blogs to read, keep pinning, and then... stop.

Stop? Yes, stop. Stop pinning. Stop searching. Why? Because your time is finite, and if you ever want to get this house decorated for guests and ready for business, you've got to get cracking on the one million decisions that need to be made.

So close down Instagram and stop, then look at what you've gathered. Hone in your inspiration to about 4 of your favorite images for each room, and then get away from the internet for a hot minute. 

Your 4 fave images all pulled together in yummy goodness are what make up an inspiration board or mood board. I pull them together into one board in Canva or PowerPoint like this: 

Okay, you're inspired. Now what? 

Once I feel I'm heading In the right direction with my audience in mind and my style, I'll start to gather a better sense of the physical space I have to work with. For the living room, what are my furniture layout options? How much furniture do I need and what sizes will work best for the specific room? 

Now I gather field measurements and draw some quick floor plans of the space to play around with furniture sizing and configurations. (For quick and easy floor plans, try Floor Planner OR just use graph paper and pencil!)

After choosing a layout that seems best...

It's budget spreadsheet time!! This is truly one of my favorite things to do!! Insert the jazz hands. 🤗

Hear me out... I'm a very linear, left-brained thinker, just as much as I am a creative, so this really works well for keeping me organized and on track. But if the idea of a spreadsheet makes you want to shut this blog post down now, don't worry. And don't run yet.  You can create a list of needed items in whatever form or fashion works for you! Pen and notebook? Sure! Whatevs.

But do start a list of some kind for needed items for each room. In my spreadsheet, I'll draft out a list of needed items and an ideal price range for each one. (In my Design Course, I provide a detailed pre-filled budget spreadsheet for your own design project with ideal items for each room of your space and a reasonable list of price ranges for each item.)

Okay, so. Now that I have my ideal guest, my design style, my fav inspiration images, and budget with list of needed items, NOW I begin some virtual shopping.

Pinterest with its many many many furniture ads nowadays isn't a bad place to start. You can start off creating boards specifically for potential items for purchase, OR you can begin some vision boards by taking items over into another space. I typically use Canva for this because it's super duper easy. It removes backgrounds which allows me to layer items on my boards. And that makes me very happy. But it's not crucial. You do you.

Vision boards are a place for your ideas to come together visually, they don't need to be presentable necessarily. (Unless you're presenting your boards to a client, then they need to be presentable. But you knew that. If you like my methods, take my course because, you guessed it, I'll go into detail teaching my Vision Boarding method. This course is valuable for aspiring Airbnb designers and owners alike!) 


(This is the Final vision board for the STR I filmed my E-course inside of. It went through many variations and didn't start out looking this polished. Not even close. It's usually a hot mess right up until the very end.) 

From my original Mood Board, you'll notice the color scheme changed a bit (insert green velvet sofa) but the design intent stayed the same. Mid-Century Cottage style carries a level of relaxed sophistication that leaves you feeling 'at home' which is something I wanted for my guests.

One focus for our aspired guests was return visits. This Airbnb is in a college town so parents will often come to visit their kids again and again each year. We wanted to cater to these guests and make them feel totally comfortable in this home-away-from-home so they'd book up every trip they wanted early on thus filling up this Airbnb's calendar and making it a MORE SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS. 

The emerald green velvet sofa was one of the first items I selected, and then I turned to the rug and built the rest of the room around those two things. I added lots of gold touches for some fun bling. (Our sofa legs came with silver legs so I spray painted them gold!) And I also made sure there was a fun and balanced amount of black within the accents of this room to keep everything grounded. 

We ended scoring several items for this living room 2nd hand, which adds depth, character, and dare I say a little bit of soul to this adorable little bungalow. It also kept us under budget.  Saving money for your biz is a major rush of dopamine, and buying 2nd hand is a great way to do it!


Get The Look

If you love the vision board above, then the board below is for you! I've based it around the products in the original vision board but updated it with shoppable links so you can click straight through to your favorite product! I'd encourage you to try and layer a few old, well-loved 2nd hand or vintage pieces to each room of your design. Even just a few pieces with a history and story that go back farther than the Ikea factory where they were recently born will add SO MUCH life to any space you design. It does take a bit more time, but it's so worth it to make your space stand out from the crowd, making your short-term rental more successful! 

The board below has been updated with current products as stock changes quickly. If you want to emulate this look in your property, feel free to shop the numbered links below! 

1. Metal Curtain Rod | 2. Curtain Panels | 3. Floor Lamp | 4. Agate Art | 5. 11 x 14 Brass Frame | 6. Handmade Marbled Paper | 7. Agave Art Print  | 8. Bird Print  | 9. Gold Hanging Tray |  10. Velvet Sofa (similar) | 11. Plush Blanket  | 12. Blue Lamp | 13. Artist's Figure | 14. Black End Table | 15. Marble Top Side Table | 16. Faux Succulent |  17. 5 x 7 Picture Frame | 18. Sheepskin  | 19. Rug | 20. Coffee Table | 21. Ottoman | 22. Pink Crane Pillow | 23. Mudcloth Pillow | 24. Fawn Pillow | 25. Faux Succulent | 26. Globe Lamp | 27. Rattan Chair | 28. Round Side Table | 29. Marginata Plant in Natural Basket

Happy Designing, Happy Decorating, and Happy Shopping! 


Other great reads for you...

Round Up: The Best Beds for your Airbnb

An Easy 3-Step Plan for your Airbnb Window Coverings

Wayfair Shopping for Your Airbnb... A Designer's Take

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