The Quill List! Featuring: The Dolly House in Nashville, Tennessee

airbnb airbnb design airbnb host dolly parton nashville Feb 10, 2023

The Quill List is a blog series where we feature properties that have passed our rigorous standards for rentals in both design and hospitality.  Read on for an interview with a fantastic host and how they brought their beautiful property into existence. 

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I (Valerie, owner of Quill Decor) am a Tennessee girl living in England.

I love my UK life but Tennessee will always and forever feel like home to me. And Nashville, as it happens is where I moved right after college, met my husband, got married, and where we had our first baby. Naturally, I have a soft spot for that southern town.

Thus I'm thrilled to share with you that for our very first in a series of posts called The Quill List, we are featuring a gorgeous and one-of-a-kind property called The Dolly House situated in the heart of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. 

I have had the pleasure of speaking with the owner of The Dolly House, Travers Xanthos, who if you haven't heard of him yet is a "rentalpreneur" you need to be following. Enjoy our interview and images from The Dolly House! (And don't miss your opportunity to shop the look at the bottom!)


Travers, tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I grew up in Atlanta, studied Finance at Georgia Southern University, and spent a couple of years traveling around the world before settling down in Nashville and beginning my corporate career in sales.

In 2017, I started my STR business and have been doing that full-time since 2018. My company now consists of 3 hard-working employees and we manage about 40 properties in Nashville, TN - which are a mix of owned and client properties.

How did your short-term rental journey begin? 

In 2017, I worked in Healthcare Sales and wanted to buy an investment property to rent as an Airbnb. I was totally clueless about the short-term rental industry at this point, but I had a friend that was in the business, so I asked him to meet to see if he could give me some tips. When we met, he explained that he did not buy properties but that he gets permission from landlords to rent apartments from them and then sublease on Airbnb, also known as rental arbitrage.

This concept sounded amazing to me and he assured me that it would be profitable, so the next morning I started browsing Craigslist for rental properties and making calls to pitch to landlords. After about 25 "nos," I got a maybe. That gave me confidence this thing could work and as they say, the rest is history!

What was your design process for The Dolly House?  

I developed these properties in the backyard behind another home that I owned. So they had to be designed from the ground up.

The concept for the space evolved over time, but I wanted to create an "experience" for our guests, a place that they could be excited about in addition to visiting Nashville - part museum, part hotel. Each room of the Dolly House Nash is themed to an aspect of "The Queen of Country's" life. The 9 to 5 room, for example, is well designed but also filled with items related to her hit song and movie - along with a QR code in the shape of her face that leads the guest to a video of Dolly explaining how she wrote the song, followed by the music video.

The Library Room was inspired by Dolly's philanthropic project, The Imagination Library, where millions of books have been provided across America to children in need. We built bookshelves along the whole room, filled with books, as well as a QR code that links to a video message from Dolly and a short write-up of the organization.


Did you do all the design yourself or did you hire some help? And why? 

The concept for the houses came from myself and my team. We relayed the themes and inspiration to our amazing designer (Miriam Cázares with Cazha Studio) who picked out the colors and furniture. We had spent the past couple of years designing units on our own and were burned out and out of ideas, so we decided to hire Miriam and I am so glad that we did! She was able to use our normal design/ideas and bring it to the next level. We were able to use her fresh ideas as a springboard at the time of implementation and produced a much more creative space than we could have on our own.

Can you share some fun stories about setting up your rental? 

After designing and onboarding over 50 properties over the past couple of years, we definitely have some stories! About 99% of the time it comes down to the wire and we are scrambling to have the units ready before the photographer or guests arrive.

However, we gave ourselves plenty of time to finish these houses. One interesting story is about how we saved $15k on the 60 ft "Nashville" mural in the common area. After getting multiple quotes from artists for over $15k to paint the mural, we ended up deciding to go our own way. I hired a graphic designer from Upwork to come up with the design for $50. Once it was finalized, my mom, sister, and I waited until dark so we could project the design onto the wall with a small projector and traced it with a pencil. We then used leftover paint from the interior accent walls, stair risers, etc. to finish the mural. After paying to build and furnish two 4 bedroom houses, the cost savings were very much appreciated...

How do you feel having a well designed rental property affects your overall business?

There is no question that a well designed property generates significantly more money. A lot of people will tell you that the extra cost will be made up for quickly because your property will make more money - which is true - but I'd take it one step further. I think that the real boost comes when you put the thing between your ears to use.

You don't have to spend an arm and a leg on expensive furniture and decor to increase your revenue. If you focus on being creative and making your property unique, then you'll really be on to something. If you can do that while you remain intentional and tasteful with the design, you'll be miles ahead of your competition.

What is something special and unique about your property or the experience you offer your guests that makes you stand apart in the short-term rental marketplace? 

We try to put ourselves in the shoes of our guests. Who is our target market? If you were them, what would get you excited about a property? What gets US excited about a property? Most of our guests at The Dolly House Nash are celebrating bachelorette parties or girls' trips. On top of the decor, we try to curate an experience for them on their trip. First impressions are so important in hospitality so we try to focus on that. When the guests arrive, they walk into a house unlike any that they have seen.

We have music videos of Dolly's most famous songs on a loop on the tv, a mimosa bar set up, and oftentimes a full Bachelorette Party decoration set up with balloon arches, custom hats/t-shirts, goodie bags, etc. through one of our party set-up partners. As they walk through the house, they are guided by custom Dolly shaped QR codes that explain the themes, provide recommendations, and instructions for the property. Disco balls, neon signs, selfie walls, makeup mirror stations, murals, rooftop bars, etc. We try to create the optimum experience for our niche market and have had a lot of fun doing it!

What are your favorite resources for furniture and decor? 

Amazon and Wayfair for furniture. World Market and Target for rugs, throw pillows, and decor. Society 6 and Etsy for prints/art.

Any final thoughts that would be interesting to share? 

The more planning and creativity that you can add to a property, the better. Make your property stand out from the crowd because anyone can simply throw some furniture into a unit and list it. Instead of making something that 80% are going to like, make something that 20% of people are going to LOVE. The STR industry is going to continue becoming more and more competitive, so give yourself a head start.

Thanks, Travers for sharing The Dolly House with us, and thanks for creating a beautiful rental for the world to enjoy!! 




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Remember, if you would like weekly Friday updates to your inbox of our latest blog posts and more, click here to sign up for The Weekly Quill.

Until next week, happy shopping and happy hosting! 

Photography by: Emily Green I @abodephotocoAbode Photo Co.

Dolly House interior design by: Miriam Cázares at Cazha Studio I @cazha_studio

Other great reads for you...

The Ultimate Ikea Shopping List for Your Airbnb Rental

Round Up: The Best Sofas for your Airbnb

The 5 Biggest Listing and Decor Mistakes to Avoid in your Airbnb

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