The Quill List! Featuring: The Governor's Quarters in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

airbnb art airbnb design airbnb home tour the quill list Mar 17, 2023

Photography by: Ellis Creek I @ellis_creek_photography I Ellis Creek Photography 

This week I have the pleasure of introducing you to a remarkable property run by a remarkable lady. Courtney Houston is a real estate powerhouse with a notable talent for interior design. Today she is going to tell us all about one of her most stunning short-term rental properties in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, The Governor's Quarters. 

I am so impressed by Courtney's many talents, and I know you will be too. Enjoy! 

Courtney, tell us a bit about yourself.

Short answer- I work in the housing industry!

Long answer- I am in the process of moving to the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  I have my Real Estate license there to serve the areas of Beaufort, Bluffton, and Hilton Head Island! I'm a licensed REALTOR in California (focusing on the Hi-Desert in Southern California) where I manage 4 rentals, and I am a licensed REALTOR in NC (focusing on my hometown of Wilson, and the coastal areas). I also manage our vacation rental located on Hilton Head Island. Then sprinkle in helping clients get their investment homes ready to go on the short-term rental market and interior design!

Note From Val: You had me at adorable dogs and perfectly styled shelves. Sign me up for a flight to Hilton Head please!! 

How did your short-term rental journey begin?

My husband had been deployed to the Middle East and we were able to save up some money. After he returned home, we started looking for investment properties. I was already deep into the real estate industry working for a top broker in downtown Joshua Tree, so I was able to have an inside look into the market, going prices, trends, etc. I noticed things were starting to heat up in the short-term rental market. We found a for-sale-by-owner that needed some work.

We immediately jumped on it and spent the next 2 and a half months renovating. Between the two of us, we did everything except for the major plumbing, exterior painting, and electrical. Fast forward, the rental was a success! We sold at the right time and were able to purchase the Hilton Head Island rental we have now. 


What was your design process for Governor's Quarters?

With this project, I wanted to capture the Lowcountry coast inside the home but with a twist! I wanted to honor the natural elements of the home- the tongue and grove-stained wood, stucco fireplace, and rich Saltillo floors the home already had into the design. I accented the home with furniture and decor that added texture with modern flares to marry up with what was already there.

I loved finding old artifacts and vintage nautical items for the home. I kept the bedrooms, light and airy and went a little daring in the bathrooms with our tile choices. If you look around at other homes on the island, they tend to be blues, whites, and neutral earth colors. I wanted something that still felt coastal but would stand heads above.

Overall, we managed to take a classic look and make it look interesting and managed to feature what made classic, “classic” in a fresh way.

Another note from Val: You did such an amazing job, and I think it's so smart to try and make your property not just beautiful but also different and special from the other STR homes on the market in that area.

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

This project was a labor of love between my family! I led the design but my family pitched in every step of the way. I'm so grateful my husband was my soundboard when so many choices had to be made in such a short time. (Time is money when it comes to the short-term rental market!)

My mom and I would go back and forth for hours and hours, on what fabric would look best for the pillows or the position of a kitchen cabinet to fit our wooden entertaining boards. My mom would shut down the fabric stores to hand-select them (side note- she made and hung every window treatment in the house!!)

My dad actually installed the master and upstairs bathroom shower and flooring! He is a master in his trade and his cuts and installation are literal perfection- you can take that to the bank. My father-in-law helped us update all of the lighting in the house. My grandparents even went on install day and helped set up the furniture, put up decor, and hang curtains. Every single detail was touched and well thought out!

It definitely shows! Can you share some fun stories about setting up your rental?

I would say, funny stories now maybe weren't so funny when they happened. We had a few design flops that lead to something better. Delayed material and choices that just weren't meant to be. Something unique, when removing the old rotten siding, the contractor found a super thick 70's Coca-Cola can!

There are some really special pieces tucked away in the home. The boat horn featured in the built-ins by the TV came off the boat we used to ride growing up on and the original oil painting in the house was curated from an old fisherman's home off the coast in San Diego.

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

Tremendously. With the market becoming more saturated with rentals, it's so important for us hosts to diversify and cater to our target markets. Setting up our vacation homes to look and feel like vacation homes, not like your average living room of a house you could find anywhere in the US. We target small families or a few extended friends who are looking for a boutique getaway on the island. We lean into and cater towards that exact experience. We spend a few extra dollars on our amenities and things like linens and kitchenware that make our listing stand out. That is highly appreciated and recognized in our reviews!

Catering towards a more boutique, dare I say luxury experience, we are able to charge a bit more than the average rental. We show pride in our rental and the way it is kept and organized and that in turn sends a message to the guests they should too.

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?

It has everything you could think of. I market, just bring your clothes!

We use high-quality kitchen items, linens, soaps, etc., and have everything organized, labeled, and easy to find. This adds a high-quality experience that makes guests feel they are being catered to and that we have personally looked after them during their stay. We often send flowers, write personalized notes, send a pie from a local bakery, and from afar make guests feel spoiled.

These small acts (I spend 10% of the guest's first night's stay for the people curious about the financial side) truly go a long way. We have repeat guests who no longer book on the platform and just simply text me. We are in this for the long haul and try to build relationships. Many hosts and property managers look at this industry as a quick buck and turnover.

But when you look at it from the perspective of the traveling guest you can put yourselves in their shoes and then it becomes easy to make their vacation even better. We've had guests come to celebrate their remission from cancer, a family getting together that hasn't seen each other in months, some who are gathering because of a passing of a loved one, others to celebrate a wedding, and so on. The WHY they are staying in your home matters and we take the time to find that out. Our different approach shines through our listing and reviews and attracts guests who are looking for an attentive host.


What are your favorite resources for furniture and decor?

Facebook Marketplace all day!! That is my go-to. I shop the large designer retail stores and magazines to find inspiration but somehow always find one-of-a-kind items for pennies on the dollar on the Marketplace. Some items we've had to put TLC into and others are in mint condition. I search for keywords and brands and the algorithm does the work! I've driven miles to pick up unique items, sometimes up to 2 hours one way to get the perfect missing piece. I found a skilled carpenter marketing their furniture on Facebook Market who ended up making our 8' solid wood dining table at Hilton Head.

For one of our rentals, we sourced a mint leather couch that retailed for over $3,500 we scored for only $250. I also love spending my weekends sourcing at local thrift stores and shops. Both avenues support our local community and I am all for that!


Any final thoughts that would be interesting to share?

Use this process as your creative outlet and never let it be finished! Always be open to feedback and if you can, enjoy your home and stay in it! You will notice things that maybe you wouldn't otherwise if you hadn't.

Thank you Courtney for taking the time to share your story with us, and thanks so much for sharing such a beautiful rental with the world. 

To book this beautiful property, head to their Airbnb link right here. And to get to know Courtney and watch the fabulous things she is up to, follow her on Instagram. 

Happy Hosting everyone! 

Photography of The Governor's House by Ellis Creek I @ellis_creek_photography I Ellis Creek Photography 

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