July 4, 2019

How to Make Your Vacation Home High on Fun, Low on Stress

As summer moves ahead full sail, many of us are embarking on our summer vacations. For some, that means spending lazy chunks of time with family and friends at vacation homes. You want your second home to reflect your relaxed mindset, and be low-maintenance, casual, and usable. When it’s all said and done, you don’t want to be greeted with a long to-do list, you just want to arrive and spend time with the people you love. Thoughtful design helps maintain a chill vibe in your vacation home and keeps it easy to maintain.


Not all vacation homes are summer homes, but many of them are. Pick fabrics that hold up to all that comes with the season and setting—sand, suntan lotion, and bare feet. Nowadays, many indoor/outdoor fabrics are available that look and feel great. They’re designed to repel moisture and withstand fading, making them ideal for furniture where someone might plop down in their damp swimsuit. Sweating lemonade glasses are no biggie for wipeable tabletops made from ceramic composites, stainless steel, or tempered glass. Who has time to worry about coasters on vacation?

I’ll always remember when I was designing a beach house for a client who has three boys. She was sure she wanted white sofas for an airy look. We ended up designing a beautiful space that had plenty of white all the way down to the rugs, and it was all super durable. We joked that she could just hose it off at the end of the day. Another option is to forgo rugs altogether, and keep the floors bare for easy cleaning.


In addition to making your vacation home low-maintenance, you also want to think about the atmosphere you’re creating. You will likely spend a lot of time outdoors, so be thoughtful about designing patios and porches that are attractive and comfortable. Set up an outdoor room by anchoring the space with a rug. Many outdoor rugs are made from polypropylene and can even be power-washed. Next, arrange your furniture to encourage conversation and highlight the view. Some good materials to look for when selecting outdoor furniture are synthetic wicker, teak, stone, and pressure-treated wood because they resist mold, fading, and cracking. After your furniture is in place, create a sense of enclosure by utilizing container plants around the perimeter. Strategically position umbrellas, awnings, and canopies to provide shade for people who want a break from the sun.

Next, add in all the little details that will save you time in the future and add to your guests’ stay. Keep a set of the essentials—melamine dishes, shatterproof wine glasses, and napkins—outside so you’re not running between the kitchen and patio. A portable bar cart is a handy piece for bringing drinks and snacks to wherever people are gathering. For music, install an outdoor speaker system or use a portable wireless speaker that plays music off your phone. On warm summer nights, a fire pit, outdoor chimney, or fire table lets the fun continue under the stars while you toast marshmallows or curl up with a blanket. Set string lights or lanterns on a timer to illuminate at dusk. Automated ambiance for the win!


If hosting guests is on your horizon, plan ahead for how everyone will be comfortable. When house guests include children, bunkrooms are a popular solution. I loved one that I designed for a family in Newport. We built four daybeds around the perimeter for daytime lounging or nighttime sleeping. The middle remained an open play space, ideal for a gaggle of friends or cousins.

Sleeping arrangements are important, but there are smaller ways to make guests feel welcome, too. By the back door, place a big basket stocked with beach essentials, such as extra flip-flops, hats, spare sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, aloe vera gel, and baby powder (a quick fix for getting sand off wet skin). Providing plenty of wall hooks gives your guests an immediate place to hang towels and beach bags.

Anticipating your guests’ needs makes them feel cared for and cuts down requests, leaving more time for fun together. For example, have your WIFI password displayed so guests don’t feel like they’re a bother by asking for it, and you don’t have to dig it out repeatedly. Placing some jigsaw puzzles, board games, cards, books, and newspapers around the house provides your friends and family with plenty of options to socialize together or enjoy a little quiet time. Set up a drinks fridge and snack station in the main gathering space outside the kitchen prep area so guests can help themselves.

Finally, I encourage you to push your design boundaries a bit. Second homes tend to be more casual and fun, so it’s a wonderful way to experiment with a design that’s a little outside your comfort zone.

For more ideas and inspiration, take a peek at my portfolio.

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