11 top tips for refurbishing or refreshing your Devon holiday home 

Kitchen interior of a holiday home in Salcombe.

Incorporating the window seat provided plenty of seating at a Salcombe fisherman’s cottage. - Credit: REFURB

Katherine Spencer, head of refurbishment at REFURB - from Pebbles, explains how to refresh your holiday home for private use or holiday lets, this summer. 

From holiday homeowners who have chosen to let their properties for the first time to those who want to update their second homes as they expect to spend more time in them, for many, refurbishing a holiday home has been a welcome and productive distraction from the rest of the world over the last year, as well as providing something to look forward to enjoying as life returns to a degree of normality.  

Katherine Spencer head of refurbishment at REFURB, standing in a kitchen.

Katherine Spencer is head of refurbishment at REFURB. - Credit: REFURB

In my 15 years of working in the Devon holiday home market, I have learned that refurbishing a holiday home, especially one by the sea, has different needs and presents different challenges to a refurbishment at your permanent residence. 

The essentials for a letting holiday home 

We’ve moved on from the days of people cramming bunk beds into every room to achieve maximum occupancy in their holiday let. The expectations of modern guests are much higher than they used to be.  

However, there are some essentials when furnishing a holiday home. It might sound obvious, but if property sleeps eight, then you need to have enough seating for eight people throughout the house, whether comfortable seating, chairs around dining table or patio furniture. Sometimes this can present a challenge as the living space can feel compromised if crammed with too many chairs and the house may not let to full occupancy year-round. So how do you achieve the same luxurious feel when hosting two people as when hosting eight? 

Hangers on hooks against a white wall with a chair in front.

Antique hangers provide a space-saving alternative to wardrobes. - Credit: REFURB

There are clever, multi-purpose furniture and space saving options that you can use so that when the house isn’t at full occupancy it doesn’t feel cluttered. Consider bench or banquet seating at dining tables, extending tables, footstools or floor cushions that can add an extra seat for children or teenagers.   

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The key is thinking about who the end user is. If it’s a two-bed property, then is it likely to be one family or two sets of friends visiting? If it’s a four-bed property, is it going to be multi-generational guests or parties of adults coming to stay? Think through the ages and access requirements of those you aim to host, and this will help you when choosing what to buy. 

The finishing touches 

These are those added extras that make people want to come back time and time again. Where you can show you have put thought into how you want people to feel when they’re at your home.  

The exterior of a holiday cottage in Hope Cove, Devon.

Adding a cedar porch to this Hope Cove property created a welcoming entry space. - Credit: REFURB

For example, if you want guests to feel a sense of tranquillity when on holiday and have a sense of being away from it all, hide the technology. We’ve often selected a television that looks like a painting when it’s not in use, which allows the seating area to focus on the views outside the property. Place USB points in the sockets by the beds so people can charge their phones and kindles without bringing bulky adaptors.   

Take time to think about the things that make your home special to you and introduce your guests to the area, with books on local attractions, art from local artists and create a welcome folder that tells them where to get the best meal during their stay. 

Thinking long term 

Maintenance and sustainable care of a holiday home is also important in the holiday-letting market, and a lot of this is dictated by the decoration and procurement of items at the outset.  

For example, painting the walls in a uniform colour so scuff marks can be easily touched up between guest visits is a simple way of making sure it stays looking cared for. There are some beautiful paint colours out there, but if you have a lovely high pigment paint and someone brushes it, it marks, so we colour match with a hard-wearing paint. 

A bed headboard against a blue-panelled wooden wall.

Oil-painted wood panelling serves as an alternative to a headboard. - Credit: REFURB

When it comes to crockery and glasses, it’s also advisable to choose breakables that can be replaced and matched. While it’s gorgeous to have beautiful coastal printed china, if the range is discontinued suddenly you end up with mismatched plates and that doesn’t feel quite so luxurious.  

Added extras 

  • Choose a carpet with a practical twist style, making it easier to clean than the popular loop style that can become tangled in vacuum cleaners; 

  • Paint walls in a uniform colour so scuff marks can be easily touched up;  

  • Buy glasses and crockery locally so it can be replaced quickly on changeover days; 

  • Add thoughtful touches like blankets by the patio doors for chilly evenings; 

  • Use multi-purpose furniture to provide enough seating but without cluttering the space.