EIGHT or GREAT – one Vacation Rental’s Refresh Program
Erehwon Retreat isn’t your average vacation rental – it’s a 1923 Arts and Craft home away from home. While AirBnB, Booking.com, Vrbo, TripAdvisor has revolutionized the way we book vacations, there’s still nothing like personal attention to detail.
Hospitality means you can’t perform maintenance when something breaks. Heater not firing up? Better see what’s wrong. AC busted on the hottest day of the year? Time to replace it.
That strategy simply doesn’t work for a vacation rental, because the guest may only be on property for the two days it takes to fix the problem at hand. Instead, we’re on the offensive with every turn over, and perform routine maintenance every six months whether we think our properties need it or not.
Finding a vacation rental with the personal touch
So, what does that mean at Erehwon Retreat? To start with, as proprietor, I have a very different approach to this beautiful rental property.
Many ‘holiday homes’ are simply outfitted by somebody who’s retired to Florida and wants to find a source of income for themselves, so the quality and style of the furnishings slowly erodes yet the photos date to the opening. In our case we update with independent professional photographers every other year. AirBnB might have given consumers more choice, but actually choice is often related to location, rather than decorative arts. And worse, furnishings often are just the latest from Ikea. A recent guest reminded me that hotel rooms that are heavily discounted are designated for a ‘refresh’ but until they are taken out of service, they’re available for use at deep discount. You know – worn out mattress, dilapidated fixtures and lampshades with burn marks.
At Erehwon Retreat our focus is on timeless elegance. Working from a curators’ perspective, every aspect of the bungalow, cottage and grounds is examined to see how it can combine the historical pedigree of its era of construction alongside the very best of modern innovation in comfort and performance. That’s why I work with interior designer Nikki Couture, who confers with me annually to create a maintenance schedule that renovates or replaces the contents of both properties to keep them bandbox fresh. The cottage will commence its eighth season in November, which meant we looked at everything with an eye to replacement. Some items though, like towels and wash cloths are replaced annually.
Florida Vacation Rentals – how to find perfection in every detail
One of the secrets to success at Erehwon Retreat is that I spend a night in each property twice a year, giving me first-hand experience of using every aspect of using my vacation rentals, from the cutlery in the drawers, to the mattress on the bed, to sitting on the deck to enjoy the view. This allows me and my team to strive constantly to improve and ‘refresh’ so that the rental experience constantly improves.
In December 2016, this maintenance activity included:
- Re-crowning the six dining room chairs with foam and then re-upholstering them with leather
- The cottage’s reading chair being reupholstered by a specialist
- Deck furniture being sent away for sand-blasting, repainting and sealing
- Replacing the box spring and mattress in the cottage (our hotel grade beds are often favorably mentioned in our reviews!)
- Changing deck boards where necessary
- Adding a hand rail to cover the journey between the deck, path and parking area
- Installing passive lighting to enhance the gorgeous tree cover in the evenings
- New low-voltage path lighting around the property.
This fall the cottage has also received new seat cushions, bolsters and pillows to ensure perfect comfort for all vacation guests.
The period details of the property aren’t just window dressing – they contribute to the quality of every experience. The 1920s were the tipping point between craftsmanship and mass production, meaning that furniture and decorative items were made from high quality materials but with innovative and exciting design concepts – the ideal balance of form and function that makes these Florida vacation rentals lovely to look at and superb to stay in.
Choosing a vacation rental – top tips
While looking at photographs can help you get a sense of a place, there’s a great deal to be said for looking at reviews too. It’s vital to find the perfect base for your vacation, and that means paying attention to such details as the quality of sleep that people say they get, the attention to detail that allows a kitchen to be fully supplied with everything necessary to cook a great deal, and the atmosphere of a property, which can make all the difference between a good vacation and an unforgettably great one.
Remember that the difference between a hotel (commodity industry) and vacation rentals (service industry) is entirely in the quality of the experience. As an example, if our guests take towels to the beach, we wash them overnight so they have fresh towels again the next morning.
And finally, in trying to be a great vacation rental host I love to make sure my guests are relaxed and happy because that will make me happy too!