In a typical residential setting, a Calacatta Paonazzo countertop and backsplash might seem like a risky choice. But the surface is just the right amount of overpowering for a vacation rental (there’s more room to get creative when you don’t have to live with a loud material day in and day out). “We put a lot of budget toward making the kitchen into a showstopping space to try to get clientele to come in,” says Autumn Hachey, founder and creative director of Stay Here, a boutique studio that offers branding, marketing, and interior design to short-term rental owners. The dynamic mixture of green and gold veining plays out in her latest project in Balm Beach, Ontario—except the surface only looks like real marble. It’s actually a thick slab of printed porcelain.

“It’s very resilient and resistant to staining,” notes interior designer Jilian Smith of Twenty-Two Twelve, who has collaborated with Hachey on previous renovations. “It’s a smart choice for a rental where you can’t really control if someone’s using coasters or spilling wine—things that can damage a natural stone.” The Calacatta look-alike instantly punched up the previously snoozy subway-tiled space, and so did these five other swaps.

Switch Up the IKEA Cabinets

Hachey and Smith worked with Canadian company Allstyle Retrofit to upgrade the kitchen’s existing premium-grade IKEA cabinet frames with modern fronts (a big win for their budget). Inspired by their countertop choice, they swathed the new doors in Benjamin Moore’s Nantucket Gray. But don’t be fooled by its name: The sagey olive green tone is a far cry from the basic neutral.

Throw Down an Area Rug

Replacing the cork flooring that runs throughout the kitchen and main living area would have been too costly, so instead the pair leaned into the sandy tones and put down a large diamond- patterned jute rug from Annie Selke. The natural material hides stains and dirt and can handle getting wet and trampled on. “It makes you do a double take, unlike a runner,” notes Hachey. From a distance, the design looks like tile. 

Sink Into Dinner

Table, IKEA.

The old dining room layout—picture a farmhouse table and chairs with some old wood sofas in the corner—didn’t necessarily encourage gathering. A built-in nook, on the other hand, is a conversation starter. The bench-style seating is done in a cognac leather–like vinyl fabric that’s easy to wipe down and offers hidden storage underneath for extra linens and games. 

Save Fridge Space

Cabinet Hardware, MYOH; Roman Shades, Select Blinds; Faucet, Delta.
Countertops, Marble Tile Depot; Sink, Home Depot.

Upgrading all the appliances in the kitchen made a huge impact visually and functionally, in particular trading the old refrigerator for a Fisher & Paykel one that’s got a filtered water dispenser on the exterior. Guests can get their ice faster, plus it frees up room on the interior that otherwise might be wasted on a Brita. 

Be Practical About Your Peninsula

Range, Porter and Charles; Sconces, Luminaire.
Vintage stools.

The homeowners previously had an IKEA island nudged up against the stove. “It just looked like it was a forgotten area,” recalls Hachey. So instead the designers continued the cabinetry around that side of the room, completing a U-shaped layout and extending the countertop by about 2 feet for additional seating. The base of the structure is covered in plaster, serving as eye candy for those cooking as well as those hanging out and playing chess in the adjacent space. “You can use it as a bar within the living room or just a nice place to perch,” Smith points out. We’ve never seen a prettier ending. 

Photography by Lauren Miller for Stay Here.