Photography by Anne Rhett

Published on January 15, 2021

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Grassless yards, washable slipcovers, off-street parking—Rebecca Ramsay’s priorities might look a little different from most homeowners’, but that’s because she and her husband buy, design, and manage short-term rentals in Charleston, South Carolina. “We try to make everything party-proof,” she says, laughing. Durability is a word you’ll hear her mention a lot, but that’s just on the topic of maintaining the properties. As far as getting people to click “book,” it takes a lot more than a pretty pink pastel door, although curb appeal in the form of interesting windows, shutters, and historic moldings is something for which she always has her eyes peeled. 

“We want them to go, ‘Oh, I wish I had that in my house,’” says Ramsay. “People book off of aesthetics.” Given she’s worked on 19 rental units (64 bedrooms total) for Guesthouse Charleston, we consider her a pro on the matter. We chatted with Ramsay about the details that lead to reservations and why the polished touches matter. 

A Pinterest-Worthy Kitchen

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While it might not be totally budget-friendly, Ramsay often makes kitchens a lot larger than they need to be. “Guests probably aren’t going to cook, but we have beautiful gas ranges in there for them if they want to,” she says. The dishwashers see a fair amount of activity, so that’s another appliance worth splurging on. But you’ll never find Ramsay going with a fridge that has an ice-maker on the door. “They break,” she says simply. Because the kitchens are getting a deep clean constantly, it’s actually okay to go with natural stone countertops (the luxe feature pays off).

Easy-to-Get-to Bathrooms

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White and chrome finishes in the bathroom achieve a clean and classic look, though lately Ramsay has been experimenting with dark blue and green tiles in the shower. More important than the aesthetics is the proximity to the bedroom. During every reno, Ramsay tries to work in as many full en suites as possible. “No one wants to spend a fair chunk of change renting a house and then having to walk down the hallway to use the bathroom in the middle of the night,” she explains. Whenever faced with the choice of having a laundry space or an extra bathroom, Ramsay will always choose the latter. 

Seating for Every Guest and Then Some

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Ramsay’s goal is to have enough dining chairs to accommodate everyone in the house, but if that’s not possible (due to space constraints), she’ll make up for it with an abundance of outdoor seating. While on the topic of dining chairs: Stay away from ones with iron legs—they’ll destroy old pinewood floors.

An Extra-Large Television

Whether you personally like it or not, the TV should be the priority of your rental’s living room, meaning all the furniture should face toward it. “We buy ones that are sometimes bigger than I’d like,” says Ramsay. Assume guests will want to watch a game or binge Netflix during their stay.

As Big a Bed as You Can Fit

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A king-size bed is the kind of feature that makes you feel like you’re in a luxury place. “You’ve got this big, cozy mattress; plush linens; beautiful pillows—something you want to dive into,” says Ramsay. Just be sure to skip the skirt and get one with a footrail instead. “The fabric never looks right no matter how many times you fix it; it’s always getting shifted around,” she notes. 

Low-Maintenance Landscaping

“We never do grass, ever,” states Ramsay. A lush yard sounds nice in theory, but for a good portion of the year, it never looks as perfect as you’d want it. Ramsay leans into hardscaping, laying brick and bluestone in different patterns to keep the patio space interesting. On the same note, she avoids plants with flowering seasons and goes with evergreens. “Hydrangeas turn into sticks, and you don’t want to be in a garden with a bunch of sticks,” she says. It’s the little things that make for a memorable vacation.

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Photography by Anne Rhett

Our Winter Renovation issue is here! Subscribe now to step inside Leanne Ford’s latest project—her own historic Pennsylvania home. Plus discover our new rules of reno.

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