Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here

Usually, the things everyone remembers about Home Alone are the booby traps and Macaulay Culkin’s screams. But when Jillian Smith-Moher, cofounder of interior design studio Twenty-Two Twelve, recently watched the holiday flick, she couldn’t stop thinking about the green tiled counters in the McCallister family’s kitchen. “They’re obviously dated now, but once we get an idea, we go a little crazy with it,” says Smith-Moher. The we she’s referring to is herself and Autumn Hachey, the mind behind Stay Here, a boutique studio that offers branding, marketing, and interior design to short-term rental owners. Hachey brought in Smith-Moher to assist with her latest project: an Airbnb space in Whistler, British Columbia, owned by superhosts Danielle and Kerry. The design-savvy duo’s first big move was to clad the kitchen countertop and backsplash entirely in checkered tile—waterfall peninsula included. “With such a small footprint, we had to do something impactful,” notes Hachey. “And right now, we’re major fans of checkerboard.” 

Going with a pattern over a solid color instantly made the porcelain squares look modern, plus steering clear of a ’70s-era Schluter trim and opting for clean edges brought it into the 21st century. “When we talked to the builder about putting them in, he said he only knew how to go about it because he had ripped so many out,” says Smith-Moher with a laugh. Here are seven more tips from the pros to help make your own retreat stand out in a sea of other bookings. 

Fill Your Welcome Book With Advice

The kitchen, before.
Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here

While tile is more heat-resistant than fan-favorite marble (you can plop a hot pot down when you’re mid-cooking), the grout lines mean cleaning is tricky. That’s why Hachey and Smith-Moher worked with the clients to put together a guide for guests on how to wipe them down and maintain them during their visit. “I find that a lot of short-term rental owners shy away from putting expensive or interesting materials in their spaces because they’re afraid of people damaging them, but when you have good communication, people will respect it,” explains Hachey. It’s the same reason she invested in chic accessories, like the squiggly candleholders that jazz up the powder room and coffee table. 

Invest in a Retro-Looking Fridge

Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here. Dolomite and Tusk Tile, Fireclay Tile; 00 White Grout Color, Mapei.

While a 24-inch-wide Smeg refrigerator might not be all that functional in a 24-7 family home, the chic appliance is perfect for a rental where guests won’t be loading it up with tons of groceries. “You don’t need the freezer capacity that you’d normally want in a residential setting,” notes Hachey. It will instantly elevate the cooking zone. 

Pick a Theme

The living room, before.
Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here. Sofa, Article; Coffee Table, Found; Stool, Sundays.

Not only does Hachey like to repeat similar patterns and shapes throughout various rooms in a project (the gridded squares continue in the green powder room), she carries the same motifs from one rental to the next. “It makes them instantly recognizable,” she says.

Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here. Stool, Sundays.

One of her go-to moves? Round pillows. You’ll have spotted them in her Balm Beach project, and you’ll see them in this mountainside escape on the built-in living room bench, which, along with the adjacent stone fireplace, got a fresh coat of white paint.

Look at Carpet Tile From a Fresh Perspective

Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here

There wasn’t room in the budget to continue the luxury vinyl planks downstairs on the second level where all the bedrooms are, so Smith-Moher and Hachey thought outside the box. “We said, if we’re going with carpet, let’s figure out how to make it a part of the design,” says Smith-Moher. The pair landed on large-scale, office-grade floor tile, but bought two tones and laid them out in a checkerboard pattern so it felt like an intentional decision.

The powder room, before.
Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here. Eucalyptus Tile, Fireclay Tile.

Another one of their clever money savers: installing IKEA kitchen and bathroom vanity cabinets and swapping out the doors for semi-custom ones by Kitch in ivory oak.

Dramatize Scale

The Hudson Valley pendant lamp over the dining table was chosen for its XXL body—it’s something you’d never guess would pop up in a small condo. “When certain [objects] are really oversize and some are super-undersize, it feels very unexpected,” explains Smith-Moher.

Don’t Hate on the Drop-In Tub

The bathroom, before.
Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here. Eucalyptus Tile, Fireclay Tile; Bath Mat, Baina; Stool, Sundays.

The kitchen wasn’t the only spot to get the all-over-square-tile treatment. After deciding to stick with the main bathroom’s drop-in tub layout, the designers swathed every inch of the room in eucalyptus-hued squares, continuing them over the side of the tub-shower wall to make it feel more luxurious. And because it’s such a small space, they installed a glass half-wall instead of a curtain to keep sight lines clear. 

Start the Convo

Photography by Michelle Johnson for Stay Here. Wall Paint, At Ease Soldier by Sherwin-Williams; Squiggle Pillows, Annie Axtell; Carpet Tiles in Ivory and Brown, Home Depot.

By lining the walls of the “kids’” lair upstairs with beds, Smith-Moher and Hachey intended the spot to feel more like a conversation pit than a formal bedroom. Not having any pot lights makes the space extra-moody. But for guests who want a more traditional setup, the mattresses can simply be shifted and pushed together to create two king beds. The possibilities are endless. 

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