Design Summit helps designers focus on short-term rental market

HIGH POINT — The second annual Vacation Rental Design Summit brought hundreds of interior designers, property managers, home brands and others to High Point a few days ahead of the spring market for seminars, keynotes, breakout sessions and tours focused on opportunities presented by the short-term rental market.

The event, hosted by High Point x Design and the High Point Market Authority, is held in the 2 1/2 days leading up to the spring furniture show to streamline travel for attendees — and to allow them to shop the market with ideas from the event still fresh in their minds, organizers say.

Jessic Duce (far left) moderated the keynote panel, “Anatomy of a Project,” which included designers Kathy Kuo, Terri-Leigh Huleis, Tiffany Cassidy and Nikki Watson.

The event drew a mix of interior designers already working on short-term rental properties, as well as residential designers and home stagers who either want to transition completely to short-term rental design or who want to add the service to their existing businesses.

Topics included everything from the key steps involved in a short-term rental design project to safety and hospitality to creating shoppable rooms.

Organizers were pleased with the return of some attendees from the inaugural event held last year, saying it spoke to the desire of interior designers and others to continue to learn about this segment of the home furnishings industry and to hone their skills.

“We’re thrilled with this year’s event. When I originally pitched the idea, Jane and Ericka ran with it, but it was our first time so we weren’t sure how it would be received,” said Jessica Duce, co-creator of the event, along with Jane Dagmi and Ericka Saurit. “And we took the feedback we got last year really seriously to elevate it and make it different from the first one but to maintain its personality. So, (this year), we incorporated breakout sessions and mentoring and knew we wanted to improve our vendor gallery.”

The Vacation Rental Design Summit included a vendor gallery of home brands and service providers for the short-term rental market.

Duce, who also does residential design through her JDuce Design firm, started her work in short-term rentals in 2015 and later founded the Vacation Rental Designers Collective. Duce is based in Spring, Texas, but her work takes her all over the country.

She says reports that the short-term rental market may have reached its peak don’t mean that it’s not still a lucrative field.

“STR is thriving,” she said. “Statistics continually show that a luxury, well-designed rental elevates the rental experience. Those are the ones that are thriving. The ones that are hurting are the ones that aren’t interested in investing in the design and other elements we’re talking about here. It’s been an amazing market for us. We’ve seen exponential growth.”

The short-term rental segment is also evolving, Duce says.

“It’s becoming more elevated, and it’s also becoming more sophisticated. And what I mean by that is that in the beginning, vacation rental or STR designers were like, ‘OK, I’ll source things with performance fabrics and pieces that are going to last’ and that was about it. Now, it’s like they tell homeowners and investors, ‘I’ve looked at your comps and your return on investment and here’s what you need to do differently. Let’s figure out your ideal guest, we can make these rooms shoppable experiences, etc.’”

Terri-Leigh Huleis, an interior designer focused on design and styling for short-term rentals based in Littleton, Colorado, spoke as part of the keynote panel, “Anatomy of a Project.” She encouraged designers in the audience to make the leap into short-term rental design.

“Short-term rentals or VRD (vacation rental design) has literally change my life, my entire family’s life, my business,” says Huleis, whose firm, FoundHomeCo., has renovated more than 54 client properties and Airbnbs. One day, we just decided to go for it, and it’s been the single best decision I’ve ever made.”

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