Holiday in style
- Credit: Archant
Glynis Shaw shares her top tips on how to equip and furnish your holiday accommodation ready for guests
These days, holidaymakers who rent a holiday home in France expect a high standard of presentation and facilities. It’s more important than ever for owners to furnish and equip their holiday letting property with a combination of practicality and style as well as an air of quality.
Of course, as an owner you want your furniture, equipment and accessories to wear well and be easy to clean, ensuring that they will last and give you plenty of use. If you use the property for your own holidays, this is just as important for you as it is for your guests. In my experience, if you offer a good standard of finish that looks attractive and shows you’ve cared, then visitors will look after the place well.
often it’s those small and unexpected touches that have the greatest impact.
The kitchen is key for a self-catering holiday and needs to be well fitted and appealing. Everything should be spotlessly clean, especially the oven.
Provide far more cutlery, crockery and glasses than the maximum number of guests. Include chopping boards, cooking utensils, a garlic press, bottle openers and plastic glasses for outdoors, especially if you have a pool where people will be walking barefoot. Other essentials are a decent kettle, basic coffee maker and cafetière, and people will also appreciate candle holders and a vase for flowers.
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A dishwasher is expected, even in a two-person gîte, as are an iron and ironing board. A washing machine is vital as guests generally prefer to do their own laundry.
Even if the bed frame is basic, it’s very important that you buy a really good quality mattress with good support and cover it with a washable mattress protector. Make sure that pillows are comfortable and clean. Bed linen can be quite plain but cotton is best and it should look nice and smell fresh.
Keep the bedroom uncluttered but check that you offer sufficient hanging space and hangers, a full-length mirror, bedside lamps, fans and a hairdryer. A clock/radio is a nice extra.
In living areas, choose a style that is appropriate to the house and its location, as well as to your market. Do not over-furnish rooms and keep ornaments and knick-knacks to a minimum to avoid a cluttered feel. It’s advisable to keep general furnishings simple, making use of colour and pictures for interest.
Washable upholstery covers are a good idea and a comfortable sofa is especially important for winter lets. Bear in mind that if you provide a sofa-bed, it will wear more quickly than a regular sofa.
Bathrooms are one of the biggest potential sources of complaint, so choose a white suite and keep baths, showers and curtains spotlessly clean and free of mould. The shower should be effective, with a proper head, and be kept clear of limescale – a problem in many hard water areas of France. Also provide a mat for the bath, mirrors, cupboard or shelf space, hooks on doors and ample hot water.
Installing a modern wet room is a good idea as it gives disabled access, offers shared showers and will appeal to your guests.
Heating is important both for winter lets and extending your season into spring and autumn. Wood-burning stoves are popular – and be sure you have a plentiful supply of logs.
If you have a swimming pool, you will need to ensure that it complies with the French AFNOR regulations for safety, maintenance, cleanliness and PH balance. The pool should be big enough for the number of guests and it’s good to provide a cover and encourage guests to use it, keeping the water clean and warm overnight and reducing evaporation. More and more owners are now adding heating to their swimming pool.
Furnish the pool surround with ample loungers, mattress cushions, shades and small plastic tables. Pool toys such as inflatables are nice for families and an outdoor toilet is a good addition if possible.
Keep the grass mown and the garden well maintained. Provide a table and an adequate number of chairs for al fresco dining, as well as a barbecue and outdoor lighting. Timed or motion-responsive lamps are a practical addition and are also economical.
You may want to provide ashtrays outside to emphasise a no smoking indoors rule – and obviously you will have to provide fire extinguishers or blankets in the house.
More and more holidaymakers to France prioritise internet access and satellite TV with English language channels.
Visitors tend to expect a CD and DVD player for time spent indoors – and they appreciate low-tech games, especially families and groups. Table tennis, pool, table football, Scrabble, cards, draughts and chess are all popular. Outside, garden and sports equipment such as bikes, balls and pétanque will make visitors feel that everything has been thought of for their maximum enjoyment.
Provide a resource box or folder with maps of the area, details of places to visit and information or recommendations for nearby restaurants, cafés and bars. You can gather leaflets from attractions and tourist offices in the region and be sure to include local markets, festivals and community events.
RESOURCES IN FRANCE
Large Carrefour and Super U supermarkets sell white goods and accessories at competitive prices and some offer interest-free credit and free van hire.
Stores such as But (www.but.fr) and Fly (www.fly.fr) also sell white goods, bathrooms, kitchens and computer equipment. IKEA has 29 stores across France for value furniture, kitchens and general household accessories.
For second-hand items, brocantes are a good source of characterful old pieces, although bargains are a bit harder to find these days. Dépôts-vente sell furniture and other items at reasonable prices (www.depotsvente.fr) and vide-greniers are the French equivalent of British car boot sales (www.vide-greniers.org).
Emmaüs, a French homeless charity, also runs shops selling furniture, rugs, renovation materials, doors and general bathroom equipment (www.emmaus.fr).
Bricorama is a chain of DIY stores selling everything for construction, decorating, kitchens and bathrooms and has a huge range of garden and landscaping goods (www.bricorama.fr). A similar range can be found at the Mr Bricolage chain (www.mr-bricolage.fr).
Glynis Shaw is joint MD of French Connections holiday rentals and property sales online