Just in time for summer, Season 2 of “Vacation House Rules” has returned, with host Scott McGillivray demonstrating how to turn that beach house or mountain cottage into a gorgeous getaway—for yourself or to rent out to others.
In the premiere, “Family Funhouse,” McGillivray helps Alicia and Justin make over their rarely used Canadian cabin by the lake. With a $120,000 budget, McGillivray gives this property some important updates and turns it into a rental that could rake in serious cash.
Curious what a vacation house truly needs to feel like paradise? Check out these before and after photos, which might inspire some changes around your own home, whether you hope to rent it out or just want to create a more relaxing vibe to enjoy yourself.
A vacation home should have some fun colors
Alicia and Justin’s lake house needs a lot of work, so McGillivray brings in designer Debra Salmoni to help make the space more welcoming. Salmoni has a lot of family-friendly ideas, plus inspiration from one sweet snack.
“My inspiration for Alicia and Justin’s cottage is doughnuts,” Salmoni says. “What kid doesn’t love doughnuts? They’re colorful, they’re playful, they’re fun, they’re delicious. That’s exactly what I want to inject into this cottage.”
She explains that the doughnuts vibe will be subtle—achieved mostly with fun colors. Using soft greens, pinks, and plenty of light wood, she gives this cabin a bright, youthful vibe that’s perfect for a family vacation.
A DIY feature wall adds personality
McGillivray may have a relatively large budget for this renovation, but he’s still on the hunt for inexpensive upgrades that will make a big impression.
One of these upgrades is a feature wall made of wood blocks to go on the blank wall between the bedrooms.
“It’s something that’s going to grab your attention when you turn the corner, and it’s also kind of family-friendly,” McGillivray says. “Who didn’t play with blocks when they were kids?”
He cuts stained four-by-four posts at an angle and puts them together for a fun 3D look. This feature wall costs only a hundred dollars, but it makes a big impression.
“It’s an interesting feature that pays tribute to the wood and the nature of things that are going on here,” McGillivray points out. “But at the same time, it’s got the intentional different angles and chunkiness to it that draw your attention.”
Guests hate a drab bathroom
If there’s one thing guests hate to see, it’s a drab, dated bathroom. Right away, McGillivray knows it’ll be a big project.
“The bathroom renovation is about $10,000, but that will translate into great reviews and repeat renters,” McGillivray says.
He gives the bathroom a full makeover, including a beautiful shower tile.
“It does feel a little bit like a fish scale,” McGillivray says. “Which, at a vacation rental property, is phenomenal.”
It’s a good example of leaning into your home’s style. Now, renters will feel like they’re at the lake, even when they’re inside.
A glass railing shows off a great view
One of the best parts of a lake house is the lake, of course! McGillivray wants to capitalize on the view by replacing the old wooden deck railing with glass.
Salmoni supports the idea: “All I see is pickets right now, so that’s going to be a tremendous change.”
When the railing is replaced, this deck looks brand-new. The glass showcases the water instead of hiding it. It’s an easy upgrade that makes this back deck a much more inviting place, and will be a big perk for renters.
Skip the fence, plant trees
McGillivray points out that it’s difficult to tell exactly where Alicia and Justin‘s property ends and the neighbors’ homes begin. He explains that while Alicia and Justin would know to stay off the neighbor’s tire swing, McGillivray points out that renters won’t. So some clear separation would be nice.
At first, McGillivray wants to put in a fence, but he finds that it’s difficult to dig because of lots of hidden rocks. So he gets an idea to create a boundary with small cedar trees.
“Unlike fence posts, cedars don’t require 4-foot-deep holes,” McGillivray points out. “Staggering them in places we don’t find rocks will make a more natural-looking hedge.”
The cedars end up making a pleasant border that adds to the beauty of the lake house. McGillivray may not have gotten his fence, but these trees are much better.
How does this vacation house turn out?
Once the house is done, McGillivray points out that other houses in the area usually rent out for $350 a night—but this house is so beautiful, he thinks they could rent it out for $400! This house was a largely unused second home for Alicia and Justin; but now, it’s a great investment and a vacation spot that countless families will enjoy.
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