Simple Swaps: Clever Design Tips to Elevate Your Space
Check out this Airbnb Plus home makeover — a room-by-room update, no remodeling required.
Photographs By Nicole Franzen
Former Brooklynites Amanda Judge and Chris Carmody knew their renovated Hudson, New York, home was decorated sparsely in some spots and a little haphazardly in others, but it felt “good enough” — and they weren’t quite sure how to take it to the next level. “Amanda has a great eye, so she found nice thrift store pieces to mix in with the furniture we owned already,” says Carmody — but the two stopped short of tying it all together. “Our rooms didn’t feel finished, and the house didn’t have a cohesive look,” admits Judge.
Enter the AphroChic design duo of Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason, who elevated the Airbnb home with crisper wall colors and simple swaps (vivid art instead of dark tapestries; sleek sconces in lieu of bulky lamps). But not all the tweaks entailed new items. “Some rooms weren’t set up to maximize the space,” says Hays, “so we moved things around for a smarter layout.”
The designers also helped the hosts weave in personal touches. “Guests want to feel like they’re at a special retreat that reflects the location,” says Mason. “Bringing in pieces from nearby shops and artists is an easy way to achieve that.” The revamped space — now an Airbnb Plus home — feels curated, not cluttered. “Sometimes when you walk into a store and don’t feel good in there, it’s because there’s too much stuff, and you’re like, What am I supposed to be looking at?” says Judge. “It’s the opposite here. We learned to think through the design of the rooms from start to finish and connect some of the elements, which made our home open and airier. Now your eye is like, Yeah, everything makes sense in here.”
Before: The neutral, rug-less room was calming but underwhelming.
After: Hays and Mason brought in a patterned rug to define the area and warm it up. “We carried the blue through from the kitchen, since the two rooms open up to each other,” says Hays. Blue-toned art takes the place of a tapestry “that didn’t relate to anything else in the space,” she says, and a sleek brass pendant stands in for the original heavy, dated one.
“A rug can be a pain to clean, but it makes a space instantly welcoming. Choose a durable one in a deep hue to hide any spots.”
— Jeanine Hays, Designer
Before: The bedroom was clean and cozy but felt a bit stark.
After: A taller upholstered bed anchors the room. With a textured throw and handmade pillows, it’s now a cushier spot to crash. A plug-in sconce frees up nightstand surface space.
“An Airbnb bedroom should feel like it was designed to welcome a guest, with pampering touches like a plush rug and extra-soft linens.”
— Bryan Mason, Designer
Plucked from a cramped bedroom corner, a wood desk now anchors a chic work area in a formerly underused space. A removable wall-size decal from Minted makes a bold backdrop.
Before: The sofas were roomy but mismatched — and paired with a wrong-size rug.
Tip: Paint the trim the same color as the wall to make a room appear bigger and taller. A colorful gallery wall enlivens the space. “Start with the largest piece and hang the others with two to six inches between each,” says Hays (near left, with Mason).
After: Muted pillows, a light-wood table, and cognac chairs unify the eclectic sofas. A larger rug (about a foot past the sofas’ sides) extends the seating area.
Before: An additional bedroom had all the essentials, but also some drab and dated accessories.
After: White walls, light wood tables, and a patterned rug make the space open and airy. A sleek platform bed with pinstriped pillows adds a subtle hit of style.
About the author: Betsy Goldberg is the Deputy Editor (Home) of Airbnb Magazine. Previously she was the Deputy Editor of Real Simple and HGTV Magazine, Editorial Content Director at Bed Bath & Beyond, and an editor at UsWeekly, Modern Bride, and New York Magazine. She is co-author of BusinessWeek’s Guide to the Best Business Schools, and her writing has also appeared in Glamour, Health, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Money.