When it comes to vacation rental properties, it’s all too common for owners to spend all of their efforts decorating the interior and leave the outdoor space as an afterthought. It’s unfortunate, as it’s a missed opportunity to improve your listing appearance and customer experience without breaking the bank.

For those of you who live at the base of a frozen mountain in perpetual snow, it’s understandable if you don’t want to sink too much effort into that icy patch behind your house. But still, there’s probably a couple things you can do to make it a little more aesthetically pleasing, even if it’s completely un-usable.

Similarly, size is not important here. It can be limiting to a degree, but a small garden space can make an excellent, lasting impression on your guests if you work with it.

Since there’s so many factors that go into creating an outdoor space that’s both complimentary and maintainable, it’d be foolish to say one idea is better than another.

Instead, let’s look at some of the more important components that go into a cohesive, well-planned outdoor space and use them for inspiration.

Decks & Patios

Depending on your property’s floorplan, a deck or patio could serve as a perfect extension to your kitchen or living space. In the US, it’s common for a rear deck to serve as a designated BBQ space with an extra dining table. In the UK, however, homes will tend to favor brick patio spaces with seating – more of a transition to the garden than an extension of the home.

While a patio space can usually be made to work anywhere, a deck will cramp the atmosphere when space is limited. The area may be the same size, but the bulk of the structure will dominate your garden space.

It’s also important to note that patio spaces tend to integrate with plant life better. Aesthetically and physically – you have more options for planters and arbors that contact the ground directly and allow climbing plants to grow around them. If you’re a gardener or general lover of greenery, a patio will serve you better than a deck.


When it comes to garden ideas, the idea of lighting is often overlooked, or defaulted to harsh spotlight bulbs. This is a shame since your garden’s lighting can make a huge impact on its aesthetic appeal and usefulness to guests.

Rope lighting with warm incandescent bulbs creates an inviting atmosphere with a rustic charm. Pathways can be illuminated without overpowering the rest of your lighting with wireless solar garden lamps. Sculptures, fountains, or prize plants can be isolated and highlighted with bright backlighting. If you’re a colorful person, there’s tons of RGB LED lighting options that come with infrared remotes capable of adjusting the color to your mood.

In short – there’s so much you can do to create a fantastic, unique outdoor space with a few thoughtfully placed lights. There’s a ton of options, and the best part is that they’re not hard on your wallet!

Ponds, Fountains & Pools

This is a subject you should take careful consideration of before making a commitment.

Firstly though, let’s talk about the appeal: everyone likes being near a body of water. A trickling fountain, rushing waterfall, babbling brook, or a deep pool. Doesn’t matter, tranquility comes with the territory.

In most cases at least. Let’s talk about some things to consider.

A pool under a tree is nice, but coming out every morning to a pile of soggy leaves floating around the surface is off-putting. Subtropical climates tend to have an even harder time when it comes to pool maintenance due to the sun degrading chlorine quickly, and persistent algae taking root without daily maintenance.

Pools are great for resale value, but they can be a pain for rentals! Don’t start digging unless you’re sure you can keep up the maintenance.

Man-made ponds & streams are absolutely fantastic additions when they’re built seamlessly into the landscape. It’s best to have a complete plan for your landscaping and plantlife before jumping into this.

A huge factor in creating an artificial body of water that can maintain itself is having a quality pump system installed. The water needs to have sufficient movement to avoid becoming a breeding ground for mosquitos or sludgy mess. For regions with cold seasons, in most cases these pump systems need winterizing work to avoid breaks in the pipes – much like a pool.


If the maintenance and planning doesn’t scare you away, you’ve got a whole bunch of great options that’ll help shape your garden into something very memorable for your guests!

Brickwork, Statues, and Art

Now we come to the details – and, just the same as inside, you can’t overdo it. There’s a tipping point for every space where decoration turns into clutter. The moment you pass it, everything just looks like a mess. Give every decorative piece the space it needs to be appreciated. Don’t bombard your guests – quality over quantity.

Perhaps it’s a bit more than your average rental manager would have in mind, but transforming a boring wall into a mural as a centerpiece can turn your garden into an art exhibit in its own right. A good example of this can be found in the final season of Instant Hotel at the Bondi Beach property.

Cozy Nooks

Last, but certainly not least, we have the nook. It’s a simple concept in an uncommon environment. A cozy place to relax outdoors.

You’ll note that one of the biggest hits with all of the guests during the finale of Instant Hotel was the inclusion of a comfy bed with a sheer shroud in the secluded rear of the garden. It was a simple idea that required minimal effort apart from good taste, and it had a heavy hand in tipping the scales for the win.

It seems easy enough, but there’s a lot to consider.

A cozy, relaxing place requires soft surfaces to sit or lay, and finding an all-season, maintenance-free material that fits the bill is a tall order. In other words, your nook needs to be prepared for each new guest. Even if it’s just a couple cushions – make sure they’re clean and mildew-free every time.

That being said, an outdoor nook is still going to feature stone seating, or a wooden shelter, or some other sturdy structure to resist the weather. This, thankfully, minimizes effort on the owner’s end. Just keep the soft parts clean.