AirBnB Design – Sunalta

I was hired by one of the best real estate photographers in Calgary to redesign and stage her new Airbnb. Her and her boyfriend moved into a larger home and they wanted to keep their Sunalta condo as an income property for short-term listings.

Lisa hired me because of my connection to thrift. Shopping sustainably and supporting local was the most important mandatory criteria of redesigning the property, and so we sourced close to 90% of all of the decor and furnishings from local thrift stores and secondhand off marketplace and Kijiji. All we had to get new were hygenic-conscious items such as soft goods, bedding, and consumables.

The condo was a complete transformation. She rented it out the weekend it launched!

Here’s a walkthrough of the finished Sunalta Thrifted Airbnb!

Airbnb Living Room – After

The biggest impact in a space is paint. In the case of this client’s living room, we lightened and brightened the walls, covering over the dark brown. We also white-washed the fireplace so that the reds and oranges took a back seat and the greys and blues stood out – more in line with the fresh aesthetic we were going for.

A large circular area rug helped us define the living room space and circle the furniture around our focal – the firepalce. This is a very comfortable spot to visit, right next to the patio and big windows.

For furniture, the client already owned the ikea chair, and we found this transitional couch on marketplace. After a thorough clean, it was ready to anchor. Dark woods and silver are the unifying materials for decor and furniture throughout the main floor, and the couch and chair stay true to that.

Outside of those key pieces, we had a blast thrifting for faux flowers, decor, and artwork to bring the space to life.

Airbnb Living Room – Before

Airbnb Open Office – After

This is my most favourite space in the home. This office was previously just an underutilized storage nook, but, with a little bit of love, it became a pivotal moment in the condo. We purchased an airy washable area rug to define the office space separately, and applied peel and stick terrazzo wallpaper so that it could hold its own as a ‘room’.

We again carried the silver through as the material of choice and warmed it up with wood tones and a large artifical tree we found for cheap on marketplace. The black mirror modernizes it and keeps the space from feeling too feminine (even though the pillow may say otherwise).

We also found that lovely muddy blue floral artwork with the silver frame to connect the two spaces and it is a great transition piece.

Ps: Can we just take a moment to admire that stunning stoneware vase and flower arrangement on the desk? I have 1000 pictures of it.

Airbnb Open Office – Before

Airbnb Dining Room – After

The dining room was a happy accident!

When I sourced a silver ‘coffee table’ for the living room, it turned out to be a dining table. We had originally intended to keep the client’s larger wooden coffee table and chairs, but this dining table fit so much more seamlessly into the aesthetic we were building – so it got to stay!

The chairs we found separately were a perfect match. The fabric was not perfect, but that did not matter because we wanted to cover them with washable seat covers anyway.

The light fixture was another big moment. It replaced the builder-basic chandelier (you know the one… the hanging boob light), and tied in not only our silver theme but the square stone pattern from the fireplace.

Because this is a short-term listing we also purchased dinnerware. Normally this is not out on the tables when the clients get there, but you know how photoshoots go… We sourced a lovely mix and match dinnerware set from Women in Need and glasses, which I happily displayed.

With some relaxing and fresh blues and greens (including that large art piece for $15) sprinkled throughout – this was a diners-delight!

Airbnb Dining Room – Before

Airbnb Kitchen Setup

Kitchens may feel like they are the least work in designing for an airbnb, but behind the cupboards tells a different story!

The first thing I know we needed was a coffee bar. This condo had a storage space under the stairs which holds all of the cleaners and spare items needed to keep the airbnb running – but this door is locked for guests. So, instead of having a mysterious door be the focal point of the kitchen, we found a great little second-hand rolling ikea cart to stage as a tea and coffee bar. This frees up valuable counterspace, gives guests a wonderful morning experience, and allows the cleaners to move it out of the way and access the storage after check-out.

Airbnb Primary Bedroom – After

This primary bedroom was a labour of love. We had plans to bring in a large jungle leaf wallpaper, but with the supply chain issues, this didn’t make the cut. However, I believe that the room took on a different and equally as welcoming tone without.

Our first challenge was to find a wall colour that would work with the flooring. The flooring has just about every colour of the rainbow mixed in with the brown – most predominantly red and green. We did not want the red to say its name, and so I found a calming, smooth green to wrap the room in.

For furnishings started with this large upholstered riveted king-size bed as the feature. We brought in an 8×10 washable rug to anchor the bed in the space and also to help tone down the very busy multi-coloured wood floors. The bed was made with brand new white bedding for easy cleaning and to give that hotel feel. Throw pillows were added for colour.

The upstairs of this condo has 2 bedrooms, but only one bathroom. I felt it was important to include a vanity in this room so that two people can easily get ready in the morning. I found this lovely vintage vanity to inject the room with more character. To be honest, the vanity would blend in a little bit more with the wallpaper we had expected, however, it is still a welcome piece to carry the warmth of the floors up to eye level regardless.

The lamps… My oh my. When I saw them at World Serve I had to have them. At first, I was not sure if they were horrible or wonderful, but after a quick inspection, I realized they were a jackpot. The shade actually has more of a purple hue like in the first picture (as opposed to the more brown look in the other photos). This ties in really nicely with the headboard and curtains. And I brought in another cheap thrifted faux tree to balance the wood on the other side of the room.

Lastly, we hung drapery to soften the windows. These were the original drapery that the homeowner already owned and we simply extended the rod so that they made the windows look centered and therefore more relaxing.

Airbnb Primary Bedroom – Before

Airbnb Guest Bedroom – After


Yes. That wallpaper. It is a crowd-pleaser and is absolutely perfect for this small room. I never shy away from a busy wallpaper in a small room because it actually draws your eye and gives you less time to realize how small the room actually is. Plus, with less room to get creative, it does a lot of heavy lifting for styling.

This bedframe was a big score on kijiji and gave that modern twist that we needed for the room. I found a faux bamboo tree with black stalks to repeat the black colour again.

These drapes were again original and we extended them further to the wall to make the window feel larger. To compliment the pink tone of the drapes I brought in a soft pink throw blanket and decorative pillow.

Lastly, a jute rug was placed at the end of the bed to give texture to the floor and give the bed a solid landing place.

Airbnb Guest Bedroom – Before

Airbnb Guest Experience & Other Rooms

When it comes to an airbnb, it is very much the details that count. It is so much more than ‘is it pretty?’, and the guest experience needs to be considered with each and every element.

Are there enough sets for the head-count of the listing. Are the cutting boards and other common-items easy to find. Are there place setting necessities close to the dining table? If you are offering laundry, is there an ironing board and a hamper, and is there somewhere pleasing for the guest to fold (like in front of a beautiful window overlooking the city)?

Detailed After

These details also come down to the decor – the pretty. When someone walks into your airbnb do they feel like each items has been chosen for a reason, that it has a purpose, that is enhances their experience. Do they feel like you took the time to really create an environment for them to enjoy their stay. Faux flowers, candles, vases – are they instagrammable? The key to a thrifted airbnb is finding pieces that are inexpensive, and also trendy and representative of quality design.

I had a lot of fun redesigning and styling this thrifted Airbnb and am so thankful for Lisa for thinking of me for this project. I am also absolutely thrilled she started booking right away. I know why! The perk? This professional photographer shared some outstanding after photos with me!

If you need any support planning, designing, or marketing your short term listing in Calgary, Canmore, Banff, or surrounding area – please contact me and book a consultation!