27 Feb 2020
What draws guests to West Sonoma County and the Russian River Area? It’s unique! A blend of new and old, an intermingling of culture and counter culture, hills and river and ocean, wineries and breweries - culminating in a very strong sense of “being itself.” This is also why guests choose vacation rentals over hotels – every vacation home is different with a particular style – unlike generic hotel rooms. How can you capture a potential guest’s attention and keep them coming back year after year? We think focusing on “local” is the way to go, so here’s our guide to setting up your vacation rental like a local.
Let’s start with inventory because, well, shopping is fun! And spending money in the community builds good will between vacation rentals, local businesses, and neighbors. And, we can’t take photos or rent your home until it’s fully stocked and decorated, so this is one of the first steps to readiness. Focus on items that are only available here or represent this region:
- How about purchasing cookbooks from local restaurants, written by folks in the area or emphasize local ingredients? Non-profits often publish cookbooks as fundraisers. And you can often find these kinds of cookbooks used or at library book sales. If you only have a few favorite recipes using locally grown produce, we can include them in the home binder and guest app. For example, Gravenstein apples are regionally famous and make darn good apple pies…
- Guidebooks and maps to help guests navigate the area such as hiking guides, wildflower and wildlife books, area history, books on wineries, cycling routes, and paddling trips. Do you know there is a whole series of books dedicated to winery dogs? And the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition produces a map with the best routes and notes for good places to stop along the way. Members of the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods get a discount on purchases at their stores/visitor centers and they have a superb selection of books including awesome kid’s books.
- Still on the subject of books – Sonoma County, and especially West Sonoma County, is “littered” with authors! You can’t go into a book store without an endcap or whole row dedicated to local poets, novelists, playwrights, screenwriters, and so on. These books make great reading in the cozy nooks and sunlit porches of vacation homes – especially when paired with a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
- And there may be even more musicians than authors! If you have a CD or record player, consider providing albums by resident musicians or historically popular music in the area. The Russian River was a big band and jazz destination for decades before the hippies settled in… And the Jazz and Blues Festival is still a favorite attraction. CDs and records are also items you can pick up used without missing out on quality. And, how awesome is it to check out ALL the bars, restaurants, and music venues to hear live music and buy CDs for your vacation home – it’s a business expense! Did we mention that setting up a vacation rental should be FUN?!?!
- Movies – everyone loves to snuggle in and watch movies at night or when it’s raining outside. In addition to Francis Ford Coppola’s winery up the road a ways, Sonoma County is host to so many movies! From Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (filmed in Bodega) to The Goonies (featuring Blind Beach on the Sonoma Coast) to The Gnomemobile (filmed in Guerneville’s redwoods) to the show 13 Reasons Why (filmed at Analy High School in Sebastopol). Then there are wine related movies like Bottle Shock (Kunde Winery and throughout Sonoma County). Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive list.
- Art! You can do so much for a home with the art and décor you select, so take a look at local artists, painters, photographers, and creators. Original art is always distinctive, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Many folks reproduce their artwork, printing on canvas or similar – called giclee – for very reasonable prices. Or consider photographs printed on metal for durability – and skipping the frame and glass for ease of mounting. You can seek out artists who live in Sonoma County, use the area for inspiration or source materials here. Or, some combination of all three. Don’t limit yourself to 2 dimensional décor! What about outside – in the yard or garden?
- Historical interest? There are so many historical aspects to West Sonoma County – agriculture, railroads, river & ocean travel, logging & mining, Native American culture, explorers & settlers. Local historical societies often make prints available that you can use as décor, along with books on the history of the area. Antiques and vintage décor/furniture are another way to connect with your home’s history and that of the area. Even well-made reproductions are a excellent way to share this with guests.
- There are all the locally produced items you can stock for guests to use: olive oil, coffee (locally roasted, not grown), tea, honey, chocolate, jams, spices, and sauces!!! Since we all eat, food and beverage items are an easy and fun way to connect with guests. But Sonoma County produces so much: bath products, redwood slab furniture, recycled wine barrel furniture and planters, to name a few. FYI – there are very cool candle makers in the area, but we discourage the use of candles in vacation homes for fire safety and to avoid damage done by candle wax.
- Use native and locally cultivated plants in the yard! There are marvelous nurseries in the area. Not only are they incredibly knowledgeable, but you’re putting in plants that will thrive – not just survive. Even if native plants aren’t the best fit for the spot, look at plants that are grown and sold closer to your home as they are conditioned to the climate. More on this below.
Thanks for reading Part 1 of Home Setup: Think LOCAL and stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss thinking LIKE a local and issues we, as vacation rental managers and homeowners, can address together. And, if you need suggestions for your home, let us know! We’re here to help!