I recently caught up with Mercedes Brennan and had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the name of her company, design trends and what to expect from her in the future. If you ask me, Mercedes' creative talent goes way beyond decor; have you ever read one of her blog posts? She is just as crafty and clever with the written word!
Are you affected by your surroundings? I know I am, and aesthetic is the single most important item that I am searching for when looking for a suitable vacation rental for my family. As a vacation rental owner, I know that there are a few different ways that I can set myself apart from the competition and one of the easiest ways to do that is with interior design. Having an incredible living space with great design will increase your rental rate and your ability to secure more bookings throughout the year, and higher occupancy equals increased revenue. Are you looking to chic your retreat? Design does not have to be expensive and could even save you money, so let an expert help you determine the payback on your interior investment. Design is all about working with what you have and not starting over. You may hate your dining room table but a designer working within a budget who has good vision can help you repurpose, reupholster or repaint that tired table into a magnificent masterpiece.
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Q1. Tell me about One Chic Retreat and why you started it?
I started One Chic Retreat because I saw a need for realistic and targeted design advice addressing the concerns of vacation rentals. There are thousands of amazing interior design blogs out there, but I didn’t see any that specifically related to home stays, which are in a hybrid category of not-quite-a-hotel-not-quite-a-residence. Articles focus on design strategies that truly make a home stand out from its competition, and at the same time, keep costs from getting exorbitant. Much of what is being done in the residential realm is simply too expensive to implement in this business. Few owners are going to buy a $15,000 sofa or a $2,000 sconce. It doesn’t make sense. Rather, the goal is to provide low cost, hardy, comfortable and convenient homes, while simultaneously making them beguiling to spend time in.
Q2. I love the name of your company, how did you come up with the name One Chic Retreat?
I love the word retreat and the positivity it generates when said aloud. We all yearn for the renewal a retreat provides, even in our every day homes. If you add the word chic it sounds all the more enticing. Creating spaces that allow people to let their guard down is what my blog is all about. Guest happiness is king.
Q3. What is the one mistake that vacation rental owners make when it comes to home decor?
That’s a really hard question, but I guess if I had to name one mistake that I see over and over again, it would be having an earth-tone dominant home, one overrun with brown, tan, beige, khaki, cream and maroon. There is nothing wrong with earth tones, but they need to be combined with blues, greys, greens and shots of vibrant color in order to inspire people. If a room is overwhelmed by earth tones, it literally makes people feel like they are in a desert with no greenery or water in sight. It’s the opposite of the way you want to feel while on vacation. The good news is it’s not a hard problem to fix. In fact, I have an article on how to correct it. It’s a very specific strategy that is easy to implement, even for beginners. I call it The Field of Wildflowers Technique. It basically teaches you to copy the colors you see in nature, specifically in fields of wildflowers, and bring those same tones into your rental.
Q4.What design trends should vacation rental owners consider when styling a home?
Well, first of all, trends are both a good and a bad thing. It is absolutely critical to pay attention to them because staying up to date in your décor is essential to staying relevant and standing out from your competition, but the problem becomes when you buy everything at once to conform to what’s happening now and then 5 years down the road, you start to look dated. My suggestion is to have timeless pieces of big furniture – beds, sofas, armchairs, tables, coffee tables, desks – and trendy everything else, like upholstery, window treatments, lighting, planters, toasters, canisters, vases and bedding. New lamps, for example, can do wonders for an instant updated look. Bedding, window treatments, upholstery and pillows must be changed out on a regular basis anyway so it’s a good opportunity to buy the latest trends when doing so. One trend that I think is here to stay is interiors flooded with natural light. If you don’t have a home that lets a lot in, paint the walls a very light color. White paint, for example, is very effective at eliminating shadows and brightening up interior spaces. Bringing in lots of natural light elevates mood. And we want guests to be in a good mood. That’s the goal.
In the room below you will see how white paint is an easy way to bring natural light into an otherwise dark room. This room was painted with Benjamin Moore's Super White.
Q5. If I hired you to assist in the design at my vacation rentals how would we collaborate?
I’m all about empowering my clients to take charge of their own design vision, so I prefer collaboration from the get-go. Every project - be a complete overhaul or just a few tweaks here and there requires a certain amount of owner-designer brainstorming. It’s the best way to create an engaging space. My goal is for my clients to feel that the finished project is their vision, not mine. After all, they are the ones renting it out or enjoying it themselves.
Q6. Tell me about Mercedes Brennan, Founder of One Chic Retreat, past, present and future.
I’ve always been interested in design. When my husband and I lived in Chile, I designed furniture for a small firm called Taller de Casas y Ideas. It was wonderful to work with small artisans who had years of European furniture craftsmanship behind them. Working with Chilean carpenters or “maestros” was a great learning experience. After coming back to the US in 2004, I decided to get my masters in interior architecture at UCLA. My focus was both in hospitality and residential design. After graduation, I worked for renowned residential interior designer, Windsor Smith, from whom I learned a ton about combining the practical with the gorgeous. My most exciting project was working on the designer showcase house, the House of Windsor with Veranda Magazine. Gwyneth Paltrow now owns the house. In 2012, I left Windsor Smith Home to pursue an independent design career. After working successfully on many residential and commercial projects, I am now focusing on what I love most: vacation rental design. I am both a designer of vacation home stays - including my own (Arboles Vacation Rental) and the founder of One Chic Retreat. My goal this year is to finish writing my e-book wherein I teach vacation rental owners and managers how to create their own extraordinary home stay retreats that stand out from the crowd.
PS: A big Thank You to Mercedes Brennan!
PPS: Mercedes on location in Albion, Idaho where she is currently transforming a vr cottage.