Creating the Perfect Vacation House, From Luxury Summer Beach Homes to Mountain Cabins

Sara Story Vacation Summer Home Entry - Roger Davies

So, you have invested in a second property. Whether you wish to create a retreat from your day-to-day life at the beach for the summer season or recreational space for the entire family in the country to use year-round, several aspects make vacation homes different from your primary residence. So if you want to create the perfect vacation haven there are some key things to consider.

For starters, the time of permanence is entirely different at a vacation home, even if you go there for long periods at once. The surroundings of your second dwelling are also very important, they may even serve as great design inspiration. And be sure to consider the things you love most about vacation. The things that made some places you stayed feel so great you never wanted to leave. It is, of course, also important to keep your design authentic to your personality and taste. But nothing should be superfluous, rather purposeful. Additionally, you might consider renting out the pad, so be sure to consider this during the design process. You can hire an airbnb management group and let them take care of the space while you sit back and relax.

Whether you have a mountain cabin or a luxury summer beach house, read on for 6 inspiring design tips to help you create the perfect vacation home!

6 Key Things to Keep In Mind When Designing Your Vacation House

Design With Purpose

Whether you are designing your summer house for the entire family, or simply a place to invite, or rent out to, guests, those aspects will impact the creation of the spaces according to their intention. A summer vacation beach house will also be different from a winter cabin in the mountains. The first usually being more outdoor-oriented, with light tones, and fresher fabrics for upholstery and drapery, and easier to clean (especially if you have a pool or a beach nearby). Then the latter could incorporate a fireplace, warmer tones, and furry soft goods to make the place feel cozier and more welcoming.

If you intend it to be for family use, where different personalities and age groups will congregate, then it is important to make it simple and add some fun elements that everyone can enjoy. These are elements that even if you wish to rent it out, will still hold up nicely.

Simple and Functional

Any designer will tell you that, differently from what you may want for your main home, your vacation place should be more lowkey. And each space should be designed to fit its functionality. A great way to do this is by using neutral tones as a foundation for your scheme, and then add color through smaller accessories like pillows, throws, and vases. It is important to minimize your accessories to keep the space decluttered and flowing. As Coco Chanel said, when adorning, take a look around and remove “at least one thing” you have put on.

Interior by KOKET

Another technique to achieve this is by purchasing items that can be easily moved around. Or even upgraded if needed. This will also prove beneficial over time, whenever you need (or simply want) to change anything about your home.

serene central living area summer vacation home beach mountains bel air by sara story design - photo roger davies
This multi-use living space in Bel Air designed by Sara Story offers open, airy yet cozy vibes perfect for summer vacation relaxing or entertaining. (Photo by Roger Davies)

Create Intimate Spaces

Even though the purpose of your vacation house may vary, defining areas for people to enjoy each other’s company—or even some alone time—is important; after all, that is the best part of being away from our daily routines and busy schedules. Make sure to create communal spaces where people can easily come together. Consider—a great dining area, a seating or a family room, maybe around a fireplace, or even a cozy breakfast nook. Those will be the places where the most cherished memories will be created!

Let the dinner party begin! Interior by Run for the Hills neutral natural materials dining room
Let the dinner party begin! Interior by Run for the Hills
cortney bishop beach house porch dining area
Breakfast on this beach house porch in Kiawah Island, SC is pure perfection! Design by Cortney Bishop. (Photo by Katie Charlotte)

At the same time, it is important to create room for privacy—just like in our daily lives, sometimes you just need 5 minutes for yourself. Depending on the size of your estate, and how many people you intend to have over, establish bedrooms for everyone’s comfort. And set up corners for rest and relaxation: chairs with ottomans to elevate your feet, a daybed where you can take a nap, or a sunroom where you can catch up on some reading.

Mulholland Hideaway designed by Jensen Interior Design
Curling up with a book as the breeze passes through this open-air relaxation haven at a Mulholland Hideaway designed by Jensen Interior Design, yes, please! (Photo by Dominique Vorillon)

A Guest House Bonus:

If having guests is a key desire at your summer house, consider building a guest cottage if you have space. Offering guests a mini home-away-from-home can make for a much more comfortable stay for all. If you don’t have room for a full guest house, you could consider converting basement space or perhaps over the garage.

Leisure and Entertainment

Remember to make it fun! After all, you are on vacation. Depending on the type of house, you should design areas for recreational activities for people to do together. Especially if you want to avoid each person going about their own thing, like scrolling through their phones.

The fun zones are endless in this indoor outdoor summer haven designed by Natalia Miyar
The fun zones are endless in this indoor outdoor summer haven designed by Natalia Miyar. (Photo by Ana Lui)

You can create an inviting communal area outdoors. If you are on the beach or have a pool, you can set up sunbathing lounges, or go for a full-on pool house. If you’re shopping for homes for sale in Florida keep your eyes out for ones with screened in pools as these make for fabulous entertaining areas and are a common feature in this state. Even if you don’t have water, why not have a seating area to get that vitamin D while you enjoy your favorite book. Or a dining space for the family to dine al fresco? And if you wish to spare your beautiful kitchen, put in a barbecue or a pizza oven—plus, this way, everyone can help to make dinner.

Outdoor dining area designed by Lori Morris (Photo by Brandon Barre) luxury pool pink and white
Outdoor dining area designed by Lori Morris. (Photo by Brandon Barre)

If your outdoor area isn’t so big, you can still have a beautiful veranda or a nice porch. A place where you can install some outdoor seating or a hammock. And don’t forget the lighting for the evenings and those summer parties!

Lake side summer fun awaits at the beautifully designed Fond du Lac vacation home by Michael del Piero. (Photo by Richard Powers)
Lake side summer fun awaits at the beautifully designed Fond du Lac vacation home by Michael del Piero. (Photo by Richard Powers)


If your vacation home is in a colder place, or you are just planning to use it in both summer and winter, staying inside under a blanket by the fireplace is an amazing way to relax. But, there are also lots you can do to bring the fun indoors!

david collins studio owners villa delaire graff fireplace sunset view porch deck
When the sun goes down but you still want to leave the doors open light the fireplace! Interior of the Owner’s Villa at Delaire Graff in South Africa by David Collins Studio.

For example, you can set up a game room equipped with hands-on games, or get digital with consoles or a portable golf simulator. A game room is especially great if you have kids or wish to entertain guests. A perfect place where everyone can come together around a pool or a tennis table for some healthy competition.

lori morris bar pool table pink and blue
Finding entertainment in this vacation home bar with its very own pink top pool table is a sure thing! Interior by Lori Morris. (Photo by Brandon Barre)

A home theater is another great entertainment zone if you have space!

sara story bel air vacation home theater room
A home theater is a great addition to any vacation home, but especially the ones where indoor time is sometimes more important than outdoor. Interior by Sara Story. (Photo by Roger Davies)

More to Love:

How to Create Your Dream Outdoor Living Space
How to Decorate Your Outdoor Space for a Summer Party

Timeless Design—and Quality

Although your vacation home may not have the intense use your primary one does, it is still important to make it last the test of time. In terms of design, you want to have cleaner lines that will be consistent and pleasing whenever you come to this haven. Also, you don’t want to tire of its style too quickly.

Mountain vacation home in Vail, Colorado designed by Champalimaud
Rich woods and soft neutrals make this Mountain vacation home interior in Vail, Colorado designed by Champalimaud perfectly timeless and cozy.

One important tip on this topic is to resist designing according to a theme. Even if you wish to go, for example, for a coastal inspiration for your luxury summer vacation beach house, consider adding more subtle, smaller elements to capture it, rather than a full-on “theme”. For instance, try adding a wicker chair, or soft blue tones to give an accent to your living room. And, for the bedrooms, crispy, white linens are always a safe bet. Decorate with elements that channel your main source of inspiration, such as, fun pillows to differentiate each bedroom, or placing accessories by the nightstand.

coastal tropical bedroom design, Plaza 18 hotel in Andalusia, Spain designed by Nicky Dobree
Tropical vibes flow through this bedroom without feeling themey at Plaza 18 hotel in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain designed by Nicky Dobree. (Photo by Philip Vile)

When it comes to quality, pay attention to the environment that surrounds your vacation house, to ensure you invest not only in long-lasting materials but in the right ones. If your summer house is by the beach, any outdoor items need to endure humidity and salinity. You will also need a good place to store outdoor furniture in the off-season. In any case, durability and products that wear well will make your return to this house homier than ever.

david collins studio pool deck terrace owners villa delaire graff mountain cabin homes luxury
This luxurious mountain “cabin”, or more precisely, the Owner’s Villa at Delaire Graff, South Africa, oozes summer vibes! Design by David Collins Studio.

Make It Personal

Of course, if you plan to rent out your second home, you will not want to have pictures of your family in every room. However, this is no reason to create a sterile environment, without your personal touch—or even brand—in every space. Even if you go for inexpensive furniture, you can add luxury through a statement piece that can be a conversation starter. Or a vintage one you found in a flea market. You can adorn with your favorite books or any decorative items you purchased during a trip that can tell the story of who you are and where you have been. You can hang some of your most esteemed art, or those porcelains that speak to your heritage. Or if it’s a beach house get collecting seashells. This is the chance to be original, adventurous, and more importantly—true to yourself!

luxury living room beach house A clean white palette makes for the perfect space to showcase special art, accessories and vacation fun finds. Interior by Sara Story. (Photo by Roger Davies)
A clean white palette makes for the perfect space to showcase special art, accessories and vacation fun finds. Interior by Sara Story. (Photo by Roger Davies)

If this is a family home, you can design each bedroom to still be in neutral tones at its base, but with color accents according to each person’s favorite color. This is a great way to make sure everyone feels included in the design process. A bunk room is also a fabulous concept for a vacation home design.

jay jeffers bunk room kids summer house vacation homes
A bunk room makes for a great vacation home feature! Interior by Jay Jeffers.

From a cozy cabin in the mountains or a country mansion to a luxury beach house or the perfect summer retreat with a pool—happy designing, traveling, entertaining, relaxing, and anything else you want out of your vacation home!

Words by Rita Rodrigues

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