There’s nothing quite like creating a holiday home from scratch to figure out the hard way what works and what doesn’t. We can all be thankful, then, that interior designer Simone Mathews has been there, done that, and written the How-To guide. Ever since she and husband Ben (with their company BAM Constructions Group) began creating their constantly-photographed holiday properties SOUL of Gerringong and The PAUSE, Simone has been asked to share her best tips for how others can follow in their footsteps, so has established an online portal, Soul HOME, web series and podcasts to share her hard-won knowledge with us all. Ready for a taste? Simone kindly shared with us some of her favourite practical tips, from embracing the beach to embracing your budget that are sure to be helpful, whether you’re interested in upping the relaxation factor for your own home just in time for the summer holidays, or feeling inspired to create your own in-demand destination with guests in mind.


DO – Think about what makes you happy

For your own place, you want to create a style that truly resonates with you. You spend so much time at home, so your space has to make you feel good and reflect your own personality and style! I always use three different styles in a 70/20/10 ratio, to give your home that layered feeling, a relaxed feel and a sense of soul.  If you create your home around a unique style that speaks to you and makes you feel great every day, then you have what I call the ‘holiday feeling’.

DON’T – Feel like you need to water down your style to suit everyone

To bring that same holiday feel to a holiday property you want to use to earn an income, it’s still important to employ the 70/20/10 rule to create a unique style that will resonate with your target market (i.e. your guests).

If your property is near the ocean, you will want to incorporate that coastal feeling in your property, or on the other hand if your property is out in the country, you really want that country style to be reflected in your property. Often your guests are coming from busy cities, or swapping their everyday lifestyle for a true break, so they want to experience the way of life of your particular area, which you can reflect in your property styling.


You want your property to be stylish, so your guests feel good when they stay with you and think of your property as a holiday haven. The key is to get the balance of style and practicality aligned.

DO – Focus on quality where it really matters

You need to splurge on your beds and linen. You want your guests to leave having had a better night’s sleep than they would if they were at home. It doesn’t matter how stylish your house might be; if you scrimp on your bedding and your guests have a bad night’s sleep, they may not rush to re-book.

You will notice I use antique brass in a lot of my projects. Brass ages and patinas with time, hence the more it is used the more beauty that shows. Practical and simple beauty is the way to go for holiday properties.

DO – Think ‘how do I keep it clean’?

You don’t want to use a gazillion cushions and delicate throws if you can help it.  They generally can’t be laundered easily, and they don’t withstand the test of time as long as quality sheets. So instead, look to use linen bedding, or even just high-grade quality pillowcases. One tip is to use a linen flat sheet as your throw, as they can be laundered each time your cleaner changes the bed.

My absolute go-to sofas are ones that have a removable slip cover. That way if there is an accidental spill, it can simply be replaced. It is also easier to clean when you have a white slip cover versus a darker colour like grey, as something like red wine can be bleached.

Also picking cushions and soft furnishings made from strong, hardy fabrics like linen that can stand the test of time and be washed and replaced regularly.

DON’T – Get swept away by the look

You need to follow the rule of only including things in the property, from your build finishes to your furniture, that you can cope with being damaged (i.e. if something breaks, or is stolen). Accidents are unfortunately a big part of this industry, so if you are too emotionally attached to an item of décor or a piece of art, it’s best not to include it. You don’t want to be worrying about it each time a guest arrives.

DO – Think less is more

A big saving recommendation I can make is on wardrobe space. Save money on your joinery in the guest rooms with open-style wardrobes that look stylish, yet cost a lot less to create.  And guests won’t accidentally leave things hanging in your wardrobes after they leave, removing any angst for how fast you can courier the item back!


DON’T – Try and do it all alone

I recommend having a team on the ground. I have both a cleaning team and a management team. The cleaning team visits the property each time a guest leaves and then the management comes after the cleaning is completed, to ensure the property is re-styled up to scratch for the next guests. A lot of people try to do this themselves, but I still recommend having a team just in case there are instances when you can’t be there yourself.



DON’T – Make it (too) personal

Don’t keep family keepsakes and photos in your property if using it for guests. You want them to feel like they are at their own home away from home, so strip out items that are overly personal (or breakable!) to keep the property user-friendly to all.

You want to have a storage room with plentiful cupboard space. And if space allows, you can lock away your own personal belongings in there too, so you don’t need to bring them with you each time you vacate the property for guests.

DO – Focus on the little things that guests will love…

It is the little things that guests notice: a bottle of wine or champagne on arrival or some local produce from the local area is always appreciated. Then it’s also about making everything as easy as possible by keeping things simple. Set up your own destination handbook with your recommendations for things like the best coffee in town and where to go for lunch. The key is to not provide them with every option, only what you yourself would want to do; they are your guests, so where would you send them? You want them to feel like a local.

DO –  Focus on what you love, too

At the same time, it’s your own retreat too, so you need to ensure the property resonates with you and gives you that magical holiday feeling. I recommend trying to incorporate your ‘go to’ thing to help generate that feeling. For some people it could be a certain colour, a type of material or a particular object. For me, it’s palm trees! Including something that resonates strongly with you and makes you happy means that hopefully your guests will be attracted to your style ethos, and it adds some special holiday flavour to the property. Your styling touches have to have a personality, so that the space lifts everyone’s spirits, including your own!


Ready to embark on your very own project? Here are Simone’s five tips to get started.

1 – Purpose – understand your purpose.  Is this holiday property solely for business, to earn an income? Or, is it a second property that you want to both use for yourself and rent on the side?

2 – Research – this is so important. You need to hang with the locals, connect with other holiday property owners and be a guest yourself.

3 – Cost – understand where you need to spend your money. A holiday property is so different to your own home. For example, in a property for paying guests, you need three sets of quality linen for every bed, but you don’t need to install full wardrobes. You really need to know where to invest and where to save your budget.

4 – Holiday feeling – you want your guest to feel like they can switch off when they stay at your property. You can create your own unique holiday feeling, and that is what you want to sell.

5 – Make some noise – you don’t want to wait for guests to find you. You want to make some noise and attract your guests to your property. Use social media, PR, and word of mouth. Go and find your market!

Interview and story by Zoe Briggs. Images supplied by Simone Mathews, with select images by Mitch Fong.

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