‘Vacation House Rules’ Reveals the One Thing Houseguests Love To See

Scott McGillivray of “Vacation House Rules” knows there’s one thing all guests prioritize in a getaway: a breathtaking view. And the lakeside cabin he and his team renovate in the latest episode, “Bird’s-Eye View,” has a gorgeous vista of woods and water below. So far, so good!

Still, this two-bedroom, one-bathroom property in Canada also comes with a host of problems. And since homeowners Brian and Tara have only $115,000 to fix it up, McGillivray and designer Debra Salmoni know they’ll need to be smart with their budget.

Here’s how they turn this run-down cabin into a must-stay vacation destination, which includes lots of inexpensive tips for your very own abode.

Bring attention to the front door

Before: Guests probably wouldn’t know that this was the front doorway.


When McGillivray first sees this home, he immediately sees one big problem: The main entrance is just a plain door on the side of the building, which is odd. There’s no defining feature to tell guests, “You’re here!”—and it doesn’t look very welcoming.

“As a vacation rental property, we want it to be simple, we want it to be clear,” MicGillivray says of the entry. He decides to add to the front door to make it stand out.

After: Now, it’s clear that this is the front entry.


“I’ve picked up a front portico kit, which is inexpensive, and it looks great,” he says. “It works for any standard entrance door, but it’s going to define this as the main entrance, so when guests arrive, it’s obvious.”

The portico ends up defining the entrance, making it seem less like an awkward side door. McGillivray loves this feature because it makes the home feel much more welcoming.

Adding a mural? Pick a theme

Before: The front entry leads right into an unfinished basement.


Once inside the entrance, McGillivray is shocked to find that it leads right into an unfinished basement. Of course, this needs to be changed!

McGillivray wants to make sure guests will open the door to a welcoming space. So after adding two bedrooms and a bathroom to the basement area, he adds a 7-by-7-foot photo of the lake to the entryway wall.

It’s a fun and meaningful feature, and as Salmoni explains, this is an easy upgrade.

After: Now, guests are greeted by a beautiful view.


“Any picture can be made into wall art, the higher the resolution, the better,” she says. “There’s a lot of companies online that do wall murals. Basically all you have to do is find the company, upload your image, and then it’s delivered to your house.”

Paint pine for a modern look

pine walls
It’s very possible to have too much pine.


While McGillivray spends a lot of his budget on finishing the basement, he knows the main living space also needs a lot of work.

The space is covered in pine, from the kitchen to the walls to the ceiling, and even the wainscoting.

“Pine is fine, but I think you doubled down,” McGillivray tells the homeowners.

pine walls
It’s important to break up the wood tones.


McGillivray decides to keep the pine, but he paints the walls to break up the wood tones with a little something different.

This paint job is great because it gives the living room a brightness without taking away the texture. Now, the room is more modern and has a subtler style.

“We want to make the view the star of the show,” McGillivray says, “that’s what renters are paying for.”

Paint rather than replace the kitchen cabinets

These dated cabinets needed a coat of paint.


A little bit of paint transforms this living room, so McGillivray decides to give the kitchen the same treatment by sanding and painting the cabinets instead of replacing them.

After painting, the kitchen looks much fresher—no new cabinets required!


“One of my favorite things about this property is that we have salvaged the majority of the kitchen,” McGillivray says. “If we had to replace everything, we would’ve had to spend twice as much.”

When the kitchen is finished, it’s hard to believe these are the original cabinets. This blue paint is a great choice for both design and budget.

Want the counters to last? Get quartzite

kitchen counter
This quartzite counter is inexpensive, but it still looks great.


While McGillivray is able to salvage the kitchen cabinets, he knows that he can’t keep everything. Salmoni picks a new quartzite countertop with gray veining.

“I love using quartzite in rental properties,” Salmoni says. “It’s a beautiful material; it’s durable, zero maintenance; and it looks spectacular.”

The problem with quartzite is that it can be a little pricey: The spaces in this small kitchen cost $5,000. However, because this is a rental property, McGillivray and Salmoni want the kitchen to be durable and easily cleaned. So the cost is worth it in the long run.

How does this vacation house turn out?

When McGillivray first arrives, he explains that cabins in this area usually rent out for $300 a night. However, after spending $115,000 on the renovation, McGillivray estimates this home will rent out for $430 night.

With expected occupancy of 33% per year, this property could potentially make $48,000 annually. The owners are thrilled to not only make a nice profit, but also enjoy their new cabin on their own!