The right vacation rental can take your trip from “great” to “best vacation ever”–something designer Autumn Hachey understands intimately. Autumn blended her love for adventure, travel, and design to found Stay Here, a full-service vacation rental design and branding studio that recently renovated The Lake Placid Lodge with a showstopping checkerboard theme throughout.
We sat down with Autumn to talk about why she chose Fireclay Tile for that iconic checkerboard, her secret to making a space feel boutique, and why vacation rental owners should let go of fear to embrace her best design advice.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do?
My name is Autumn, I’m a designer, stylist, and the founder and creative director of Stay Here. In a nutshell—Stay Here is a boutique branding, marketing, and interior design studio for vacation rental owners that have vision and heart.
Unlike a traditional interior design studio, everything we do at Stay Here is rooted in strategy. With our finger on the pulse of the short-term rental industry as a whole, our team of experts brings together a combined knowledge spanning hospitality, marketing, luxury events and weddings, brand strategy, art direction, photography, and interior design. With a strategy-first approach to design, our team lays the foundation for property owners allowing them to focus on big picture thinking and growth for their short-term rental business. Our signature process has been crafted in a way that anticipates every detail of the guest experience elevating properties into luxury stays and sought-after destinations.
When did you first become interested in design? How did you get your start?
I got my start working in corporate marketing at Canada’s largest furniture store. It was there that I learned the ins and outs of branding, social media, and marketing- and also began to solidify my passion for furniture and interior design. I had zero interior design experience when I started the position but I would say I’ve always been a big advocate for “raising your hand” and jumping into new opportunities. So, whenever a decor-related task at work came up, I would volunteer! I started with styling for flyers and then magazines and digital content.
By the time I left the position, I had launched the company lifestyle blog “Hello Yellow”, and I was the editor-in-chief of our bi-annual digital and print magazine Hello Sunshine (which we would often polybag with LCBO or Style at Home). I produced a web series following the creation process of the magazine, traveling across Canada to tell real stories about our furniture in real homes. I helped manage all our branded TV integrations with HGTV, was acting as a spokesperson appearing on breakfast television, and on top of all our social media accounts, I also managed and art directed our team of 8 influencers who helped us create content for the brand.
All the while I was working in this position, I was blogging for my own website on the side (mainly, about interior design, traveling, and hotels). I would spend my weekends blogging about my DIY home reno projects or jet-setting to places like Pittsburgh or Montreal to review hotels and live like a local. After five years in the office, I decided to make moves so to speak and leaped into the world of freelancing, where I started my career as an interior decorator and vintage shop owner (Make Moves Vintage).
One common thread throughout my entire career has been my love for adventure, traveling, and design. It wasn’t until two years ago, when my dream project landed in my lap, that I realized this was my calling. I had the opportunity to co-design my first short-term rental property from head to toe, but not only that, we created a signature package that included branding and social media, creating an entirely immersive, 360-degree boutique hotel experience. Our clients handed us the keys, and we handed them back a fully designed luxury property with a social media content calendar and a strategy for success. (The Summer House!)
And so, merging a love for marketing, traveling, and interior design—Stay Here was born.
Image: Michelle Johnson
Can you tell me about your design process? What is your favorite part?
I would say there are lots of really juicy “milestones” during a project that are super exciting. The beginning of any project is very exciting because it’s like a big blank canvas, anything goes. It’s the part of a project where you start to look for nuggets of inspiration. Once you get your first brilliant idea it can feel like wildfire as the vision for the project starts to unfold. It’s an opportunity to explore new concepts, dig into ideas, and play.
I love sourcing vintage in person, I feel like that treasure hunt is an exhilarating part of my job.
I also love major installs during a project. Seeing your finishes go from render to real life is super inspiring. (In our Lake Placid project, seeing progress on the kitchen countertop tile installation was VERY satisfying!)
And of course, revealing the finished styled space to the client is a favorite moment… and coming back to shoot is at the top of the list as well. There are so many lovely moments for every project.
In terms of our design process—we actually approach design differently at Stay Here. As we’re designing short-term rentals vs. residential homes—all of our projects start with an in-depth strategy. During the strategy phase, we uncover lots of important information that ultimately sets the foundation for the entire design. Within the strategy, we cover lots of touchpoints spanning from brand values and descriptors to crafting the mission statement, a competitor analysis, dream guest archetype, etc! From there, we use the strategy to dig into the brand design where we deliver logos, typography pairings, the color palette (which lives digitally and within the physical space), social media templates, and more.
We do these things in conjunction with our site visit, initial floor plans, etc and essentially everything is presented in phases—so our clients quite literally see their entire property coming to life from all aspects with each presentation. When we present the final brand with logos and strategy— we present the interior design presentation in conjunction... So our clients will see both their logos, and the fabric swatches for their custom furniture at the same time. It’s pretty neat.
We include a sensory strategy, social media strategy, branded assets (like postcards or coasters!), photography, and videography and we have elopement package add-ons for properties that hope to also host weddings.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
This is a tough one. I would say my design style is always evolving but currently, I would say my aesthetic is California inspired with an edge.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I know this is cliche to say, but everywhere! Of course, I love to find inspiration online (Instagram and Pinterest) but I also challenge myself to look outside of the internet for inspiration. I am always deeply inspired by commercial design (restaurants and hotels). I think getting outside of your house and having experiences in the real world is great for collecting inspiration.
What is the best design advice you can give?
My best design advice for vacation rental owners is to ACCESSORIZE.
I believe there is this overwhelming fear that things will get broken by guests so a lot of homeowners don’t layer in accessories. Accessories are what give your space personality and life. I truly believe that if you are marketing your space as a luxury destination and you are putting high-quality accessories inside—you will attract guests that will appreciate those touches and will respect your space.
Image: Michelle Johnson
How do you factor sustainability into your designs?
As a previous vintage shop owner—incorporating vintage into all of our projects is very important to us. I love to layer in imperfect, storied items to add character and warmth to our designs. At the Lake Placid Lodge, we incorporated two of the most stunning antique wood benches that just fit the hygge tone of the space so well.
Why do you like using tiles in your designs?
I absolutely love tile. I think there are so many interesting ways to leverage tile and create impact. With so many options when it comes to color, pattern, texture, and finish—the opportunities are truly limitless.
What made you want to work with Fireclay Tile? What do you love most about your tile?
I think Fireclay Tile is a leader in the industry, doing so many creative collaborations and designs. I love everything about the tile we selected for the Lake Placid Lodge. We went with Eucalyptus, Tusk, and Dolomite for our color palette and the colors were superb. I especially loved the Eucalyptus color as it has a really subtle crackling effect throughout each tile making for a very unique, organic, almost imperfect look overall.
Let's talk about the Lake Placid project. Was this a remodel or a renovation? What sort of look were you going for?
The Lake Placid Lodge is a two-bedroom condo located at the base of the Creekside Gondola with beautiful mountain views, ski-in, ski-out, and a shared hot tub and sauna— a modern adventurer's dream. It was a full-scope renovation project where we renovated the kitchen and both washrooms and made some other cosmetic upgrades overall. The design intent for the lodge was to create a space that felt organic, minimal, and upscale, and I absolutely believe we achieved that!
What made you choose to go for the checkerboard pattern on the kitchen backsplash + and countertops?
Kitchens are kind of our thing at Stay Here—we love creating bold and unique kitchen designs via applications like interesting stone, ribbed islands, colored millwork—or in this case… a fully checkered counter, backsplash, and waterfall edge.
Check patterns are definitely having a moment and we are here for it. We knew from the get-go we wanted to bring in a check pattern and the question was just—where. Once we got deep into pulling inspiration we found an old photo of a 1970s kitchen with a tiled countertop. The inspiration photo was definitely not entirely the look we were going for—but we LOVED the concept.
We carried the check pattern into the downstairs powder room and we also incorporated it upstairs in a budget-friendly way—using floor tiles!
What about each of the bathrooms? What were the goals for each room?
In the downstairs powder room, we wanted to continue our check theme from the kitchen on a larger scale on the floors. We repeated the eucalyptus on the walls in the powder room (that can be found in the main washroom upstairs) creating some repetition throughout the condo.
We love how the tile tells a cohesive story from the kitchen to the bathrooms, how do you advise people tiling multiple spaces in their homes?
We love repetition! Especially in a short-term rental, we think having repeating elements is so important to make a space feel “boutique.” Whenever we can we try to carry different themes from room to room. At Lake Placid Lodge, we have a number of recurring elements, colors, and finishes like the checkerboard pattern, round boucle pillows, shades of green, tumbled bronze and black hard finishes, and of course—tile! By repeating elements from room to room you create a recognizable story—which is also great for marketing your property.
When it comes to tiling multiple spaces in your home, our biggest piece of advice is to stick to a color palette and play with different applications! You may use one tile variation on a floor that you could repeat in another room on the walls. Have fun with it!
How did the installation go? Had your installer worked with handmade tile before?
We threw lots of curveballs at our contracting team with the tiled tub and the tiled countertops— but they did a great job bringing the vision to life!
Which of our tiles would you love to use in future projects?
We are currently selecting finishes for our next project— a 9-suite inn in Stratford Ontario called Hotel Julie. We’ve definitely got our eye on a few samples in the moodier color palettes—Maybe even black!
Tile Shown: 6x6 in Basalt
Want to bring checkerboard charm into your space? Our Design Consultants are here to help! Reach out for free one-on-one design assistance, including rendering, sample selection, and ordering.