Turning unused living space into a full-time bnb.

in Architecture+Designlast month (edited)


What a blessing Airbnb was when I reached my sell-by date, according to the corporate world that is;)

The fledglings had flown the nest and we suddenly found ourselves with tons of empty living space.

Hubby being a civil engineer has a natural knack of designing excellent living spaces; I do believe he missed his calling and should rather have become an architect as he has great insight and is a future thinker.

Our original home was L-shaped but he designed a new wing and turned the house into a U-shape, with the new spacious main bedroom with en-suite bathroom opening up onto a patio.
An attractive face brick archway alcove feature was added for the bed to fit in.

This room was now far removed from the rest of the house with the teens having more freedom to hold LAN parties and listen to their kind of music.

As we live on an elevated property, a games room was added below the main bedroom on the bottom level and that at times also became an extended venue for the LAN parties.

A couple of months before retirement from the corporate world, we had converted our garden cottage into an Airbnb, which turned out to be busier than we ever dreamed possible.
I will tell you about the brilliant design and birth of Lily's Cottage one of these days!

SO it happened that a young couple came to stay; they were in the process of emigrating but their Mom had complications after undergoing delicate surgery.
To cut a long story short, they needed to extend their stay but we had another booking.

We had lost out on long term business bookings before that event as we only had the one unit, so took a hard look at our needs.

We had a four bedroom home but with only three of us living here, two bedrooms stood empty.

The easiest and most natural conversion would be to turn our new main bedroom wing into an Airbnb studio unit as it had its own private entrance.


We didn't want to seal it off from the rest of the house permanently as it may not be good for when we sell one day.

All we had to do was to install a heavy duty door in the passage thus cutting this unit off from the rest of the house, and so Lily's Loft studio unit was born, and Marc and Kerry could stay on.

Loft door.jpg
A wooden door frame had to be installed and edges sealed off at the brick archway in the passage.

I managed to pick up a hall stand for next to nothing so that hides the doorway.
We installed a movable linen cupboard on the other side which is in our living space for some of the day-to-day bnb linen and also doubles up as a sound barrier.

We are super mindful of privacy and tranquility for both our guests and ourselves.


Our young couple had fallen in love with the cottage and were reluctant to look for accommodation elsewhere, so they were only too happy to move to and from the new studio unit and the cottage a couple of times till their Mom recovered, before it was time for them to say their farewells to South Africa.


At that stage the dressing table acted as a kitchen dresser, but we later added a quaint little kitchenette with just the basics needed for short stays.


There's a small table and chairs for a laptop or dining, a satellite television plus a seating area outside on the covered patio for smoking, braaing (BBQ) and relaxing.



P.S. Another surprise awaited our couple; the booking site they booked through have a Free Accommodation Program, to which we belong, and they won their initial booking value in full, so were reimbursed by the site. We do pay a little extra commission for that, but it boosts our visibility, so it's a win-win all around!

Marcg Seager.jpg

Today the studio unit is much in demand especially with single business guests during the week, and couples needing a leisurely breakaway.


The best advice I can give anyone considering setting up a bnb as far as sleeping arrangement is concerned, is to buy two single beds plus a king size mattress topper which gives you the option of accommodating two single guests, or a couple.


View of the pool from the studio unit, very inviting especially during the hot summer months, a must-have in Durban, as is an aircon unit, as our guests comfort is our top priority.

Pool view from Loft.jpg

We were sad to see our young couple go, but happy that we were able to help out with their accommodation needs during a difficult time for them plus this extra unit surprisingly added greatly to our income.
We have since registered with the local authority and necessary tourism bodies, and are on many other accommodation booking sites so now we run this as a full time business which all started with using non-functioning space in our home.

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Hello @lizelle, I'm just dropping by to congratulate you. Creative and inspiring post! It's brilliant how you've re-purposed the spaces and furniture along with the forthcoming ideas of your husband. All the best and success to Lily's Cottage and we look forward to reading more.

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Thank you so very much for this honour, I edited my blog a little and added extra pics to show the external entrance which clarifies the layout a tad better.
Really appreciate your community 🤗

That 's a homey bnb there! I will plan my next vacation there for sure. The nice clean and hospitable environment makes a good deal. I would love to come at lilly's cottage by the way how did you came to the name of the place? It feels very refreshing.

Hey @praditya, nice seeing you again!
My mom Lily and my late Dad used to live in the cottage but as Mom became more frail she moved up to the house. We didn't like the idea of having troublesome tenants, so opted for short term guests, it's been awesome as we get to meet the nicest people from all walks of life and from all over the world as wel.
Hope to see you here one day😉

That's a pretty name and is your mom name as well how nice! Surely will see you there one day soon:D

@tipu curate :)

Thank you so much @rozku🤗

I will surely visit that beautiful lily's cottage one day soon and enjoy the hospitality and homely feeling over there. The pool is lucrative and making the space look extra luxurious. I use AirBNB a lot while travelling and it's a great option for a business as well. That's crazy how sometimes things turn out in a certain way like that bedroom unit in your home got occupied due to young couple's need and now is a part of your business.
Very fascinating.

It really was amazing how it happened and at the right time as well as my mom Lily used to live in the cottage (hence the name) but moved in with us as she became more frail, so it actually brought us closer to her at night.
It would be so awesome hosting you some time;)
Thank you for the lovely comments.

Would love to be there, Things happen for a reason and it turned out so well:)

and you have made it so homely, it is such an awesome place, no wonder your guests always come back again. lovely my friend. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you my friend, it's time you visited again, missing you 😉

Yes, just say when , I will be there. Thank you for being the person you are. Always the best Host and caring person, your guests adore you.

Financial gurus typically say that when buying a house, you're buying a liability unless you turn that property into a valuable asset by letting it earn revenue. I'm glad you made the excellent decision of converting your extra unused spaces into Air BnB accommodations for business.

Moreover, I simply admire how the headboard of your studio unit's main bed presents itself with its clever rustic arched design! Lovely post @lizelle!

Thank you so very much @storiesoferne, we had been looking at scaling down and moving down the coast but really enjoy our home, garden and friends so decided to put that idea on the back burner for now. This has worked so well plus we're now able to employ 2 staff members and wouldn't want to let them down, although they're gaining valuable experience and would likely find employment elsewhere.
I initially wanted that facebrick archway in the kitchen to frame cupboards but the kitchen had too many openings and not enough solid walls, works well in the studio apartment.
Thank you so much for your awesome feedback 😀

Great and inspiring post @lizelle

At that stage the dressing table acted as a kitchen dresser, but we later added a quaint little kitchenette with just the basics needed for short stays.

I like that you've re-purposed the existing furniture.

I learned that trick from my parents who did that all the time, their motto was look at what you have and adapt it to what you need, they were super inventive:)
We have since removed the mirror on that dresser and fixed it to a wall in the cottage, the dresser now sits down in the cottage as well.
I find it's way more satisfying repurposing old stuff than buying mass produced purpose made furniture!
So glad you enjoyed the post @discoveringarni , really appreciate your lovely feedback!

It's such a charming space. The new kitchenette turned out well and even more functional. It blended nicely into the walls and the other furniture while maintaining the visitor's focus on the beautiful arched wall.

Lovely way to utilize your space. 😃

First of all, let me congratulate you on your retirement (free from corporate stress), as for me I am still at the middle of being a corporate employee, and more congratilations to your Airbnb endeavor, goodluck and more guets to come!