Vern Yip's Vacation at Home

Design Ideas for Creating Your Everyday Getaway


By Vern Yip

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Vern Yip, veteran interior designer from Trading Spaces and HGTV–and author of the NYT bestseller Vern Yip’s Design Wise– is back to reveal the design tricks and practices that will give any home a serene, luxury retreat-like feel.

We’ve all heard that our home should be our sanctuary, but most of us fall short of that ideal. Too often, the reality is that our homes are just another place for stress and work. Now trusted HGTV and TLC interior designer Vern Yip is here to guide us on confidently creating a home where we can instantly feel relaxed and rejuvenated, while also reflecting our individual style and needs.

In this lush, beautifully illustrated book, Vern shares the tips, tricks, and design principles that 5-star resorts and hotels use to help guests get into vacation mode, and shows how we can duplicate that sense of ease and relaxation (while fitting into our personal design flair). He also opens the doors to some of his clients’ homes to show you how these key design principles can vary with different styles, tastes, and locations. With Vern’s reassuring tone and clear, easy steps, readers can create spaces that can make everyday feel like vacation!


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What Makes a Home Restful and Relaxing?

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or beautiful.

—William Morris

My home is my favorite place on the planet and my ultimate retreat. I’d rather be there than anywhere else, including an exotic location or a luxury resort or five-star hotel. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love visiting new places and staying at beautiful properties. I still get incredibly excited about visiting somewhere for the first time and discovering something new! I always find myself arriving at the same conclusion: my home is equally as relaxing and enjoyable, but with the major advantage of being specifically tailored to my family and me. The things that we love are there. Everything, from furniture to artwork to storage, has been arranged to help us function as smoothly and enjoyably as possible. All our items also hold special memories and have real meaning to us.

In fact, each time I walk through my front door, I am immediately more relaxed, rejuvenated, and reenergized because my home has been purposefully designed to receive me warmly. It wasn’t always that way. It took time to tailor it, both functionally and aesthetically. It required thought to address design changes to the “bones” of our home that were making it more stressful than necessary: a backyard dominated by high-maintenance landscaping; a small and isolated kitchen with insufficient storage; a front entrance that ungraciously dumped you into a cramped hallway; recessed can lights sporting incandescent bulbs that seemingly burned out every other week; and no clear storage system for the necessary “stuff” that comes with having two babies only fourteen months apart. All of it contributed to an ever-growing to-do list and a disorganized, challenging, and unpleasant environment. Quite frankly, I was starting to despise spending our precious family time in this house. After figuring out what to do, instituting changes was both relatively easy and quick, and I can say with confidence that our home is now a stress-free place that supports and nurtures the entire family. It’s effectively become a vacation home that we happen to live in every day.

So how did I figure out what changes to make to create an everyday home that would relax and rejuvenate us the way being at a top vacation property does? Aside from ensuring that our home contained only the items that we needed and loved, I logged a lot of travel hours, spent a lot of nights away from home, and took plenty of notes on all the things that worked in the properties I visited, as well as many of the things that didn’t work. In fact, I’ve been on the road for nearly three decades (mostly for work, but occasionally for pleasure) and have had the opportunity to stay at many of the best properties in the world—and some not-so-great ones—all with lessons to learn. Travel is an essential part of my life and one of the key ways that I stay inspired.

You should not have to spend a lot of money to “get away from it all” and relax—you should be able to do that right at home.

As an interior designer, I’m particularly sensitive to design choices, so I started noticing the smart, intentional design decisions that commonly linked the best properties—choices that made them instantly calming and enjoyable; necessary choices that also made them easier to maintain and durable enough to withstand heavy traffic. Although my house has to stand up to two active kids and four large dogs, most hotels and luxury properties have to look great while hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of guests pass through each year.

In this book, we’ll talk about the ways “resort thinking” can help us achieve a beautiful, functional home that will rival your favorite getaway. What is so wonderful about strategizing design to make your home as relaxing, as the most incredible resort you can imagine, is that it does not require you to have even stayed in such a place. I’ve done the work for you! In fact, you should not have to spend a lot of money to “get away from it all” and relax—you should be able to do that right at home, and that is my mission here. That doesn’t mean that I find travel to be any less valuable. In fact, I have major wanderlust! As an architectural and interior designer, I gain tremendous insight by being immersed in a different culture and gaining access to its people, customs, architecture, art, craft, food, and music. In fact, seeing how different cultures all over the world uniquely address many of the same issues that we face here at home always inspires me on new ways to create the most restorative home environment possible. Traveling almost certainly gives me new clues on how to incorporate that vacation-like feeling once I’m back home.

No matter how great or insightful my stay is at a hotel or resort, I still feel that home sweet home is special. I never have a feeling of sadness that others have when saying a final goodbye to a wonderful vacation or hotel stay, nor do I feel dread that I’m heading home… no matter how nice my visit was. That’s because I have designed my home to be my special, favorite place. And I believe that your home can—and should—be this for you, too! If you can’t say that your home is your favorite place to be, I encourage you to start taking action to get it there. Your home is often where the most precious moments of your life unfold with family and friends, a place where you spend a significant part of your life, so why not dedicate the time, energy, and resources to make it worthy of that?

I want this book to help you create a home that, relaxes, reenergizes, and restores you (my three Rs), starting the moment you walk through the front door. Home sweet home should be your safe place, one that makes your heart sing. Your home can match any five-star resort when it comes to a feeling of deep comfort and happiness, and it can rival the finest hotel because it will be personal and reflective of all that is special about you and your experiences. Sadly, for too many of us, that’s simply not the case because our houses aren’t designed or organized for our emotional and physical well-being.

One of the ideas that always resonates when I talk to groups, large and small, is that we are in total control of the “messaging” in our homes. Objects, colors, furniture arrangement, the number of things we own, and how they are organized (or not) tells a story not only to guests but to you. When you walk into your home, what message do you want to receive from it? For me, the message is warmth, comfort, order, and happiness. It says, “Welcome home. Kick off your shoes (and place them out of sight, of course) and settle in.” I think most of us want to feel this way when we come home—but if the hall closet is bulging, the table is strewn with clutter, and you have no designated place to stow your keys or place your mail, coming home can feel chaotic and uneasy.

To achieve the three Rs in your home, let’s think strategically and carefully about what we choose to fill spaces (fine hotels and resorts do this, too). Oftentimes, we buy something as a temporary placeholder, or because it’s on sale, or because we feel we need something and we settle for “just okay” or “it will have to do.” I’ve done this myself. There were times when I wished I had resisted the temptation to buy something not quite right because it filled a space or a need. Now I know that it’s better to try to wait and to not fill the space until the perfect item comes along. I’ve also learned to resist purchasing something because it’s a phenomenal deal and I like it. I have to truly need it or love it. Today there isn’t anything in my home that I regret having—but it took time for me to achieve that. Another lesson I’ve learned is that eventually the right item does come along—and it’s always worth waiting for.

I understand that you may not have the resources to acquire the perfect furnishings and accessories right away, but that doesn’t mean you should buy something that’s not quite right. Learning the hard way, I have found it is wiser to live with what I have, or live with the empty space, and save up for the right item. Sometimes, there’s simply no choice because function dictates need (you probably don’t want to sit on the floor in your living room!). I get that. For those times, spend as little as you can, for as much quality as you can get, to allow you to save up for the eventual, perfect thing.

That said, as much as I love my home, I also appreciate a well-designed and well-appointed hotel room just as much as you probably do. When clients tell me that they want their bedroom or bathroom to look like a luxury hotel room or a fabulous resort spa, I understand exactly what they want because these places exude a quality of relaxation and calm. What is that quality? It’s not the aesthetics of a hotel room or spa bathroom, which are fairly generic even in high-end properties. Rather, it’s the tranquility these spaces provide that people find so magical.

We love hotels and resorts because things tend to be in order, and there is minimal visual clutter to interfere with the pleasure of being away. In many cases, their aesthetic choices may not even be that extraordinary—actually, even fine resorts make nonpersonal design decisions, meant to appeal to and serve many different kinds of people. Independent of the design style, we are reacting to the cleanliness, simplicity, and order of the space. And of course, we’re consciously free of the burdens of maintenance. These qualities conspire to let us breathe and think, relax and restore. Great resorts and hotels all use common strategies that we can implement in our own homes and are tailored to work for our day-to-day lives and our styles. I’ve adapted many of these resort principles into my own homes, and those of my clients, to help re-create that relaxed sense of being on vacation every time that home is entered. They are principles I share with you in this book and that I reiterate throughout because I want to drive home the point that your ultimate retreat is right at your doorstep.

I truly believe that you can achieve a “vacation at home” with my clear, concrete strategies for design and maintenance, and combine them with your personal collections, favorite colors, and lifestyle. I promise it’s doable, and it’s so worth the effort to create a neat and beautifully personal home that allows each object, accessory, and piece of furniture in it to shine.

This is only half the battle, though. The other half is maintaining that vacation-like feel so that each time you walk through your front door, you are instantly relaxed, reenergized, and restored. When our homes are tidy and free of distraction, we are generally more productive, and we discover we have more time to enjoy our family, friends, and favorite pursuits. You can do it, too, and I show you how.

Once you have the right solutions, and a simple system in place to implement them during the course of a normal day, you’ll see that having a beautiful, tidy home becomes second nature. You will never have to scramble to pick up minutes (or seconds!) before a friend drops by unexpectedly. Throwing a party can be an impromptu event instead of a dreaded obligation that takes weeks of cleaning and planning.

In part 1, “There’s No Place Like Home,” I take you through the philosophy of transforming your everyday home into a relaxing vacation home, borrowing many ideas from fine resort and hotel design.

In part 2, “Everyday Vacation Home Room by Room,” we take a closer look at each kind of room in your house. While the general principles discussed in part 1 apply to every room, each room in a home also has unique features—kitchens have cooking equipment, and bathrooms have showers or baths. Living rooms often have large furniture not found in home offices or in a kitchen. In chapter 3, “Living and Dining,” chapter 4, “Sleeping and Bathing,” and chapter 5, “At Work and Play,” I talk about the many ways we can add delight to individual spaces through design choices that help reinforce the resort idea and help invigorate for what lies ahead, and unwind at the end of a busy and productive day. Throughout, I help you figure out how to keep what you’ve got neat and orderly and looking great. No, it’s not the household hints section; it’s an important discussion about how to keep what you’ve created working on your behalf and serving your needs and the needs of your family and friends. Your home should work for you; you shouldn’t have to be a slave to your surroundings.

You may notice that important advice is sometimes repeated. This is done intentionally as a way of making this book easy and convenient to use; I don’t want you to have to search for information if you are just focusing on one particular space. For example, I want you to find all the bathroom information in the section on bathrooms. However, I also want you to be aware of the same information if you are just beginning your design journey and reading the overview chapters. I often find that being reminded of key points, exactly where they’re applicable, helps illuminate the overall goal and proves helpful for committing them to memory!

Part 3, “Everyday Vacation Homes Up Close,” highlights four homes that truly exemplify vacation living at home. The first is my new, personal project in Rosemary Beach, Florida, which consists of a main house and an efficiently designed carriage house capable of operating independently as a small home for a family of four. After designing and building our first home in Rosemary Beach in 2014, I thought that it would be our forever beach home. Never say forever! After a confluence of events, we decided to sell the house and renovate another one in the same town. That’s one of the projects you’ll meet here. Since the main home is a place where my husband and I, our children, and our dogs go to unwind and spend precious family time together, it was important that the rooms exuded a resort feel while holding up to high-energy kids and pets, visits to the beach, and weekend guests. Yet it still had to be personal and reflective of our tastes, interests, travels, and needs.

The next two homes are places I designed for clients in Utah using all the ideas you’ll find in this book. One of these homes is based in the desert of St. George and has the benefit of dramatic views and vistas of the surrounding Red Rocks. The other home is located in Park City, a fairly renowned ski and outdoor sport town. It has to hold up to the comings and goings of skiers and snowboarders, so withstanding the functional needs of the client, in addition to their aesthetic preferences was particularly crucial. The owners and I made sure that the interior spaces took advantage of the natural surroundings to inspire and rejuvenate. Finally, my small carriage house in Rosemary Beach demonstrates how cozy spaces can live large, with plenty of storage, and still exude a sense of relaxation and calm. It’s a perfect place for guests to unwind when they visit—it’s relaxing and comfortable, and it still reflects a resort feeling. And though we primarily use it for guests, our family of four has lived in it quite comfortably for extended periods of time.

When I began to think about writing this book, I was inspired by something the late Steve Jobs once said:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Similarly, we shouldn’t waste our lives living in someone else’s idea of the perfect home—or feeling as if we must run away to a resort or vacation home to escape our everyday environment. There is no need to do either of these things when you have an everyday vacation home! Of course, you should travel and explore, and rent a vacation home if you want, but there should be no place like home. What I want you, my readers, to take away from Vern Yip’s Vacation at Home are the tools and strategies to tailor your home to you so that it receives you warmly, relaxes you immediately, and rejuvenates you always so that you can live your life every day in the spot you love most on the planet!



There are two main objectives to accomplish in order to have a “vacation at home”—first, create spaces that are serene and uncluttered, and second, use strategies that make them easy to keep that way. Both can be accomplished no matter what your personal aesthetic. I’ve enjoyed oasis-like homes that were beachy and relaxed in neutral tones, and those that were boldly masculine with lots of leather and wood. The beauty of creating your vacation home at home is that the strategies work with any interior design style. By making style and design choices that are beautiful, functional, and ultrasimple to organize, important papers, appliances, and any objects and items you don’t want on display are also easily within reach. Maintaining your environment with a minimum of effort and time means choosing materials and furnishings that make tidying up a breeze but that also always look pleasing to the eye.



Like many of you, I am busy with family and work, so the only way I can stay sane is if my house is attractive, organized, and clean. If I had to deal with distress and craziness in my own space, I don’t think I’d be productive or happy. My rooms, indoors and out, need to rejuvenate and recharge me, and my interest in making sure my house is easy to maintain stems from that. I also try to create that feeling for my clients in their homes—beautiful design is great, but it also has to provide function.

This doesn’t mean you have to minimize to an unrealistic degree. I am certainly not a minimalist; I love beautiful things! But when you have so many things everywhere, rooms become oppressive. Worse, you become blind to individual objects that you may have once appreciated but that have since become muted by the clutter around them. Clutter, and other visual distractions in a space, can lead to feeling stressed. The minimalist movement is partially propelled by the idea that less translates to more sanity. In many cases, though, I feel minimalism can take things too far.

Getting rid of all our possessions can create bare, cold environments that often feel restrictive to live in after a while, and that can bring on stress, too. The key, then, becomes finding the perfectly calibrated balance that’s tailored for you and your family where you are surrounded by the things that you need and love, where those things have a designated space to live in where they both breathe and can be appreciated, and where you can be visually stimulated in a positive way. The aim is finding a balance and creating beautifully edited rooms that highlight individual objects in a way that creates a pleasing whole.

For instance, I want to show off my children’s artwork, but I don’t want my fridge covered with bright magnets or tape holding up a multitude of crayon and finger-paint pictures. For me, this display method doesn’t celebrate the work my children put into creating something unique the way that I would like, nor does it contribute to the cleanliness and orderliness of my kitchen. When my son, Gavin, or daughter, Vera, brings a creative project home from school, I want to show it off and give it the recognition I feel it deserves. My solution is to elevate the “artwork of the month” either in a nice frame or, if it’s a 3-D object, on a pedestal. Why not award a place of honor to the things (and people) we cherish? Personally speaking, I think it’s preferable to placing something on a handy surface, where it just becomes an addition to the overall clutter rather than an object worthy of attention. And in doing so, everyone, the family and guests alike, can ooh and aah over Gavin’s and Vera’s efforts. This makes my children feel encouraged and helps promote and develop further artistic endeavors.

I love the quirky, personal items that give a home character. There is every reason to live with the little things that make us happy. Any kind of collection can be organized and displayed in a beautiful way. A room stripped of everything but the necessities lacks personality and warmth. No one wants to live in a furniture showroom. In real life, we have stuff. While your stuff should be either meaningful or necessary or both, the real trick is in arranging it in a convenient and aesthetically pleasing way.

Remember, too, that the rules of design and organization shouldn’t have to change just because you have a small space or budget. Buy the highest-quality items that you can afford—the benefit of doing this is that you will naturally buy fewer things and those items will last. Ask yourself, What do I need and what do I love? Be sure to take your time building on the answers to those questions, especially if you’re on a budget. Also ask, Is it special enough? before you pull the trigger. I’ve learned that just because something is on sale, or purchased at a great value, isn’t a reason to buy it. No matter the size of your wallet, always keep aesthetics in mind when selecting functional objects. My experience is that you get the most bang for your buck by making sure necessary items, such as lighting fixtures, are truly reflective of your style and taste. That way, you’re essentially getting two things for the price of one—art and illumination.

As I’ve said, I am not a minimalist, but there are many parts of the movement that I embrace, especially the recognition that simplifying is not about deprivation but about creating more space (literal and psychological) for living and loving. When we have fewer things that demand our attention—five pillows to fluff instead of twenty-five, or six really beautiful coffee mugs to organize instead of thirty mediocre ones—we have more time to experience life. That’s another reason why we feel relaxed at a resort: we’re not spending time managing an overflow of often meaningless possessions as much as we are outside the room, experiencing new adventures and interacting with the local culture. Your home can give you that freedom, too, and in fact, I think it should. You owe it to yourself.

To that end, there are eighteen primary rules or strategies you can use to create a resort-like vacation at home, every day. I come back to reflect on this list throughout the book because I want to emphasize these points and demonstrate how they work throughout the house. They are:


















  • "The latest book by Atlanta superdesigner Vern Yip of HGTV and Trading Spaces fame isn't just pretty pictures; it's an action list of 18 items with practical solutions from storage to florals to create the relaxing, luxurious feel of a resort at your own house."—- Atlanta Magazine's Home

On Sale
Aug 27, 2019
Page Count
240 pages
Running Press

Vern Yip

About the Author

Vern Yip has designed his way across America, having reconfigured countless homes during four season’s on TLC’s Trading Spaces, NBC’s Home Intervention, his own HGTV shows Deserving Design with Vern Yip and HGTV’s Urban Oasis, and through his private practice Vern Yip Designs in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been a beloved judge on 8 seasons of HGTV Design Star as well on his own special, Live In Vern’s House. He has a regular column in HGTV magazine and manages his own brand, Vern Yip Home, available at select retailers. He’s also currently appearing on the reboot of TLC’s Trading Spaces. Vern and his family divide their time between their homes in Atlanta, Manhattan, and Florida’s Panhandle.

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