Why would you go on holiday to somewhere less comfortable than your own home, asks New Forest interior designer Suzy Dallas. With the rental season getting into full-swing, she tells Faith Eckersall her tips and tricks for creating the perfect holiday let

Suzy Dallas has been in the interior design business long enough to spot a trend. And when it comes to holiday and second homes, that trend is upwards; more style, more comfort, more luxe.

“When you go on holiday there's nothing more irritating than an uncomfortable mattress and tired bed linen,” she says. “The last thing you want is a limp shower, or a towel that barely covers you or be surrounded by the kind of decor you'd never allow at home.”

She's put her theories into practice with her own holiday home, a mas - Provencal villa - in the Alpes-Maritime region of France near Nice.

“We bought the villa ten years ago and decorated it well at the time, but people's tastes have become much more discerning,” she says.

There are several reasons for this, and the 'hotel experience' is one of them. “It has had a huge impact on how people perceive bedrooms and bathrooms in particular, you only have to go to Lime Wood and The Pig at Brockenhurst to see the standards; beautiful furnishings, comfy beds with high threadcount sheets, and bathrooms with huge, fluffy towels and underfloor heating.”

She believes holidaymakers' expectations have risen with their increasing use of boutique and high-spec hotels. “People's tastes have become more sophisticated; even IKEA now talks about creating a spa-like experience in your bathroom,” she says.

With this in mind Suzy set about re-designing her French home along these principles last year. “When we stumbled upon it we thought it was lovely; mature grounds with a mosaic swimming pool outside but the inside was very tired,” she says.

She'd got the vital basics installed during the initial refurb after they first acquired the house: old, antique tiles particular to the region, bleached, limed beams and solid bathrooms designed to withstand the impact of Suzy's family and all the visitors who would rent it.

Touches such as under floor heating upped the comfort factor; “It can be quite chilly there in the winter,” and cleverly designed the roof pitch of the summer dining area so that the high sun could not penetrate, but the lower, winter sun bathed you in warmth. “It's all about that kind of care and precision,” she says.

Suzy installed power showers, a bathroom and dressing room for each bedroom and splashed out on duck-down duvets and pillows, plus highly sprung mattresses for guests to sleep on. “Opting for quality has two advantages,” she explains. “Firstly, it feels better and more luxurious and guests respond to that. Secondly, higher-quality bedlinen, mattresses and furniture tend to last and look good for longer.”

Using natural substances such as stone and marble have their advantages too. “They keep their looks and if you ensure you choose the correct building materials for the region your property is in, you'll find that they will help, especially in a very hot or cold climate,” she says. “There's a reason homes are constructed the way they are in Provence”.

Lighting is also an important part of any look. “When I show clients how a room can be transformed with lighting they usually cannot believe it,” she says. “Yet some homes are still relying on one, central pendant light for illumination, which is terrible because it makes rooms look smaller and darker.”

Another touch she included in her villa was smaller, more personal ornaments and decorative pieces. “Obviously you would not place something enormously valuable there but exclusive pieces create something more individual, whether it's on the dressing table; a little crystal storage jar for cotton wool, say, but these touches make the difference.”

Her own research has shown that the rental market is 'hugely competitive' both in the UK and abroad. “Partly for the reasons already given but also because people want an experience when they go on holiday,” she says. “Making sure your rental looks beautiful, smells nice, and contains the kinds of things people would like to see - high quality toiletries, for instance - all give you the edge.”

And she's seeing a further trend, too.

“Another interesting development from this is that more and more of us are staying in luxe holiday lets and then coming home and wanting to re-create what we've enjoyed there for ourselves,” she says.

“I am seeing a lot of clients who want to upgrade their own homes, on the Cote d'Azur, London, Sandbanks and in the New Forest,” she says. “I think a lot of people go on holiday and come back full of new ideas for their own place.”

She's busy re-designing her home in the New Forest, as well as properties in Winchester and London and now has an affiliation with New Forest Interiors who will be producing her soft furnishings.

And if you think this kind of financial layout might not be worth it, Suzy has a view on that, too. “I've had my website upgraded and that, together with the interior work, has brought in a much higher rate of bookings at a much higher price than before. It proves people will pay more if they believe they will get an experience to treasure.”