How to create beautiful, welcoming guest rooms

Warm and welcoming guest room

Picture a room in a posh hotel.

Guests lounge in fluffy robes, sinking into down-filled pillows and comforters, while sipping on a cup of freshly made coffee and choosing snacks from the fridge. Fresh flowers, a Godiva chocolate on the pillow and a bottle of chilled wine completes the picture. 

Now, imagine that kind of welcoming guest room in your own home. It can be as costly or inexpensive as you wish. The important thing is to include elements that make guests feel at home…even when they’re away from home.

Creature comforts

Fall is the ideal time to prepare that catch-all spare bedroom for upcoming holiday company. “Begin by clearing out the clutter and painting the walls in soothing colors like spa blues, greens or light beige reminiscent of sea, sand and sky,” says Mary Trantow of Trantow Design. “Bright colors like red or even a sunny yellow may be eye-popping, but they are too energizing and not conducive to restful nights.

“Keep the bedding simple and add pops of color with pillows and throw,” she advises. “My favorite scheme is white sheets and a light weight white quilt with a brightly colored duvet folded neatly at the foot of the bed. Complementary decorative pillows round out the look.”

Lathem Gordon, MSA, of KMH Interiors agrees. “Use good white sheets, the kind you would want for yourself and always have an extra blanket and pillows available so guests can adapt the room for their own needs,” she says.

Going all out

If your taste runs to more unique bedding, Penny Theriot, manager of Karen’s Fabrics in Alpharetta says the sky is the limit when it comes to creative, custom bedding. “Playing around with different prints in the same color palette fashions a guest room to be envied,” says Penny Theriot, store manager. Homeowners can have custom bedding created “…with all the bells and whistles.” Or, Theriot adds, you can simply jazz up store bought items.

“For those who want to keep the cost of redecorating a guest room down, we recommend purchasing the most expensive item – a white or neutral ready-made comforter—from a retail store. You can then turn it into a show stopper with a custom-made duster, pillows and shams,” she says.

She also recommends customizing “ready-made drapes by adding a binding or trim and recover tired benches at the end of the bed. Reupholstering a chair to match the new decor can make all the difference in a room.”

Another way to get a lot of bang for the buck is to buy floor samples. Often, these samples “are reduced 20 or 30 percent,” Theriot says. “They’re new, never used items that can be purchased as a set or in parts.”

Get ready for company

Gordon advises emptying the closet and purchasing some matching hangers so the guest doesn’t feel she or he is intruding in your space. “If possible, clear out some drawers for anyone staying longer than a few days,” she says. “But since many houseguests don’t want to unpack, a foldable luggage rack comes in handy and can be tucked in the closet out of sight when not in use.”

“Good light is essential,” she says, “along with a bedside table or even a wooden chair to hold a reading lamp, bottle of water, a book and a small bowl for jewelry.” A re-purposed floor lamp from another room can provide good lighting, and don’t forget a nightlight to guide the way in unfamiliar spaces.

“Light control is just as important as lighting,” Gordon says. “If you don’t want to invest in blackout drapes, purchase inexpensive blackout shades that can be rolled up out of sight when not in use.”

“Bonus points go for a comfortable chair or padded bench so guests can sit down to put on their shoes or place items they don’t want to put on the floor,” Trantow says. “Amenities like soothing lavender or chamomile candles emit a relaxing scent and a basket of fruit, cheese crackers and other nibbles come in handy when a jet-lagged guest gets hungry during the night.” 

Another essential in this age of iPads, smartphones, computers and Kindles is an electric outlet near the bed with multiple plugs to keep guests “charged” their entire visit.

Both Gordon and Trantow recommend a tray or basket full of practical items that are often forgotten: a new toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and an over-the-counter pain reliever go a long way to making guests feel comfortable. Let them know in advance if you have a blow dryer and curling iron so they can leave theirs at home, allowing more room in the suitcase for items they might purchase on their travels. By keeping the tray or basket restocked at all times, the hostess doesn’t have to scramble to get ready for the next guest.

Since most airlines impose hefty charges for checked luggage, passengers can only bring items that fit in a small suitcase. The one article most often left behind is a bathrobe. A waffle weave or terry cloth guest robe in the closet or bathroom comes in handy for guests who wants a quick cover-up to join the family for breakfast or a run to the bathroom down the hall during the night. Plus, what could be more Ritz-y or feel more luxurious than a soft robe?

Even though the goal might be to make your guest room as comfortable as a five star hotel, forget the purchased prints. “Hang paintings or pictures you took on your trips or scenes of the city in which you live,” says Gordon. “It gives guests a sense of place—your place.” So will a few magazines or flyers outlining activities taking place in town while they are visiting.

No guest room? No worries…

In most cases, a well-planned home office can double as a guest room by including a sleeper sofa or chair that opens into a bed. By day, the furniture is dedicated to seating; by night, a spot for repose. Just make sure to keep the area clear and have a side table next to it (a lateral file cabinet will also work well), and a spot for that necessary guest tray or basket.

Like in offices, finished basements or recreation rooms can be multi-functional. A fold up screen in front of a sofa bed or chair bed offers a semblance of privacy while not requiring a total rearrangement of the furnishings.

No spare beds? Purchase a bed-height inflatable mattress. It is completely portable, easily inflatable and usable in any room. Guests find them comfortable enough to return again and again. (Cash-strapped college students use them year-round.) A small table and lamp next to the mattress makes any space feel cozy.

Looking for a more permanent space-saving solution? Try a Murphy bed (also called a wall, pulldown or fold-down bed) that is hinged at one end to store vertically against the wall. Closed, it’s well out of the way and appears to be wall décor; opened, it’s a full-sized bed. Some models even have bookcases on either side to increase functionality.

Loft dwellers are usually extremely limited in space, but a ceiling track (similar to a hospital bed curtain) can easily solve the problem. It hides the guest bed behind a curtain and can be pulled to the side when not in use. Ceiling tracks fit in well in a loft-like setting any way!
Wherever your guests end up in your home, make sure their spot is cozy, private and free of clutter. A little preparation now can transform holiday hosting from a dreaded task into a house-proud event!

Basket for guest room





Help make your guest feel extra special by providing:

The Essentials
• Contact solution
• Q-Tips
• Toothpaste
• Toothbrushes
• Mouthwash
• Soap
• Shampoo
• Conditioner
• Over-the-counter medications

The Bonus
• Water bottles
• Water glasses
• Eye mask
• Flowers
• Linen spray
• Magazines
• Catch-all tray


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