Guest Rooms

Just in time for summer, when so many of us will have visitors, I’m back on this subject of guest rooms with thoughts to share. You can boil down the essentials for a guest room to two – privacy and comfort. Even if you don’t have the perfect guest room with en suite bathroom in its own wing, you can do a lot to make your guests feel that it’s pretty close to perfection.

In my first post this year, I wrote about balance and how integral it is to my creative process. Here it’s a different kind of balance: a balance of function. What makes a good guest room? What does a good guest room mean to you? For most of us it’s a place to sleep comfortably away from home. So what makes you comfortable when not at home? Achieving that functionality is what I want to walk us through.

Let’s start. Privacy. Even if your guests are dear friends or family members, there are some things you don’t want to share. Particularly germs and smells. When I design rooms that are to be used as guest rooms I think clean. Surfaces and fabrics that look, feel and are clean. And clean-able.

For another perspective on guest rooms, I asked Ira Goldspiel, owner of the charming Inn at Kent Falls (, Connecticut, for his thoughts. Ira traveled throughout the US, Europe and Asia for the fashion industry for many years before settling in Kent and opening the Inn. So he knows about being a guest as well as being a host!

“When we created the Inn, we kept the simplicity of this historic house. The colonial style works well with the neutral colors, white accents and wide-plank wood floors. What we did was make the ‘ingredients’ extremely comfortable and luxurious. The bathrooms – and the plumbing – are all new, with large tubs. Our bed and bath linens are all-white, luxurious fabrics – fresh-looking and easy to clean.”

Light and dark. Some people like pitch-dark rooms, others like a little light. Layer the windows so that guests can adjust the level of light and dark. Black-out curtains with tie-backs and blinds underneath, perhaps. Lamps and lighting. A lamp for each side of the bed, please. If you have a couple, they will be much happier in the morning if they haven’t fought over a single lamp in your guest room. Also make sure your guest can find the bathroom at night!

Temperature. Some sleep ‘cool.’ Some like lots of warmth. Make sure the windows open and close and screens too, please. Check that the heat and air conditioning (if you have it) work. If you can’t individually ‘thermostat’ the guest room, provide some elements so your guest can make do – a ceiling fan is great, but even a small table fan tucked in the closet is ok. You can buy all sorts of heated mattress pads and blankets that are much better than the original 1960s versions.

Smells. One person’s fragrance is another person’s allergen. Use cleaning products with as little scent as possible, and please, no plug-ins. Plain old white vinegar and water does wonders to clean floors and walls and leaves no odors. Keep the pets out of the guest room too. Let Fido sleep with you!

Again I’d like to stress this point – as Ira says,

“Clean, clean, clean. The simple colonial style helps us keep rooms and furnishings clean, but we’ve also created a ‘system-machine’ so that my staff knows exactly what to do and how to make and keep each room spotless!”

Storage. You’ve washed the bedding, cleaned the bedspread, and bought new pillows. Do you want your guests to put those airline-soiled bags on the bed and furniture? Invest in a couple of luggage racks. It will also make your guests so grateful that they can organize and have access to their possessions. Leave some closet space with hangers too. Also in the bathroom – here, if your guests have to share, get your family members to clear some space in there, on the counter tops and in the medicine cabinet.

Tired? Now lie down on that bed. Sleep in it overnight – did you sleep comfortably all night in it? If not, time to bite the bullet and buy a mattress. I’ve found that a good, six-inch thick, medium-density foam mattress on a platform suits most people.

Don’t get too comfortable – I’m not quite finished yet. Is there space for a dressing table, a table or desk? People bring their laptops with them and sometimes guests have to work even while enjoying your hospitality. Can they work in that room? A small table and a mirror on the wall can do double-duty for a dresser as well.

You’ll notice I haven’t said much about design – I’ve talked about properly-organized guest rooms, not necessarily properly-designed ones. I believe practicality takes precedence when you are providing a place for guests. But when I design rooms for guest rooms, I create variations on the overall style that I’ve created for the home, with touches for the guest rooms that give each their own flavor. I add something that makes it special and fun for the guest, without making it less private and comfortable. One other note – I like to create a lushness of pillows on my guest room beds, providing a choice of pillow types (hard, soft, non-allergenic) for my guests.

Daunted? Don’t be – it’s really just a question of pulling together details and I’ve created a simple checklist you can click here to download and print.