My experiences as a houseguest – positive and negative – have caused me to rethink having guests in my own house. Note: if you have so graciously put my tired weary little bones up for a night, please know this is all a good faith learning experiment … NOT a critique!!
MAKE THE BED COMFORTABLE. If it is an older mattress transferred to the guest room after a master bedroom upgrade, refresh it with a mattress pad topper and newly purchased mattress cover to give it a little more plump. If you do not have a proper bed then put the mattress and box springs on a bed frame, adding a tailored bed skirt (aka clutter & storage box disguiser). Ballard Designs, Serena and Lily, and Williams Sonoma Home all offer great reasonable headboards, but if a new purchase is not an option, they are easily constructed by anyone fairly handy. All you require is some basic carpentry skills, batting, fabric and a staple gun – you can even use duct tape in a pinch. Truly, who sees the back anyway?!
USE MATCHING LINENS.You can purchase great quality sets in any price range from Leontine Linens to Target. Make sure the sheets “fit the room!” If you are literally starting from scratch and have a budget, paint the room a vivid color and use a patterned, colorful set of sheets as the décor focal point. If this is an existing room that just needs a touch up, buy linens that you can afford but still coordinates and ties the room together – perhaps a white set with a colorful border in one of the rooms accent colors. I think there should always be a duvet or comforter on the bed, and a blanket during the winter that’s easily accessible in the closet or drawers during the warmer summer months. Perhaps the room does double duty – and really unless you have a palace why shouldn’t it? If it is a library for you, add a day bed for a guest! If it is the guest room and you seek a little solitude add a desk and make it the place you pay the bills!
I AM ELOISE ABOUT PILLOWS. Maybe it is the fact that I grew up with a father in a 2800 square foot house who could snore louder than the Big Bad Wolf (when he huffed and puffed it made the walls contract and expand with his breath!) but I like a substantial amount of fluff. And I do not mean the pillows that are decorative…which I really can not appreciate, but that rant is for another day. This girl always sleeps with a minimum of three pillows! I use one between or under my knees for my arthritic hip, the fluffiest one under my head to prevent my face looking like a moon the following morning, and another one over my ear to block out sound and light. More than once a bedmate has stayed up worrying that I will suffocate! If nothing else, should you not enjoy your traveling companion or have one who you fear might edge too close to your personal territory, the pillows can find themselves lined up as a handy bed divider. I literally panic if there are not at least 2 pillows I can use when I walk into a room. I have even gone through a house after-hours to borrow a cushion from the sofa in desperate measures!
A COMFORTABLE CHAIR IS A MUST in a guest room, even if it is the teeniest maids’ room in a NY prewar you can scarcely swing a cat in. A chair can double as a closet in a pinch or at least a place to hold your suitcase. I always wonder when I am visiting friends’ beach or mountain houses why they bother with tiny closets. A peg board of hooks across the wall would be a better use of space if you lack a real closet, and since a houseguest is transient anyway, they are not looking for space to move it, just to get it out of the suitcase and out of the way.
BEDSIDE TABLES are another quirky element that is often overlooked. Since you usually put the guest in the smaller room of the house, use bedside tables that are efficiently sized and can double as storage. One of my favorite and not so expensive solutions is using round or square plywood tables with fabric covers. If you put shelves in them and leave a slit on one side… Viola!…A place to put clothes and necessities. I do love a skirted table because it hides the mess too. So many catalogs have shelved tables too. Or even better; add a small desk on one side as a bedside table to double as a temporary workspace.
ADEQUATE LIGHTING IS ESSENTIAL.Think scale on lamps. Bigger is better than small. Even in very limited space, err up rather than down. If you want to go ultra fancy, add a dimmer switch purchased from Home Depot. Luxury? Wall lamps so you can read at night without a big lamp.
BEDSIDE EXTRAS ARE THE ICING ON THE CAKE. A cup of pencils or pens, made more luxurious by using all the same style (not your leftover hotel steals), a notepad, telephone, a box of tissues with a tissue cover, and a water bottle on a pretty napkin, or a carafe of water and glass are little details that radiate gracious living. I also keep phone chargers in a basket in the drawer of my guest room, with a bottle of Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl and Tylenol P.M.
THE EXTRA MILE? Flowers or a potted plant on the bedside table make your guest feel pampered. Also useful is a tray to put jewelry or pocket contents on, a tiny flashlight, an eye mask, and earplugs. A candle with a box of matches, or a fragrance diffuser in a neutral and relaxing scent is also charming.
A MATCHING SET OF TOWELS AND BATHMATS. Please no fuzzy bath rugs! While I risk sounding like a germaphobe, they are just too reminiscent of 1972 and are an unpleasant décor move. A fresh set of all white towels is never wrong. Place a bath mat on the door of the shower or on the edge of the tub. Also, please make sure towels are easily accessible. They can even serve as part of the décor.
EDIT. EDIT. EDIT. I cannot emphasize this enough. If this is a bathroom that is also used as a powder room, put things out of site, hidden from view but accessible if needed. Use wicker baskets or metal mesh baskets to hold things a guest might need. Please do not leave things out in the open cluttering the space, and do not forget to clean and replace. This means the 1/3 full bottle of milk of magnesia does not make the cut for display. If you travel a lot, put those hotel small containers under the sink for a guest to use – disposable razors, a few toothbrushes (IN the package, this seems obvious but I have seen a few used ones left out), and a Ziploc or cloth bag filled with tampons. Accidents happen and as a host you want to think ahead and prevent any kind of embarrassment for your guests. Pick up some trial size products and put them in a basket. Remember you are NOT expected to be a hotel but the thoughtfulness of these little touches will not go unnoticed. NOTE: your guest bath or powder room is not the place to plunk your old and used things or all the various you collected traveling and no longer want! Emphasis: OUT OF VIEW!! This type of thing is not meant to be a decoration.
HAVE ONE liquid bath wash, shampoo, conditioner, and shaving cream in the shower or tub. An old flower vase or mason jar filled with bath salts and a scoop is a lovely touch.
EXTRA TOILET PAPER. Again, I would not stress this unless I have actually had a panic attack or two literally almost caught with my pants down! Put some under the sink, behind the toilet, in a cabinet. Or have a metal toilet bowl brush and stack them on the handle tucked away.
SPLURGE and put luxury hand soap at the sink, or put liquid soap in a plain pump container. You could also place several pretty soaps of the same kind (note here-throw them away when they are ½ done or if you cannot abide that, put them in an old sock and use them in your laundry room to scrub stains).
TOWELS. Hang or stack towels where they are accessible, perhaps on a chair or stool if the bathroom size permits.
A DECENT TRASHCAN should be concealed out of the way, preferably beside the toilet. And speaking of this area – tuck a room spray behind the toilet.
TISSUE BOXES should always go in a tissue cover. They are easily found in many department stores and cloth are very inexpensive.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, and the cheapest option of all? Make sure it is clean! A fresh bathroom, sink, and shower is the only absolute requirement.
My most luxurious stay as a guest? My mentor and adopted fairy Godmother, tastemaker Susan Gutfreund in Paris, who accommodated my children and me with hand made feather beds, luxurious fabrics that cocooned and enveloped, pillows that ranged from firm to featherdown, extra blankets folded in the closets, duvets that were displayed in an accordion fold at the end of the bed, and carafes of water on embroidered napkins complete with a crystal glass. And for petit dejeuner? Trays delivered to our delight in bed, lined with Porthault place mats, embroidered napkins, and steamy cappuccino complete with a sugar cup with every kind of sweetener known to man. A croissant with fresh butter, and a divine pot of yogurt with a small bowl of berries accented with a dainty silver spoon. I had to pinch myself and practically force my children out of her house! More importantly, I saw a level of graciousness that I might not be able to complete (I do not have La Tour Eiffel out my window!) but I certainly hope to emulate and make my own guests feel as pampered.
When I had the honor (ok the terror) of reciprocating for Susan on a visit to the States, I had my youngest child deliver her breakfast to her in lieu of a staff member who had failed to show up for work. I think Susan was charmed but my point here is that being a good hostess is not about money; it is about thoughtfulness and attention to detail. At the risk of never being invited to stay in anyone’s home again, if you are going to invite friends to stay, do it with panache! Otherwise, tell a little white lie and say you would love to have them, but since your room is being de-loused, might you suggest a nearby hotel?
The best advice I can give to anyone? Spend the night in your own guest room as if you were the company. I ended up liking mine so much I moved there during my separation!
Great Ideas for Your Perfect Guest Room
Humphrey Bed | Williams-Sonoma, Gramercy Bed | Williams-Sonoma, Harbour Cane Bed | Serena & Lily, Cambridge Bed | Serena & Lily, Bedford Chair | Williams-Sonoma, James Harrison Wing Chair | West Elm, Miramar Chair | Serena & Lily, Safavieh Sasha Club Chair | Target, Gobi Embroidered Sheet Set | Serena & Lily, Scallop Sheet Set | Serena & Lily, Classic Greek Key Bedding | Williams-Sonoma, Down Comforter | Neiman Marcus, Laurel Down Duvet & Pillow | Williams-Sonoma, Hexagonal Mint Julep for Pencils | Mark and Graham, Pencils, Kate Spade Notepad, Linen Hemstitch Tissue Box Cover | Pottery Barn, Ceramic Jewelry Tray | J Crew, Sferra Bath Sheet | Saks Fifth Avenue, Isabella Carafe | Juliska, Monogrammed Glass Carafe | Williams-Sonoma, Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Luxury Candle, Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Shampoo, Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Conditioner, Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Shower Gel, Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Scent Surround Diffuser