When guests come into town, it’s common to treat your home as a makeshift bed and breakfast. You whip up impressive meals and plan fun day trips. You present fresh towels, made beds, and clean floors. And all the while, you do your best to make this job look easy.
But if you are the general manager of this “hotel,” then here’s something you should know: There’s a good chance your guest room isn’t as comfortable as you think.
“In general, I’d say that people don’t give enough thought to the comfort of their guest rooms,” says Brian Smith, founding partner at Studio Tack.
As a designer of stylish hotels set throughout the world, like the Anvil Hotel in Wyoming and Casa Bonay in Barcelona, Smith knows what it means to really make visitors feel at home. And because those who “check in” to our homes are so often familiar, he understands why their temporary spaces are neglected.
“The tenets of hospitality are easy to side-step when your guest is a close friend or family member. ‘You know where the sheets are, don’t you?’ or ‘Towels are under the sink,’ are some examples. But remember, good hosts empathize with their guests. They realize they may feel out of place, and help alleviate that tension by taking the guesswork out of navigating their home.”
Here, Smith shares his five tips for designing, decorating, and filling spaces to meet all of guests' potential needs, from the bedroom to the kitchen:
For those who have dedicated guest rooms, Smith says that the first step in decorating one is to do so with a neutral palette. This is usually the case with most hotel rooms, because it sets a calm tone. A guest room is no different.
“Furniture shouldn’t crowd the room, so stick to the essentials here: a queen-sized bed, a nightstand with a lamp, and a side chair,” he says. “If space allows, put a bench in front of the bed, which can serve as a makeshift luggage holder. And if you have hard floors, use a piled rug for warmth and comfort.”
Smith also says that you remove as much as you can from a closet or chest of drawers so that guests have a place to store their things—a few available hangers or an empty drawer should do the trick. “This small effort goes a long way to signal to your guests that you’ve thought about their needs without feeling like you’ve gone too far out of your way," he says.
Those who don’t have a dedicated guest room can still make an area feel cozy with a few changes to its design.
Do what you can to clear out memorabilia—like figurines, trophies, or stuffed animals—and swap personal photo collections for more general artwork. This will help make the area look and feel less cluttered.
“If space is an issue, try using a platform daybed or futon frame topped with an extra-large twin memory foam mattress and some throw pillows,” Smith says. “It’s attractive in either function and it’s super easy to convert to a bed—just cover with some sheets and you’re done. Some of my favorites frames and daybeds are from Muji, Urban Outfitters, From the Source, and Bautier. These elegant and minimal options really challenge the dorm-room stereotypes we often associate with futons.”
As you know from your own nocturnal habits, soft bedding makes all the difference in creating a restful night’s sleep. So while it may be tempting to cover a guest’s bed in well-worn sheets, Smith recommends springing for a set that you would want to sleep on, too, if you can.
“Make sure to leave out extra blankets or a comforter as well," he says.
When Smith is designing a hotel, part of his work is anticipating the needs of future guests. What do they generally want near their beds? How strong or weak is the lighting? Is there somewhere to hang a towel or take off shoes? Understanding how a guest operates should be a host’s top priority, and it can be accomplished at home by filling a guest room with typical necessities.
“You don’t need to go overboard, but there are a few items that will ensure your guests’ stay is comfortable,” Smith says. “Leave out a small fan if there’s not one in the room. If outlets are hard to reach, plug in an extension cord and put it beneath or on top of a side table. We use the Exto Extension Cords in some hotels because they’re as beautiful as they are functional. Make sure that there’s a small lamp or reading light within reach of the bed. If you live in a noisy area or if there’s a lot of light coming from the windows, provide some ear plugs and a sleeping mask.”
Once the basics of the space are covered, move on to anticipating possible requests outside of the guest room. One way to do this is by stocking common toiletries for guests to use, just in case they forgot something at home.
“One of my favorite things about visiting different hotels is discovering new lines of toiletries,” he adds. “If I like them, I take a few home with me and put them out for guests.”
In the kitchen, make sure there's a water carafe or a fresh pot of coffee with cups prominently displayed, Smith says. “Offering, not suggesting, that your guest has a drink is best,” he says. That same attention to detail can extend to breakfast, too.