DIY Home

Your Guest Room May Not Be As Comfy As You Think

Here are five expert-recommended ways to fix it.

September 24, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

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.

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Top Comment:
“These aren't tips to make a guest room *in your home* comfy. These are tips to make a room look like a minimalist hotel, where there are so many different types of people paying for comfort that you have to be bland to be tolerable. Tips 1 & 2 are terrible, and are not about guest comfort, but about removing all personality from the space. There is nothing wrong with having your guest space reflect you or your memories, so long as they don't overpower the space, or are not off-putting to everyone but you. In fact, if I'm going to visit a friend, I love seeing some of them in the room I sleep in -- photos, books, tchotchkes that let me learn a little more about them, and often admire their aesthetic, let alone give me something to do if our sleep schedules don't match. Unless you have a slew of rooms and space that allow you to have one room used for absolutely nothing but guests, a guest room needs to be a mix of form and function. If it doubles as a place for extra storage, a trunk stores things while offering a suitcase-holder/table/seat. Make sure the bed isn't surrounded by family photos lest the guest feel like they're being watched. Arrange art and memorabilia in a fun (and secure) way, while making sure there is space for the guest to move around. If you have nostalgia that includes your guest, put it out. Invest in a nightlight if it's super dark so your guest can get to the bathroom. Cater as much to your needs and what you know of your guest as you are able, not to minimalist design principles.”
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“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:

1. Keep the palette and furnishings minimal.

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.

2. Consolidate memories and available space.

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.”

3. Shop for soft bedding.

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.

4. Fill the room with thoughtful accessories.

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.”

5. Have toiletries and refreshments on hand.

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.


Have a tip to make any guest room comfier? Let us know in the comments!
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Kelly Dawson

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2 Comments

Mary E. October 4, 2019
Crate and Barrel has a nice daybed that doubles as a couch much nicer than anything you are suggesting. Other foam furniture I’ve seen also looks a lot more comfortable. Don’t treat your guests like they are on a retreat with Tibetan monks.
 
M September 24, 2019
These aren't tips to make a guest room *in your home* comfy. These are tips to make a room look like a minimalist hotel, where there are so many different types of people paying for comfort that you have to be bland to be tolerable. Tips 1 & 2 are terrible, and are not about guest comfort, but about removing all personality from the space. There is nothing wrong with having your guest space reflect you or your memories, so long as they don't overpower the space, or are not off-putting to everyone but you. In fact, if I'm going to visit a friend, I love seeing some of them in the room I sleep in -- photos, books, tchotchkes that let me learn a little more about them, and often admire their aesthetic, let alone give me something to do if our sleep schedules don't match.

Unless you have a slew of rooms and space that allow you to have one room used for absolutely nothing but guests, a guest room needs to be a mix of form and function. If it doubles as a place for extra storage, a trunk stores things while offering a suitcase-holder/table/seat. Make sure the bed isn't surrounded by family photos lest the guest feel like they're being watched. Arrange art and memorabilia in a fun (and secure) way, while making sure there is space for the guest to move around. If you have nostalgia that includes your guest, put it out. Invest in a nightlight if it's super dark so your guest can get to the bathroom. Cater as much to your needs and what you know of your guest as you are able, not to minimalist design principles.