Nothing will make you feel grander than offering a guest a lovely place to call home for a few days.

I love houseguests! I simply love spending time with family and friends, from breakfast in our jammies to dinner in all our finery. But I can also relate to those who feel a surge of panic when a friend or relative calls and says, “We’re coming to town for a day or two and would love to stay with you!” You graciously reply, “We would adore having you stay with us…and you will be arriving when exactly?” Now, gorgeous, you find out you have something like four days to turn the second floor catchall closet back into a real guest room!

Years ago, I read an article bemoaning guest rooms as the “ugly room where all the old stuff goes to reside.” This designer, whose name slips my mind, scolded readers for allowing this dirty little secret to be part of their home. (I will be honest: I have created disasters in guest rooms in past homes. In our current house, however, the guest rooms are downstairs and I don’t often venture down to make mayhem of the guest rooms.) According to the designer, nothing will make you feel grander than offering a guest a lovely place to call home for a few days. I believe this to be very true and so my article today is dedicated to helping you create a wonderful guest room that will make you proud to be a host, gorgeous!

Start with a Theme

Now, here is where my playfulness as a designer comes in. The first thing I suggest you do is name the room! Yes, name the room. In my house, I have a “Connecticut Room” and an “Alpine Room”! And I bet you can envision just what these two guest rooms look like. In essence, you are giving the room a theme, and theme rooms are so darn easy to design around. So march yourself to the doorway of that room and give it a name; maybe even enlist your family to toss out names at dinner. Once the naming rights are established, the design magic will just literally start bubbling in your brain.

Add Special Touches

Let’s say you recently repainted the guest room in a wonderful saturated yellow. How about naming it the “Canary Room”? Can’t you just envision old birdcages and needlepoint pillows featuring, of course, canaries. The furniture really does not make as much difference, but the bedding does. Consider bright white linens that are thick and lush (shown here)! Now it’s time to get creative while adding those special touches that spell out “home.”

Find art that complements your theme. For example, the Canary Room features a collection of plates found at an antique or secondhand shop as shown in the photo!

A simple but powerful bed skirt gives a base to an amazingly fluffy bedding.

A throw is always a nice addition as it helps control temperature for guests.

A bench or somewhere to perch—oh my gosh, perch in the Canary Room—is a lovely feature for guests. Consider a bench or a small-scale chair for ease in putting on shoes.

Side tables should offer enough room for a lovely decanter of water and a glass, purchased new or located at maybe a garage sale or secondhand shop.

A reading lamp, a stunning tissue box and a small tray or china dish to put jewelry in for safekeeping might find a home on a side table.

A clock with an alarm is always appreciated as well.

A small bouquet of flowers somewhere in the room is a nice gesture…so hotelish! Or perhaps a lovely crystal bowl of delicately scented potpourri (but be careful not to select a powerful fragrance)!

Always a welcome bonus is a full-length mirror to assure guests that they look terrific when ready to face the world.

A tray of current magazines is a wonderful addition.

You might even consider a luggage rack ($29 to $99) available at Bed Bath & Beyond for a room that is too small for a piece of storage furniture.

If the room is large enough, add a piece of furniture with drawers for guests who might stay long enough to unpack.

Padded hangers are such a luxury as well. Even though they sound so snooty tooty, you can find sets of three in a snap at places like Tuesday Morning. They only look expensive and thoughtful, so thoughtful.

Adding a pair of warm robes for the trip to the kitchen for coffee might seem over-the-top money wise, but finding them on sale is too easy for words. Consider having “Guest Robe” or the room’s name embroidered on them (for example, “Canary Room” in canary yellow thread, of course).

Start the stay off on a wonderful sweet note—don’t forget the chocolate on the pillow!

These unexpected touches make people feel so incredibly welcome and the reviews you will get will make you smile from ear to ear. You know what is going to happen, gorgeous—You are going to fall in love with this room and soon you will be residing in the “Canary Room” yourself!

Create Some Privacy

Lend some additional privacy and warmth to the room with wonderful, dense, light-blocking window treatments. You might not notice the rumble of the trash truck early in the morning, but a soft sleeping guest might and window treatments lined in Napped Sateen will eliminate some of the noise as well. Window treatments have such a way of bringing a delightful room to completion, so please consider them.

As we head into the bathroom for your guest’s stay—whether a shared bathroom or a “guest’s only” situation—you might consider some toiletries to make their stay extra special. Personal-size bottles of lotions and potions are a lovely little unexpected treat at the end of a long drive or flight. Perhaps have some new tooth brushes on hand just in case your guest left theirs at home. Don’t forget to place a fresh bar of soap in the room, maybe tucked into a ribbon you have bundled the fresh towels up with for your guest. I usually place all of these items together on a tray and place the tray on either the bed or on the counter of the bathroom with a handwritten note that simply says “Welcome!”

Of course, this tremendous attention to detail may produce one issue for you: a guest that quite frankly doesn’t want to go home! Sweet dreams until next week.

Jan Colvin has been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). She accredits her mother Pat Robinson and Lucille Chase for her intense interest and love for design. 

She has taught interior design at the college level and operated her private design business since 2001. Today she spends a majority of her time completing her new book which will be available in the first quarter of 2013.

Jan welcomes questions, which will be answered in her columns. Send your questions to: