The Guest Room, Around the House

With the Holiday Season approaching fast – my thoughts are turning to the state of my Guest Room. To put it kindly, my guest room doubles as a storage room for art supplies, books, clothes, and table linens — but, truthfully, it has a habit of becoming a catch-all for extra stuff like abandoned exercise equipment.

imagesSince I often entertain overnight guests during the Holiday Season, now is the time to clean up my act and take stock of my guest accommodations. While I have been known to send family members to the guest room with a stack of sheets and towels and a bar of soap — the do-it-yourself approach to taking care of guests – it is far more satisfying to make a few preparations to make my guests feel welcome and comfortable.

A Creative Approach

But, aside from making my guests comfortable, I’m thinking my guest room doesn’t have to be strictly for guests – after all the room is frequented for short stays by people with widely varying tastes so there’s no point in trying to please anyone – why not indulge one of my decorating experiments; it seems like an ideal decorating "laboratory."

Of course, I can’t decide which experiment to try — I’m a big fan of the "Zen" style environment; I have friends who seemingly manage to live a totally ordered life with no clutter to be seen. I can’t pull it off in my house — I just collect too much stuff and have too many projects, but just maybe I could create the Zen haven of peace and calm in my guest room! I could use a palette of muted earthtones: Farrow & Ball has that lovely restful "Ball Green" color and I could use natural textures for interest. I’d get a simple platform bed, use soft indirect lighting, hang bamboo shades, put rush mats on the floor, place a stone Buddha in a prominent spot and provide a simple wooden chest of drawers. Maybe I’ll add a fountain too — a soothing watery sound.

That would be so lovely and relaxing. But truth to tell, I’ve always had a fantasy of having an over-the-top room inspired by a Venetian palace. How about a carved tester bed done up with elaborate bed hangings and pillows in opulent velvets and embroidered silks. Layered window treatments, exotic lanterns and etched glass mirrors are in order and if I can fit one in – a chaise sporting a variety of paisley shawls and yet more pillows. The color palette would be rich, complex, and varied with liberal accents of Venetian Red. The atmosphere is lush, sensual, a tad decadent, and a real feast for the eyes – for me, that’s hard to resist.

Then again, I’d like to do a Swedish room inspired by Carl Larson; what can beat the coziness and charm of Gustavian furniture (the Swedish interpretation of The French Louis styles), crisp cotton fabrics in checks, stripes and diminuitive florals, and clean flat woven rugs. Maybe lace on the windows and dreamy watercolor landscapes of the Swedish countryside on the walls. To me it has that feel of being healthy — freshly scrubbed and well cared for – as if the woman of the house had just swept out the room and brought all the laundry in fresh from the clothesline. Isn’t that an appealing thought?

The Amenities

Well, of course guests will be staying here so, after the fantasy is realized, let’s not neglect the practical aspects. Lifestyle gurus recommend spending a night in your own guest room to experience it firsthand. Is the bed comfortable? Are the sleeping pillows comfy or are they relics from a former life? Is there a bench or rack on which to put a suitcase? How about an alarm clock and a good reading lamp? A couple feet of hanging space in the closet is nice too – don’t forget the empty hangers.

I like to line a pretty basket with a cloth napkin and fill it with things my guests might need like body lotion, toothpaste, disposable razors, a hair dryer, shampoo and so on. A carafe and glass for water is most appreciated and fresh cut flowers are a lovely touch. When I visit my cousin in North Carolina in the spring, she has me pick a bouquet from her garden and put it in my room; it’s a special delight.

So, go ahead, use your imagination, pick your fantasy and treat your guests to a well-appointed decorating tour de force. It makes the time spent with you just that much more special and unforgettable. n

Barbara Sternau is an Interior Designer with offices at 37 Main St., Tarrytown, NY. bsternau@optonline.net

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