The perfectly flexible guest room

By Melissa Rayworth

Associated Press

Hosting houseguests can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. Having a well-designed, private space for them is a huge help, but many homeowners don’t have a dedicated room just for that.

“Realistically, most people don’t have guests every week,” says interior designer Betsy Burnham, founder of Burnham Design in Los Angeles, so many create hybrid guest room/home office spaces, or blend a guest room with a playroom or crafting room.

The challenge is making the space warm and welcoming to guests but functional for other needs.

Here, Burnham, small-space design expert Kathryn Bechen and Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of the design firm Flynnside Out Productions, offer advice:


If your home office will double as your guest room, Flynn suggests designing a creative work station that doesn’t feel like a corporate office.

Instead of putting identical nightstands on either side of a bed or sofa bed, try mixing and matching bedside furniture, he says, “letting one of them be a desk or console table to double as a workstation.”

And you may not want a queen-size bed dominating your workspace. Burnham notes that there are many comfortable sofa beds these days. Or try a daybed with a trundle attachment. Decorate with structured cushions that give the appearance of a sofa by day, but are easily put aside at night.

One great retro option: Burnham says there are modern Murphy beds with innovative designs that work well in smaller rooms.


Another way to make a home office feel like a welcoming guest room is using color “to personalize the space and draw you in to rest,” says Flynn. “I use blue-grays and gray-greens because they’re soft and relaxing, but not too energetic.”

He also suggests using a range of textures in upholstery, bedding and floor coverings. For example, “Mix super-nubby textures like boucle that feel good on your feet with sleek ones like silk and satin.”

Burnham’s new line of furniture, called Wardrobe, is upholstered in cozy, touch-friendly fabrics like soft linen, chambray and denim.

If the room has a sleeper sofa or futon with a less-than-luxurious mattress, add softness with plush blankets, bed pillows and high-thread-count sheets. A sheepskin instantly warms up a guest room floor, Burnham says.

Too many throw pillows on a sofa or bed, however, can be a nuisance for guests to remove each night and rearrange in the morning. So stick with a few luxurious ones that add beauty and comfort.


If the room is normally your office, decide whether you’ll completely withdraw from using it while guests are in town. If it’s possible to work elsewhere in the house for a few days, make that easier by keeping an attractive empty box or basket on hand to gather work items for temporary relocation.

If relocating isn’t practical, Bechen suggests discussing the subject up front, preferably before your guest arrives.

“A lot of people work from home,” she says. “So the issue is being considerate and sensitive, and having good communication.”

Let your guest know if there are specific hours when you must use the room, so they can plan to go out or just relax elsewhere in your home during that time.

To avoid intruding on your guest at other times of day, Bechen suggests using high-end paper and ribbons to make a hand-crafted “Do Not Disturb” sign for the room’s door.


If the room includes a closet, leave it partially empty so that guests will have a place for suitcases and other items. Deep shelves in a closet are ideal for a guest’s clothing. And if the closet is deep enough, Flynn suggest placing a dresser inside. Guests can have access to one or more drawers, and use the top as a vanity.

Also consider adding a storage ottoman or trunk to the room for hiding blankets and pillows, so you won’t have to gather them from elsewhere in the house when a guest is arriving.

All three designers recommend having lots of closed storage so you can stash your things out of sight when someone is visiting.


Add an extra power strip so guests can charge digital devices, and print out your wifi password for easy reference.

If the visitor is an old friend or relative, create a small photo album of images from your shared past and place it on the nightstand.

Bechen suggests adding some of the details you’d find in a luxury hotel room. Put out a basket with sample sizes of good toiletries. Add a bouquet of fresh flowers and a basket of snacks.

If you have space, create a small drink station on a dresser top or table. On a pretty tray, place a small coffee maker, a basket of tea bags and coffee, a few bottles of water, and some glasses and mugs. To complete the hotel feel, Bechen suggests making a little information binder about local sights and activities to help visitors get the most out of their time in your town.

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