Guest room should be more than spare

Why is it that the guest room so often looks like the ugly duckling of the house?

For one thing, it's almost by definition a spare room, and is thus accorded the lowest priority for redecorating. When budgets are tight, there may be little money left to spend on this infrequently occupied space. And let's not forget that the guest room does make a handy receptacle for all those outdated pieces of furniture, poorly chosen accessories and other decorating mistakes.


But with some imagination and expenditure, this room can be transformed from a dusty warehouse into a cheerful lodging place.

To start, put yourself in the place of your guest. What would you like to find in the room you'll be using in a host's home? A convenient surface for opening a suitcase would certainly be welcome, as would some drawers for storing clothes, good lighting for dressing as well as reading, a cozy bed, a relaxing chair, a radio, telephone and some reading material. Sounds like a lot of stuff, and perhaps more like a hotel than the average residential guest room. But "guest room" is the nomenclature used by hotels, so maybe we should try to emulate their approach.


If the extra room in your own home is small, there's no point in stuffing it full of furniture. A dresser, for example, may not be necessary. A few shelves or a small chest of drawers placed inside the closet will usually suffice. A lounge chair could be considered another dispensable luxury if space is very limited. But do try to include a movable, upholstered, pull-up arm chair that can be used with a desk or makeup table.

Don't bother with an overhead lighting fixture -- lamps are what's needed in a room like this. Besides being portable, they produce a warm and friendly light. Wall lamps beside the bed provide a homey touch. So does a pair of small candlestick lamps, like those shown in the photo, which will work well on either a dressing table or desk.

The styling of such a room is entirely a matter of personal taste. A space that won't be used on a daily basis could be given an exotic treatment. A little nostalgia would be fine, too. In the room shown in the photograph, the walls and window were covered with the same print to soften the box-like proportions of a relatively small space. And a beat-up child's desk was crisply outfitted with a coordinated fabric and contrasting ribbons at the top and bottom of the tailored skirting.

Color choices do require some careful thought. Remember, a restful palette doesn't have to be dull. Blues, lilacs and yellows, along with white,have always been good bedroom colors. Again, it's OK to be a bit exotic in such a setting, but I do caution against using a lot of black, red or purple. Colors like these can easily produce a somber effect unless applied by a highly skilled hand.

After the room has been generally planned, don't forget the bits and pieces -- those marvelous little amenities that make a stay memorable as well as comfortable. Go one better than the local hotel. Make sure there are plenty of clothes hangers, a good-sized mirror, some toiletries and, most welcoming of all, family photographs and fresh flowers.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate