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10 Ideas for Creating a Cozy Guest Bedroom

A few special touches will make company feel right at home

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The coming holidays are a good excuse to upgrade your guest space to make it more Downton Abbey and less downscale motel. ​

Experts say a few nice touches can give overnight company their own special spot, whether it’s a separate room or the east corner of your home office. The trick is to think like a guest. And arrange things so guests have to ask for as little as possible, saving you time and saving them the embarrassment or worry of inconveniencing you.

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“I look at a guest room as my little sanctuary that the host and hostess have given me; it’s a place to stop talking and interacting and kind of rest,” says Anna Kasabian, author of Guest Rooms and Private Places, a photographic tour of beautiful rooms around the world. Kasabian, an interior design writer and porcelain artist based on Boston’s North Shore, highlights guest rooms, baths and guesthouses that are beyond most of us. But the basic principles — fresh linens, a good bedside lamp, plenty of pillows — can make even the most mundane area seem luxurious and cozy. ​

If you’re short on space, you can even keep your guest room in a laundry bag, suggests Hilary Heminway, an interior designer based in Bozeman, Montana, and the author, with her son Alex Heminway, of Guest Rooms. This photo book of guest rooms also offers practical, and sometimes humorous, tips.

“Put all the things you would need in that bag, like a clean bath towel, a clean hand towel, a rolled-up blanket, a sleeping bag, a blow-up mattress. And there you have it. Put it in the corner of a room,” she says. Then tidy the bathroom, they say in the book. “Hide the prophylactics,” she suggests. “Although you’re unabashed, your guests may not be.”

If you’re about to welcome overnight guests for the holidays — or any time — here are 10 more ways to put on a good visit.​

1. Take a test flight

Whether your guests will sleep on a beautiful canopy bed, a drop-down Murphy bed or a blow-up mattress on the floor, try it out overnight for comfort. And don’t forget to update the pillows — two for every guest, if possible. “When you go to an inn, they go out of their way to have a beautiful thick mattress that you can sort of sink into and forget everything. And nice pillows,” Kasabian says. “It’s not always easy to fall asleep, but if you’re in a really comfortable bed, I think that helps you relax.”

2. Clear the decks

Stow photos and gewgaws from tabletops, shelves and bureaus so guests have some usable space, says John Hunt, who with his husband, Kris Srihadi, owns The Liberty Hill Inn in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. They have hosted thousands of guests in the almost 20 years they’ve owned the nine-room 1820s-era inn. “That’s one of the things we get complimented the most on,” Hunt says. “There isn’t a lot of clutter everywhere.” Provide an empty drawer or two, good hangers and a place for guests to put suitcases, such as inexpensive folding racks that can live in a closet.

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3. Attack the bathroom

If you polish only one corner of the house, let it be here, says Heminway. Even if guests must share a bath, clear out some space for them and stock it with all the liquid essentials that are hard to bring on airplanes — shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste — as well as extra toothbrushes, a hair dryer and a shower cap, she says. Give guests a new, unwrapped bar of fancy soap or a fresh bottle of liquid soap. Women like magnifying mirrors, Hunt says, as well as a full-length mirror.

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4. Let guests be discreet

Let guests know where the extra toilet paper is stored, as well as where the toilet plunger lives. Provide a toilet brush and scent spray in the bathroom, says Hunt. Add extra plastic garbage bags for wet bathing suits, laundry, the trash or diapers, says Heminway. A roll of biodegradable dog poop bags is handy in the bathroom for sanitary products or a leaky bottle of lotion, she says. Don’t forget to provide a box of tissues too.

5. Upgrade your towels

Have a set or two just for guests that are fluffy, absorbent and look fresh. And don’t forget a facecloth, even though many people don’t use them, Hunt says. If you have a pool or live near the beach, alert guests to the location of outdoor towels and tell them where to hang them.

6. Consider safety

Bathrooms need rubber bath mats and night-lights. And no throw rugs in bedrooms. “Anyone can trip,” Heminway says. If you have a no-shoe house, provide slipper socks with grips. And make sure guests know the emergency drill if you live in a fire- or earthquake-prone zone.

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7. Upgrade electronics

Display your Wi-Fi password and provide your guest space with plenty of plugs or a power strip, at least one near the bed. And accommodate guests who read print books. “I always bring a book, so a reading [spot] with a nice light and a table is important. I just like to go in there and chill out before dinner or before breakfast,” says Kasabian.

8. Snacks are always good

Leave a carafe of water by the bed and something to nibble on. “We put a fruit basket in the room,” Hunt says. “If they get a little munchy in the middle of the night, they don’t have to come downstairs and feel like they are raiding the refrigerator.”

9. Allow guests some control over their environment

Install adjustable curtains or shades so guests can either welcome the dawn or hunker down in the dark. If the room doesn’t darken, provide eyeshades. While you might not be able to provide a separate thermostat for climate control, do what you can, such as making sure your windows open.​

10. Add some unexpected pleasures

Many of the rooms in Kasabian’s book reflect the local area, including her own seaside guest bath featuring starfish and seashells. Or add personalized amenities, such as a pair of binoculars for birders or a map for runners, Heminway says. And, she says, don’t forget to have a guest book in the room along with a classy pen, crayons or paints so guests can leave a memory of themselves and say “thank you.”​​

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