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How to create the best guest room

Be a great host, no matter your budget or the size of your guest space.

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A few years ago, I made a vow: I will never sleep on an air mattress again.

I admit I make a lot of “never again” vows (eating pancakes at brunch, doing shots of any kind), but this one has stuck. The inherent chill, the weird squeaky sounds every time you move, the likelihood it will half-deflate by morning – and don’t get me started on sharing an air mattress with someone else. No thanks.

Having made such a declaration, how could I provide less for guests in my own home? After years of putting people up on a futon in various apartment living rooms, buying a house created our first opportunity to offer a real guest room.

As any lifestyle blog will tell you, the sky’s the limit when it comes to decking out a luxurious guest “retreat.” But for those of us still slowly replacing our mismatched thrift-store furniture, I offer a few humble, achievable guidelines. Whatever your space – dedicated guest bedroom, an extra bed in your office, a futon in the living room, or yes, even the dreaded air mattress anywhere it fits – you can create an inviting place that will encourage your loved ones to visit. Most of the basics are cheap and portable, so you can bring them out when needed (and stash them in a closet otherwise).

The basics:

  • Clean sheets and towels are non-negotiable
  • An extra blanket
  • Tissues and a trash can
  • An accessible outlet
  • Invest in extra bathroom essentials: hooks for guest towels, an extra water glass (no one likes to drink from the tap except the cat), and clearly accessible toiletries
  • Jot down your Wi-Fi password and any other household info guests might need to know, like the code to your security system. (If you forget about the code, you might be awakened at 6 a.m. on a Saturday when your conscientious guest opens the door without disarming the alarm to dispose of a very dirty diaper. True story.)

If you do have a dedicated guest space, here are some more permanent touches you might consider:

  • A bedside table with water, a clock, and some kind of lighting.
  • A wall mirror – especially if you have only one bathroom, your guests might need a spot to finish up their toilette
  • A white noise machine if you live in a particularly noisy place
  • Bedding upgrades. Many people banish the old bed to the guest room – and there’s nothing wrong with that. No matter your budget, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to shell out big bucks for a mattress that will get used a few times a year. But there are things you can do to make an old mattress more comfortable. Consider adding a memory foam topper. Spend more than $5 on pillows.
  • A luggage rack or another spot for suitcases

Basically, hosting is all about the golden rule. Think about what makes you feel at home away from home, and provide that experience for your guests. Happy hosting!

A bonus tip

My number one tip for hosting: find out how your guests take their coffee or tea and have the necessary supplies on hand. We’re all creatures of habit, and nothing is more sacred and personal than the exact specifications of your wake-up beverage. I’ve never felt closer to a full-on temper tantrum than when drinking instant coffee with non-dairy creamer.