10 Cozy Guest Bedroom Tips and Decor Ideas


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.

“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.