Welcome to my guest bedroom
We moved into this rental house just months ago with zero furniture. Zero. After a career in the military and moving every few years, we were truly nomadic and living very slim. Everything you see here was collected (mostly thrifted) in a matter of weeks after moving into this house. I found solid beautiful furniture in this short amount of time, and they were exactly what I had hoped to find. However, I still have things I would change about this room. I did not find every item that I would like to use in here just yet. For now, here are the “bones” to a good small guest bedroom.
When decorating, it’s good to consider how the decor makes you feel in the room, as much as you like the look. Some rooms are beautiful, almost works of art, but they won’t put a person at ease. When designing guest quarters, keep this in mind. Try to choose bedding and decor that is not too delicate or easily stained, so that your guests can feel comfortable to actually use it. Consider how a guest will feel hot or cold and provide the items to help such as a fan or extra blankets. This is how to approach decorating a guest bedroom, to feel it as though you are a weary traveler away from the comforts of your own home.
A note on the decor here
This room took on a feminine English Countryside inspired decor from the various items I used and layered. From the vintage wood furniture to the patterned textiles, and the textured bedding elements, it is kind of leaning in that cozy countryside semi elegant direction. Since my mother-in-law requested that her bedroom be decorated “country”, it is fitting. But I may work on leaning into this direction more for this room now that I see how the decor can go in that direction. Decorating always starts somewhere after all, and this is where this started.
Now let’s talk about the bones of a small guest bedroom!
1) Bed Quality
If you are still young and pliable it might not have occurred to you how the aging people in your life feel crashing on subpar surfaces. Maybe you can sleep on someone’s futon, sofa, or uncomfortable mattress with no negative effects. But older people or even young people with arthritis for instance, can actually be in a lot of pain from a poor sleeping situation. Because there are guests with different mattress preferences, I have a foam mattress that is rather firm, and I have a mattress topper that is ultra soft. I keep the topper in the guest closet. For my guests who prefer the firm mattress, I leave it off. For my guests who need the soft mattress, I put it on. This is the best solution for offering quality sleep quarters. This may not be necessary for everyone, but I have regular guests with back and neck pain that each need the exact opposite mattress type.
2) Bed Platform
In a small bedroom, it is of utmost importance to utilize the space under the bed for storage. I tell my guests to unpack their luggage into the empty closet with hangers ready for their clothing, and the tall dresser with enough drawers for folded items, gadgets, etc. Then I draw back the bed skirt and direct them to place their empty suitcases and bags beneath the completely empty and clean space beneath the bed. This invites them to get comfortable in their bedroom and feel moved in and more welcome than living out of a suitcase. It also gets those bulky items out of sight which would detract from the pretty room. It also keeps them out of the way from being tripped over. In this small bedroom there is zero space for luggage other than under the bed. The small closet floor quickly fills with my guests’ shoes that they bring, so not even the closet is the best place for luggage. I recommend this 18″ high bed platform that I purchased from Amazon. It is called ZINUS SmartBase Heavy Duty Mattress Foundation. The bonus is that I love a tall bed as it looks more regal and inviting to me as the focal point. Especially in a small room, I try to decorate upwards as much as possible to visually enlarge the space. Large artwork, curtains hung high above the window, and a taller bed all make a small room feel luxurious.
3) Bed Placement
My husband and I strategically placed the furniture so that the bed is accessible from both sides. This is a non-negotiable for my guests even in a small room. The best bed is one that is not pushed up against a wall. Why? Consider the age and mobility of guests. I have lived in a very small space before and had to climb over my husband to get out of bed. It was difficult even as a younger adult. Only as I have neared 40 have I truly understood what it feels like to feel age. Weak wrists, bad joints, stiff muscles…an aging body can easily hurt! Climbing over a person in the dark no less, to get in and out of bed can cause sudden shooting pain, muscle cramps not to mention hurting the person they are climbing over. Many people, but especially older people, need to visit the bathroom during the night. Make it comfortable for them to get in and out of the bed.
4) Enough Bed Pillows & Few Decor Pillows
Many beautiful beds have a lot of throw pillows but the best guest bed is like a hotel bed, which are very simple. I have one decor pillow in front of the bed pillows. I do not currently own a headboard, so I have a temporary line of 3 large square pillows behind the bed pillows. Guests do not need to remove the 3 large pillows to sleep, but they can. The problem with many decor pillows in a small bedroom is zero storage space when removed from the bed. Also consider the complexity with which you made up your guest bed, chances are no one will recreate that day after day when they make the bed. Bedding needs to be simple so that the guest can make it with ease. Having warned you about an excess of decor pillows for a guest bed, it is important to offer enough bed pillows. I always make the guest bed four bed pillows. Each side gets one full pillow and one slim pillow. This gives the option that is best for them for sleep and for propping up in bed to read. This is also why I include at least one decor pillow, for an extra propping up pillow as well as the finishing decor. However, I always make sure it is a soft throw pillow that someone can lean against, not something with beads, stiff embroidery or sequins etc.
The choice of nightstands is paramount. I suggest using nightstands that have at least one drawer. Even better if they have more drawers. If you put furniture in a small room, try to make it something that holds other things. Nightstands with drawers offer maximized storage but even if it’s just one drawer it allows for personal items, medicines, and the like, to be neatly organized away from sight but within their reach. Without drawers, the tops of the nightstands will look cluttered. As it is, nightstands will have a number of items strewn on the top like jewelry, watches, glasses, phones, cords, etc.
As for the quality of the nightstand, aim for solid wood furniture not wobbly fragile ones. In a small room where the walking areas are tight things can get bumped more easily. From a toddler or child to a large or elderly person grabbing onto furniture, steadying themselves on furniture, leaning on something, or tripping on furniture, you do not want furniture that totters, falls over or collapses easily. All the wood furniture in this room is vintage heavy solid wood. It was important to me to have as large of table tops as possible for maximum grounding as well as space for someone’s books, phone, etc. This kind of furniture also gives the room a quality look and feel. But the quality is literally better, and it does make a difference.
6) Nightstand Organizers
Due to there always being small items that people will set on top of a nightstand and not just in its drawers, I offer organizational baskets/bins/dishes for items on top. Organizers keep these small items from getting knocked off and potentially lost. It is also a way to keep things looking tidy for you and your guests. It is important to give people drawers as well as organizers, for them to keep things tidy and not lose things.
7) Nightstand Essentials
A nightstand should be stocked with certain essentials provided by the hostess. Tissue is a paper product that often gets stocked in the bathroom, but it is absolutely essential next to a bed. Also, coasters are vital to keep your furniture from moisture rings, but they also say, “you can put your drink here”. So, the coaster is an invitation and a reminder for someone to have their water next to them at night, which is an important comfort and necessity.
8) The Dresser
Even a small guest bedroom needs a dresser. A small guest bedroom is probably not the room for a vanity since that will offer less drawer space. I suggest a tall dresser that will give that vertical pull visually to the room and take up less space horizontally. I wanted a dresser that was not so tall that a short guest could not place items like perfume, a makeup bag, etc. on the top.
9) Linens & Accoutrements
I placed a cozy throw blanket in an obvious location on top of the dresser so that a guest could see it and know it was for them to use. Sometimes if you integrate items heavily into the decor scape, people might not even see items meant to be used. They might not see a throw rolled in a basket and if they did notice it, they might not assume they could use it. I can fit baskets underneath the nightstands for something like that, but I’m not sure a guest would readily notice that was there or that they could use those items. The space beneath the nightstands have proved valuable real estate for storing guest’s items as well. Which is another great point, leave some space for guests to fill in the room. If you only leave them the walking path, it might become filled with items and become a tripping hazard. I treat the guest bedroom like a hotel room where linens are placed in obvious locations that say they are meant to be used. That way, necessities take up the space, not useless decor. In a small room useless decor can be easily knocked off a surface and broken. I try to keep the beautifying of the room to things that do not take up space like the paint color, wall art, curtains, and bedding. Besides, essential items look beautiful when styled well.
Next to the blanket on the dresser, I have a tray with one faux lavender and a picture frame with the wifi login and password. Guests have appreciated the framed wifi information. I did not want them to be without it if I was unavailable to ask. That one faux plant will probably not stay in here as I perfect my dresser top arrangement, it was a temporary filler. I am looking for a mirror to hang above the dresser and that is a better piece to use as decor because it won’t take up any space on the dresser top, but it will add style to that area. Which leads me to my last point.
All guest bedrooms need at least one mirror. But in a small bedroom it will also help to make the room look larger. I plan on putting at least one mirror above this dresser but if you also have a place for a full-length mirror, even on the inside of a closet door or the back of the bedroom door that is a good thing to offer guests.
This guest room is just the beginning of where I want it to be. When decorating, it’s good to consider how the decor makes you feel in the room, more than just how you like the look. I like the look of some rooms, but I don’t want to spend time in them. I don’t want to snuggle up in them. I focus the look of my decorating on what makes me feel peace and comfort. And I could go into detail about that in another article because the feel includes the lighting and the details of textiles. Stay tuned.
Until next time!
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