Guest of honor

A cozy room lets your out-of-town visitors know they're welcome

November 22, 2008|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,

Cynthia Lynn knows a little something about preparing a guest room - she has 18 of them in her house.

But the owner of The Inn at Peralynna Manor in Columbia says making out-of-town guests feel comfortable this holiday season goes beyond 600-thread-count sheets and fluffy bathrobes.

"Be as welcoming as you can be," she said. "Once they know you are not tense, they will relax, too."

Beyond the smile and the warm greeting, there are many touches - large and small - you can use to convert a spare room into a cozy retreat for your holiday guests.

Start with a bed that makes a statement, says domino magazine style director Dara Caponigro, who helped edit the magazine's new book, domino: The Book of Decorating.

"Spend most of your money on the bed," she said. "Pick something with presence, like a canopy bed. The room will feel instantly decorated so that all you have to do is fill in."

Lynn and her husband, David, will decorate their guest rooms for the holidays, but they always leave guide books, maps and a house key.

Those courtesies are good, especially for out-of-town guests who might want to explore without you.

But Caponigro said that when it comes to guest rooms, "cleanliness is next to godliness." This may seem obvious, but if a guest room isn't used often, it can seem musty and stale.

Above all, said Lynn, "Lower your expectations of yourself. You will make everyone uncomfortable if you don't. And it will allow you to relax and enjoy your guests. That's what it is all about, right?"

Other advice from experts includes:

* You don't have to spring for an expensive mattress in the guest room since it won't suffer the wear. But invest in a feather top or a down bed topper for comfort.

* Provide a variety of pillows - both down and polyester - in a variety of shapes so guests can make themselves truly comfortable.

* You should think about pressing the sheets and pillow cases to give them that hotel look and feel, advise the editors of Real Simple magazine. Spray them with a gentle scent, such as lavender.

* You might provide a travel iron and small ironing board in the closet, if yours are hard to find.

* Layer the light in the room: an overhead light, soft lights at the bedside and a night light.

* Include toiletries your guests might have forgotten, such as soap, a razor and deodorant, in a decorative basket.

* Make room in a closet for your guests' clothes, and hang a pair of luxury bathrobes as a nice surprise.

* Consider decorating in neutral colors because they are more soothing. And make sure the room feels like it is your guests' - no personal photos or mementos.

* Think electronically. Leave a power strip or an iPod dock. Let them know if your house is equipped with WiFi. A TV is a plus, but not necessary. A clock radio does two jobs.

* Provide your guests with something to drink, whether it is bottled water, a thermos of coffee or a carafe of sherry. And something to eat as well - fruit or homemade cookies.

* And leave a note of welcome.

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