Jan Speziale, interior decorator and co-owner of Barnard & Speziale Design Associates, says guest suites should invoke a tranquil feeling. The right décor and small details will further ensure a restful stay. But before any décor decisions are made, she says homeowners should always ask themselves, “How will this make my guests feel?” Designing the guestroom, no matter its size, requires a bit of pre-planning and consideration.

Keeping the overall design concept neutral is key, says Speziale, who has been in the business for 35 years and is an Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario member. “Avoid making it gender specific. Don’t make it too feminine or men will feel out of place.” Colour is especially powerful as it creates the overall feeling of the room. She recommends using colours inspired by nature like soft greens, watery blues and soft browns and pairing them up with creams and whites. Avoid strong reds as an overall colour.

Once the design of the room is completed, the décor needs to be well chosen with a few essential items. Regardless of the size of the guestroom, a feeling of personal space can be created with the right pieces. “Every piece in the room should be purposed. Don’t use leftovers from the rest of the house that look shabby or ill-matching,” says Speziale.

The mattress will be the most frequently used furniture item in the room, so it should be comfortable and of good quality. Invest in an appealing mattress cover and pillow-top – it instantly gives the mattress a luxurious feel and the added height offers additional padding for comfort. Cover it with beautiful, high-quality matching linens. Interior designers generally recommend a fullsized queen bed, but Speziale also suggests two twin beds if your visitors don’t always include couples. “It opens the room up to families and can accommodate different groups of people.”

Proper window treatment is a must and will be much appreciated for guests who have travelled long distances and are trying to catch up on needed sleep. Guests should be able to control the light in the room so use blackout drapery or blinds.

A storage bench or ottoman at the foot of the bed or by the window is great for storing extra pillows and acts as a place to lay baggage and personal belongings. If space permits, a luggage rack is also great for suitcases. For colder nights, make sure extra blankets and throws are available as well, advises Brenda Pinkus, owner and interior decorator with Interiors by Decorating Den. Small touches like this, she says, add a personal feel to the room.

A full-length dressing mirror, whether hung behind a door or free standing is a must. A small mirror above the dresser is not as effective and will reduce the number of visits to a room where there is a full-length mirror. Those guests adjusting to different time zones or even those who are night owls will be grateful for their own personal television. The recommended maximum size for a guest room is 30 inches. A small desk, with or without drawers, is a thoughtful idea. If space doesn’t permit, re-utilize the room’s closet space to create a personal office setting. A small table and chair, along with a reading lamp, will also serve the same purpose.

It’s critical that furniture be kept to a minimum in smaller-sized rooms, says Pinkus. Selecting the right drapery will also enhance its size. For more generous rooms, go darker with larger prints and accessorize with bold colours. “Room accessories are like jewelry to an outfit,” she says. If the guestroom has an ensuite, then the room’s décor should carry into it, creating one harmonious look. Homeowners should always provide freshly washed,high-quality towels and face towels. Toiletries like a hair dryer, curling iron, shampoo, soaps, scented candles and bath salts should be staples of the guest’s ensuite.

Revitalizing a Dull Guestroom 
To update an existing guest suite, replace the headboard and footboard with an upholstered micro-fabric version. “A taller headboard creates a sumptuous feel and gives the room a whole new feeling,” says Speziale. Another fairly easy and inexpensive way to instantly refresh a guestroom or any bedroom is changing the hardware on case pieces like dressers, buffets and night tables. A fresh coat of paint is also a dramatic method to revive a room. The greatest volume of any room is its walls, so make the most of it with an eyepleasing neutral tone and one that still complements the room’s existing accessories. Re-finishing furnishings can also add impact. One of Speziale’s favourite guestrooms involved using re-purposed wood stained furniture from the client’s master bedroom suite and repainting it cream and finishing it in a soft pearl grey glaze.

For those unsure of a design scheme, Pinkus suggests picking a favourite art or furniture piece and designing around it. Or, if wanting to decorate something with a bit more risk, a simply done themed room may perk up a tired guestroom. Some of her most memorable guestrooms were those she designed reminiscent of a bed and breakfast. To make it effective, she used light floral prints on the bedding and added family heirlooms and collectibles around the room.

If looking to bring new life to the guestroom and completely transform it into a holiday retreat, Pinkus suggests introducing a “resort” theme by using bamboo furniture and accessorizing with tropical motifs. Use soft greens on walls and bold yellows or corals on accent pieces, use sheer fabrics and light bedding.


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