5 Ways To Create the Perfect Guest Room

At this time of year thoughts often to turn to guests and the sleeping arrangements thereof. Now while I am fully on board with Benjamin Franklin’s belief that guests are like fish – both begin to smell after three days – I do also believe in making them as comfortable as possible while they are there.

oxford desk from cuckooland £435
oxford desk from cuckooland £435

However, few of us have the space for a dedicated spare room. The word itself is a misnomer. If it was spare enough to be just for guests it should really be called the guest room. For most of us – even assuming we have such a place – it is the extra laundry room, the home office, the playroom, the teenagers’ space, the all-the-other stuff-there-isn’t-space-for-anywhere-else room. Which means, in short, that this is, in effect, the multi-tasking room.

It needs to be functional for the drying of the laundry or for the working at home for probably 350 days out of 365. Then it needs to convert to a comfortable space for parents, friends and anyone else who happens to turn up needing a bed.

sofa bed from perch and parrow

On which note I urge you to check the twitter feed of Rhodri Marsden during December. He publishes an annual stream of strange places people are made to sleep when they return to their parents’ home for the festive season. Some find their bedrooms are home gyms, some are under the desk in the office, sleeping with the laundry in the garage. You probably all have tales to tell. It’s a hilarious thread from about 22 December onwards.

But here, in The Mad House, we are all about creating the perfect guest room. The one that works as a really good home office until with a shove of that, a swivel of this and a twist of the other, it has become the guest room of dreams.

shaker pegs via remodelista
shaker pegs via remodelista

You will need: a sofa bed. This is the obvious one as it saves space when it’s a sofa – and works for a quick post lunch 40 winks during a work day. If it’s for elderly relatives then make sure you buy one with a good mattress – pocket sprung will provide more support than foam.

Next a table. If you can find one that works as both a desk and a dressing table this is ideal. Then you can shove the files in the drawers, move the computer and replace it with a mirror, add a box of tissues and a vase of flowers and Bob’s your uncle. And very happy he’ll be sleeping in here too.

round brass mirror dressing table from graham and green
round brass mirror dressing table from graham and green

So yes the accessories – a mirror to replace the computer, a tray to replace the notebooks and vase of flowers instead of the pens and chargers. Desk top to dressing table top. And if you’ve bought a sofa bed with storage then all those things can live in that until needed.

Back to the furniture. You will also need a desk chair that works as a dressing table chair so not too office-y. Having said that I have spent so many years doing my make-up standing up in front of a mirror that the last time I decided to sit down (in a fancy hotel room) I promptly stabbed myself in the eye with the mascara wand and had to lie down and cry for a bit. But if you are more dextrous than me and use this more as a desk then you will need a chair.

rattan chair from cox and cox
rattan chair from cox and cox

If you have space for a stool that can double up as a bedside table – or even as the chair for the desk if space is tight – then that can make life more comfortable. You can then move the desk lamp to the bedside for late night reading. More multi-tasking.

A collapsible clothes rail can be good. Even guests who don’t like to hang things can always drape them over the top. If there’s no room for this then make sure there are hooks on the back of the door. Another tip is to buy a row of Shaker pegs and fix those on the wall somewhere. These work for individual items and will also take hangers for those who are coming for longer. When not needed for clothes you can hang baskets on them and fill them with work stuff.

vintage wooden stool from scaramanga doubles up as a bedside table
vintage wooden stool from scaramanga doubles up as a bedside table

Finally a good use for all those sample bottles and sachets that fall out of magazines/out of hotel bedrooms into suitcases. Buy a pretty bowl and leave them all in there for guests to choose the ones they fancy.

And there you have it. How to Create the perfect guest room. And home office. And spare room place.

pooky luty table lamp
luty table lamp from pooky



Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Great article. I have just moved into a new house and have one of these aforementioned “spare” rooms. Having never had one before I have been umming and ahing what to do with it. I assumed I would either have to opt for a full bed if it was going to be a proper guest room or get used to the idea of just not having anywhere for guests to sleep. I have always worried about the perception of a sofa bed and if people are put out by having to sleep on one. You have come up with some really great ideas here to help make it a nice multifunctional space. Like Tina I also really like the Hotel-minis idea, I travel a lot for work so have quite a collection. I think I am going to go for a classic contemporary study theme, that deep buttoned sofa bed will go perfectly!

  2. Hi Kate – Nice article, especially interesting as I am doing up a spare bedroom. Luckily it will just be a bedroom with no hidden agenda! Love the idea of filling a bowl with samples and rescued hotel minis! Thank you too for the link to Scaramanga. My room is going to have a slightly vintage/ industrial edge with luxe bedding so some great finds on here.

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