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Real homes: what makes a great guest room?

We're thinking of renting out what used to be the lodger's room on Air BnB. 

The room was decorated, years ago, with a lodger in mind – this meant plainly and sparsely, so someone else could make it feel homely.

Air BnB is, of course, a different beast. You want to inject a bit more personality, give the space some personality. (But how much personality?) So I'm revving up for a major guest room revamp – but which direction to take?

I'd be pretty happy to pay for accommodation in a room like this calming Scandinavian-style space.

And I like the clever small-room storage in this room. All these are featured on

This is the sort of room I dream of creating, but which I don't have the minimalist discipline for. I'd never be able to leave it be to breathe, which is of course what makes it so beautiful. Image from the Swedish design blog

I want clean, Swedish whites, but I'm more likely to pulled in the style direction of Kate Spade's guest room, above. Image via Town & Country.

Or this fantastically colourful arrangement, full of Marimekko and Missoni, by architect Guilherme Torres.

Decisions, decisions. Anyone got or stayed in a fantastic spare room or Air BnB they'd care to share?

Meanwhile, a few tips from an extended version of my Independent column on the topic of being a great host (which I shall be brushing up on).

Whether you have a space on the floor or an entire spare room to put guests up in, there are some things you can do to make their stay more comfortable and relaxing (for both of you)…

Scrub up well … And AA inspector Simon Numphud knows just the details that matter: “The two things most important things are a welcoming, comfortable bed and cleanliness – particularly the less obvious areas; shower curtains, pillows, plug-holes.”

Question time Numphud also advises “not presuming your guests’ tastes”. From number of pillows to breakfast, lack of say can feel overbearing even when kindly meant.

Share minded On which: know that thinking “it’s fine – it’s only been slept in once” is a niche attitude. Also pillow protectors (and clean pillows), plus the scent of fabric softener are more welcoming than the faint whiff of someone else’s unwashed hair.

Holy sheet On the bed front, even if it’s a front-room fold- make it feel luxurious with – suggests Numphud – guest-only, high thread-count, crisp white linen, rather than the threadbare, weird coloured spare sheets gathering must in the cupboard.

Don’t digs it Still on the front room bed: it doesn’t need to feel like a student sleep-over. As in a bedroom, have a lamp reachable from bed, and surface for a glass of water and a book (and ideally not just the coffee table). A chair will do, or the very portable (and beautiful) Hay DLM side table (, £140) or Ikea’s cleverly-shaped Stockholm side table, £72. Clip on an Ikea Fas clamp light (£12.99) on and you’re set.

Divide and conquer Room dividers, which can be folded away when not in use, are good for boosted privacy with living room sleeping – but can cost a bomb. Amazon has a decent, affordable range (or adapt an ugly one with nice wallpaper).

The great escape When my brother comes to stay he’s up at 6am pacing about restlessly: spare keys make a huge difference to how free even a weekend guest may feel, allowing them to nip to the shop go for a walk while you’re sleeping/showering/faffing. And have windows that they can open.
Blow-up Beach lilos make excellent, cheap, emergency beds.

Heat is on With older guests, offer a choice of blankets and sheets. A certain generation (yes, Dad, you) are very touchy about the former for their “lack of temperature control”.

Mug up Missing the right morning drink can make guests feel at your mercy. I prefer tea over coffee so never have the latter in stock – until a (frustrated) friend bought me some single serve filter coffee sachets. Meaning good fresh coffee. And in reverse, espresso heads – buy milk.

Eat me Ditto, a bare breakfast cupboard says: “I couldn’t be arsed”. A gourmet breakfast is a treat rather than a routine for most of us. “So choose quality over quantity," says Numphud. "Good fruit juice, flavour-packed mushrooms, organic bacon. And if you’re making a hot breakfast, heat the plate. It’s about thoughtfulness – tiny touches.”

That’s entertainment Bookish types will bring their own; for others – so they feel comfortable to retreat for an hour or two – new magazines, a TV, radio or wi-fi laptop are good things for mutual sanity, especially with longer-staying guests.

New bloom Nothing says pleased-to-see-you more than flowers!


  1. Wow! I love your blog today it's absolutely fabulous! Thank you for all the brilliant inspiration x
    I think the Scandi look is lovely.
    Love the first two pics and the fourth one I think has a cute romantic style.
    If you're a daring decorator then I think the Kate Spade guest room is definitely worth it, it's like something out of a novel!
    Good luck with your decorating project. Really looking forward to seeing it!
    Love and wishes x

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I think when you are doing a guest room/B&B you can go a bit further than usual with a daring design because most people will only stay one or two nights. Have you heard of the Bell pub in Ticehurst – great decor, cosy and quirky. Worth a look at their website. Good luck with the airbnb thing – we've stayed in a few and always enjoyed it.

    1. Thanks for the tip - the pub looks brilliant, what excellently eccentric decor

  4. just saw that you can stay in the Bauhaus old dorm rooms! Perhaps a tad sparse but surely some nice uncluttered Modernist spare room inspiration?