recent posts

social media menu

Real homes: what makes a great guest room, part II

A few months ago, I was pondering what to do with the spare room, which I'm planning to rent out to guests via Air BnB this year. 

The arrival of our house-swap guests from Australia, however, has sped things up. And though there are a few touches I'll add before I get Air BnB-ing, the bulk of its makeover is complete.

Here's how it looked before.

Pleasant enough, but deathly plain – as it needed to be in its former function, as a room for a succession of lodgers.

I picked up the Stag bedroom set – dressing table and two bedside tables – for £60 at a local junk shop but, much as I love it, the updated version of the room is without it.

The storage shelves and TV table, again useful for a lodger, have gone too.

While deciding where to go with the room, I got some great suggestions from readers.

One recommended looking at the rooms at the Bell Inn in Ticehurst for inspiration, which has all sorts of creative touches including typographic messages in unexpected places and trees in the bedrooms (see the gallery at the Bell Inn website).

Above: A room at the Bell Inn (image: the Bell Inn)

Image: The Bell Inn

I haven't gone for anything quite so unusual, not yet at least, but I agree that a guest room, like a downstairs loo, is a room you can have fun with.

Above: the Bauhaus exterior (image: Dezeen)

Another reader directed me to the austere but of course design-perv pleasing converted Bauhaus. The former German Modernist design school was turned into a budget hotel true to the ethos of the original student accommodation and opened late in 2013 with dorm-style rooms done out authentically, in a respectfully minimalist style.

Above: One of the rooms at the Bauhaus, available to stay in (image: Dezeen)

I like the broad, high-up shelf – somewhere to stash weekend bags and suitcases is a good thing for a guest room. One of these may well appear in phase two of the development of my own guest room. (You can nose around more of the Bauhaus conversion at Dezeen.)

Anyway, here's how my own guest room is looking after its revamp.

A little warmer, don't you think?

Switching the wooden slatted blinds for one huge white blackout rollerblind has given the room a cleaner, less cluttered feel. I got mine online from English Blinds.

The unusual headboard was a prop from one of To Run With the Hunted's photoshoots. It is a piece of plywood with the image of a house burnt into it at different angles, we just screwed it into the wall above the bed. The Peeta bedside lights were £28 each from Habitat.

I appear to have subconsciously channelled the designer, Guilherme Torres, whose colourful, pattern-heavy guest room decor I was ogling in this earlier post on the topic. The fabric has been staple-gunned more neatly since these photos were taken, to attach it more tightly and smoothly to the divan bedbase underneath.

And you can see the Gilda film poster, which I've had since I was about 18, remains, though she's now looking smarter in a frame. The zig zag rug is from Urban Outfitters.

I moved the overhead light, which was originally above the bed. The amber glass shades were bought as a job lot of five for £20 from Etsy, and the white twisted fabric cable is from Urban Cottage Industries (I just got lots of it and hung a hook for the shade's new position rather than chasing the flex into the ceiling... it's nice to be able to chop and change).

A guest room doesn't need a huge wardrobe too, and luckily our neighbour was after one just as we were contemplating putting it on eBay, so it has a good home. The mini incarnation is called a "gentleman's wardrobe" and is an original G-Plan, bought from eBay.

The luscious neon yellow and brown velvet Parker Knoll "writer's" chair was revamped and designed for me by the super cool social enterprise, Out of the Dark. Read about its evolution in this previous post and, if you don't know about this marvellous furniture-focused youth organisation, you can read all about Out of the Dark in this piece I wrote about them in the Independent Magazine.

I also collected a few books that might be useful to the London and UK visitor and piled them under the bedside table.

Other special touches I've added so far include 1000 threadcount bedding (again, added since the photos were taken). It is heavy and silky and super luxurious – just right for making someone feel welcome away from home. I also bought some wonderful wool-filled pillows to go with the duvet I was sent by The Wool Room, as feathers freak me out and synthetic isn't such a treat (they are soooo comfortable).

Alongside some stimulating but short reads (saved from a Guardian series, ages ago)...

I've also just added the nice, mint green John Lewis 150th anniversary issue digital radio I got last summer.

That would make me feel at home.


  1. Happy new year and very happy new guest room! I love the simple but warm look you've achieved and would be very pleased to be a guest in such a room. I particularly love the headboard. I'm on the lookout for ideas to make a wooden headboard myself, but our bed has to sit away from a sloping ceiling so it needs to be quite solid. I made the comment about the rooms at the Bell so it was great to see it mentioned here. I look forward to seeing the other changes you have made in preparing your place for the swap. Very best wishes for the new year and your Australian adventure, Jude

    1. Belated thanks Jude! Good luck with your headboard, show us a photo when you've done it.