Home Away from Home
Experts Share Ideas for Creating a Welcoming Space for Guests

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Travelers who stay in cookie-cutter hotel rooms may be giving up cultural experiences as well as the privacy, comfort and conveniences of staying in a neighborhood home. More than ever, home-based guest rooms are a popular choice for a unique and cozy place to stay.

As a host—and with a little pride, pleasure and creativity—you can set up a comfortable guest room that will make your guests feel right at home. If a guest room is not feasible in your home, you can confidently offer other options that will put both the guests and you at ease. Whatever you can provide, Rochester-area professionals share ideas to help you arrange a welcoming experience.  

Guest room necessities

Are you ready to transform an extra bedroom, office space or lower level into a warm and functional atmosphere for your friends and family? The process of creating a relaxing space can be enjoyable, from choosing tasteful decor and adding personal touches to incorporating basic necessities and bonus amenities. Some items around the home may be repurposed, while a new, fresh style can be incorporated through the addition of furniture, linens, accessories and more. The space can be cozy, with a combination of new and existing furnishings. 

Jes Peterson, owner of Kismet (kismetconsignment.biz), recommends neutral decor, such as soft floral or muted images, and bedding that is comfortable and easy to wash. “Pillows should be of hotel quality, with both firm and soft options,” she says. “Extra blankets should be available for cooler evenings, as well as a fan for comfort.” These items could be stored in baskets and drawers. 

Functional furniture

Every guest room needs a comfortable bed—consider centering it in the room between two nightstands. “The amount of furniture and decor should be light to allow room for your guests’ personal items,” explains Peterson. “Desks are nice to include if space in the room allows, but dressers are not necessary, if closet space is ample. A full-length mirror is a must, and a corner chair is a nice touch.” 

According to Michelle Rand, co-owner of Deutsch Furniture Gallery (DeutschFurnitureGallery.com), if you are turning a small space into a guest room, carefully chosen furniture can make the room feel larger. Options with a reduced footprint include a wall bed, which looks like a sideboard that opens up to a bed, and a rocker recliner with an attached mini table, which takes the place of a larger, separate table. Smaller choices are limitless—and creative. “A ‘Snack-About-Stand’ is a piece of multi-purpose furniture that comes with options including shelves, drawers and hinged table sides,” says Rand. “These are popular in homes, campers and assisted-living facilities, and they can be customized to any wood species, stain or hardware of choice.”

Beyond the basics

Sara Lohse, owner of Rescued Room (therescuedroom.com), which specializes in organizing, cleaning and designing, emphasizes a good rule of thumb is that the guest room decor and palette should lean neutral. However, “Don’t be shy about bringing some color in, as well as textured or patterned wallpapers,” she says. 

Add pops of color through the placement of guest room amenities. For example, you can include a colorful carafe and drinking glass for ice water and place fresh-cut flowers on the bedside table. “A floral bouquet is such a fun, thoughtful touch in making your guests feel at home,” says Lohse. 

“You also can include your guest’s favorite treat, which will remind them that they’re in the company of someone who truly knows and cares about them,” says Lohse. Or consider providing a few chocolates and healthy midnight snacks.

Peterson recommends incorporating home comforts, such as a clock, in addition to a nightlight and extra towels. A small basket with toiletries is a nice added touch, and lamps with USB ports will be especially useful and appreciated.

No guest room, no problem

A home guest room may not be an option for you due to limited space or other challenging logistics, but you can always recommend another comfortable place to stay. “When a guest comes to town, finding them a short-term rental can offer the best of both worlds,” says Becca Stiles-Nogosek, owner of Nogo Homes (nogohomesmn.com), which provides accommodations, management and consultation for short-term rentals. “It’s likely there is a rental available nearby, which can alleviate the pressure on you and your guest that can come with sharing close quarters. Your guest can be near your house without having to be in your house.“

Short-term rentals are a great option for visitors to feel at home, learn about the community and have the experience of being part of a neighborhood. “I have the great honor of being able to host hundreds of guests from all over the world, and I continue to hear from them how much they appreciate being part of the community during their stay, which includes meeting their neighbors and supporting local businesses,” she says.

Stiles-Nogosek says her goal is providing everything a guest may need. “I’ve done my job if my guests can show up with their clothes and toothbrush and have everything else provided,” she says. Nogo Homes specializes in pet-friendly accommodations and outdoor spaces for guests to enjoy with their pets, which can enhance their time in town. 

“I also love to combine unique furniture pieces with local art and art inspired by the area. It makes for a unique experience and can be a great conversation piece for your guests,” adds Stiles-Nogosek. “They may even find something they love and want to take home, as I include information on local artists who have created work in the home, as well as direct them to visit local galleries to find unique souvenirs to take home.”

A home with guests in mind

If you are in the market for a house and expect to have frequent visitors, you will want to add a guest room to your home-buying checklist. “Buyers who are looking for a home to entertain guests want a spacious and bright space that they can make welcoming for their visitors,” says Jen Steffes, realtor, Elcor Realty Co. (elcorrealty.com). “A guest bathroom nearby is a huge plus.”

With dedicated space for company, Steffes suggests using the guest room exclusively for guests and not for other activities that could result in clutter. “Do not use your guest room for storage,” she says. “Utilize this space in your home in a beautiful, more useful way.”

Steffes reminds homeowners to not stress out about having the perfect guest room. “Any home can be welcoming and can include a comforting space to welcome and entertain overnight guests,” she says. “While the guest room is important, remember guests are coming to see YOU and not your guest room.”

Consider how you can create a cozy guest room that will be much more than just a spare room. And spend a night in it to ensure your visitors will have a comfortable, home-away-from-home experience. As Peterson sums it up: “Your home should feel like a warm hug, and your guests should feel all the comforts of their own home in yours.” :: 

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