Summer is the season for houseguests, friends and family. So what makes the perfect guest room? Creating a gracious guest room is all about keeping your guests needs in mind - and a prerequisite to being a great hostess. In a word, hospitality. A few things come to mind when I think of the perfect room, the three P’s: privacy, peace, and pampering. Here, Richard Keith Langham, Jane Scott Hodges, Pamela Fiori, and I all share our guest room necessities and niceties.
I always like to keep fresh flowers in my guest rooms. On the bedside, keep it simple, one gorgeous blossom: a rose, a lily, or anything from your own garden. One on the tray or desk would also be nice. Fresh flowers suggest you care, and are a room essential.
One of the first things I do when preparing for my guests is create a welcome tray. A large bottle of water or separate small ones (for one guest or two) drinking glasses, a bowl of fruit, small fruit like grapes, plums, peaches, and figs, and a fruit fork and knife, of course, some candies and cookies, depending on the guests.
Each guest room in my house has a basket in the bathroom or closet with all the things a guest might leave behind: toothpaste, an extra toothbrush, shampoo, body lotion, shaving cream, mini sewing kit, nail polish, nail file, nail polish remover, a hair dryer. Just think, “What would I need?” Advil, Pepto, it may sound like a lot of things, but a little thing can make a big difference in someone’s comfort.
Little straw slide slippers, a robe and a throw – nothing like a throw on a big comfortable chair that says “welcome, make yourself comfortable.”
A table or a desk is a must. I put one in all of the guest rooms I design. A guest needs to be able to do the same things away from home that they do when they are home: write a letter, sit and have coffee or tea, or check their email. A small expandable table with a leaf will do, a bedside table could be a desk with a stool tucked underneath. Don’t forget to have postcards, notecards, stamps and pens handy.
I select reading material from my library for my guests. The latest magazines encourage a lazy morning reading with coffee. Keep a supply of short story compilations, poetry, and humor for short reads before bedtime. The bedside table should have good lighting, the telephone if multi-line should have instructions (nothing is more frustrating that not being able to answer the intercom or place a call), and an AM/FM clock radio with an iPod/iPad dock so guests can play their own music.
Linens. Make sure the sheets are fresh and pressed – and you have good pillows – hypoallergenic – no foam thank you! I travel with a boudoir pillow with a case from D. Porthault, a habit of necessity prompted by business travel and the unpredictability of what is waiting for you.
A bed tray or a place for breakfast or working in bed.
A luggage rack or a convenient place to unpack and make sure it’s at a good height so there’s no straining.
Clothes hangers in the closet, I use padded hangers, as they work for any type of garment. Plus, they make the closet more attractive and tidy, ditch the drycleaner leftovers.
I have teapots that I have collected over time, one for each guest room with all the accessories. A Keurig single cup coffee maker is small and needs little shelf space. You could designate one surface, a shelf in a closet, one shelf for the in-room bar, which, of course, becomes just that at night. Obviously you know your guests and their favorite drink. Splits of champagne or half bottles of wine allow guests to relax while getting dressed for dinner.
And finally… don’t forget, one last check before arrival.
“I love indulging my guests. Fabulous down pillows, crisp linens…I always leave a satin eye mask then wish them sweet dreams.”
-Jane Scott Hodges
Richard Keith Langham
I like to have four standard pillows on the bed, but it’s important to have four spare pillows stashed in a closet if needed – also two extra blankets – one cotton and one wool. If the room is sizeable enough I like to have two double beds for flexibility –a couple who doesn’t sleep well together, or just a couple of friends.
- Curtains have to be black-out lined to totally darken the room for any light-sensitive guests.
- I like a basket filled with goodies and munchies for late night snacks along with plenty of bottled water.
- One luxury is a “coffee station” for early risers to have their coffee or tea in the room without having to plunder the host’s kitchen – accompanied by a bowl of fruit.
- A laminated instruction guide for operating the ever-complicated television.
One of the most joyful house-guesting experiences my husband and I had was with David and Serena Linley at their house – a former 19th century hunting lodge – in the Luberon in Provence. David is, of course, Viscount Linley, son of Margaret, nephew of the Queen and, in his own right, a master furniture maker. He is also currently chairman of Christie’s UK. We had one of the outbuildings all to ourselves, beautifully decorated, but in no way over the top. While David took pains to not flaunt his pedigree, there were nonetheless framed photos of his mother, his aunt, his grandmother and other family members as gentle reminders – not to mention David’s visage, which has “Windsor” written all over it.
David is an incredibly charming and funny guy so the several days we spent there was full of fun and surprises – including dinner at a goat farm and a cozy meal at the house where the fish was charcoal-roasted…in a wheelbarrow.
Next to our bed, was something called The Mammoth Book of Jokes (“Over 400 jokes, toasts, insults, limericks, puns, put-downs and shaggy dog stories for all occasions”). Groucho Marx graced the cover. Every night, I giggled myself to sleep reading it. When we got home, I ordered the very same book for our guest room in NYC so I could give our overnight visitors the same silly pleasure.
“It’s the flowers you choose, the music you play, the smile you have waiting…”