Guest-room Design Ideas and Etiquette Tips

Three well-designed guest rooms illustrate how attention to detail, little luxuries, and tactile furnishings invite visitors to settle in and stay awhile


An Up North room for visiting children is casual and comfortable, in keeping with the rest of the vacation home. The matching antique oar lamps, found on, have a bulb mounted to the back of the paddle end. The sisal “Swirl” carpet is from Stark and the bed linens are by Matouk with custom pillows and dust ruffle in Holly Hunt linen to match the drapery. The circa-1920 nightstands (inspired by a museum packing container) are part of the first collection from architect Bobby McAlpine.

The décor earned interior designers Michael Coyne and Kim Bondy a 2012 Detroit Home Design Award (see

— Michael Coyne, Michael Coyne Design, Troy; 248-649-6540.


Designer’s Advice

“Little touches make everyone feel special,” Coyne says. “They wake up happier.” Think floral stems in a clear vase, a water bottle, ironed sheets, and a magazine on the night table. “Oh, and put the dimmer and media controls close by.”


Sleep Tight

Small spaces require ingenuity to accommodate overnight guests. When Caden Design Group and Patrick Dyke Collaborative were enlisted to create a central location for homeowners to manage household paperwork, they recommended a dual function for the room. The result: two Murphy-style twin beds handsomely disguised as rich paneling opposite the desk. The beds pull down by using fully integrated wood handles to reveal completely dressed mattresses.

The plan won a 2012 Detroit Home Design Award (see

— Caden Design Group, Birmingham; 248-203-6006, Patrick Dyke Collaborative; 248-321-4444.


Designer’s Advice

“I think it’s important to have comfortable bedding: feather pillows, down comforters, comfy blankets,  and bottled water,” Jodi Caden says. “I also like lamps because they’re cozy. I provide magazines and always a TV.”

Space for Six:

The updating and expansion of an Aspen, Colo., vacation home helped a Michigan couple better accommodate visiting grandchildren. The original master bedroom (about 16 by 19 feet) was converted to a bunkroom for six. (The adjacent children’s bath has four sinks.) “I’m a purist, so I do a lot of uncovered comforters and blankets,” says Lynda Charfoos, the interior designer. The white comforters and green blankets are from

The streamlined results garnered a 2012 Detroit Home Design Award (see

Charfoos worked with a semi-custom product line to create under-bed storage with cubbies for shoes and drawers at the foot of the bed for dirty clothes. The headboards offer additional storage. Matching cabinetry with no doors serves as bedside closets. Charfoos used simple roller blinds on the windows “because the views are gorgeous and the weather is spectacular.”

— Charfoos Design, Bloomfield Hills; 248-593-9393.


Designer’s Advice

“Guest rooms are under-valued and don’t get enough thought,” Charfoos says. “When I look at the guest room and bath, I think about the most luxurious hotel experience and what amenities were in the bedroom and bath: tissues beside the bed, current magazines, books, reading light, a television, robe, and slippers (with the robe tied with a sash, like a hotel). I always have flowers in the bedroom and bath for guests, extra toothbrush, toothpaste, and a razor. Think of it as a hotel room. I look at it as space I would use myself, no less quality.”



How to be a Good Houseguest

  • Arrive with a gift. Baked goods, flowers, bottles of wine, or chocolates are always appreciated. Nothing too expensive; you don’t want to outshine the hospitality.
  • If the household includes children, give them a gift, too. Or offer to babysit one evening so your hosts can go out on their own.
  • Keep your area neat. Before you leave each day, make the bed and straighten your room. Put your dishes in the dishwasher.
  • Pitch in around the house. Help prepare meals, wash dishes, walk the dog, or make a beer run.
  • Interfere as little as possible with your hosts’ normal routine, household duties, and career. They may want to socialize with you, but you should never be the one to impose on their time.
  • Let your host know your schedule every day and do all you can to stick to it. This will help him/her plan when to serve meals and   how late they need to stay up.
  • Contribute to food: Assist in shopping or offer grocery money.
  • Arrive with ideas about what you want to do and see. While your friend will surely have many things they wish to do with you, they shouldn’t be expected to entertain you all day.
  • Don’t criticize your host’s hometown.
  • Ask before you start using things.
  • Don’t overstay your visit. Try to keep your stay shorter than three days.
  • Conserve linens and towels. A good host will provide you with a towel or two, which is plenty. Bring your own beach towel.
  • Give the hosts personal space and quiet time. Although they’re happy to see you, they don’t want to spend every minute of every day with you. Plan to do most things by yourself or with your traveling companion.
  • Put the toilet seat down.
  • Treat your hosts to a nice meal. If you’re a proficient cook, prepare your signature dish (and wash the dishes afterward). Otherwise, take them out to a restaurant they like.
  • Upon departure, strip the bed linens and place everything — including your dirty towels — in a pile. However, ask the hosts if they’d like you to do this first. Some hosts don’t want you removing the linens.
  • If you borrow your hosts’ car, fill up the tank.
  • Keep out of your hosts’ way, whenever possible. Often they are still working and running a normal life during your stay, so the least disruption as possible is ideal.
  • Bring a supply of portable snacks if you’ve brought your children.
  • Don’t make the first move to go to bed. It’s custom for the hosts to signal, except for close friends and family.
  • Leave a parting gift.
  • Send a handwritten thank-you note.

How to be a Good Host/Hostess

  • For cottage guests, purchase bulk containers of sunscreen, bug repellent, and aloe gel.
  • Set out essentials, such as towels and an alarm clock.
  • Provide little luxuries: bottled water, wrapped chocolates, cut flowers.
  • Make up a double bed with four sleeping pillows (two medium or firm and two soft) plus two smaller pillows to prop up the head when reading.
  • Make sure reading light is available.
  • Provide light and heavy blankets and a lightweight throw for afternoon naps.
  • Stock a small desk or cleared tabletop with pens and paper, note cards, envelopes, stamps, and a list of local restaurants, museums, antiques shops, and movie theaters.
  • Leave water in a carafe with matching tumblers. You also may simply fill a tall, narrow glass and cover it with a shorter, wider tumbler to keep out dust. Set the glasses on a small tray on the nightstand. Houseguests can turn over the top glass and pour themselves a drink or sip directly from the taller glass.
  • Stock a season’s worth of toilet tissue and other necessities in the bathroom so guests won’t need to request more.
  • Buy foods that fit your guests’ preferences. Show them where to find snacks, drinking glasses, and utensils, and encourage them to help themselves.
  • Leave an empty drawer and some free hangers for them in the closet.
  • Buy an inexpensive robe and slippers to have on hand for their use.
  • Bathrooms often have quirks — running toilets or reversed hot and cold taps. Inform your guests of any plumbing ins and outs when they arrive.
  • Allow them independence: Give them their own set of keys, a map of your city, and information they’ll need to get around.


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