Design & Home

Four Beautiful Guest Rooms That Will Make Your Holiday Visitors Feel Right at Home

The holidays are coming, and so are out-of-town visitors. Here, four beautiful spaces to get you in the mood to welcome them.

More Is More

Photograph by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.

Bold colors and wild prints might be overkill in a boudoir that you snooze in every night. “But a guest room can let you have some fun,” says interior designer Susan Nelson, who unleashed a rainbow of fabric, rugs, and wallpaper on her own Old Town Alexandria guest space.

Nelson, who also runs the pattern-mad Alexandria decor shop Home on Cameron, reupholstered twin Restoration Hardware beds in a brush-stroke print by Clarence House. “Because it’s a small geometric, it mixes well,” she says. From there, she layered in floral Dana Gibson wallpaper, Lucy Rose fabric curtains in indigo, and hot-pink accents. “It’s definitely energetic. But if you love color like I do, a room like this actually helps you recharge.”

Nelson’s Tips:

The bed pillows should be cushy, not hard, and it’s nice to have several types.

Twin beds can be more versatile. You can always push them together when you’re hosting a couple.

If you’ve got the square-footage, a small sitting area lets guests have a cup of coffee in privacy.

Scandinavian Cool

Photograph by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.

A Corsica River view, warm wood ceilings, and a flood of sunlight give this vacation-house guest room plenty of built-in advantages. So when designer Joe Ireland was called in to furnish the getaway on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, his springboard was the architecture. “The owners have a Swedish background, and working with architect Greg Torchio, they created this very simple feel,” says Ireland. “They wanted the guest rooms [this is one of three] to be places where a range of people would feel comfortable.”

Ireland played off the concrete floors and pine beams, adding muted fabrics (vintage kilim-upholstered chairs from Timothy Paul, a greige carpet) and a 1960s brass wall sculpture he found on 1stdibs.com. But things aren’t all stuck in neutral: The designer painted a pair of vintage end tables celery green and hung vivid floral wallpaper behind the custom leather-upholstered bed.

Ireland’s Tips:

Even in the era of Kindles and smartphones, you still need a good reading light. Plus it creates a nice glow at night.

Don’t fill your guest room with clutter. You want it to be a respite with thoughtfully chosen accessories, not an overflow spot for old knickknacks.

Quiet and Cozy

Photograph by Michael K. Wilkinson.

Friends and family shouldn’t require a McMansion-size room to feel at home, says interior designer Annie Elliott of Bossy Color, who decked out this snug retreat on Capitol Hill: “Your visitors shouldn’t be spending too much time in there anyhow—they’ve come to see you.”

Elliott’s clients, who had just had a baby, were seeking a comfortable crash spot for visiting grandparents. The designer blended vintage art—including paint-by-number landscapes and a portrait of a family ancestor—with walnut-veneer, midcentury-style furniture from West Elm. “Almost all of the color in the room comes from the art,” she says. “It gives the space personality and keeps it feeling calm.” A jute rug, simple bedding, and striped linen window shades reinforce the light, fresh feel. “It’s mainly about different textures and keeping things restful.”

Elliott’s Tips:

If guests are coming, buy flowers for the dining table and re-serve some for a vase in the guest room.

It’s nice to have a fuzzy place to put your feet in the morning. A bedside sheepskin rug does the trick.

Make sure there’s an easy-to-reach plug so people can charge their electronics.

Merry, Not Bright

Photograph by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.

Sometimes a single piece can inspire a whole room. That’s what happened when Arlington interior decorator Nicole Lanteri spotted an eye-grabbing yellow French-style chair online—the piece now stars in this glam-groovy guest escape on the top floor of a Capitol Hill rowhouse. “The clients wanted things cheery but not too bright,” Lanteri says. “The chair is a nice pop.” It’s part of a small seating and TV-viewing area that lends the room a hotel-suite feel.

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Lanteri wove in pieces the couple already owned (a Thos. Moser wooden bed frame, a mod white chair and ottoman from Crate & Barrel). Cozy touches in mostly neutral shades—such as a shag rug in the seating area and a fuzzy throw on the bed—don’t distract from the room’s other headlining feature: views of the Washington Monument and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Lanteri’s Tips:

Give people room to un-pack. “I placed a Room & Board dresser in this room just for that.”

Layer the bedding—maybe a duvet, a quilt, even a throw. You never know if people will run hot or cold.

This article appears in the December 2017 issue of Washingtonian.


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