Guest factor: How to impress your overnight visitors this festive season
PUBLISHED: 10:39 12 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:08 13 November 2019
Hosting season is imminent, and some of us are going all out to offer our guests a home from home. Richard Burton found out more.
Let's face it, most of us have to put up with guests at this time of year. Oh, sorry, that came out wrong. I meant put up guests. Welcome thwem with open arms into our homes, in other words.
Either way, if we're going to play host, we may as well do it with panache.
The days of turning out the box room and shoving a camper bed in next to the clothes horse are long gone, it seems. These days, guest rooms are havens of creativity, places of experimentation and not part-time studies or games rooms that double up when needed.
Easier said than done, I know. And most of the time there has to be a compromise. But you get the idea. If nothing else, when it needs to dress up and be a guest room, it should at least dress properly.
So, with that in mind, I did a quick trawl of my contacts book and cast far and wide for a few ideas. Clarissa Hulse, the Islington-based textile designer, was the first to respond, telling me it's all about being prepped and ready.
"It's always worth getting prepared just in case you have unexpected guests," she said. "Start by making easy updates to your guest room. Gorgeous and bright new bedding will instantly transform a room. Layering with throws and cushions will ensure your guests are comfortable and give that hotel luxury feel. Fluffy new towels and sweet smelling toiletries, will add an extra special touch to their stay."
She adds: "I always splash out on flowers at this time of year. I adore berries and like to fill tiny vases with holly, grasses and berries... a small bunch can go a long way. These also look pretty surrounded by tea lights."
Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at the Yorkshire manufacturer, Furniture Choice, said: "Creating a comfortable, inviting and functional guest bedroom is the key to making your guests feel welcome.
"Take inspiration from the Danes and inject some Hygge into your space with clean and simple lines, a muted colour palette and lots of cosy accessories. This sets the scene for a warm and soothing ambience which stimulates feelings of wellbeing and contentment."
And the practical bit?
"Focus on their needs by doubling up on storage with the help of multifunctional furniture such as storage beds or built-in wardrobes," she said. "Your guests will appreciate all the extra closet space. And, don't forget to add a personal touch. Whether it's cosy scatter-cushions or unique trinkets from your travels, it's all about making your guests feel like it's their home away from home."
I can relate to that. One of my uncles was a travel agent. His wife was too. And they stashed all manner of ephemera in the back bedroom of their Hendon home where we stayed as kids; from real aboriginal boomerangs designed not to come back to Spanish maracas and bottles of everything from Brazilian Cachaca to Turkish Raki under a giant world map with coloured string linking London to distant places whose names I couldn't pronounce.
Hannah Ralston, senior buyer for home accessories at Beautify, goes one step further on space saving by recommending her Cord & Faux shearling storage trunks that come in soft textures that "make a space feel warm and inviting".
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She adds: "You'll probably want to leave the obvious storage, like wardrobe space, free for your guests to use, so these clever little trunks are great for things like guest bedding, extra pillows, cushions and towels.
"And trunks have an inherent homely feel and, because this set is both practical and modern, it really is a natural fit for any modern guest bedroom."
A company called Secret Projects which makes and sells products as part of an empowerment project for women in India even showed me their Secret Pillow one which unfolds into a blanket if the guest needs extra warmth and doesn't want to bother the host.
On aesthetics, Rachel Kenny, interiors advisor at the mural specialist Wallsauce, assures me: "The key to creating the ultimate guest bedroom is to make it as homely and versatile as possible. Decorating with neutral colours such as on-trend greys will make it suitable for anyone visiting you.
"As it's winter, don't hold back on premium cushions for a good night's sleep. Consider a range of throws that can be layered up or taken off and also layer your windows. Blinds will suit those who like the sunlight to gradually wake them up and blackout curtains will lend a good night's sleep to those who prefer total darkness."
And Debbie Leigh, design manager of Preston-based interior textiles firm ILIV, said spare rooms "offer a great opportunity to experiment with patterns and colours. From the bedspread to the curtains and even headboard, there's so much to play with".
She adds: "If you are unsure, try looking at companion fabric books. These have been carefully selected by fabric companies as pre-mixed harmonious patterns. Alternatively, try collecting samples and creating a mood board to ensure everything works together before starting on the actual room."
Closer to home, Darlings of Chelsea which has a showroom on London Road, St Albans, have introduced a variety of loveseat sofa beds which, I'm told, will help a "spare room spring to life with the luxe velvet deep-buttoned finishes, smart designs and striking colours". Loveseats are deemed perfect additions to cosy living spaces, good on space value but still maintaining a wow factor.
Owner John Darling stressed how important it is to keep the design element in a sofa bed as well as the quality: "We have taken our best-selling sofa designs and turned them into sofa beds," he said.
"We spent months researching what works best when designing a sofa bed, creating timeless classics as well as powerful statements."
For anyone who does like the pop-up room idea, they might like to look at the Bed in a Box by Living it Up of Leicester, something managing director Richard Coles describes as "cleverly camouflaged as a luxurious stool but transforms in seconds".
Richard said: "Guest bedrooms can often lack life and style, this is why we wanted to create something that spiced up a guest bedroom and was also space saving and aesthetically pleasing. This is the perfect product for a unique guest bedroom. Simple yet stylish, it offers guests a comfy bed and also ensures the homeowner has their own space when guests aren't around."
All sounds as if the guests have better experience than we do. And that's not far from the truth, according to Sally Hancox of Soak&Sleep. She said: "We recently conducted a survey and found out that 26 per cent of people said they used better quality sheets and bedding for their guests than they do in their own bedrooms.
"Hemp is the fabric of the moment - ultra sustainable whilst being super soft and luxurious - it will provide a great talking point when you show your guests to their bedroom and make them feel like you're investing in their comfort whilst making a conscious effort to counter the excesses of Christmas."
So there you have it. I'm now thinking, I can't wait for them to leave. I'll give them till Boxing Day and switch rooms.