Stay With Us, Please? My Quest to Design a Better Guest Room Than the In-Laws | Kanebridge News
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Stay With Us, Please? My Quest to Design a Better Guest Room Than the In-Laws

Determined to persuade her married daughters to visit—and lacking her rivals’ in-ground pool—our columnist decided to up her guest-room game. Here, her tips.

By MICHELLE SLATALLA
Sat, Aug 26, 2023 7:30amGrey Clock 4 min

I SUSPECT that most people’s so-called guest bedrooms are, like mine, giant closets. Once upon a time they were my daughters’ bedrooms. But after my kids grew up, their childhood rooms were almost immediately pressed into service as warehouse space.

My husband’s guitar amps? Store them in a spare room. Amazon packages to be returned? Guest room. These rooms also collect castoffs I’m not emotionally ready to part with, including 10-foot drapery panels with a songbird pattern I made with a sewing machine my husband magnanimously gave me on our 10th anniversary. I think I used the machine once, and if I ever need it, it’s in a corner of the guest room.

This situation is counterproductive for someone like me, hoping to lure home “guests” like my three adult children and their husbands and partners. So I recently resolved to fix the guest-room issue—and immediately realised this was a job for a professional.

“My problem is that now that my children are paired-off they have other options—in-laws with better guest rooms—who they could visit instead,” I said to Grey Joyner, an interior designer in Wilson, N.C. These rival accommodations include an enviable guest suite (I’ve slept there comfortably myself), with extremely high-thread-count sheets, a private bathroom and terrace access to a landscaped garden with an in-ground swimming pool. “Of course, I’m not trying to compete head-to-head against the in-laws,” I hedged.

“Of course you are competing with the in-laws—as you should!” Joyner said. “If you were my client, this is when I would tell you: Every room needs to tell a story.”

“‘High-end hotel’ is a nice story for a room,” I said. “Should I toss everything and start from scratch?”

“No!” Joyner said. “This is not a hotel, it’s your home, and it has to feel personal. I would create a story around things you collect or already have.”

I considered what our story might be. “A thriller about a hoarder with a songbird-drapes fetish?” I asked.

She ignored this.

Obviously, accessories designed to lure each of my daughters would be nice to have, including a luggage rack for the “heavy packer” in the family (Joyner likes the $225 foldable, faux-bamboo versions from One of a Find in Charleston, S.C.); wall-mounted reading sconces for my “low-brow-murder-mystery addict” middle child (my go-to is the bendable-arm gooseneck wall sconces from Etsy sellerDLIGHT); and perhaps a Sonos speaker for the family’s “promising-new-artists scout.”

“Maybe it’s the Southerner in me, but I have a ton of silver pieces,” Joyner said. “I might put a tray on a dresser for jewellery, and one in the bathroom as a soap dish. Guests say, ‘I love that dish,’ and I say, ‘That was my grandmother’s.’ Now it has a story.”

A plan took shape: First, I spent a few days painting a Louis-XVI-style caned bed with three coats of a rich, deep brown colour—Farrow & Ball’s Mahogany—so it would have a strong visual presence to anchor the room. Second, I painted the walls, to cover the pale Benjamin Moore Ballet White with Farrow & Ball Smoked Trout, a hue whose name got a rise out of my husband. “Wow, $150 a gallon for paint?” he said. “Is it made with real trout?”

The colour created a woodsy-tan backdrop against which a castoff pair of cloudy-mirror-top night tables suddenly looked glamorous.

What next? Window coverings, perhaps in a joyous songbird pattern? Or maybe not.

“You need blackout shades or drapes because you want your guests to get a good night’s sleep,” said Kelly Simpson, senior director of design and innovation at Budget Blinds, an Irvine, Calif., company with 900 franchises nationwide. “For your situation, personally I’d do a layered look, blackout shade with drapery panels on the sides. Adding draperies softens a room.”

Stephanie Moffitt, design director of the Mokum collection at James Dunlop Textiles in Australia, concurred, suggesting patterned fabrics on shades and drapes. “You can take more risk with bolder palettes” than in a main bedroom where you have to sleep (and look at the curtains) every night for years, she said.

Luring adult children to come home could get expensive. Does it need to?

I turned to psychologist Joshua Coleman’s “Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict” (Harmony, 2021) for answers. But after skimming the free-on-Amazon excerpt of the book, I still had questions—so I phoned the author.

“I’m actually trying to prevent estrangement with adult children before it happens,” I told him. “The first pages of your book point out that they—and by extension, their spouses—aren’t obligated to spend more time than they want with their parents,” I said. “Can I convey that I respect that through how I decorate a guest room?”

“Probably not—and keep in mind there’s a risk that they don’t want you to update their rooms and will feel displaced by it,” Coleman said.

“But their spouses don’t want to look at their old prom photos,” I said.

“You said you have daughters?” he asked.

Three, I confirmed.

“Daughters tend to be more powerful arbiters of time spent with parents than sons, so I would be more conscious of displeasing them. Husbands will fall in line.”

Really? It was the reactions of the spouses and partners I’d been fearing—all three of my daughters had given a thumbs-up to more-comfortable décor and had in fact unanimously suggested a mattress upgrade (the old one dated to 1985).

“So no expensive furnishings are necessary?” I asked.

He could hear my disappointment. “Look, if you want to justify it to your husband, you can say you talked to a national expert and he said you absolutely need to buy nice furniture,” he said.

That faux bamboo luggage rack will soon be mine.



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