Wondering how to prepare your guest
room for the holidays? Susan Maxwell, one of Chicago's most
sought-after interior designers, has a few simple, inexpensive
ideas that will make your guests' stay memorable long after they've
"It's just all in the little details,"
says Maxwell, head of the interior design co-op Suz Maxwell. "Just
really making them feel like they are a part of your family, but
that they still have their own secluded space, making them feel
really super comfy."
Q: What are your suggestions for making
house guests comfortable (especially when you have kids, maybe some
pets and don't have a huge amount of money to spend)?
"I think there's some really easy
things to do to make it feel like a little getaway for their
1. Make it feel like they are at
home."I usually put together a little guest book" (you
can do this with cute little notebook). On the introduction page,
she usually makes a joke about the house rules, eliminating the
uncomfortable feeling of talking with guests about the rules. She
also includes emergency numbers and a channel guide for the TV. If
you want to keep things tidy and have no shoes in the house,
provide additional footwear with the guest book, she
2. Put together a little goodie bag or
a beverage/food station. She puts a tray on the dresser
filled with goodies such as healthy snacks and breakfast bars so
guests don't feel like they are intruding on the kitchen if they
want a snack. For a beverage center, she suggests including bottles
of water and inexpensive wine and a coffee maker, coffee, napkins
and mugs. A mini-refrigerator, when possible, is a great addition,
3. Give them options. Make
sure the room has several different kinds of pillows so your guests
can choose the type they like, plus extra blankets. She also places
a set of towels, mini soaps, shower gels and cotton balls in the
room. Under the vanity, she keeps a basket of extras, such as
contact lens solution, that she picks up when she sees them on sale
in case her guests forget something.
4. Give them things to
do.She puts local magazines in the room, geared to her
guests' interest, along with a list of fun things they can do in
the area during their stay. She also leaves tour guides and books
on local history.
5. Give them privacy. She
makes a little sign for the door to hang on the knob when guests
don't want to be disturbed.
"I think guest rooms tend to get
overlooked," Maxwell says.
To cut down on costs, borrow items from
other areas in your home, such as pairing an extra dining chair
with a cute side table, decorative pillows or special entertainment
pieces you only use once in awhile to add color and flair to the
Q: What ideas do you have for people
who don't have guest rooms?
"A lot of homes and condos have a tiny
guest room that might be multipurpose," she says. "It's just
utilizing the space." For example, a desk can be a night stand with
a chair while guests are visiting. Stack extra seating vertically
and create storage under the bed.
For families with no space for a guest
room and not a lot of money to spend, Maxwell suggests finding an
inexpensive yet super comfortable high-end futon with a microfiber
covering that will wear well. Use a screen to block off the area
when you have guests, then move it to the side other times, or
consider a hospital track in the ceiling to hang a microfiber
curtain to give guests privacy.
If you need to share the bathroom,
create really functional storage to get your items off the bathroom
counter, she says.
Maxwell, whose personal tastes mix '50s
modern with antiques with splashes of colors, specializes in
helping people make the most of their homes, something she's been
doing since her days of redesigning Barbie's Townhouse when she was
5 or 6. "Mostly, what inspires me and what I'm most interested in
doing is helping people create a functional space for their needs,
kind of uncovering how they live and their style and translating
that into a really functional space."
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