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If you spent part of the summer staying at friends' or relatives' holiday homes - often enjoying idyllic lakeside locales - your turn to play the host with the most may be next. So, it's an ideal time to start whipping your guest room into shape.

I follow a practical approach when it comes to designing the "home hotel," and here are some guidelines:

Owners' needs

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If you truly don't have any extra space, don't try to create a guest room. No offence to anyone, but I don't care to stay in the den/office/playroom/storage room/guest suite. Blow-up anything (mattresses included) really isn't my style. Unless the space is specifically designated as a guest room 365 nights a year, I'd prefer to check into a local hotel.

It often sounds rude when I say this to clients, but if space is at a premium, they should use it for what best suits their everyday needs instead of for accommodating visitors a few nights a year.

When looking at real estate, clients often want one bedroom more than their family really needs. It's a lovely idea to welcome guests, but an additional bedroom can add a lot to the purchase price.

Think of what that extra space costs and you may realize it makes more sense to buy a smaller home and put your guests up in the nearest four-star hotel for the few days a year you're playing the happy host.

If, after that cheery sentiment, you still want to have guests, and have a room ready to be revamped, then read on.

Colour theory

The guest room is not the best place for crazy colour experimentation. It need not be bland, but at the same time it shouldn't appear as though it's the subject of a bad episode of Adventures in Decorating.

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Try to avoid any scheme that is either too feminine or too masculine. I find that single-colour schemes are most effective. You can use a variety of neutrals as a backdrop and integrate bold colour accents.

In my case, I used a rich, deep blue offset with cream in five different patterns to create a slightly nautical mood. It creates a crisp and fresh feeling without being fussy.

Comfort and calm

My general goal for any bedroom is to create a room that evokes a mood of calm to enhance relaxation. I want every bedroom to feel like a luxury hotel suite (no matter how small or how tight the budget is).

The best way to ensure you hit the right notes is to have a comfortable bed, a spare and uncluttered approach to furnishings, and a minimum of personal effects. (This is not the place for your beloved collection of figurines, troll dolls or knick-knacks!)

Pillow talk

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If the budget is tight and you are wondering where best to spend your pennies, you might put them into great sheets. Now, you are welcome to spend the moon on high-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, which require constant ironing and cost as much as a monthly mortgage payment, but I don't think that's necessary. Every night, I am lulled to sleep by smooth, soft sateen sheets that are about $100 a set.

The creature comforts don't end there. I know that many guest rooms become a hodge-podge of castoffs from other areas of the house, including old and lumpy pillows. This is surely not the place for them. If you are unsure about the comfort level of the pillows you are using, I'd suggest trying them out for a night. When you wake up with a sore ear and a stiff neck, you'll know it's time to upgrade. My preference is one down-filled and one fibre-filled pillow to rest my sleepy head on, but it's entirely up to you.

Window dressing

Lined drapes that block out the light are a must for weary travellers adjusting to different time zones. Unless you want your guests rambling around your kitchen at dawn like mice, I'd strongly suggest drapes that cover the windows entirely and block out as much light as possible.

And other dressing

While we are on the topic of the early-riser, it's never a bad idea to supply a couple of bathrobes in your guest suite. What your guests wear behind closed doors is their business, but are you ready to see it before you've even had your morning hit of coffee? Providing appropriate cover-ups means that your guests' unmentionables can remain personal and private matters.

Chair, table, lamp

You may not have enough space for additional furnishings, but a chair is a handy extra.

It's not just a spot where your guest can enjoy a few minutes of calm, but also one where he/she can lay clothes, since very few people take the time to unpack. You can easily forego the dresser altogether in favour of a table/vanity/desk, which provides a place to work on a laptop, or put on makeup if there is not an en suite bathroom.

Mirror, mirror

Make sure you have a good-sized mirror in the room. That will ensure that you won't be left waiting outside your bathroom door while your guests carry out their morning rituals.

And a large mirror will make even the smallest room feel larger, and help prevent any fashion faux pas!

Sarah Richardson is host and

co-producer of Sarah's House and

Design Inc. on HGTV ( She also is principal of Sarah Richardson Design (

Where to buy things

Fabric on headboard, chaise pillow - Designer Fabrics,

Fabric on chaise - BB Bargoon's,

Drapery fabric - Nautica Home at Robert Allen,

Round dressing table mirror - Elte Carpets and Home, or 416-785-7885

Desk/dressing table and antique marble lamps - Decorum Decorative Finds, 416-966-6829

Floor lamp and pendants - Sescolite,

Headboard and chaise - Sarah Richardson Design,

Bedside tables and chaise side table - HorseFeathersHome,

Throw blanket, blue glasses

and woven stool - Pier 1 Imports,

Silver tray - The Bay,

Sheets - Urban Barn,

Pillows, duvet - HomeSense,

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