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My friend Gillian has the warmest, most inviting home I know.

During the week, she's a human resources director; on the weekend, a self-taught decorator with a willing assistant - her husband, Michael.

For seven years, Gillian has been ceaselessly redecorating the interior of her New Westminster home. Last Sunday, we ascended a narrow fir staircase to a room where Gillian has created a warm and romantic retreat for the guests she and Michael are expecting this holiday season. As is her habit, the room is a clever blend of old and new, with a general air of welcome.

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As I drove home that afternoon, I thought about why Gillian's guest room felt right and well thought out, while those in many other homes (ones by designers included) often feel wrong. I think she's got a few easy do's and don'ts for us.

Give them room

for their junk

You want your guests to feel at home, even if they're only staying for an evening or two. Don't make them live out of their bags.

Guests should have a dresser, nightstands, and a closet or armoire in which to put clothing and possessions. This may require restraint on your part. If you need to use the storage space in the guest room, don't be greedy - keep to the bottom drawers and high shelves.

Don't be too feminine

If your guest room has lavender walls, posters of cherubs and bowls of dusty potpourri, you've crossed the line. A guest room is best when it's gender neutral.

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This doesn't mean forgoing feminine touches altogether, but instead striking a balance between simple, heavier furnishings (more masculine) and key decorative pieces (more feminine).

What Gillian has done is arrange the room around an overscale headboard with a beefy frame and rich upholstery, offsetting the piece's visual weight with contemporary floral bedding and silk decorative cushions.

Buy good sheets

It's not enough for a bed to look great; beneath the pretty duvet is what matters most. Go with 100 per cent cotton sheets that are soft to the touch. They should feel luxurious.

The expense isn't outrageous: Unless you're purchasing imported bedding from France or Italy, you can get a nice set for $200 - much less if you pick them up at a department store linen sale.

Smash that cheap

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ceiling light

You know the one - the glass semi-sphere the contractor bought at Home Depot for $9.99. If your desire is that the room be cozy and luxurious, a bright builder's light is taking two steps back.

Replace it with a linen drum shade, a simple chandelier or a modest glass hurricane on a dimmer.

Your guests need bright lighting for rifling through suitcases and low lighting for relaxation once that's done.

A bedside reading lamp is essential. At the end of the day, you want your guest to be able to crawl into bed and read without having to jump up and switch off the overhead light when they're ready to doze off.

Don't skip

the window finishes

Guests come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments. If you're one of those oddballs who like to rise with the morning light, don't assume that your guests are. Many people, myself included, find waking at daybreak an assault on the deepest level.

Avoid this by clothing your windows: choose blinds, drapery or a combination thereof. Early risers or not, everyone sleeps better when a room is nearly black.

Resist putting family

photos on the wall

Your guests will see and hear enough about you and your family during the day; the last thing they need is you in the bedroom with them as they fall sleep. Guest room wall art should be fun and engaging.

At her place, Gillian has framed a collection of naughty poems. The eclectic grouping of frames looks stylish, while the poems provide a giggle and sustained my interest long enough to read all of them.

Remember the

thoughtful touches

In a hotel I stayed in recently, the management left a small gift in the room every evening, accompanied by a note with a wish of wellbeing. In your home, this gesture may seem a touch sentimental, but the idea is a good one.

There are special things you can do that show your guests you're glad they're under your roof. One is to put a stack of easy-to-read books by the bed. Short stories, picture books and poetry are always good choices.

Another is to pack a basket with fresh bathroom linens, soaps and slippers, and place it on the bed for them to see when they arrive. Hang a fresh robe in the closet.

Gillian would counsel us that fresh flowers and a water pitcher on the bed stand are a good idea, too. That sounds about right.

Kelly Deck is the director of Kelly Deck Design, based in Vancouver, and the host of Take it Outside on HGTV.

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About the Author

Kelly Deck has been advocating for West Coast design since 2002, when she 
 opened an interior decor boutique on Vancouver's Main Street. Since then, 
 Kelly has immersed herself in the lifestyle and community that makes West 
 Coast design unique. More


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