A Quick Guestroom Pickup A Quick Guestroom Pickup

Q: My nit-picky sister will be here for her annual visit next month, and she'll stay in our guest room again. In the past year, I haven't done a thing with this room except throw the household junk in it. Right now, there's a guest bed buried under a heap of clothes from the dryer, an old green wicker rocking chair, a red bookcase, an ornate chaise, and a panorama of knickknacks I've somehow collected over the years. How can I spruce it up without spending a lot of time and money?

A: The good news is that you don't have to gut the room and start from scratch in order to make it look both different from your sister's last visit. At the same time, you'll be making it feel more like welcoming guest room and less like the rummage sale in the church basement.

First, ask yourself about the harmony of the room; this is perhaps the most important of the Sheffield Guidelines to consider in thinking about a spare room, because it's the spare room that quickly becomes the depository for every odd and end in the house.

Think about how you can use color to harmonize it all. You can start by choosing one color, something distinctive, to pull together some of these disparate pieces. Make sure it's a color that will harmonize with the things that can't be painted, such as the chaise.

Let's say the chaise is sage green and the walls of the room are off-white. You could paint the bookcase and the wicker chair a fresh pale lilac. While you've got the brushes out, make a swipe on the room's trim with the same color. Then, choose some throw pillows for the chaise and the chair that have patterns that pick up the same shade. Remember that the patterns can be different, perhaps a check print on one and a floral print on the other, as long as they're in the same color group.

Next, look at that bed your sister will be occupying. Once you get that laundry folded it'll be easier - and less expensive - than you think to make a completely new look for your guest bed. Start with a comforter cover in a pattern which also has the lilac, and, if you can manage it, the sage green. Get some new pillowcases while you're at it, with similar shades in their patterns, or in solids to match.

Add a little vase of flowers by the bed to finish the look.

One trick used by hosts of bed and breakfasts is to have all your sheets in white or off-white, but to keep a stack of pillowcases in various bright patterns or deep, rich solids. That way, you don't have to worry about matching everything; you just choose which cases will best suit the room.

Finally, how many of those knick-knacks do you really need? Keeping something just because it has sentimental meaning doesn't always make sense in terms of design. You can box them up, label the box and stow it in the attic; you'll still know the things are there, but they won't be cluttering up the house. And just make it clear to your sister that she doesn't have to bring a hostess gift unless it's something good to eat or something lilac.

Resources: Davids Fine Linens

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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