Creating Some Privacy for House Guests Creating Some Privacy for House Guests

Q: With my rather enormous extended family coming for the holidays, I need an extra room - or ten! How can I provide a little privacy for my houseguests when two sisters are sharing the guestroom, my brother's on the living room sofa, and there are kids all over the place?

A: Oh, the joys of holiday visiting. Do you think they'd notice if you disappeared and spent the week at a hotel?

I would vote for investing in a few screens for the home; these can be used later for other purposes, and while you have company spilling out of the confines of the guestroom, they can provide at least a modicum of privacy, something everyone will appreciate.

You're not limited to those paper-and-wood screens you see in the stores, either, although those are fine and function well. Today, screens come in a variety of styles, and they all serve the purpose of giving the illusion of having another room in the house, or at least a space in a room that is set off to the side a bit.

Shoji screens, like the finely-crafted ones you see here, also allow you to play with light. The diffused light coming through the screen is softened, providing a calming glow, and creating a feeling of a separate space, even though of course noise will still travel.

Other screens use fabric, and these can often be ordered in any color, pattern, or texture you like. These screens can also help you play with the decor of a room, and you can use the color of a screen to bring together disparate parts of a room. For example, if you have a bright yellow sofa and a green rug, using a screen with fabric in a green and yellow pattern will unify the look of the whole room.

When using screens to create a temporary guest room, try to make the space within the screen as much like a little bedroom as you can. Try to have a window in there, and set up some kind of a bedside table for your guest. The more organized the guest "room " can be, the happier and calmer the guest will be, and this will help keep the general level of anxiety down throughout the week.

You can also use the screens for other purposes: after the presents are unwrapped, with a quick flip of the screen, you've hidden all the messy wrappings. After dinner, move the screen so that you can't even see all those dishes piled on the table, while you relax in the living room.

Even after the company leaves, the screens can come in handy when a surprise guest stops by and you want to hide your messy workspace, or even if you just want a slightly different look to a room.

And next year, maybe have Christmas in a stadium.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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