Election Section

Create an instant guest room for the holidays

The Associated Press
Friday November 17, 2000

Are you faced with the quandary of no guest room this holiday season? Or with more overnight visitors than your one guest room can accommodate? 

I’ve dealt with both situations over the years. In different houses, I’ve used a futon, a pull-down bed unit, or a convertible sleeper sofa in just about every possible location – the den, basement playroom and living room. But with the addition of a reading lamp, bedside table, lush bedding and extra pillows, my guests feel right at home. 

When space is tight, one of my favorites is to include a daybed in the study, den or sitting room. Daybeds work well because they create extra sitting and reading areas when you don’t have guests. 

Anything from a simple studio bed, converted from a single mattress and box springs on a frame, to a custom daybed with a padded headboard and foot board translates to a comfortable bed for a guest. 

And here’s another tip: shop consignment and resale shops for custom daybeds. There are some real finds in upholstered or metal headboards if you look. Or if you have a room with an alcove or nook, consider having the platform built in for a daybed. 

My secret to making a daybed comfortable is as easy as including plenty of firm, oversized pillows for reclining and relaxing. Big square pillows, known as European size, are perfect. 

Daybeds also are great in children’s rooms or nurseries. Family holidays often include young guests, and it’s a good idea to add an extra bed in your child’s room. 

Another idea in the book is to create a daybed in a child’s room by hand-painting or stenciling a headboard on the wall. 

When space is really tight, remember the futon or convertible sleeper sofa. Such a piece anchors your living or family room during the day and still welcomes overnight guests. 

Futons are manufactured with wood and metal frames at all price points. Futon mattresses also vary in construction quality and comfort. Shop for the frame finish and mattress cover fabric that works with your interior. 

Well-made futons are easy to convert and often used in family and playrooms when several guest areas are needed. Even though I have a guest room in my current house, I use a futon as my den (and extra guest space) sofa. 

In a more traditional, country or cottage style home, a convertible sofa can be the ideal substitute for the conventional living-room sofa. Buy a convertible sofa the same way you do a mattress: try it out in the store. Unfold the bed and lie down on it. Test out several sofas in different quality ranges. 

In addition to construction, note the thickness and firmness of the mattress, which determines how comfortable the bed will be. Choose other furnishings, such as the coffee table, that can moved with ease if your sofa is in fairly frequently guest use. Or substitute a lightweight wicker or wood trunk in place of a coffee table that your guest can use for storage. Include a small table and lamp for reading. 

Remember the basics and cover the mattress with a thick, quilted pad before making the bed. Guests appreciate an extra blanket, oversized pillows for reading and relaxing, and a soft coverlet or throw. 

For the ultimate instant guest room, install a pull-down bed. Such beds, which are sold alone or as part of modular units, offer guests the comforts of a standard mattress because the mattress doesn’t have to be pliable enough to fold. When the bed is stored away, tucked-in linens can be left in place. 

For decorating options, hang a print or poster above the bed. Or, if you are having custom cabinetry designed and installed, consider having narrow shelves built above or on the sides of the bed for necessities such as an alarm clock and reading lamp. 

Possible locations for a pull-down bed are a home office, a family room or playroom. The bed could be positioned between bookcases. 

If you need more than one guest room during busy holiday times, one or more fold-down beds can be a cost-effective solution to a short-term space crunch. 

Check with an architect, remodeling contractor or interior designer in your area for a local source and installer. 

When space is tight, little extras count in making your guests feel welcome.  

Include a small, empty chest that can double as a nightstand. And add an alarm clock, reading material and water carafe. If possible, make sure the designated space has a radio, small television and telephone. Purchase a hotel-style, fold-up luggage rack to store in a closet. Arrange fresh flowers in a vase at the bedside table. Emulate upscale hotels with a turndown service featuring candy or cookies on a pretty plate. 

The instant guest room is now complete.