Be Our Guest

Holidays are a time for family and friends… who can also become unexpected houseguests. The influx of out-of-towners spending a night or two can cause holiday stress, but a well-appointed guest room that makes in-laws feel relaxed can help keep the peace. It’s not just about clean sheets, it’s about creating a home away from home. Austin Handler—owner, interior designer and half of the husband/wife duo of Mabley Handler Interior Design in Water Mill—explained the art of perfecting the guest room experience.

Long Island Pulse: What is the ideal guest room setup?
Austin Handler: Besides a full-size bed, have a small chair/sitting area—like a settee, slipper chair or armchair—it’s nice to give people a place to sit down and be able to put their shoes on or relax, instead of just perching on the bed the whole time. We like to put in a desk for people to sit down with a laptop and little touches like an iPhone charger on the bedside table… You have all those things there, you’re going to have a very comfortable guest, maybe even too comfortable.

Pulse: What about using an office to sleep guests?

AH: It’d be good to put a sleeper sofa in there; it’s functional for an office, but also folds out. Sleeper sofas get a bad rap for comfort, but more effort has been put into manufacturing comfortable ones, like the Trenton sleeper sofa by Room&Board. Alternatively, a daybed, like West Elm’s Window, can double as a sofa and have the cushions pulled off for a twin bed. What you lose in the versatility of being able to sleep a couple of people [on a sleeper sofa] you gain with a very comfortable mattress.

Pulse: What are some useful accessories?

AH: A folding luggage rack is an easy addition. It’s a very inexpensive item but it’s something that, when used in a tight room without a lot of floor space, gives your guest a dedicated area to store a suitcase.

Pulse: What’s an easy way to accommodate a shared bathroom?
AH: It’s always nice to leave a set of towels, have adequate surface area to rest things, add a little cup on the counter for the toothbrush. Places like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn sell little storage cabinets that will fit into a corner to store towels inside and rest a dopp kit or makeup bag on top.

Pulse: How about décor for the holidays?

AH: It’s nice to have a small arrangement of fresh flowers and a scented candle in the room. But err on the side of a soft fragrance. Use more natural scents, like one that is a light pine instead of food scented—better to make subtle references to the holiday. For flowers, dried hydrangeas are a nice touch, even a single bud in a bed-side vase shows your guests that you made an effort. Everyone thinks of blue hydrangeas as a summer flower but vintage harvest hydrangeas can feel very fall and winter appropriate.