Founder of Design for Mankind, Erin Loechner is a blogger, speaker, and author of “Chasing Slow.” Here she shares how to furnish a bright, cheerful guest house that’s as functional as it is fashionable.
And so the saying goes: Add a heartbeat; lose square footage.
Nearly two years ago, in a whirlwind adoption, we welcomed a sweet baby boy into our home. In a matter of 24 hours, while we rocked and shushed the tiniest newborn in a neighboring hospital, my husband’s mother snuck into the house to transform our spare room into a cozy nursery. It was all there: the hand-me-down crib, patchwork quilt, and star-dusted curtains. A row of books where guest toiletries once lined the shelf. A diaper pail in lieu of the vintage floor lamp. Receiving blankets in place of stacked towels.
From guest quarters to nursery in a single night. (All hail a mother-in-law on a mission!)
That’s the beauty of the home, isn’t it? As families change and limbs grow, as finger paints are replaced with report cards, and recliners become rocking chairs (and back to recliners again), your same four walls are there to welcome every season along the way.
Other times? A new set of walls beckon.
Last summer, my woodworking husband approached me with a glimmer in his eye. “Can I build a guest house in the backyard?” he asked, and in the span of two months, plans were drawn and lumber was purchased. Daily he’d wield a hammer with a smile on his face, ever-convinced that this new multi-tasking space would house dozens of memories. After all, with a bit of creativity, what can’t a room do?
In terms of décor, we opted for a leather sofa bed for overnight guests and star-gazers alike, comfortably flocked by cozy chairs and hourglass end tables to add symmetry and form. With a low-profile coffee table, sheepskin throw, vintage-inspired pendant, and bold retro rug, the space gives a neutral nod to the ’70s without overpowering our transitional style.
Every guest arrives with a fair bit of baggage, so a dual-purpose server offers ample space for shoes, clothing, and personal belongings. When it’s not being utilized by guests, it doubles as a bookcase for holding afternoon memoirs.
Speaking of storage, a set of plank wall shelves keep entertaining items within arm’s reach – perfect for late night toasts and everyday celebrations. When styled accordingly, the open shelving has purpose and offers visual interest in a small space.
A proper guest house calls for a morning coffee station and kitchen bar, and with a wall mount fireplace installed at eye level, this one ups the coziness factor. (Breakfast in bed? We wouldn’t blame a soul.)
For our family, a gathering table is a must for morning bagels and hosting euchre rematches. With a playful set of mismatched chairs, the décor promises to be (almost!) as engaging as the table talk. And for the game-averse (gasp!)? They can happily perch-and-swivel on three architect stools nearby.
Finally, to top off the home-away-from-home look, a Nearly Natural plant is pretty, warm, and inviting (and impossible to kill!).
It’s been a mere week since our humble guest quarters have been furnished, and we’ve already had a slew of friends coming and going, a guacamole cook-off, and a rousing medley of Beatles hits, directed and performed by a dazzling, debuting 5-year-old.
They say, in life, you can’t have it all.
But in Rooms? I beg to differ.
– Erin Loechner, Design for Mankind