The guest bedroom feels like a peripheral space in many homes, generally falling into two camps: the monochromatic, easily duplicated “hotel collection” look, or the underloved landing place for mismatched castoffs. But this summer, guest rooms—many of which spent the last year identifying as home offices or classrooms instead of sleeping quarters—are hot commodities, as many in the U.S. go back into the office or resume visiting friends and relatives. In them, designers are giving creativity free rein, exploring maximalist layering and resourceful functionality to make use of every square inch.
“Usually, guest rooms are forgotten areas,” says Los Angeles–based interior designer Gil Valenzuela of Gil Interiors. Not so in a West Hollywood home Valenzuela completed early this past spring: “In this home, the goal was to create a space that could function as an extension of the living room,” he explains, highlighting the potential for these spaces to serve multiple functions. His solution? An elegant sofa-and-custom-Murphy-bed combo. “I wanted to design a casual yet luxurious sofa to provide a social gathering place that could effortlessly transform into a guest bed,” he says.
Maximizing usability in the guest room is also a top priority for Simon Hamui, a designer based in Mexico City. Hamui, too, is a fan of Murphy beds: In one project for a residence in Vail, Colorado, a Murphy bed turns an office and yoga studio into a dual-service sleeping chamber. In a second guest room, a stone-slab built-in functions as a vanity or work desk, all while taking up the smallest possible footprint. “This approach will definitely prove to be essential for future builds and remodels,” says Johnny Hamui, the firm’s CEO. “Our background is industrial design; functionality is our thing. Making it look nice is an added result on top of transforming a space.”
Likewise, Mies Anderson of Masastudio is a master of spatial transformations, most notably the feel-good sanctuaries of the world-renowned Amangiri resorts. “Our cloistered pandemic life has many rethinking their use of precious space and creating new priorities,” she says, advising that designers should use this moment to “switch things around.” On that note, she has a few recommendations: “Leave behind the old season. Choose a new wall color using low-VOC paints, reinvigorate with new bed linens and some potted plants.” All of those, Anderson says, will help cast off dreariness. Los Angeles–based designer Peter Dunham agrees: “Often it’s a much smaller room than the principal bedroom, but it’s fun to make people feel as if they’ve gone to a resort. You can really go for a decor statement because people don’t use it all the time. I really love four-poster beds, even in small guest rooms,” he says, referencing a jewel box space in Shinnecock, New York, where the designer’s signature layers of pattern and color are on brilliant display. “The idea is to create a room that feels, as the French say, feutrée, which literally translates to ‘felted,’ a cozy, cocooning, enveloping space.” But, Durham adds, “you want them to walk in and go wow.”
In a Nantucket, Massachusetts, house that has guest rooms galore, New York design firm Workshop APD painted gigantic oversized numerals in coordinating primary shades to embellish each guest’s entry. And in Williamstown, Massachusetts, the team embraced the guest room’s potential for a summer-camp-like experience, designing a triplet bunk bed configuration. “More space for sleeping is always a need for clients, whether it be for the kids or adults,” says the firm’s director of interiors Michael Ellison. “The more the merrier!”
Still, in this summer of making up for lost time, not everyone is ready to fling open their doors to friends just yet. Sarah Storms, founding partner at SGBMade, points out she still has a little one at home who is too young to be vaccinated. In the meantime, she is unapologetically prepping her space outside Portland, Maine, to be the most in preloved New England guest chic. “Most rooms [in the house] are made up of antiques that my mom graciously let me pilfer from her home, leftover fabrics from my former life as a home editor, and flea market finds from up and down the Maine coast,” she explains. “Even when there isn’t anyone staying in here, I tend to throw a colorful little flower arrangement on the bedside table. I can spot it from the hallway as I walk by in the morning and it makes me smile to think of the return of the revolving guest-room door.”