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The Guest Stop: From Home to Hotel

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HAVING OVERNIGHT guests of the non-romantic sort can make your home feel as crowded as the nursery chez Brad and Angelina. And when you don’t live in a swanky French chateau or mod Hollywood mansion, finding a place to accommodate Cousin Jed or your college roommate can be as difficult as remembering the names of all the Jolie-Pitt kids.

“There are three things you should think about when looking to convert or to utilize space in a small apartment for guest quarters,” says James Grayson Trulove, author of “25 Apartments & Lofts Under 1,000 Square Feet.” ($40, Collins Design) “The first is to create an illusion of privacy. The second is to let furniture do double duty. And the third is to find hidden bedrooms where you didn’t know they existed.”

Folding screens, dividers or even bookcases can help give guests privacy, especially if they’re sleeping on a futon in the living room.

Leslie Power installed sliding Japanese-style shoji screens in the guest nook she created on the upper floor of her Takoma Park bungalow to separate it from the nearby family room. “We call it our ‘guest room-enough,'” says the 37-year-old computer programmer. “Our guests have a comfortable place to stay and some privacy, but they probably wouldn’t stay too long.”

Your overnighters probably won’t stay too long either if they’re sleeping on an uncomfortable pull-out couch. But advances in sleeper-sofa science, if you will, have made pull-outs and their cousins more comfortable and less unwieldy than grandma’s Hide a Bed.

“For urban dwellers who live in a one-bedroom condo and have friends who come to visit, it can be their primary sofa and is comfortable to watch TV on, have dinner on or take a nap on,” says David Dennis, owner of RCKNDY. “You wouldn’t know you’re sitting on a sleeper.”

Convertible sofas — think more stylish cousins of the futon with a mattress/sofa cushion that folds or pops out — work well for contempo fiends. The Twilight Sleep Sofa (shown, $1,650-$1,800) by Design Within Reach (, can function as a daybed for one or can fold out into a bed for two. “It’s a great Danish design that’s beautiful, practical and very comfortable,” says Lisa Cannon, of D.C. design firm Condo Cool (

BluDot‘s One Night Stand sofa ($1,799, boasts a boxy, mid-century modern shape and skinny metal legs. To snooze on it, guests simply need to remove the throw pillows and stretch out. (Hopefully, you’ll give them some nice sheets and a blanket.)

Even the humble air mattress has come a long way from its days as an object of scorn that basically worked like an inflatable (easily deflatable) pool float poorly covered with a sheet. AeroBed ( now offers raised beds ($140- $300) that look (and feel) more like the real thing and even come with a mattress cover and bed skirt. Plus, they’re less likely to go “pfft” and flatten out in the middle of the night.

“People like AeroBeds because they take up less room [than a futon or sleeper sofa], have the same comfort level or more, and are a lot cheaper,” says Rachael Grad, the new D.C. editor for nesting blog

Have loads of wall space but very few square feet? Think vertically. That’s what Betsy Chanales of Silver Spring did when she ordered a Murphy bed from Hardwood Artisans ( for her home office. With a daughter about to get married and a need for more guest room, the 55-year-old enlisted the local firm to create a custom and contemporary furniture suite that’s proven popular with her kids and their significant others.

“I’ve slept on sleeper sofas before, and there is no comparison,” says Charles. “To me, it’s far superior. When the kids come home, they fight over [who will get to sleep there].”

But going for a slightly retro Murphy — patented by one William L. Murphy in 1916 — can set you back several thousand dollars, especially if you choose to get one with coordinating shelving units.

A more budget-friendly option is the ZzZ-Chest ($1,600-$1,700) from Annapolis-based Arason Enterprises ( By day it’s a cabinet, which comes in a variety of styles and colors from a boutique-hotel worthy baby with an espresso finish to a country cottage model with a white bead board front. But by night, it folds down and transforms into a double bed that’s raised off the floor. The cabinet even has two storage drawers for pillows, Gideon Bibles or whatever else you’d like to bestow on your guests.

“Since I purchased it, I’ve had several guests come in from out of town, and they didn’t even realize that the bed could fold up,” says Mary Graham-Fisher, 41, of Upper Marlboro, Md. “Every time someone gets ready to leave and I start folding it up, their jaws drop.”

Written by Express contributor Beth Luberecki