Elizabeth Mayhew’s guest room. (Dylan Chandler)

For the first time ever, my husband and I have a proper guest room. Even better, our new house has a designated “guest wing.” That of course makes it sound fancier than it is, when in reality it is a circa-1960s cinder-block addition of a couple of rooms and one bathroom, all with low ceilings, flimsy woodwork and electric heat. On the positive side, it is quiet and private. In a perfect world where money is no object, we would have done what our architect prescribed: tear it down and rebuild. But since money is an object, my job was to transform it from a scrubby, pre-Cinderella-at-the-ball room into one that would be fit for a princess — or at least a houseguest.

See more decorating and entertaining tips from the 2013 Holiday Guide.

My quick and somewhat inexpensive fix started with a paint job (walls were covered in my favorite color, Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl, and woodwork in Benjamin Moore’s Decorators White). I ripped up the old linoleum flooring and replaced it with wall-to-wall sea grass, and I had an electrician cap the overhead light fixture, so my favorite bed, Anthropologie’s Italian Campaign Canopy Bed, would fit.

The wrought-iron canopy gives the room a much-needed bit of architecture. I splurged on what I think is the most comfortable mattress around (Aspire Ribbon by Aireloom) because I wanted my guests, many of whom have suffered sleepless nights on a punctured, self-deflating air mattress in our past homes, to be comfortable. On either side of the bed I placed an Affole Floor Lamp from Interieurs. These squiggly designs have always been one of my favorites. They add a whimsical touch to any room, and, like the bed, they draw attention away from the baseboard heaters around the perimeter of the room.

For the windows, I had simple Roman shades made with blackout lining, and I used a horizontal variegated blue-and-black-striped Designer’s Guild fabric (Peyron in Marine from the Mazan collection) that coordinates well with John Robshaw’s Lapis Quilt, which I folded at the foot of the bed should a guest get cold at night. The white sheets from Pottery Barn are all cotton, as are the two matching Restoration Hardware bathrobes that hang in the nearly empty closet. The only other items in the closet are two PureLoft hypoallergenic pillows (www.landsend.com) in case my guest is allergic to the feather ones on the bed, and some Chinese slippers (www.pearlriver.com). The drawers of an antique Swedish dresser are empty, and there are no other knickknacks in the room save a couple of Country Life back issues, a collection of humorous essays from the New Yorker, an alarm clock and a fresh bottle of water (which I replace nightly during visits) on the bedside table. There is nothing objectionable on the walls, only a collection of blue-and-white Willow Ware plates and platters that belonged to my mother that I hung in a symmetrical arrangement and an antique Dutch ebony mirror. The room is meant to be restful, uncluttered and welcoming—as close to a nice hotel room as I could make it.

The bathroom is equally well appointed with a Restoration Hardware medicine cabinet that I filled with everything a guest could possibly need: a sewing kit, toothpaste, two extra toothbrushes, dental floss, a razor, sunscreen, cotton swabs, a mini flashlight, a mini first aid kit, body lotion, Advil, a shower cap and an emery board. Inside the vanity there is a hair dryer, extra toilet paper and a box of tissues. I double-hung towel rods so that there are plenty of white terry towels available. And just like a boutique hotel, I selected my signature brand of hair products, Fekkai’s Glossing shampoo and conditioner; a bottle of each tidily stands in the shower caddy.

All in all, the room can rival just about any decent hotel suite, so it has come as no surprise to me that several house guests later, a robe is missing (really!), the hair dryer is gone and one guest’s late-night raid of our freezer left a permanent chocolate ice cream stain on the quilt. I guess I could look on the bright side and say that I am flattered that my guests felt our home so resembled a hotel that they forgot that they were at someone’s house.

Mayhew, a “Today” show style expert and former magazine editor, is the author of
Flip! for Decorating.”