I spent the most uncomfortable, sleepless night recently—in my own guest bedroom! True, it was my second guest bedroom, the room where some of my friends have actually lived in residence for a while, and was definitely worse for the wear. And then it happened that I, too, had a stay in my own second guest bedroom.Well, first, how did this come to pass? Most of us on the East End breathe a sigh of relief once Labor Day passes, when the guest rooms empty out and the tour guiding, provisioning, scheduling, train pick-ups, Jitney drop-offs, towel laundering, meal preparing and bed making should by all accounts come to a swift halt.
But no! New Yorkers and the world in general have discovered the sylvan beauty, exquisite weather and off-season quiet of the Hamptons. So just when I thought it was safe to relax, the film festival brought in a passel load of my Telluride and California friends, who seemed a little too self-styled and fancy to slumber in guest bedroom number two. Therefore, I opted for that room.
Now, I have always advocated spending a night in your own guest bedroom so that you inform yourself as to how your guests will experience it. Well, in fact, I had slept in my guest bedroom number one and had a perfectly wonderful experience—actually preferring it to my own bedroom (after which I made several adjustments to the master). But I had failed to sleep one night in my second guest bedroom. And don’t many of us have a second guest bedroom (or third or fourth or basement bedroom) which really might be considered the ugly stepsister? Doesn’t everyone have a guest bedroom that has become the depository for Aunt Catherine’s side tables that are both too small and too low, the ancestral plantation rope bed that dips in the center, the Legacy lamps that are too small, or Uncle Frank’s damaged lampshades that are too large and always tilt precariously to one side? And doesn’t this second bedroom perhaps hint, “Please don’t stay too long!”
In reality, I enjoy overnight guests, relishing the chance to share more relaxed, quality time with my friends. Hosting my friends overnight is an opportunity to go beyond “catching up” over too much wine and a rushed dinner in a crowded, noisy restaurant. And I do like to pamper them. Therefore, I have to review and follow my own guidelines to improve guest bedroom number two.
First, mattresses. In a guest room, the mattress must be comfortable, and as with your own, turn it over every year. If the mattress belonged to great Aunt Lucy, it is time to invest in a new one. And this mattress needn’t be the Hastens $35,000 variety. Consumer Reports favorably compared a $600 mattress to a $5,000 one. As to the size of the mattress, there are several worlds of thought. Twins allow flexibility where children are concerned, and when cleverly designed can effortlessly be pushed together to form a king. (They make mattress pads designed to hide the crack.) A queen-size mattress, by far the best proportioned, looks the best and hints that “after three days, fish and guests stink.” The luxurious king invites long stays and, to my mind, swallows up most bedrooms.
Second, lighting—Good lighting is essential. A surface-mount central fixture as a single lighting option is a cheap hotel’s torture device. Please offer, in addition, two lamps or shaded light sources by the bedside. A switch mounted on the wall as well as a three-way switch at the door that both control the lamps is confusing. Keep it simple. A switch on the lamp is sufficient.
Third, side tables—Bedside tables should be at least the height of the top of the mattress if not 10 inches higher, and large enough to house not only the lamp, but an iPad, book or magazine (which you, as a good host, have provided). A nice touch is to print out past photos of your guests and slip them into frames—so you need to leave surface area on the side tables to accommodate these as well.
Fourth, bedding—You should provide nice, clean, preferably ironed, sheets and two pillows per guest, a soft blanket and a duvet to sit at the foot of the bed. Guests sleep differently and the blanket/duvet setup works for variable temperature conditions.
Fifth, rug—A rug extending out from underneath the bed serves to clear one’s feet of any sand, dirt or grit tracked in from the beach. This can be as small as a runner—just as long as the bare feet have a soft in and out of bed experience … no matter how much you love your chic bare floors.
Sixth, storage—You also need to have adequate space to open suitcases and either leave them open or put away folded clothes in an empty chest of drawers. It is good to make enough room for guests to hang their clothes in the closet that’s probably housing your off-season wardrobe. A long bench at the base of the bed is a terrific spot to open a suitcase. For my touring pro brother, I built a small platform, mid-thigh high, so that every time he’d pack or unpack after his tournaments, he had a stable, flat area to place and open his suitcase.
Seventh, towels—Make sure you leave enough clean towels and washcloths for your guests and lay out a terrycloth robe for their visit.
Eighth, bathroom—Having shelves or counter space available for your guests will accommodate easy access and storage for their for Dopp kits, makeup, and hair products, and of course leave them a good hair dryer.
Ninth, window treatments—Curtains or shades that close for privacy are a must for any bedroom, but I do suggest not making them blackout, otherwise your guests will never arise before noon (unless of course that is your intention).
And 10th, décor. Try to create a calming, distinctive décor with some romance and a dash of fantasy so that your guest room becomes a special respite—a vacation for your crowded-Jitney-weary travelers. Caution, though, is advised, as Noel Coward warns in “Hay Fever,” a play about a country weekend in which the hosts are as rude as they come to their guests. A mousy, intimidated and exhausted guest descends the staircase, weak-kneed, as she recounts the horrors of the wallpaper in the fantasy “Chinese Room.” She confesses to being kept awake all night by the vision of fierce dragons and oily snakes devouring each other as they slithered across the walls of her room. Fantasy has its limits, but a thoughtful guest room is a reflection of a thoughtful and generous host. Try spending a night in your own guest room, and you be the judge.