Best way to roast the broomstick. Must try. Five Stars.

Welcome to Armstrong Inn, part one

And now, an abrupt change of subject and mood. A welcome change, a much needed change, a distraction I am fully embracing even though it has the potential to polarize some of you. Because THIS IS SPONSORED CONTENT. I just wrote that. Those words just came out of my mouth. And you know what? That mouth is still clean enough to kiss (the dogs).

A few months ago IKEA approached me and asked if they could help furnish a room in my home, and the one that I needed the most help with was the guest room. Because this is the first time I’ve ever owned a place with a spare room that I can dedicate to friends from out of town. So. If you have a problem with sponsored content, that’s fine. You are entitled to those feelings and we can still be friends. But I probably won’t let you sleep in my awesome new guest room.

You get the couch. And when you’re asleep I might write on your forehead with permanent marker. KIDDING. I’d just use a pencil.

I’ve read countless articles in home decor magazines about guest rooms and the amenities that make guests feel welcome and most at ease. But I never really paid any attention because I wasn’t ever going to have a room — a whole freaking room (sorry, that Mormon curse word just popped into my brain out of nowhere [FLIPPIN, FETCHIN, HECK!]) — where at the foot of the bed I could put out two plush towels topped with a box of chocolates for when the President decided to drop by. Because he and I are buddies, you knew that right? I wore purple tights while sitting twenty feet away from him and now I’m in his will.

In the past I’ve always had to make sure that the cushions on the couch were free of stray coins and gummy bears. Or that the blow-up mattress didn’t have a hole through which it would empty all night long like a hissing possum. And when my guests woke up with a backache I’d get out the bottle of ibuprofen, hand them a glass of water and say, “I promise not to blog about your bed head.”

Because I am a giver.

Throughout my travels as A Professional Writer About My Feelings, I’ve stayed in hotel rooms that ranged from luxurious to WHAT THE HELL IS THAT STAIN ON THE PILLOW (blood? bodily fluid? AXE deodorant?!?!?!?!). So I’m trying to pull from those experiences to make this room a true gem, a place where my friends (Barack) can rest in the most comfortable atmosphere possible. And so I want to know what your experiences have been. Have you ever stayed in a guest room that you wanted to take home? Was it the thread count on the sheets? The hand towels? The complimentary foot rub?

So many of you have recently reached out and said I could crash at your place if I ever needed it, so many strangers offering me a place to put my head. Because of that I want to show you this whole process so that if any of you needed a place to stay (after I performed a background check and made sure you weren’t a felon or intended to steal Chuck or had ever been known to sleep walk in the nude) you, too, would have a place to rest your head. Is that cheesy? I don’t care. As cheesy as the plate of charcuterie and imported Champignon Brie I’ll have waiting for you when you walk in and drop your luggage. First you’ll have to acknowledge Coco, though. She’ll have jumped up and wrapped herself around your neck while screeching at an octave likely to cause head trauma.

I also wanted you guys to know that Jon is working on this project with me. He’ll be doing all the video work, so we’re honing our skills when it comes to collaboration. It’s a good thing.

So. What makes you feel most at home?


This post is brought to you by IKEA and THIS IS THE OFFICIAL DISCLOSURE, WHAT UP, FTC!

  • AmandaB

    A gripe that stems from every hotel I’ve ever stayed in: make sure the alarm clock is simple enough that Coco could use it.

    I don’t think I’ve ever actually stayed in a guest room except for at my grandparents’ house so my advice is don’t store all the moth balls in the free world in the guest room closet. And not everyone needs a 2,000-watt nightlight to avoid breaking a hip during a midnight trek to the bathroom.

    That’s all I got…

  • inthesky

    Whiskey! But for real… A nice big ol’ mirror. You know how many times I had to do hair, make-up, and get pretty using some teeny tiny mirror I packed? Too many times. I’m polite and hate hogging the bathroom mirror, but I’m also vain as hell and I don’t want to look like a hipster version of Baby Jane.

  • jesslikewhoah

    Usually something small, like my husbands smile. Or the little squeeze he gives just before he lets go from a hug.
    Sometimes, it’s okay to take a step back and look at the little things, that no one really thinks about.
    But I also like oversized soft blankets and I hate dirty dishes in the sink. 🙂 Maybe we’ll stop by on our way to the West coast!

  • dianaparkhouse

    One of the best rooms I ever stayed in was dark (blackout curtains)and warm (central heating) and private (top of the house (loft)). It did not have an en-suite, though (that would have made it perfect).
    Rooms that do not have any of the hosts stuff in. None of their books, none of their photos. Rooms with their things in make you feel like you are an imposition.

  • EliBailey

    I think my favorite guest room experience was when I stayed with my brother and his wife several years ago. They had a beautifully decorated guest room with its own bathroom. The bed was super comfy; plenty of pillows and super soft sheets, blankets and a massive comforter, and the bathroom already had everything I needed in it – plenty of towels, soap, shampoo, hair dryer . . . it was like staying in a hotel but way more warm and homey. This was not too long after my ex-husband and I had separated, and I was sort of homeless and trying to figure out what to do. Everything in that room felt good, smelled good, and I didn’t have to ask for anything. I think that’s the key – make it so they don’t have to ask for anything. I seriously wanted to live there.

  • dianaparkhouse

    Oh, and a big comfy chair and a good mattress, and a choice of lots of pillows. DO NOT SCROOGE ON THE PILLOWS.

  • lilithevie

    Best thing ever in a friend’s guest room — a basket with essentials and house information. The basket had chapstick, hand lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, ear plugs, chocolate, face wash, etc. It also had a card with key information like the wireless password, information about the alarm, where an extra blanket was, etc. Next to the basket, a carafe of water and a cup. Perfection.

  • squirrelgirl22

    Make sure that there are electrical outlets–or a power strip with an extension cord–near to the bedside table.

    In my home, I have my phone charger on my bedside table and I love when I travel not to have to keep my phone across the room simply because that’s where the accessible outlets are.

    And on a squishier note, an extra bed pillow or two in the closet! It’s never fun for a multi-pillow sleeper like me to try to use a couch cushion as a second bed pillow.

  • cactuswren


    I am a freak who can’t sleep unless I am super comfortable, so the most important thing to me is that the bed be (a) big enough (b) reasonably soft and (c) have extra pillows that I can hug/use as a body pillow. I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH THE IMPORTANCE OF EXTRA PILLOWS.

    Otherwise, my favorite guest room ever was in this tiny little upstairs nook at my aunt’s house, and there was literally just enough room to walk around the bed, but it was so cushy and welcoming, with a nice dimmable floor lamp and super cozy bed, I swear I could have just moved in forever.

    I wouldn’t have thought of suggesting the mirror, but that is a totally good point too, @inthesky

  • dooce

    These are excellent suggestions, you guys. A lot that I haven’t thought about.

  • Beth Powanda Shady

    What makes me feel at home while traveling is bringing something from my home that I find peaceful and comforting. Since I live by the ocean, I like to bring a piece of it with me. That is my SeaweedArt- greeting cards and prints created from my pressed seaweed collages.

  • LeahW.

    Me and my boyfriend stayed in a very nice, boutique hotel ( FTW!) and yes, the huge bed with fluffy pillows, large basin sink in the bathroom, ridiculously well-stocked mini-bar and overall lovely design work was great, but what really blew me away was the small loveseat and table where we could stretch our laptops. Having someplace comfortable to sit that wasn’t the bed was really nice, plus it really made you notice how large the room was that there was space for it.

  • lobsterandi

    Holy shit. Your commenters expect more than I do. A basket of amenities and a house rules card? YOWZA.

    I agree with almost everyone – PILLOWS. I hate borrowing pillows form the children, getting stained pillows, lumpy pillows, pillows that don’t properly fit into pillowcases. Gross.

    I do agree that its good to have MOST of your crap out of that room. If you want to put family board games or things that aren’t very personal int he closet AND they are well organized, not an eye sore – DO IT. I don’t care about your board games. As long as you don’t need to go in and get those htings while I am staying there, I don’t care. Just be sure to leave me spaces to put my clothes. And give me semi-decent curtains/shades so I dont have to get up at the crack of dawn.

  • josephine

    My favorite place to stay is my friend Ashley’s house, and it’s because in her guest room there is a picture frame next to the bed, and she always fills that frame with a picture of whomever is staying the night (so in my case, usually a drunken picture of the two of us in college years ago). It’s just a fun little personal touch that I love that she takes the time to do!

  • squyks

    For a variety of reasons I am quite timid about painting my walls…. so one guest-room I particularly remember was beautifully done with blue. Not like it had fallen into a paint bucket, but the details all worked in one color scheme, and I loved that.

    I’ll second the not-having-to-ask-for-anything setup, but I don’t agree with it being all empty. I love staying at my bff’s place where the guest-room bookshelf is fiiiiilled with her books.

  • Wallydraigle

    Blackout curtains, so I don’t wake up at 4 in the morning.

  • starlounging

    I would say that there should be some hand lotion in the bedside table for sure! I always forget to bring it with me when I go to visit a friend, and my skin is dry this winter. Some cute photos and knick-knacks around are fine, but leave enough space on the top of a dresser / table so that the guest can put their toiletries, books, or whatever else they travel with in an accessible place. Also, a nice big mirror on the wall so your guest can get a view of his/her outfit before they come out of the room is great, too.

  • luv and kiwi

    For me: I love sheets I can melt into, the extra pillows is great one (up above @cactuswren), I like it when they give me TWO towels instead of just one. I have big curly hair. It needs it’s own towel darn it all. I like having a drawer or closet space I can hide my suitcase/unpack my clothes in so I feel less like a snail. (i.e. traveling with my house on my back)

    For them: I always try for a neutral smell like lavendar. I also like to make sure there’s lotion and stuff available in case they forgot anything. Just want them to feel like they’re “HOME” home.

  • jilllovesbacon

    Yes to all of the above: extra pillows, nightstands with lights and accessible outlets, large mirror, bathroom sundries, etc.

    We also have a couple of large plush robes in the closet (along with plenty of space and extra hangers if something needs to be hung). Big ol’ robes are always too big to pack and it makes that morning coffee so much less awkward.

  • jclarenbach

    I don’t know that IKEA can help with this, but I’ve always loved staying in guest rooms that have a bookshelf with a collection of things the hosts like. It’s fun to see what’s there, I’m usually introduced to something I didn’t know about before, and it’s homey.

  • marthajoyous

    These are a few things I’ve noticed from staying with family and traveling around a lot with an infant, who usually is sleeping in the pack and play in the same room. It is annoying when a guest room doesn’t have room darkening window treatments. The number of times I have stolen towels from the bathroom or scavenged lap blankets and attempted all sorts of weird methods to hold them up over the windows so that my infant will sleep in past six is a bit frustrating! I know I might be in the minority here but I also think it is nice to have a digital alarm clock set to the right time. Even if you have a cell phone (which I don’t), I think it is nice to wake up and immediately see if you should attempt to make your toddler go back to sleep in bed with you while simultaneously kicking you in the head, or just get up with him already.
    Best blankets–a down comforter with a flannel or linen cover. Soft cotton or linen sheets. A bed that doesn’t squeak, like the one at my in-laws.

  • jenwilson

    I stayed at my Friend Jen B’s place one night (you know her) and we came in quite late. She had in our room a pitcher of ice cold water, which was pretty much the BEST THING EVER after traveling for a million hours in a van with four kids. And that’s the only think I can think of. Ice cold water. And lots of it. In cute IKEA glasses.

  • Helen Jane

    This is total hotel luxury for me, but obvious access to electricity and a clean flat space for charging all of me devices, that’s pretty nice.

    Yay! We’re doing our guest room too, right now (reciprocity, sister) so I am thrilled to be able to play along.

  • jsherwin

    Marpac Dohm-DS white noise machine. I didn’t know what a good night’s sleep was until I got one.

  • JennL877

    I stayed with my BFF who has a 3 year old. She put a sound machine in my room because she was worried her little one’s early morning routine would wake me up. She also had a little card with the wireless internet info, location of extra towels, pillows, blankets, etc on the nightstand along with a few bottles of water. Because she’s my BFF and I’m carrying her/husbands baby( long story and I wouldn’t expect this from just anyone) she put a stack of CD’s and DVD’s in the room next to the TV she thought I would like. I didn’t feel like an imposition and had such a great relaxing time.

  • EvilJulie

    I always say my apartment is decorated in early IKEA, so whatever you and they come up with will be fantastic, because they’re my style (broke Brooklynite with taste).

    But, things that I like to have while traveling as a thesis-writing grad student? A place to hole up and read/write when I have to (thesis-writing and research don’t stop even while traveling)–this could be an armchair, a table and chair, a desk, whatever. A simple alarm clock, a fair amount of plugs (who doesn’t travel with tech that needs to be recharged in this day and age?), pillows, blankets, and possibly a mirror. I’m expecting a friend’s house, not a B&B.

  • katrynka

    I have never had a guest room either, but I always remember someone’s home that I was in years ago. There were all sorts of toiletries, meds, snacks etc. in the room. It made me feel so pampered. I also love a suitcase holder/rack, whatever it is called! If you are not the unpacking sort, or you are not staying long, it is nice to have your suitcase up off the floor, and easily accessible.

  • phoebe218

    So many great comments. If I’m ever a guest, I might never leave.

    For me, extra blankets is key. I’m rarely cold, but once or twice I found myself cold in the middle of the night and had to go investigating. And, that is just a strange feeling. So, a couple of extra blankets to be easily found so that your guests don’t feel like they are being needy OR somehow casting a doubt on your ability to warm your home adequately. Body temps vary so much one person’s warm is another’s cool.

    Extra pillows. Comfortable mattress. Power strip.

    I love the idea of a bookshelf.
    I adore the idea of a wifi password note.

    Awesome stuff.

  • Sabine

    I’m going to second-third-fourth PILLOWS! Personally, I like a fat, hard pillow, which most people do not. So being able to stack a couple of pillows up together so I don’t wake up with a cramp in my shoulder/neck area is a nice bonus.

    And I also second the idiot-proof alarm clock. What a great idea.

  • Regency Romantic

    Crisp, smooth sheets, a down (or reasonable facsimile) comforter, and lots of pillows (to barricade myself from the monsters and to keep my feet out of the cold spots – no mocking) top my list of favorite guest room amenities. This project sounds fun, and I’m glad to hear/read you sounding excited again!

  • JenDary

    I once heard Oprah say that she puts out a new bar of soap every time a guest arrives… a tiny thing, but that way there’s no weird hair in it. 🙂

  • Daisee

    For me, for those that come to my home, an abundance of big comfy pillows, colorful fluffy comforters, lighting and comfy seating in their room so that they can “retire” with a book, etc. I dont think having a TV is necessary but a radio/cd player adds a nice touch.

    Im in the process of decorating my home, and striving for warm accents throughout. I think lots of warm lighting, mosiac style decor is both comforting and colorful. I love colored glass art and if I can find any sort of art that offers mosiac, or glass fusion/tile it offers a nice touch.
    I have found really colorful throw rugs & furniture at Pier 1 Imports, love love love the colors that I can find here.
    My absolute favorite go to place for them:

    A weekend visit where foods/drink are plentiful: Having lots of home cooking and baked goods)makes the house smell wonderful too!

    Scent is important, having candles, wonderful smelling linens and other fragrances. At Christmas that is one of the first things that strike people walking into my home was the scent of cinnamon and spices!

    For guest bathroom; an abundance of towels, shampoo, soap, so they dont feel that they have to go seaching for things needed to bathe, etc., These are things that make me feel at ease when I go places, and I would want the same for my guests! Also I second fresh colorful flowers – a wonderful touch.

  • Julia B

    I’ve stayed in a lot of guest rooms in my life, but the one touch that has always stayed in my mind was so simple yet incredibly thoughtful. My friend’s mom plucked a fresh bloom from her garden and left it in a small glass on my nightstand. Such a small gesture, but all I could think of was how she had gone out to her garden and looked for just the right bloom for me. Of course, we don’t all have a garden to run to year-round (myself included), but something thoughtful like this would be a nice touch.

    Being a light sleeper, I also agree with the sound machine or even just a small fan for white noise. Good luck! Personally, I’m excited by your “sponsored content.” I love IKEA – and a good room makeover!

  • slinkerwink

    When my husband and I visited some friends of his, we stayed in their guest room, and they’d put out a lovely furnished tray of anything we might’ve needed on our stay such as toothpaste, packaged toothbrushes, q tips, cotton balls, bath aromatherapy salts, soap, and shampoo. They also had a nice sofa in the guest room, which was pretty big, and there was an ottoman next to it that you could put up your feet on while watching television. Their guest room was ridiculously hooked up, with a big wardrobe for our clothes. They didn’t have a closet, so they put towels in there, and left plenty of room for us to hang up our clothes.

  • kirsten02

    My mother in law ALWAYS puts two of my favorite magazines (US Weekly and Real Simple) out for me in her guest room, along with two cherry jolly rancher hard candies. I don’t know why … but I love it and I always eat them.

  • celium

    I think I’ve stayed in exactly one *real* guest room, ever. But what really stood out to me were the two clean towels on the chair in the room – being able to skip the “Um…I was wondering…if I wanted to shower…um…where can I find a towel, please??” awkwardness was really nice. It made me feel welcome, and like I wasn’t imposing. Plus, that’s one more thing you would be bothered about!

  • Angeerah

    What I want when I stay in a hotel versus a friend’s house is probably different. In a hotel, I want all the linens to be white so I know they bleached those FETCHIN’ (living in SLC for 3 years paid off) sheets and any stains would be visible otherwise. Also, blackout curtains are nice for sleeping in after an all nighter on the town (which I actually have done in a bazillion years.)

    For a friend’s house, a comfortable bed and blankets. This might sound creepy but make the bed how you like the blankets to be. I find that other people have cozy combinations that I can appreciate. I’m all about the “the cozy factor.” And maybe a bookshelf with books and magazines to peruse when chilling out in the room.

  • ksspiff

    My suggestion is to have a box of tissues and a trash can in the guest room. It’s aweful to walk out of the guest room and stumble to the bathroom with a face dripping snot – or alternatively, to be so desperate you wipe the snot on all the nice sheets and towels everyone else is talking about!

  • Rike

    I haven’t stayed at many hotels so far. But I have stayed at a couple of private houses.
    I felt welcomed when there was a fresh bouquet of flowers, towels where already there for me and an extra blanket. (The extra blanket because I am cold very quickly)

  • The Not So Little Things

    The thing that makes me feel the least comfortable when staying somewhere is a lack of blankets. I like a lot of blankets or at least a cozy duvet and another throw.

    If we’re going to get crazy and also have the guest room include the closet (who has enough closets to do that?) it would be really luxurious to have a place to hang up clothes or have a drawer to unpack stuff into.

  • kristanhoffman

    A) Completely disagree on the pillows. You need to have comfortable ones, but 4 layers of pillows on one bed is just silly/excessive. And overwhelming! (And if they’re too floofy, face-sleepers like me will suffocate.)

    B) Glad to hear you’re working with Jon. I hope it’s a fun experience for both of you. 🙂

    C) In general, my fave places to stay are simple, clean, comfortable and “roomy enough.”

  • jennytalia

    Last year I spent over 200 nights in different hotels
    With that in mind, things that make it comfy/easier

    iphone charger/docking station
    bottled water
    curtains that block out the light
    a good mirror
    enough coat hangers
    different pillow options
    fluffy towels
    clean sheets
    decent INTERNET!

    other than that, I’m not fussy at all….bwahaha!

  • greenplanner

    I think coffee is essential within the first 30 seconds of being awake, so I would have a little coffee bar: A keurig, a 4 cup coffee maker, or even an electric kettle and some packets of Starbucks Via… (Hey, co-sponsors of the guest room would be good, too, right?), some cream (real, please, not the corn syrup kind), some cute Ikea mugs, etc. That sounds heavenly to me.

  • valeriehooper

    I travel for work and the one thing that comes up for me over and over is how thirsty I am when I arrive at the hotel, partially from air travel and airports and partially from time changes and recycled air overload. The thing I always want when I arrive is this:

    and someday when I have an honest to goodness guest room of my own, I’ll provide one for the folks who come to visit me.

    (I also love a small throw to keep on my lap and a comfortable chair to sit in so I have someplace other than the bed on which to relax!)

  • Mania

    Even though our guest bedroom is also my office, I’ve received quite a few compliments on it. It even has a futon….

    Large, comfy bed – our futon is a queen-size and has a good mattress

    Lots of pillows – I have four (two memory foam and two feather) plus some throw pillows.

    A selection of blankets – I have a down blanket and a cotton blanket – you just never know how hot/cold someone might be.

    A night table with a good lamp, some reading material, a little bottle of lotion, maybe a bottle of water, etc. A place to put clothes and the guest’s own towel.

    As others have mentioned – take it easy on the freaking night lights.

  • virtuallori

    Extra blankets. Decent towels, ones that don’t look like they were used to clean the dogs last time they got into the mud puddle. I’ll second (third? fourth?) a mirror in the guest room itself, so I don’t have to hog the bathroom to do makeup. A couple of lamps, not just the hideous overheads.

    I travel with my own favorite shampoo and stuff, but my in-laws keep a basket of travel-size stuff in their guest bathroom that’s really nice to have access to.

    We put out a couple of glasses so our guests can get water in the middle of the night if they need it (guest room is on the second floor, far from the kitchen). We also keep a drawer in the bathroom with toothpaste, extra (new) toothbrushes, stuff like that.

    Whoever suggested a card with the wireless password: GENIUS!

  • sarahdoow

    Being as I am a good bit smaller than most people, I find that a full-length mirror is a nice touch, rather than just a face mirror up on the wall, way above my face.

  • Cecily

    Okay, this is weird but after traveling last year so much and staying in a million hotels, one of the things that annoyed me the most was not having a mirror I could get REALLY close to. See, I learned how to put on makeup BEFORE I got contact lenses, and I’m super blind, so I always had to be 4 inches from the mirror to do my face. And when the mirror is three feet away, my makeup gets scary. Plus, there is that need for chin hair plucking. What? I’m old.

    Told you. Random.

  • susanruffin

    Ridiculously high threadcount sheets and a luggage rack (I hate living out of luggage on the floor).

  • crivens

    Best hotel I ever stayed at had king-size down pillows that were just fluffy enough but not too fluffy (two for each side with extras in the closet), a down comforter on the bed, and nice little desk area to put my laptop and charge my phone.

    It was very ultra-modern, which is not my style at home, but it totally worked at a hotel.

    I’ve never stayed in someone’s actual “guest” room, but would say that for those of us with little kids around, putting out a basket of toiletries is just asking for trouble with a capital TROUB. That would be when you’d find the shampoo, open, in the fish tank. Or the dogs would eat the chocolate. But maybe that’s just my house….?

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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