Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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!

  • patrice108

    I can’t read through comments so maybe this is already said, but not too much clutter on the dresser. sometimes when there’s too much going on on top of it, I put my own stuff out, and don’t realize I didn’t pack it because it’s lost among everything else on there. for example: I leave a piece of jewelry behind because it was next to a glass bird on a handmade doily. it just blends in and I don’t realize I didn’t pack it.

  • tokenblogger

    Dogs. The scent of coffee or popcorn.

    Windows that can be opened.

  • morgenthaler

    The things I really like to find in a guest room is a pile of good books (e.g. Lord of The Rings, A Short History of Nearly Everything, books on design/architecture) a map of the world on one of the walls (very specific, I know) – a sweater (in case it’s winter), a bar of swiss chocolate and a nice big comfy chair. Wifi code on the door or on a note on the bed would also be nice. And towels used by no-one else before :-).

  • geauxlightly

    You had me at charcuterie.

    The things I have been most grateful for as a guest are a pair of slippers and bobby pins.

  • kaethend

    O how fun!

    I am all for a guest room, but my husband thinks that a nice guest room means guests and who wants that?!

    1. Many types of pillows (hard, soft, firm, flat, lofty, down, synthetic, etc.)
    2. Many types of blankets (warm, thick, light, thin, throw, etc.)
    3. Many types of lighting (overhead, lamp, nightlight, etc.)
    4. Many types of MAKING IT DARK (curtains, sheers, lightswitches, etc.) For me, I CANNOT sleep with any sort of light at all of any kind in the room. AT ALL.
    5. A cozy bed, obvs
    6. A cozy chair with ottoman near an outlet (because I will want to surf and charge and lounge all at once. And every guest and host needs some time apart and no one wants to always have to relax on their bed, so give’em a chair!)
    7. A small desk or table
    8. The network deets on that desk or table so I don’t have to ask you for your password and then ask you to spell it and then ask is that all one word or is there a space and is anything capitalized?
    9. All the niceties: razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, GOOD shampoo, GREAT conditioner, lovely lotion (Utah is dry), etc.
    10. A book on Utah or Salt Lake or both or something similar (I am a nerd? I want to know about where I’m staying.)
    11. Magazines!
    12. Books!
    13. Um…
    14. Towels already out so I don’t have to ask! This is the WORST. I always feel like it’s the host’s not so subtle hint that I am not allowed to shower!
    15. An empty dresser (small, but big enough for what I brought.)
    16. An empty closet (Someone else said it – EMPTY! I shouldn’t feel like hanging my fancy dress up is a sanctioned way to snoop through your stuff.)
    17. And whatever everybody else said!

  • Glorysgirl

    My sister (I think she saw it on Oprah) always has a little bowl of my favorite candy in the room when I stay in her guest room. I like it because it is so personalized – it’s not just the same thing she always has there but she takes the time to go and pick out my favorite so I have a sweet treat before bed.

  • shotsjr

    this is totally going to be a recap of what so many other people have written, but oh well… for me it’s all about comfort while not feeling like i’m imposing. so having an extra pillow or two, as well as an extra sheet or blanket in a closet or other storage space in the room is great–that way if you need more or less in terms of bedding you can get it yourself. if there’s an en suite, having things like toilet paper, tampons, and a plunger stashed in the room so that you don’t have to embarrass yourself by asking is a must. a mirror is helpful, and an alarm clock next to the bed is great. Plenty of space next to or above the bed–as in, within easy arm’s reach–for reading material, a glass of water, and one’s phone (preferably within range of an outlet to plug it in) is always good, and having towels, washcloths, a bath mat, and fresh soap laid out is lovely. finally, having a coat rack or hooks on the wall is a bonus, so that you can hang your towels to dry in your own room (rather than a shared bathroom), or you can have a place for a robe, coat, cardigan, etc.

  • tokenblogger

    P.S. I also drink a lot of water. All. Day. Long.

    P. S. S. And if lots of other people are coming, too? I can sleep in a chair so long as there is a footstool or the chair is a recliner.

    And I’ve been known to snore.

  • Steph Bachman

    Love the topic, love the collaborating, and love IKEA! They have some fabulous hotel towels (for cheap) that we bought for my daughter’s bathroom. Everyone fights to be the one who gets to use them.

    You could buy a dual frame with internet/coffee machine/tv details on one side and a nice photo on the other side.

  • nordcq

    Dang it! I was hoping to be the first person to mention a luggage rack… I have one in my guest room, and people always comment that it is nice to have an obvious place to put their suitcase. I also include a laundry basket, because I hate making that pile of clothes on the floor when I am the guest, and also because most of my guests are close family who stay for a week or so & will probably need to do laundry while they’re here.

  • megumphrey

    Although a clean space with a small bit of privacy is nice, I feel most comfortable when I know my hosts are comfortable, when they’re not preoccupied and they’re able to relax in their home – like, ‘Here’s a glass, here’s where to fetch water and food. Please take care of your own needs’ – that’s what I prefer.

    In short, just show me where the fridge, bathroom and towels are.

  • nordcq

    PS – who doesn’t like a sponsored post??? Those people are just jealous. I would love it if IKEA (or anyone else, for that matter) would sponsor a room in my house!

  • PrettyGirlMyers

    I think that all the other commenters have really covered the essentials of a guest room, so I just wanted to comment and say that I have absolutely no problem with your having a sponsored post. It isn’t exactly a secret that this blog is how you make your living, and anyone who gives you flack about it probably should go read something else.

    Just my two cents 🙂

  • Libbet

    This may be asking too much, but concessions to allergy sufferers are a huge thing for me. I have dust allergies so bad I have to have mattress encasements, pillow encasements, and a special comforter and dust ruffle on the bed. I always wake up congested and coughing at other people’s houses, because they don’t have those things. (This is not a paid endorsement.) I really like the stuff Mission Allergy has. They have down-like comforters that your average person can’t tell are dust-mite impervious.

  • tallnoe

    A decent ipod dock. And not an iHome thing – that has ruined ipods of mine and friends. Or just a cable that goes into the alarm clock, or small stereo.

  • Tangerine

    A very firm mattress with a memory foam topper. Firm for your back and foam so your shoulder doesn’t go to sleep if you’re a side sleeper. Also a range of pillow thicknesses to choose from. Nice feeling sheets are also great. When the comfort of sleep is taken care of everything else is just bonus.

  • acm

    since everybody is plugging extra pillows, let me make a plea for having a range of kinds — that is, either types (foam versus feather) or thicknesses (plump versus flat). having a pillow that differs on both of those fronts from your usual can really make it hard to sleep at all. (on the other hand, a heap of decorative pillows that i have to stash someplace every evening makes me nuts!)

    also, I guess I’d root for a firm bed — when there are two guests, rolling together into the middle does not make for a restful visit; I’m happy to slide over if it’s frolic I have in mind! just give me a choice! (new mattress no good if on old saggy springs — sorry, Grandma!)

    agree on curtains, which are often an oversight for guest rooms, and also some degree of temperature control, either via extra blankets or a window I can open.

    (all this is making me see that my futon-in-the-office scheme is way outdated and should probably be overhauled. oh well!!)

  • Lana in Canada

    The things I always have in my guest room are: a fresh flower or two, from my garden (or I buy a bouquet in winter and put some blooms on the nightstand, and some in the bathroom), a candle and matches/lighter, fresh bedding (obviously) with an extra quilt at the foot of the bed, and a guestbook. My guests always love filling it out and it is a treat to read after they have gone. (Our guests are mostly family so it’s not like they will say they HATED their time at “The MacFarlane Inn” !)

  • Meegs

    A relaxed room… I don’t want to stay somewhere that everything is so perfect and showroom-like that I’m afraid to just lounge there. Also, an easy to use alarm clock and a mirror.

  • Measured Spontaneity

    A cute (and extraordinarly simple) touch I picked up from a friend is to put a framed picture of you and your guest on the bedside table while they are staying with you. Good luck!

  • Ashley_the Accidental Olympian

    One of the most amazing things my mother-in-law has in her guest room is the softest robe you’ve ever used. Having it makes the whole bathroom to the guest room walk feel so much more comfortable. I don’t feel like I need to bring my change of clothes into the bathroom with me after a shower so I can avoid the weird walk in a towel from the bathroom to my room.

    Also amazing? Slippers or fuzzy socks for guests. I hate when people have cold floors in their house and I don’t have anything to wear by my bare feet.

    And I second the comment someone else left about an easy to use alarm clock. OH, and maybe in the side table a small bottle of hand lotion, chap stick, one of those darkening eye covers and a pair of ear plugs. You never know what people will wish they had!

  • hockeybrad

    I’ve spent more time on air mattresses, in cold basements than guest rooms so I guess I only have comments from a what-not-to-do perspective. My worst experiences have been in beds that were tall but narrow (feel like I’m going to fall off) or beds that were too short for me (single/twins).

    Basically, if you get the bed big enough (with extra blanket available in sight), and there are a plethora of clean towels for the shower, I’m ecstatic.

  • Aunt Tasty

    I feel welcome with a nice candle burning in the bedroom. But I’m easy. Bourbon is good, too.

  • wisa03

    LOL @ what up FTC?! I heart you. Seriously. Enough to break my rule about saying I heart people.

    I second (third, fourth, fifty-seventh?) the importance of wonderful pillows. If Ikea doesn’t do pillows, the Westin ones are amazing, and you can order them online… I bought one for my partner this Christmas, and I think next year that will be my gift to everyone. Oh and lamps! I love lamps. If you haven’t seem the ikea lamp commercial from like 10 years, you absolutely need to see it.

    http://youtu.be/I07xDdFMdgw

    Oh toiletries! I collect hotel toiletries and put them in a little basket, with some lotions and washclothes. Oh, and leaving out a fluffy towel is a good idea! Everyone hates to be like “uh.. so… do you have any towels?” and then the mad dash to find your least raggedy towel. Not that my towels are raggedy.

    Lisa

  • jen.yaya

    My husband and I love staying with a friend of ours in Dallas. She has a guest room with adjoining bathroom, which is probably the best part of the experience. Here are some other things that make Janet’s THE BEST:

    Luxurious sheets
    Lots of big, fluffy pillows
    A tv with cable
    Wifi
    Cozy, but Clutter-free room
    An empty closet with hangers
    Plenty of nice towels
    A cabinet with baskets of extra soaps, hair products & other toiletries
    Hair dryer plugged into the interior of a drawer

    And the bathroom’s dimmed lighting inside the glass cabinets & above the shower give it an extra touch of cozy luxury.

  • annabanana

    I always appreciate extra blankets right there in the room because being cold in the night is equally as bad as having to search for blankets in a strange house in the night. How about a pleasant candle, a full-length mirror, and the assurance that I can just throw my stuff anywhere (also, slippers if you have a no shoes indoors policy). Good luck!

  • Tired mama

    – A real bed with a good mattress – not just some leftover mattress that has been used and abused by everyone for the last 50 years – preferably queen or king sized.
    – Keep the dogs out of the room too. I love dogs but am allergic to various breeds and although I can be around them, sometimes sleeping in a bed they sleep on can be torture.
    – Blackout blinds and curtains
    – An alarm clock that is easy to use.
    – Towels that are not white – sometimes people can’t control the fluids that end up on towels and white can be trouble for your female guests.
    – A fan and/or noise machine for the sensitive sleepers.
    – A welcome note that can be kept in a bedside drawer that says where to find the coffee in the morning, how to turn on the shower tap (sometimes these can be hard to figure out in a strange bathtub faucet system), help yourself to the food, which remote to use for the tv and anything that is pertinent to your home.
    I am looking forward to following this project with you! Enjoy!

  • knolting

    Warm lighting and soft fabrics, from the towels to the bedding. Things being super soft adds to the coziness factor. Mmm, cozy. Now I want a nap.

  • jlejeune

    Please remember to include a trash bin in your guest room. It is all too annoying to have to patrol your hosts home to throw away a nasty bit you do not need to return home with. I’m sure Ikea will have a bin that will fit your guest room and make you go Wheeeeeeee! when you see it. If not stick a Charlie Harper decal on it. Glad to see you and Jon collaborating on this. I’m rooting for you two with all my heart.

  • Greygirl

    I always have trouble sleeping in a new place because I a) am afraid of the dark, and b) hate unfamiliar noises.

    So, for me, a nightlight is a must and a (preferaby unused) pair of earplugs is an awesome extra.

    Also,some interesting magazines or short story collections so I have something to do when a strange noise wakes me up at 2:00AM.

  • LinKelley

    I always have a small table fan going while in bed to 1) circulate the air and 2) block out noises inside and out.

  • JulieK

    I’ve hosted many couch surfers and worked at the front desk of a hotel for a few years. My tips (though absolutely not necessary) are just common requests I’ve had over the years.

    I agree with:
    +Blackout curtains +A simple, easy to see in the middle of the night alarm clock. If you’re going to include blackout curtains, people need a hint about what time to wake-up. +Easy to access outlets by the nightstand. +Water, water, water.+Extra blankets/pillows in the closet.+A place to put your clothes.+Tissues/trash can.+Wash cloths.

    If you want to be the valedictorian of hosts:
    +On the note card already mentioned by a few include (wireless password, notes (if needed) that say how to turn the TV on/adjust the thermostat, directions for turning the shower on/getting it to the right temp (you’d be surprised how helpful that one can be).
    +Local magazines/books.
    +Stock the items people are most likely to forget at home when they rush out the door: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, spare cell phone charger (there are really only two types these days), OTC medicines (tylenol, benadryl, gas-x, etc), hair dryer, and few hair ties and hair pins.

  • SharonP

    Hopes: Flat surfaces for my stuff. Sturdy hangers in the closet. No scented sheets or air (allergic). Electric outlets. Tissues.

    Dreams: Recliner. A window I can open. A hook or two on the back of the door. A small bottle of water, any brand. A television.

  • suzified

    What would make me feel most at home is sleeping amongst piles of dirty clothes and having a dog wake me up at 4AM. I hadn’t given this much thought either because I still sleep on couches and floors when I travel. So my idea of a nice guestroom is my own bed (with clean sheets!) in my own room far away from everyone. What would rock is a nice fluffy comforter and lots of pillows. Better yet, some temperature control (fans, space heaters, electric blankie). A bedside lamp is good because I like to read at night. Towels are good too. I personally think some personal photos or artwork is a nice touch for a guest room.

  • SusannahS

    Decent bedside tables(not necessarily a matchy-matchy set, but pieces with personality), good reading lamps with strong bulbs and an eclectic assortment of books.
    A trunk with extra blankets and pillows.
    Flowers.
    And we might as well add chocolates.

  • atpanda

    My mom’s guest room had a cute luggage stand in it that was really appreciated by guests. Might I also suggest a free mini bar?

  • Yonker

    Bathrobe! My mother always has one hanging on a hanger in her guest bathrooms. I love it because I never travel with one, though it’s something of a staple for me at home.

  • Absent Minded Housewife

    Most important? That the mattress and bed frames not squeak because, oh yeah, my husband and I will get freaky.

    (This post was directed at my Mom and sponsored by WD40)

  • bitterbanter

    It can’t be too tidy. Its stressful to feel like you have to make your bed or not spread out in the room. Soft sheets…the kind that make you want to rub the tops of your feet on them. A private bathroom…nobody wants to poop where someone might hear! Pillow choices are nice and blackout curtains. Nothing spoils a sleepover like waking up with the sun (when you don’t have to). I concur on the luggage rack, valet thingy…or maybe even an empty dresser and space in the closet with a sweet note in a pretty frame encouraging the guests to truly make themselves at home.

    Sounds awesome and I love IKEA and I don’t give a shit that the post is sponsored.

  • Trish has 3 girls

    I love a carafe of water and glasses by the bed. A basket of travel sized toiletries, magazines, a cozy bed and a TV.

  • maliekai

    So glad someone above commented about allergies!

    GREAT suggestions from everyone so far (and which I will be taking into account in my own home), but PLEASE for the LOVE, remember us poor, poor allergy-sufferers. Especially since you have dogs. (I love dogs but am massively allergic.) If I was coming to stay at your house, I’d hope to high heaven that the guest room was the one room in the house the dogs aren’t allowed, that the door was kept closed the majority of the time to keep out wayward pet hair, and that the room had recently been aired out (windows open, air purifier, whatever).

    Down pillow and down comforters, while incredibly comfy, are a HUGE no-no for me. I would wake up barely able to breathe. Synthetic options for the sad allergy people! Also I think it’s so important to ASK your guest which they prefer, so you can have the right pillows and duvet already on the bed without having to make them awkwardly ask whether the pillow are down and could they please have a synthetic option? (I get around this by bringing my own pillow pretty much everywhere, plus extra layers for sleeping in, in case I can’t use the cozy down comforter.)

    Also keep in mind air fresheners, flowers, and scented candles can really bother allergy-sufferers.

    FWIW, I’m also super OK with sponsored posts. You’re so forthcoming about it that I don’t see how anyone could be upset.

  • midge

    A large mirror, wastebasket, lined drawer/shelf for folded clothes that won’t snag, tissues, coasters (you never know how people feel about that, coasters are reassuring), pen and paper, hooks for bags/dopp kits, a little dish or tray for jewelry/wallets/loose change/glasses, water, nightlight or flashlight, good reading light by the bed. I would KILL for this opportunity. Sounds so fun!

  • Pandora Has A Box

    Very good sheets. Do not put me on the bed with the $10 polyester 100 thread count sheets from Anna’s Linens. I will judge.

    Lots of blankets/comforters/pillows. Maybe not all piled on the bed like I’m the Princess, and I *will* find the pea, dang-it, but more that there is a chest or a closet where extras are stored. I am a woman who needs a blanket. It could be 110 degrees, and I need a blanket. I’m modest that way. So, blankets of different weights and materials and a super soft comforter/duvet are quite welcome.

    A few books, some magazines, a clock, a place to put my water, a lamp on my side of the bed for reading, an ability to make the room as light or dark as I’d like…all of these amenities are welcome.

    If there is an adjoining bath with a wide range of towels and soap/lotions/shampoos/disposable razors, I will love you forever.

    Anyway, when people come to the Box house, they get all of the above. They also get a bag of pretzel M&Ms as part of the “turn down” service, and I often have fresh flowers in the room on the dresser.

    I like to think of our guest room as a retreat for weary travelers. Most people who visit us and are staying over night have come from a considerable distance. Knowing that when they arrive they will be in a comfortable, welcoming room just for them makes me feel like I’ve done my job as a hostess.

  • LPark21

    There are some great suggestions here! I know you gave “the sky’s the limit” sort of idea, so if that’s the case, then you could absolutely make your guests feel like they are staying in the nicest hotel room ever. Who wouldn’t love that?!

    However, I think my idea guest room is one that is comfortable, has touches of the owner there yet enough space for my own things, and has a small supply of things I may have forgotten to pack. I don’t need the space to be its own house, as I imagine your guests will be there to spend time with YOU and would enjoy having coffee with you in the morning or watching the news with you!

    I love the suggestions so far of kleenex, lotion, a fan or something to make a little noise, great pillows (although I don’t think you need a ton of them), towels where I can see them, maybe a bottle of water, and a handful of toiletries.

    I think the key is making guests feel that they are welcome there and not an imposition. Having to come out and ask for a towel or a glass for water makes me feel like a bit of a pest, even though I’m sure that’s not the reality.

    Last thing, since this is getting long… even though I love dogs and am sure Coco and Chuck would be fun, as a guest I would appreciate not having them all over my bed while I’m there. I really am a pet lover (!), but it’s always a little awkward having to get someone else’s pets out of my stuff without feeling like a jerk.

    I, for one, love the idea of you working with IKEA and Jon. 🙂 Can’t wait to read/see how the project unfolds!

  • alanmill

    Pillows, pillows, and pillows are number one. Everyone likes different firmness, filler–so make sure there are choices. I actually disagree about host’s personal stuff. I love a guest room with books–it gives me insight into the host I might not otherwise have (and have found some great reads that way). A glass for the bathroom is nice too–that way you don’t have to share (or do without that drink in the midlle of the night). And no, paper cups are not a good substitute.

  • cameron_barrett

    Barack would want a regulation height basketball hoop. I only need to borrow a dog or cat to truly feel at home. But thanks for asking.

  • Lo The Phoenix

    Best guest room I ever stayed in was entirely because of the down comforter and the soft mattress. All of the bed linens were in white and amazing.

    The mattress was so pillowy there was no way an adult could sleep on it for extended amounts of time and still have a back, but for 2 or 3 nights? It was heaven.

  • Erin Human

    Definitely an abundance of pillows and blankets! I hate having to ask for more of either and feeling like some sort of weird bedding glutton. I think a nice touch is a few books to read or look at. Sometimes as a guest it’s nice to spend a little quiet time by yourself in the room and providing a few books makes your guest feel they are welcome to do so.

  • Jayseaka

    As a full time working mother I often dream of going to stay somewhere where I can work on my own projects UNINTERRUPTED. Whether it be something that requires my laptop or sitting down to write a real letter to someone. Or hey..to be able to read a book in a really comfortable chair that doesn’t have a toddler jumping on it would be nice. So with that said..a nice desk to sit down at and a comfy cozy chair to nestle into would be perfect in a guest room 🙂

  • Rachill

    A lock.