Plan a Great Guest Room but Watch Out for the Smell of Fish

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

As a realtor, I take care to point out to buyer clients the various possibilities for that “extra” room that might be utilized as a den, office or guest room. If the luxury of a guest room is chosen, there are certain amenities that can make it a more enjoyable experience for overnight guests.

Sleeping overnight in another person’s home or having a guest spend a night with you can be delightful or a real drag, depending on the level of planning that goes into the guest accommodations. I’ve experienced both situations.

The first time I was an overnight guest was as a senior in college when I was invited to join my roommate for a weekend in New York City where we were scheduled to stay with one of his best buddies.

I had never been in a Manhattan apartment, but my expectations ran high because I had just seen a movie that showed the city digs of Doris Day as the very height of sophistication.

What I found instead was a five-story walkup in the East Village, long before it was chic, arriving breathlessly to a cold-water flat, which have since been outlawed. My sleeping arrangements were on the floor where the coffee table stood but had been pushed away. I had only a blanket under me to prevent my bones from getting bruised on the hard floor.

My buddy was luckier the first night because he got to sleep on the sofa, which our host proudly announced had been retrieved from the sidewalk. The second night, I got the sofa, but it was actually more uncomfortable than the floor.

To bathe, there was no shower, but rather a claw-footed bathtub, elevated on a platform across from a galley kitchen. When it was not in use, the tub was covered with a wooden top that served as the kitchen table. There’s nothing to compare with my memory of bathing in the tub while our host prepared scrambled eggs 18 inches away from me, and then to eat breakfast on top of the tub where I had just bathed.

I vowed that someday I would have my own place in the city and invite all my out-of-town friends to visit me with a stayover they would remember. After I married, my wife and I couldn’t afford to have an extra bedroom in our first apartment, but at least we were able to offer a comfortable Castro Convertible in the living room.

It wasn’t until we moved to the country that we were able to realize our dream of having a nice guest room. In fact, we had two. While they are beautifully appointed with comfortable beds and attractive furnishings, they lacked one feature that I think is the most important for a top-notch guest room: a private bathroom. Nobody likes the idea of being caught in his skivvies on the way to a shared bathroom.

One reason that I love visiting my brother- and sister-in-law is that in both their homes, one in Florida and the other in Asheville, N.C., there is a separate guest suite. To stay with them is truly like a fabulous vacation.

Not all of us can have a separate suite for guests, but we can compensate for it by providing other amenities that speak of comfort, convenience and luxury. For that, I consult with my wife Margaret who’s the ultimate homemaker and hostess. Her advice:

  • Fluffy new guest towels neatly folded on a corner of the bed or on a chair can make guests forget that they don’t have a private bathroom.
  • It’s nice to have some totally empty drawers in the room, if not an entire chest of drawers. Also, there should be at least half a closet for hanging clothes. My wife likes to put attractive hangers in that space.
  • A comfortable easy chair with a light positioned for reading is always welcomed, along with an interesting selection of magazines and books. Guests are unlikely to read an entire novel while staying over, but they might enjoy the coffee table book variety that can be glanced at.
  • A lighted bedside clock is especially appreciated by guests. Sometimes, you feel that time is altered when you’re not surrounded by the familiar trappings of home.
  • Like a hotel, you might add a couple of bottles of water and some packaged snacks, healthy and otherwise.
  • A couple of liqueur bottles with some dessert wine glasses on a side table would be really nifty.
  • Of course, a television set or even a laptop on a desk is a great way to have your guests entertain themselves at least part of the time they’re with you.

Also keep in mind that too special a guest room may encourage guests to stay longer than you want. Remember Benjamin Franklin’s advice: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (, specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.





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