How To Set Up A Guest Room

This is Emily Post's ideal guest room. I can't say I love her taste in curtains!

This is Emily Post’s ideal guest room. I can’t say I love her taste in curtains!

So these days, it seems like most people don’t have a dedicated guest room. Usually if there is an extra room, it’s an office with a fold out couch or something similar. I wonder sometimes what percentage of people “back in the day” really had a proper “guest room.” We did when I was very young and had a big house, but when we moved to a smaller house we didn’t anymore. Did people really have more overnight guests “back then”? I have so many questions.

These days, you make do with what you have, but if you lived in Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post’s worlds, you have a guest room and they had some adorable, now somewhat outdated advice about what to put in there. So really, this post is mostly etiquette history, as you can certainly follow this advice but it is in no way expected.

The Basics:

  • A relatively comfortable bed. Emily Post suggests sleeping on it yourself once. Amy Vanderbilt suggests that you have two twin beds that can be pushed together (she is very concerned about couples that prefer to not sleep in the same bed???) That bed should have plenty of blankets and pillows as well.
  • There needs to be a light near to the bed that is bright enough to read by.
  • A working clock (though with cell phones these days…)
  • Hangars in the closets and empty dresser drawers so the guest can actually unpack.
  • Good curtains or shades to keep the sunlight out.
  • A pitcher of water and a glass

The Extras:

  • Flowers in a vase
  • Lots of books!
  • A desk with pens, writing paper, envelopes, and stamps (clearly in the days before email!)
  • Snacks for the guest to eat before bed
  • PJs and a bathrobe
  • A full length mirror
  • An array of toiletries for the bathroom
  • A hot water bottle (they specifically mention this for women- I wonder if it has to do with cramps more than keeping your toes warm.)

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have To Do That Anymore:

  • Emily suggests having a candle and matches. In case of an emergency, fine. BUT she also suggests that some people like to keep a candle burning all night. NO!
  • Both etiquette mavens also recommend having ashtrays and matches for smokers- not so much a necessity today (even if your friends smoke, I can’t imagine allowing them to smoke in the house.)
  • The pull cord for servants should be next to the bed (as if, Emily Post!)
  • Breakfast trays! (Maybe this was easy with lots of servants, but I am not running a hotel!)
  • A swimsuit if you have a pool (so unlikely that anyone would be able to have enough sizes of swimsuits for this to be practical!)
  • A radio (so quaint!)
  • A turned down bed (this is the maid’s doing, but I guess it doesn’t really take any time, so you COULD do it. Theoretically.)

But seriously though, nobody expects that their host provide them with a hotel room. And if you do have a real guestroom, I imagine that your guest will be so thrilled to be sleeping on an actual bed instead of a sofa or an air mattress that they won’t care about the other stuff. Just make sure that the sheets are clean (always always change and wash sheets between guests, come ON!) and the room is also clean and reasonably tidy and you are fine.


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