At the AIHP conference in April, we presented “The Guest Room, Reborn: Minimal Investment for Maximum Impact”. In that presentation, (SRO, if I do say so myself), we shared some great ideas for redesigning and updating guest rooms on a budget. Many of these ideas we gathered over the last few years at the hundreds of properties we’ve photographed.

Last week, we had the pleasure of returning to Belinda Bowling’s property, Casa Escondida, in Chimayo, New Mexico. Belinda had attended our seminar and was inspired to make a few inexpensive changes to a number of her guest rooms. Belinda took notes, high-tailed it back to New Mexico and made these changes right away. Way to go, Belinda!

Here are a few selected points from our presentation that Belinda took to heart (“to heart” literally–the room she redecorated is actually called “Heart of the House”):

1. Kick up the Drama Factor

We find that most innkeepers decorate a guest room like they would decorate their homes. It is true that something you live with everyday tends to be more “tame”. But in a guest room, adding a bold color, scale, and drama in the decor makes the space interesting, memorable and more photogenic. And there’s no doubt about it: photogenic rooms SELL better! Belinda added a bold southwest hue of blue on a couple walls and the doors, making them a distinct feature. She also upgraded lamps, choosing a bold thematic design with larger, amber-colored shades. (The cowboy boots were Belinda’s brilliant idea for a photo prop; she’s apparently auditioning for Mark’s job after she retires from innkeeping…)

CasaEscondida Rooms Heart 1 XL An Awesome Low Cost Room ReDo: Tangible Takeaways from our AIHP Presentation

AFTER: Heart of the House room. Many smart changes make this smaller room far more appealing: color, artwork, footboard removal and better lamps


CasaEscondida Rooms Heart 01 XL An Awesome Low Cost Room ReDo: Tangible Takeaways from our AIHP Presentation

BEFORE: Heart of the House…a little drab?


2) Abolish Footboards!

Another suggestion in our presentation was to remove footboards from the beds in small or medium-sized rooms. Belinda really opened up this modest-sized room by removing the foot board–as in SAWING IT OFF! Doing this also gives guests an additional place to sit, is accommodating to taller guests, makes housekeepers happy (easier bed-making), saves square footage and makes the room far more photogenic. Again, photogenic rooms SELL better! Belinda at Casa Escondida got right on it–in fact, she’s working that saw on all of her beds as I write this post!

3) Artwork is Important

In Nashville, we discussed economical ways to acquire interesting artwork for your guest rooms. We mentioned Innkeeper Jessica Pfau at Shiloh Morning Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma and her amazing thrift store artwork finds. She has embellished much of her inn with original artwork from thrift stores! Belinda took this tip and got some great new artwork for the room for pennies.

4) Beautiful Beds

Belinda beautified and updated the bedding by going from a ruffled (and very 80′s) bedskirt to a box-pleat-style skirt. Look how much better that skirt works WITHOUT the headboard! She also chose a bolder pillow and a nifty, thematic southwest blanket as a splash of color at the foot of the bed. Finally, in a room of this size, it’s best to tuck in the bedding to give it a more tailored look–and to increase the visual space of the room. Bravo!

5) Being Held Hostage by your Furniture

We recommend that inns remove large pieces of furniture–especially armoires–whenever possible. (We find almost all bed and breakfast guest rooms are over-furnished.) Just because you have a set that matches doesn’t mean you have to keep it together! Being an adobe building in the southwest, many rooms do not have closets at Casa Escondida, so an additional piece of furniture is necessary here. (For the picture, we removed the armoire to get a more open view of the room. Don’t be afraid to move furniture our of a room to get a better shot.)

CasaEscondida Rooms Heart 2 XL An Awesome Low Cost Room ReDo: Tangible Takeaways from our AIHP Presentation

AFTER: Note the other blue accents and the removal of the armoire.

CasaEscondida Rooms Heart 02 XL An Awesome Low Cost Room ReDo: Tangible Takeaways from our AIHP Presentation

BEFORE: We removed the armoire to get a cleaner, more open view of the room. 


IMG 1143 768x1024 An Awesome Low Cost Room ReDo: Tangible Takeaways from our AIHP Presentation

Mark, Belinda and Matthew at the end of a successful shoot. Belinda is one smart cookie!


  1. barbara bowling says:

    your place is just beautiful! I love it! and you are a great cook too! thank you for sending me the pics. love you, mom

  2. Kyle Bowling says:

    OK so I said it twice. !!!

  3. Kyle Bowling says:

    I could not have done a better job myself. Dad

    • E Scot Fuller-Beatty says:

      What great before and after shots! I hope the new room is selling like hot cakes!!