In Category: ‘Small Guest Rooms’

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…)

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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.

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


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

In preparing for our presentation, “Take Your Guest Rooms from Yesterday to Today and from Tired to Fresh—On a Budget!” at The Hospitality Marketing Summit in Denver next week, we stumbled upon some pretty interesting and inspirational room re-dos. We’ll be presenting these–and more great room decor ideas–gathered from our 10 years traveling North America, shooting over 150 inns, hotels and B&Bs.


Chanticleer Inn, Lookout Mountain, Georgia

Note all the changes that make this room feel much more updated!

1) A more tailored bedding approach. Note that the pleats are gone on the bedskirt and the pillow arrangement is cleaner, with a graphic-style decorative pillow and chic, white Euro-shams in the back. No more scalloped edges on the bedspread.

2) The top of the armoire has disappeared(!) and the flat-screen TV now sits directly on the fireplace, opening up the space and allowing a much improved TV-viewing experience. Clean, crisp upholstered chairs were added in slate gray, a great updated and versatile color choice–and now there are two chairs instead of just one (a major upgrade!) The toile curtains were replaced with a new elegant design. The bedside lamp was refitted with a sleeker drum shade.

3) The carpet was changed out for a wood floor. We are seeing this A LOT! Wood is much more sanitary and cleaning-friendly, especially in a room like this that steps right out to the garden. Also, wood makes the room potentially pet friendly, or at least MORE pet friendly.

4)  In a stroke of genius, the tiny pedestal sink was removed from the bathroom and a nice vanity sink was added in the bedroom. We love this change, as it allowed for a luxury shower to be added in the tiny bath–and justified a rate increase!

YOU GO Chanticleer Innkeeper-Designer Extraordinaire, Audrey! Amazing changes.


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Room 3 at Chanticleer Inn – AFTER

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Another view featuring the sink that was moved to the bedroom to make room for a luxury shower- AFTER


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Room 3 – BEFORE

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Another “before” shot, showing the old bathroom sitting area configuration



Shiloh Morning Inn, Ardmore, Oklahoma

It’s been fun to keep flying back to Oklahoma to see all the changes Jessica and Dave have been making at Shiloh–and on a budget. One theme we have noticed in their renovations is adding a masculine twist to what was previously a pretty frilly and feminine inn. We’ve heard form many innkeepers that more masculine rooms are selling BETTER. That was also our experience as owners of The Woolverton Inn.

Adding reclaimed barn-wood to one wall and the interior of the turret transformed the space from a victorian fantasy (not Jessica’s thing) to more of a barn/silo theme. They did ALL of the work themselves. This was a budget job–you’ll notice they reused most of the furnishings, just adding the pendant light fixtures over the bar and new curtains. We suggested they paint the cabinetry (perhaps black or gray) to pull in the dark details of the barn wood and the fireplace surround. (Then again, maybe it was  just a ploy so they will invite us back again!!)

Kudos to Jessica–a very creative idea, indeed!


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Updated Bluebird Cottage–the reclaimed barn wood speaks nicely to the area’s rural landscape


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Bluebird Cottage – BEFORE


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AFTER – The Bungalow Cottage at Shiloh, reflecting a more masculine approach to color and decor


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Bungalow Cottage – BEFORE. This color is a bit scary–how times have changed!



Rabbit Hill Inn, Vermont

Leslie and Brian at Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom NEVER QUIT. We stumbled on this before and after of their Sterling Room and it almost knocked us off our chairs! They have added a contemporary twist to many of their new renovations and these changes have been very well received by their fiercely loyal  guests. It’s a bold move for America’s most venerable B&B market (and perhaps America’s most venerable inn).  We wrote a post a while back on another jaw-dropping room re-do at Rabbit Hill - read it here. 


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Sterling Room at Rabbit Hill after a dramatic redo


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Yes, this is the same room! Sterling! The bed is the same…but not much else!




>When we entered the Inn business in 1999, the general consensus was that larger, pricier rooms booked first and the smaller rooms booked last. With the recession and these challenging economic times, that rule has been turned on its head. Many of you are telling us that your smaller, less expensive rooms are now booking FIRST.

In our last post, we diagrammed how we photographed and styled a small guest room to best effect. We thought we’d elaborate on the small room topic in this post with some decorating tips and best practices to make the most out of a small room.

Before we get to the tips, though, just one bit of advice: invest some money in your smaller rooms. Just because they are small, don’t make them DOUBLY unappealing with drab, uninspired decor and then clutter them up with the leftover, “nobody-wants-it-stuff” from the inn’s basement or attic…Small rooms can be challenging, but making them appealing and precious can really pay off.

1) Think Cruise Ship
Ever taken a cruise? If you notice how they approach laying out a small cabin you can learn a lot. Bedside tables double as dressers, shelves are open, and strategic lighting hidden away in alcoves and nooks. Those gargantuan dressers we encounter in many guest rooms are taking up valuable floor space and are just “storage overkill”. These guests are not living at your inn!

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One of the eco-friendly rooms in the earth-ensconced honeycomb rooms at Inn at Honey Run in Ohio.
Note the open shelves, lack of dressers and bedside tables.

2) Focus on the Bed
In a smaller room, the bed becomes more of a focus and is of utmost importance. Upholstered headboards (NO footboards) are one of our very favorite solutions for smaller guest rooms. They are generally more affordable than a traditional headboard/footboard, more comfortable and feel luxurious. Best of all, silhouettes and fabrics can be customized to your inn’s unique style. Splurge on quality bedding–not the “cast-offs” from your other more expensive rooms…Extra sleeping pillows and an enticing bed design (think sculpture) can make a small room feel luxurious.

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The white-on-white color scheme makes this room at The Inn at Sunrise Point look larger.
It’s even carried through to the upholstered headboard. 

3) Go light
As you see in the photo above, lighter colors can “open up” a small room. You can still use bold splashes of color to add character and interest. A room with a slanted ceiling (like the one above) also really benefits from a lack of contrast between the wall and ceiling. You don’t want to “feature” low ceilings. Dark carpet and a light color scheme on the ceiling and walls will really make the room feel tiny. Avoid extreme contrast between the floor, walls and ceiling.

4) Nooks…
Nothing says “country inn” more than an inviting window seat or reading nook.  They can fit into a place where furniture might not, and offer an opportunity to go for a custom feel. They really add color, pattern and interest to a “boxy” room. You can also use the space under the window seat for guests’ suitcases or other storage.

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Window Seat at Inn at Whitewing Farm in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine valley

5) Add a sense of DRAMA
Smaller rooms can be dull. Try using oversize artwork, dramatic headboard silhouettes, unique lighting or unusual ceiling treatments. Adding elements such as these takes the focus away from size and makes the space more appealing.  

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This lamp at The Hotel’ d’Paris in Sete, France added drama and interest. 
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Dramatic headboard at Mt Merino Manor in Hudson NY  livens up a smaller room
In Conclusion…Pulling It All Together
Guests need places to put their personal belongings. At Ledges Hotel in Hawley, PA, their smallest room (below) has plenty of surface space with the built-in side tables, the windowsill and the small desk (not pictured) for guests to use. The bold artwork, built-in furniture and lighting, simple window treatments and low-contrast color scheme all contribute to a perfectly-executed small guest room.
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This room at Ledges in Hawley PA is pretty small….but it works!