Creating a Five Star Guest Room on the Cheap

I consider it to a priviledge to be invited to a friend’s house for a vacation or a weekend, so when it comes to having guests at my place, I love being able to make their experience as delightful and comfortable as possible. That means having a guest room that makes their stay with me a totally memorable experience.

I recently reclaimed the man-cave and turned in into guest room. It was inexpensive and really easy. All that was required was a little thought. It wasn’t about going out and buying things, but rather just making a complete list and gathering things from other parts of the house. I had almost everything that I needed.

I approached this project thinking about what I would want or expect if I was staying at a hotel. You may not use all of a swanky hotel room's amenities, but you notice when something you need isn’t there. Plus, a well-thought out and well-stocked guest room saves you, as the host, from running around and hunting down things when your guest needs a phone charger or a needle and thread or a pad of paper.

Before I get to the list of what I did, here are a few tips that really helped me:

  1. Sleep in the room yourself for at least two nights and see how it functions and what you may need, I found lots of little things that were added to my list after actually spending time in the room.
  2. Get an over the door shoe organizer (the kind with lot of pockets). It will allow you to corral all sorts of items in one place and let your guests access them easily.
  3. Make everything simple. Put things where you would naturally expect them to be. Don’t have complicated devices and if you do, include simple operating instructions.

This list is really long, but don’t be overwhelmed. It only took me a few hours to whip my guest room into five star accommodations. Now my guests never want to leave and that’s fine by me!

guest room 6Furniture

  • Bed – I put the queen-sized bed on those furniture sliders to make it easy to move. Since the bed is against the wall, it’s perfect for one person to sleep on and when I have no guests, it doubles as a huge couch/hangout space. The sliders and having under the bed completely free of any items allows me to easily move the bed to the more traditional position (with the head of the bed against the wall)  in case a couple stays with me. That means they will have an easier time getting in and out of bed and not have to crawl over each other. I can switch it up in 2 minutes,
  • Dresser – I have a five-drawer, tall dresser. Because I live in an apartment, I need all the extra storage pace I can get, but I still managed to keep the top three drawers empty for guest’s items. I also keep the top of the dresser clear so that guests have room for personal items like makeup, jewelry, change, etc.
  • Nightstand – This is a must-have. Make sure it’s big enough to fit a lamp, a glass of water, a phone and maybe a book.
  • Pouf/ottoman – This is only because I am slightly obsessed with being able to put my feet up and poufs. It’s not a necessity.
  • Chair – Not everyone likes to lie down all the time. It’s nice alternative to include a comfortable upholstered or leather chair for reading or watching TV.
  • Fold out table – This is perfect for pulling out and using as a desk for a laptop, if your guest needs to get work done. And it stores easily without taking up a lot of space.
  • Pet gate – I have a dog and not everyone is comfortable having the dog wander in and out of  their room, so I have a baby gate/pet gate that allows them to keep the door open but keeps my furry friend out.

guest room 4


  • Bedside lamp – You have to include a lamp on the nightstand. It’s awkward for a guest to turn off the ceiling light and then make their way to the bed in an unfamiliar, dark room. Just make sure the lamp is easy to reach and can turn on and off while lying down and not too bright.
  • Other lighting – I’m not a huge fan of overhead lighting, so I like having another lamp in the room to help create a nice ambience and serve as a utility light or reading light. I put one on the top of the dresser.
  • Nightlight – Several of my friends said they like having one, so it’s there if someone wants to turn it on.
  • Book light – Some people prefer to read with one.
  • Heavy drapes or curtains to block out the light – The windows in my guest room get morning sunlight, and I want my guest to be able to sleep in if they choose. Also, I live in the city so heavy drapes help block out noise as well.

guest room 1


  • TV – There is a good sized flat screen TV with cable. It has one remote, so it’s easy to operate. Some people like to fall asleep with the TV on or get their news in the morning.
  • TV channel guide – Of course, there is an on-screen TV guide, but being in an unfamiliar region, I like to provide a printed list of TV stations to make it easier for guests to find their favorite channel.
  • Radio – I keep it tuned to a local news station.
  • USB speaker – This enables guests to play their own music from their phone or iPad. I also keep a connecter wire so that if they don’t want to use Bluetooth they can simply plug in and rock out.
  • Headphones – I have a variety of headphones so people can listen to whatever they choose without disturbing others.
  • Books – I relocated all my bookshelves to the extra room. It’s great for me to have them out of the way and guests can grab something and start reading if they want to.
  • Magazines – I throw all my magazines into a basket in the guest room so people have something to flip through.
  • Extra iPad – I put my old iPad in there (with all personal info erased) so guests can get online, play a game or watch NetFlix.

guest room 3Storage

  • Space in the closet – My closet is pretty roomy, so I left about five feet of hanging space for guests along with room for shoes and other belongings including their suitcase if they want to put it out of the way.
  • Good hangers – This is one of the few purchases I made. I invested in a variety of good wooden hangers. I got some for skirts, shirts, pants and sturdier ones for coats. I also bought the velvet, non-slip hangers.
  • Drawers in the dresser – My dresser has five drawers and I keep three of them empty for guests to put their belongs.
  • Extra pillows – I leave space in the closet so guest can take all the decorative pillows off the bed and toss them out of the away. Yes, I have an obsession with pillows.
  • Over the door hooks – These are perfect for hanging jackets, wet towels or a purse.


  • Pillows – There are extra pillows in the closet including firm and soft ones.
  • Comforters – I keep a light weight comforter and a down alternative (in case of allergies) in the closet.
  • Blankets – Just in case it gets chilly, there are two extra blankets.
  • Sheet and pillow cases – I have a storage drawer in the closet with all the extra bed linens for the guest room, so it’s easy to change out sheets.
  • Throws – I also have two soft throws on the chair just in case a guest wants to curl up on the bed and nap.

guest room 5

Being Connected

  • Exposed plugs – There’s nothing worse then not being able to plug in your phone or laptop or other device. And hunting down outlets behind furniture is the worst. I made sure to have a few power strips strategically placed around the room. I also put one right on the nightstand so guests can charge their phone while they sleep and still have it close by if they use their cell phone as an alarm.
  • Cords and adapters – Not everyone has the same type of devices and hopefully my guests brought their charges with them. But just in case, I have a bunch of basic cords and adapters for the iPhone, iPad, three pronged adapters,  basic USB cords, etc.
  • Passwords – Mostly likely your guests will want access to Wi-Fi. I have my home network password posted on a little bulletin board.


guest room 2


  • Portable heater – I keep a small portable heater in the closet just in case guests get really cold.
  • Fans – I have a window fan for those hot nights along with a portable fan so that guests can have some cool air blowing right on them if they’re feeling too hot. I like to have air circulating.
  • Portable Air Conditioner – For the rare times that it is sweltering, there is a portable AC unit. Truthfully, this is more for me and having an extra room to store it is just a plus.

Home and Local Stuff

  • Keys – I keep an extra set of keys on a big hook so guests can come and go as they please. I make the spare set decorative and easily distinguishable by punching a hole in an old hotel room keycard and attaching the spare keys to it.
  • Maps/directions – Having maps of the city, the public transit routes, and local attractions makes it easier for guests to get around and plan some sightseeing.
  • Home instructions – If you have any special instructions – like how to lock your doors or security/alarm code information – make sure to print it out and leave it near the spare guest keys.

Hotel Touches

  • Luggage rack – Another one of the few purchases I made. This is great for short-term guests that don’t want to unpack and settle in.
  • Bathrobe – I put a luxurious, soft white bathrobe in the closet. I bought one that is gender-neutral and size large to accommodate all my guests.
  • Slippers – A good pair of soft, terrycloth slippers make people feel at home and they can easily be thrown in the wash after each guest departs.
  • Flip flops – Maybe your guest is more a flip flip person. I get these at the dollar store and have a bunch on hand so guests can take them with them when they leave.
  • Trash can – Who wants to leave their room every time they have an item to discard?
  • Chocolates – Such a little thing, but what a huge impact. I’ll leave a chocolate or truffle on my guest's pillow. This is something that makes them feel special and like they are staying in a hotel. It is also something that people tell others about and makes you seems like the ultimate hostess. Okay, I relish a little praise.

Little Extras

  • Water bottles – Reusable water bottles are eco-friendly and also let your guest refill as they need and be hydrated if they go out and about to explore.
  • Kleenex – No one wants to hunt down tissues or have to use toilet paper to blow their nose..
  • Candles/lighter – I like to get candles that smell clean and fresh, but not overpowering (skip the pumpkin pie or strawberry pie). I also always buy ones that have a lid so that if my guests are sensitive to smells their nose won’t offended.
  • Coasters – I like a glass of cold water by my bedside, so no worries about stains or rings on the nightstand if you have pretty, absorbent coasters.
  • Flashlights – In case of a power outage or earthquake (I live in California) I wants guests to be prepared.
  • Back scratchers and massagers – Just because!
  • Calendar – A wall calendar can be a decorative and useful item for those that want a quick glance to plan out their schedules. And guests don’t have to pull out their phone to see what day it is.
  • Blocking the light from appliances – I put tape over all the little lights that can distract from sleep – cable box, router/modem, power cords, etc. It makes a huge difference and it’s something that I really only thought of after sleeping in the room.
  • Plants and flowers – Having something living in any room lifts people’s mood. Fresh flowers are always a nice touch that makes guests feel special.
  • Alarm clock – It might seem old fashioned since most people use their phone as an alarm clock. But I know that when I stay somewhere I like to have a digital clock so I can look up in the middle of the night and see what time it is.
  • Paper and pens – Sometimes guests need to write things down.
  • Repair tools  – I keep an extra pair of scissors, a tiny sewing kit, and a roll of scotch tape around for emergencies.
  • Magnified, lighted, makeup mirror – If the bathroom is occupied, I want guests to be able to get ready in their room.
  • Lint roller – I have a dog – enough said.
  • Clothes steamer – Things get wrinkled when traveling. Of course I have an iron in the house, but sometimes someone just needs a quick touch up.
  • Cheater reading glasses – Many of my guests are at that age when their arms aren’t long enough, and the print just isn't big enough.
  • Hand lotion – Not everyone remembers to pack it.
  • Socks – I have a drawer full of brand new socks (the dollar store is great for these) and guests can wear them and then take them home. I try to buy fun, funky ones so they will remember their stay when they wear the socks at home.
  • Sleeping aids – I have a sleep mask (I also buy them when on sale or at the dollar store), along with earplugs and a bottle of Advil PM.

There are also a few things I do around the house to also make it easier and more comfortable for my guests:

  • Nightlights – I put one in the hallway, bathroom and kitchen just in case guests want to roam around at night, and they don’t want to turn on the lights or can’t find the light switch.
  • Towels – I make sure that guest towels and bathroom supplies are easily accessible in the bathroom linen closet.
  • Coffee – I LOVE coffee and can’t imagine getting up and not having a cup nearly immediately. I created a little station in the kitchen with all the supplies and a one cup brewer so that if guests rise before me they can enjoy their morning cuppa joe.

And finally, I also make up a special, personalized guest basket for each visitor that is staying two or more nights. But I’ll save the details of what fun things I put in the guest baskets for another post.

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