Design Notes from Barb – good bedroom design

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Good Bedroom Design

Before my life as an innkeeper I was a consultant and, by extension, road warrior.  Lucky for me the hotels I stayed at were often quite luxe, although sometimes a town we’d visit just didn’t have that type of accommodation.  I stayed in properties as various as the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and the Waldorf~Astoria, as well as countless Hiltons, Sheratons, Radissons, Courtyards by Marriott, even a Comfort Suites in El Paso.  After four years on the road, I think I saw pretty much what was out there mid-range and above.  During this time we traveled nicely for leisure, too, often using all those miles I accrued being on the road – going to far flung places and staying at lush properties like the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore, the famous Ngorongoro Crater Lodge in Tanzania, the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong … you get the picture!

When it came to my re-design of guest rooms at Stonehurst Place, I pulled from my interior design training as well as all of these travel experiences to create the best of both worlds – including in room design what both business and leisure travelers need.  The key is giving guests what they need, where they need it.   I remember staying at the famous Hotel Adlon in Berlin.  The ‘command central’ for electronics and lighting in the room wowed me – beside the bed was a custom console with switches for all lights, a slot for the TV remote, do-not-disturb switches to alert housekeeping… it was extensive.  It’s all here, just where I need it, I thought to myself!  I love good design.  Uh oh; next I sat at the desk, went to plug in my laptop power cord and discovered an important and overlooked item in all this fancy gadgetry and switches.  So carried away were the designers in impressing with that overdone ‘command central’ that they forgot to leave me a plug for my computer.  The only two outlet options at the desk were used (telephone and lamp) so I had to choose which I needed most – my computer to work, the desk lamp to see when I worked, or the telephone.  I decided to unplug the desk lamp.  They blew it.

Here is what you need in a well-designed guestroom; this is the minimum for any inn that wants to make their rooms work for their guests.  Remember your guests are your clients!  Give them what they need:

  • Bed, well located.  Sketch a floor plan of your room and draw where the bed is located.  Is this the best spot?  Are both sides easily accessible? Take a different color pen and use it to draw ‘traffic flow’ arrows around the bed and other furniture … think about when your guest enters the bedroom – where will they go and what will they do?  They’ll enter the room with their suitcase – where does it go?  They’ll walk to the desk and set down a briefcase and/or handbag.  Is this a convenient path?  How about getting up from the bed and walking into the bathroom – is this an easy path with nothing to navigate?  Remember, when they stay in this room they aren’t familiar with it as you are, so be thoughtful about furniture placement.  Use this pen and paper exercise to make sure your rooms are best laid out for guests and if not, change them!
  • Bedside tables on each side of the bed.   I’ve often stayed in hotel rooms that disappointed because there was no table on ‘my’ side of the bed.  It’s bad enough they have to pick one side for the alarm clock (obviously) that I may have to crawl over to, but don’t skimp on two tables and please put a good lamp on each one.  More on that later.
  • Electrical outlets in convenient places – extras under the desk (think laptop, iPhone or iPad charger, maybe double those the way people travel these days, and an extra for something you or I can’t even predict).  Where will they want to set up their ironing board and iron?  They’ll need a plug for the iron.  Where will they want to dry their hair, maybe using extras like a curling iron?  I was just in the Czech Republic last month for a wedding and stayed in the brand new business hotel in Usti nad Labem, a large city one hour outside of Prague.  What did the designers forget?  Where I would style my hair.  I ended up sitting on the floor by the door, with my flat iron and air curlers, so that I had a place to put them and the brush I needed as well.  There was literally nowhere else to use as my hair/makeup station!


Good lighting.  At Stonehurst Place we offer the following in guest rooms:

–      Dimmable overhead lights, strategically positioned (I worked to position the recessed/can lights so they don’t shine down in guest eyes when they’re laying in bed, even using non-reflective baffles).

–      Table lamps on each bedside table.  Don’t make the mistake of using ‘bedside’ lamps.  They’re too small/short and don’t put out enough light.  On the flip side, don’t use a candlestick (buffet) light either.  They’re too tall and when your guest is laying in bed the bulb will be exposed to their eyes – and that hurts.  I’ve had both of these unfortunate scenarios in B&Bs, where I keep running into quirky ‘leftover’ lamps bedside.  Please don’t make this mistake or, if you did, fix it!


Comfortable, generously-sized reading or tv-watching chair, and a second chair or settee if you’re working with a large room or a suite.   Can I watch TV from the location of the chair/settee?  Ensure there are overhead lights or a nearby lamp that can be directed for this purpose.  Select comfortable furniture you can keep clean.  You’d be surprised where people put their (shoe clad) feet.


Work desk with task lighting and a comfortable chair.   Don’t clutter the desk with too much travel or decorative paraphernalia that a guest who wants to work at the desk will only have to move out of their way, but do use it as the place where you communicate information to them (information about your inn or B&B, messages, etc).  If you are doing a renovation and have the chance to do wiring work, make sure to put plenty of outlets here as well and don’t forget hard-wired internet outlets  in case your wireless goes out – and put a internet-to-laptop connection cable in the desk drawer.


Generous closet and drawer space.  If you can afford to do so, outfitting your closets with California Closet type systems makes them so nice for guests.  That can be nice for you, too, from a housekeeping perspective.  In some of the closets at Stonehurst Place I installed stacked drawer units, in place of bureaus or chests of drawers, when that style didn’t suit the room décor.


Next time I’ll talk about the amenities that make a guest room great, not just good!




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